Thursday, June 27, 2013

The End of an Era

A little over two years ago I went in search of a place to re-start my interest in ballet. I found this little studio not far from my home that had just started an adult ballet class in the evenings.

This evening they held the last evening ballet class, or at least the last for a while. The instructor is moving out of the area, and the owner is going to fill the slot with some flavor of latin dance. Although I've moved on to more challenging classes elsewhere, I went back for old time's sake, to see some of my old friends, and to reminisce a bit. I'm glad I went.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Viva le Bubba!

Saturday morning our instructor showed up mug in hand. Or should I say "mug in two hands". The Bubba mug holds a litre of coffee, which isn't exactly light. By the end of class she still had about a half a mug left, and it was still hot enough to be tasty.

As one of the first to show up, I put out some of the portable barres. Not all of the six we usually put out, but four of them. Apparently many in class don't view it as their jobs to move the barres, so students crowded themselves onto the four I'd put out. I found that quite amusing. As an unintentional side-effect, that meant someone actually shared the barre I'd camped out on.

What is it with people who can't keep time with music? The student behind me was consistently ahead of the music, and got farther and farther ahead as an exercise progressed. In one way that was good for me, as it forced me to focus my attention on a random corner of the room so her unsynchronized movements didn't throw me off time as well. Then the pianist must have gotten bored, because she started playing music without a clear beat, which threw everyone off time.

Tuesday I got to class just as it was starting. Whoever put out the barres also only put out four, and they were rather crowded already. I pulled out one more to the far end of the front row and stood there. Aside from it being a bit more difficult to see the instructor demonstrating I don't much care, which keeps me clear of those fighting for the back of the room. As more people came in late, they crowded onto the back row rather than pull out the sixth. It's amazing the lengths people will go to to avoid doing something that draws attention to themselves.

Speaking of avoiding attention, I've noticed the same thing in our center work. If I don't know what I'm doing I prefer to have someone in front of me to follow, but what good is it when everyone is crowded in the back and NO ONE is in front? Why would you rather stand so close to me that I'm going to whack you during a turn than take a few steps toward the mirror? If EVERYONE takes a few steps forward, then NO ONE is any more in front of anyone else. This is how I end up standing in the front row so often -- I'm not one of those whose presence in a beginner class I question, but when there's so much empty space up there and none anywhere else I'm going to move up. Sheesh!

(Ok, this is definitely going to be classified as a rant.)

Aside from THAT, these were good classes. :-)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Worst. Barre. Ever.

At least that was out instructor's observation.

Not our performance, but the strenuousness of the workout. I think I spent half of the 40-some minutes on demi-pointe, most of that with one or the other foot off the ground. Développés in relevé. Attitude devant, attitude derièrre, rond de jambe en l'air, all on demi-pointe. You get the idea. No one complained — no one had the energy.

Then a very active center. I'm getting better at pirouettes en dehor, but en dedans I'm still not good at. We also did turns in attitude — a first for me — which seem easier than pirouettes for some reason.

This morning I woke up very early, aching in a half dozen spots. I feel like I've been beaten with a stick. Fortunately I have an appointment with my therapist in a few minutes. Maybe I'll feel better in an hour or so. Otherwise I'm going for the ibuprofen.

[Edited to add: My therapist worked her wonders, and I felt much better afterward. Enough so that I gave thought to going to the Beginner I class this evening, but I needed to make up time at work and didn't get there. Probably for the best anyway.]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Was it something I said?

What is it with women in ballet classes?

Recently I've noticed that, with the exception of a couple of regulars, none of the women seem to be willing to share one of the portable barres with me. Last week, a woman picked up her stuff and moved to another barre already occupied by two other women when I went to stand at the other end of the barre she was going to use. This evening that spot was empty while some other barres had three people. It just seems silly to crowd the other barres when there's open space at the one I'm using.

It's not like I'm unwashed; Saturday I was no more than 90 minutes out of the shower and I always wash my dance gear between classes. At 5'10" I'm not so tall that I'm going to kick someone, and no one seems to have a problem standing at the barre that's end-to-end with mine. It's just sharing that piece of steel pipe that seems to freak them out.

I brought this up with a couple female (non-dancer) friends. Some have opined that many women have body image issues, and standing in front of a man wearing a leotard and tights upsets them. Others suggest that I'm intruding into "safe girl space" by even being in a ballet class. Dare I use the word misandry in this situation? It's not like I just wandered in off the street and started drooling. As much as I appreciate the female form, I'm far too busy trying to get my form to follow the steps to ogle theirs.

In better news, it seems they've made yet another effort to clean the floor of excess rosin. Tonight it squeaked rather than sounding like flypaper. Add a little dust for lubrication and it should be just about right.

We did the combination I described in a recent post. The instructor said its name again, but I didn't recognize it and soon was too busy trying to do it to remember the word she said. But after seeing it a second time I think I got the description correct. Quite a few of the other students had a real problem handling a sissonne that didn't change feet (i.e., the working foot both opens and closes in front). Most if not all of the examples I've seen in books or in videos change, so it seems likely they learned it that way. My problem, on the other hand, is that we did it at the very end again, right after jumps, and my energy level is at its lowest ebb then.

Oh, I almost forgot. Rheumatic Princess recently posted about having a moment when the stars align and suddenly you're totally balanced and can seemingly hold a position forever. I had one of those moments this evening: attitude derrière on demi-pointe, right arm high in fifth, and I suddenly felt balanced. Tentatively I let go of the barre entirely, then raised my left arm to match the right. Still balanced. It was the last position in the exercise, and I held it longer than I was supposed to -- until the music stopped -- then stretched to an arabesque and came down in a controlled plié. I was kinda in shock, and the instructor gave me a compliment. It was a wild feeling.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stalkers and lurkers and perverts, oh my!

This morning, while rushing to the dressing room to get ready for class, I ran into a guy in the hallway. He didn't have the look of a dancer, wearing shorts, running shoes, and a T-shirt stretched over a rather prominent belly. He looked vaguely familiar, but around this time there are usually throngs of parents waiting for their children to finish their earlier classes. You have to pass the front desk to get to the studios, so I put him out of my mind.

I didn't think much about him until later, when I noticed him lurking around the door to our classroom, moving around so he could watch. I think the youngest person in our class is mid-twenties, which sorta ruled out a parent trying to watch his child, and he didn't seem to be watching any one person. Also, he had the slightly skittish look of someone who really wanted to do something but was hesitant to do so, while also trying not to be obvious. He kept at it long after all the kids classes had let out and they and their parents were gone. Cue one small red flag.

When class was over I noticed he was still lurking. I got drawn into a discussion of the steps I described in my previous post with two other students and lost track of him. After changing I took a brief walk around to see what became of him. And found him -- at the barre in the Introduction to Ballet class. This is a 5-week, registration-required class (no drop-ins) for those with no knowledge of ballet. It's run by the same instructor as my Beginner II class, scheduled in the same studio immediately after. This is the second week of five, so I probably saw him at the end of last week's class.

I stood in the hallway outside the door to the studio for a few moments, watching. Undoubtedly the eagerness I read in his face was that of someone anticipating taking the first awkward steps toward joining the ranks of our class and those beyond. The hesitancy of someone who is just starting to learn the steps we're doing with such (apparent) speed and precision. Kinda like me watching the kids in the school company perform. "Someday that will be me."

I turned and walked away with a smile on my face.

One More Time?

The floor this morning was less sticky than Tuesday, though it's still stickier than anyone would have liked. We could do pirouettes without risking a knee, but my shoes still twisted on my feet uncomfortably. Attempting to plié into a lunge, the toe of by back foot touched the floor and instead of sliding it stuck there hard enough that my toenail was bent back. Ouch. No blood, though. By the end of class the toe pleats of my slippers were nearly black with rosin. I guess that's one way to clean the floor.

This class is starting to frustrate me. The instructor keeps introducing new steps, and it seems that just as I'm starting to figure it out we move on to the next combination. Today it was a combination step whose name I missed but goes something like this: from fifth, the back foot does a low coupé closing to fifth in front, then a sissonne fermée de côté closing in front. In the larger combination this step is executed once to each side, followed by two sissonne fermée en avant, a sissonne ouverte en avant to arabesque, demi-plié, and pas de bourrée. The whole combination is then repeated to the other side.

We were working in three groups of six. There's just enough room for each group to go right-left-right-left then clear out for the next group. We went around three times, and I felt like I was just getting the hang of it when we went on to the next thing. Now, I know there are others in this class who had this mastered by the second go-round, so it makes sense to stop when we did. But I wish we could have gone around just once more. Or have done everything just a bit slower so I had time for my thoughts to make it to my feet.

On the other hand, some of the folk from the Beginner I class I used to take have now joined our Beginner II class. I don't want to come across as mean, but they look so lost it makes me feel like maybe I'm not doing as badly as it sometimes feels. I assuage any guilty feelings by making supportive comments.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hot and Sticky

I'm hot, but it's the floor that's sticky. The second year pointe class has been rehearsing in the studio just before the evening adult classes, and the floor is so sticky with rosin that walking in slippers sounds like each of us has double-sided tape stuck to our feet. And that's *after* they washed the floor late last night — I'm told last night's adult class opted not to attempt any turns, chassés, or other sliding movements. We did only a couple step-over piqué turns. Not really a great night by most measures.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Everyone has something they do well

Despite this being nominally a beginner class, our class has gotten progressively more difficult. Mostly it's the irregularity in patterns, such as a tendu exercise that starts conventionally with four tendu devant, four tendu a la seconde, but then continues with tendu devant, tendu seconde closing in back, coupé closing in front, tendu devant, tendu seconde closing in back, coupé closing in front, tendu devant, tendu seconde closing in back. Then, of course, the whole exercise is repeated derrière. Although the overall timing of the exercise fits a four-count, the shift from a regular four to a three-three-two, and the speed with which we're doing it, a lot of the students have trouble with it. I can do it as long as I don't think while I do it; thinking about either the sequence or anything else will cause me to blow it.

We had enough time to do grande allegro at the end of class today, something we sometimes don't get to. Sauté arabesque, brush though to a chassé en avant, and repeat to the other side. A third sauté arabesque to the first side, but then a chassé en arriere, turn and brush to an assemblé en tournant. This last step confused most in the class, so the instructor demonstrated a couple of times.

For those who aren't familiar with this step, here's a short video (not me!):

I think I've done this one before because it felt pretty comfortable right off the bat, though I wasn't getting quite all the way around to where we were supposed to end up facing. Like everyone else I tried it a couple more times before we did the combination, and heard a couple of the women behind me mutter, "Showoff!"  When I turned to look, the they were grinning madly. One came up and offered a fist-bump. After class, she came up to me and told me she thought my jumps were "just amazing."

Ok, I'll admit I have difficulty accepting compliments. I'm delighted by being able to do a step like this with basic competence. But "amazing"? Naah. Maybe after I win the lottery and can spend 4-5 days a week in the studio...