Thursday, August 23, 2012

My first pair of pointe shoes

A conversation...

A big moment in every dancer's life is their first pair of pointe shoes. And I got my first pair of pointe shoes today!

What? Pointe shoes? You? Didn't you say you're a guy?

Last I checked... hmm... yup, still a guy. Tights for class not withstanding.

But guys don't dance pointe; that's a girl thing.

Not entirely true. The Russians think it's good training, especially for partnering. And then there are the Trocaderos.

But you were all worried about that student... and you have no training!

Training? What are you talking about? I don't need training! Not for this...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two weeks off

I only had one class this week, as the new studio is closed until after Labor Day. I'm kicking myself for not stretching as much as I should have, but it's the next couple of weeks that will be the challenge. See, our instructor at the old studio is taking next week off, and I have tickets to the theatre the week after. Thus the next time I have ballet will be the first week of September, when I'll probably have three classes: Wednesday evening at the new studio, Thursday evening at the old studio, and Friday mid-day at the old studio with their new instructor. I doubt I'll be able to get to the Friday class on a regular basis, but I want to welcome the new instructor by showing up for her first class.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another milestone

Pardon me for being excited, but I've reached another milestone: I've worn a hole in the toe of my slipper!

Ok, it's a tiny hole in one of the pleats. I only noticed it because the white lining is showing through the black outer. But it's clearly from wear and not a cut or tear. I wore a similar hole in my slipper waybackwhen, but that took four years. And, yes, I was excited about that too.

I tried wearing an Under Armour "heatgear" shirt tonight, as suggested by Jeff in his comment on a previous posting. It's less absorbent than a cotton T-shirt, but it "breathes" better which makes it more comfortable. It's also longer and much stretchier, so I don't feel the need to yank my shirt down after every movement. Thanks for the great suggestion, Jeff!

Tonight we did the usual pliés, tendus, and rond-de-jambes, with lots of focus on position and form. We did a sequence of fifth position - coupé devant - passé devant - passé derriere - coupé derriere - fifth, and then reverse, which built on the work we did last week. Then the instructor introduced us to attitude. The phrase "copping an attitude" has new meaning now. Those suckers hurt! But I've come to believe that, in ballet, if it doesn't hurt you're doing it wrong. Or not trying hard enough.

I didn't get much feedback from the instructor tonight. She did correct my arm position in a plié while I had my foot on the barre, so I'm hoping that's a sign that I'm headed in the right direction.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dancing for Balanchine

I received my autographed, first-edition copy of Merrill Ashley's Dancing for Balanchine in the mail. For a used, 28 year-old book, it's in great shape. Only paid $20 for it too, which is good because I bought it to read and not admire on a shelf. I think Amazon's customer classification software is horribly confused by me. At least Netflix has stopped recommending Lesbian themed movies. :-) But I digress.

I haven't had a chance to read much of the book yet, but it appears to be an odd mix of autobiography and technical reference of Balanchine style. Perhaps, for her, the two are inseparable, so the combination makes sense. After all, she is Balanchine's creation, and according to the book he often taught dancers how to perform certain steps by telling them, "Watch Merrill." However, this mix means I can't read it like I would a regular biography. Nor can I treat it like a pure reference like Gretchen Ward Warren's Classical Ballet Technique. I'll have to digest it in pieces. No doubt I'll have more to say about the book in this blog as I get deeper into it.

Another reason for taking the book in pieces is the same reason I essentially skipped Chapter 2 of GWW. There's only so much I can handle of a world-class ballerina at the peak of her abilities demonstrating in text and photos how wrong it is for the working foot to turn from its perfectly parallel position as it moves outward from fifth in a tendu. She may have a perfect 180 degrees of turnout, but I have half that. Yes, there is a lesson I can learn -- that I should maintain whatever turnout I do have as the working foot moves forward -- but sometimes it's hard to see that for the frustration my perfectionist streak feels. Ah, well... little steps.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Scheduling confusion

For most of the last year I've been taking class twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the old place dropped their Tuesday class, I was able to take class Tuesdays at the new place. It's been a nice routine.

No more.

Next week is the last Tuesday night at the new place, then they close down until after Labor Day (first Monday in September for non-US folk). The fall schedule hasn't been posted yet, but the rumor is that the beginner class will resume on Wednesday evening, as it was before the summer. The intermediate class will still be Tuesday evenings, but I'm not ready for that yet.

What about the old place? They're continuing the Thursday evening class, but the other class will be mid-day Friday. Even if I could make that (and I can't on a regular basis with my current work assignment), I still end up with class on consecutive days and a long gap between.

I'll probably end up taking class Wed and Thu, because I want to continue at both studios. Maybe I'll go back to the yoga class I used to take Monday evenings to try and even out the week. If I feel insufficiently abused I could take a "stretch" class Saturday mornings.

Someone suggested another studio that has classes Monday evenings, but it'd be quite a drive in heavy rush-hour traffic on a two-lane road. I'm guessing it'd be 45-60 minutes, and maybe longer. I might give it a try to experience the Vaganova style they teach (both my current schools are ABT flavor) though I'm not sure I'm advanced enough to really notice the difference.

Regardless, I'm thinking it's time to make a permanent space for the barre I bought some months back. I think I know enough now to be able to practice without developing any really bad habits.

Small achievements

Last night I decided to push myself a bit harder. I tried to focus more during the barre routine, tried to keep my heels down longer going down in grande plié and down earlier on the way back up, stretched a bit farther than I might have otherwise. I figured I might as well, as I was still fricking sore from Tuesday night. And it seems to have worked well.

One of the things we've been doing recently at the end of the stretches is a one-footed relevé with the other foot on the barre, held for an eternity. One of my problems has been that with the barre down where I've had it, it's below my hip in relevé and my leg slides off. When it came time to plunk my leg up last night I adjusted the barre about 1.5" higher. That made the stretches more of a challenge, but also kept my leg from sliding off. With less to struggle with I was able to stay balanced in relevé, hands in 5th, for the entire time. On both sides, even! And I could have stayed longer. I even managed to find just a little bit more extension so I could get my foot down more or less gracefully (ok, less) without having to use my hands or twist sideways.

Now maybe I've just sent the experienced dancers rolling in laughter. As long as it's a sympathetic laugh I'm right there with you. But, damn it, after nearly falling on my face Tuesday I needed a few wins.