Sunday, December 28, 2014

MYB's 25th Anniversary Nutcracker

Last night we attended MYB's 25th annual Nutcracker. It was great, as usual, despite half the cast being sick. The guy who was supposed to dance the part of the Nutcracker was so sick they had to bring in someone who graduated a couple of years ago but knows the parts and still dances.

This is the closest I'm going to get to dancing for a bit. I've been sick since Wednesday, though I'm mostly recovered, but my GF is just hitting the worst of it. Not the way I'd hoped to spend my holiday break.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The word of the day

Tuesday evening's class was the opposite of the huge one a couple of Saturdays ago, with only nine students. The instructor wasn't even sure if we'd have a pianist, but we did.

The word of the day, or month, seems to be fouetté. They're showing up in barre, in turns, and in jumps. I wonder if the instructors have periodic meetings in which they agree on something everyone will work on. I enjoy the jump version, but the turns are frustrating. I'm no longer risking life and limb in my attempts, but I'm still falling out of many of them.

I guess this is how one learns.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Busy before the holidays

Class today wasn't as big as last week, but it was still crowded. I have this odd tightness in my shins, under the knee and medial to the tibia, that's been annoying me when I walk up stairs or plié. I ended up sitting out one of the more complex center exercises and the warm-up jumps. Otherwise it was a pretty good class.

A few classes ago we were introduced to fouetté turns. Not the tombé-battement-twist jump I've done since the 1980s, but the proper turn similar to a pirouette. Développé avant to demi-plié, rotate the leg en dehor to seconde, then pull it in to retiré relevé and rotate. At first it felt very awkward. As the instructor says, it requires no force, only coordination; I have plenty of force but the coordination is somewhat lacking on this one. But we keep at it.

Today we ended class with a relatively short combo: from fifth, tendu to second then fourth with a demi-plié. Pirouette en dehor ending in a demi-plié avant, straight into the fouetté. Fall into a balancé to the side, other side, front, back, then coupé, tombé, pas de bourrée, pirouette en dehor to fourth, and again to fifth. Repeat back and fourth a total of four times.

With so many of us in one room we broke into three groups, and I went with the second group. I seriously botched the first attempts at the fouetté. The second time through I was feeling better about it, and when the instructor invited anyone who wanted to try it again to go after the third group finished their second attempt, I jumped onto the floor. I guess third time is a charm, because I actually managed the whole sequence, fouetté and all. Score!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A really BIG shew

Does anyone remember Ed Sullivan?

I showed up for class this morning, took my normal spot at the barre a few minutes early, and watched the others wander in. And they kept wandering in until there were 33 of us. That's two on each side of every portable barre, and the rest along the sides of the room. I don't recall the he last time I was in a class that big.

And there were two other men in the class. The one I could see during barre followed the basic outline of the exercises, but he seemed to be off in his own little world. As we started center work I realized that neither of these guys should have been in our Beginner II class — not when they're doing double pirouettes like they're nothing. And the occasional triple en dedans. Sheesh.

After class I chatted with them, opening by saying, "so I'm guessing you aren't just moving up from Beginner I". Not even close. They are performing in The Nutcracker this afternoon and this evening in a nearby town, and this class was their warmup. That's the sort of people I meet at this place.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Raleigh School of Ballet

I spent last week on business in Raleigh, NC. I try to get to a ballet class or two during the week even when I'm traveling, so I spent some time trying to find a suitable studio.

Kaija suggested two schools, but neither had classes at times I could make. Finally I decided to try the Raleigh School of Ballet.
I dropped in on the Tuesday night "Ballet Level 2" class. The facility has three separate classrooms, each with heat-sealed Marley laid over a sprung floor. Music is provided via CD players with speed adjustment controls and nice-sounding speakers, rather than the live pianists I've become used to. There is a proper, if tiny, changing room for men with an attached bathroom; I think it's safe to presume the women have a larger facility. There is parking on-site, which was quite crowded when I arrived due to kids classes that were about to let out.

I was told the average size of this class was about 14, but that night there were eight of us. Supposedly there is a male student who takes this class fairly regularly, but he wasn't in attendance. This night I got to try both of the smaller of the three classrooms because the CD player in the first room died part way through barre. Neither was as big as the classrooms at either Ballet San Jose or back home, and the center work involved some running back in the middle. Still, I enjoyed the class, and would have taken another class Thursday night except I had to work late.

Over all I was quite pleased with the place except for one thing: their prices. Their single class rate of $25 is quite a bit higher than others in the area, and $5 more than I'm paying in the Washington, DC, suburbs. They do offer discounts if you're willing to pre-pay for a block, but their 6-class rate is still $1 more per class than the just-raised 10-class rate I'm paying now, and is only good for 5 months rather than a full year. I'm not sure how they justify these rates, but they don't seem to be lacking for students.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Concert

Friday evening I attended a performance of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. The first piece was Balanchine's one-act version of "Swan Lake" at the Kennedy Center. I didn't recognize the other pieces on the program, other than that the second and third were also Balanchine's, and the fourth was by Jerome Robbins.

I enjoyed "Swan Lake", though I'm really looking forward to TWB's production with Misty Copeland. The second and third pieces were modern, with atonal music that sounded like the soundtrack to a 1970's detective TV show. Even my girlfriend, who prefers modern to classical ballet, wasn't terribly excited by the piece, though it was technically well-performed.

The fourth and final piece was Robbins's "The Concert". I hadn't had a chance to read the notes on it in the program, so I had no idea what to expect. I soon realized that this was a comedy composed of shorter scenes. All of the scenes were fun and had me and many others laughing out loud. But one scene had me in stitches, because it reminded me of so many dance classes where everyone is going one way except one who is going the other. At the end one dancer has the wrong arms, and slowly corrects it as the others hold their positions. I could hear the voice of one of my instructors saying, "Whatever you're doing, commit to it. Don't look around and second-guess your decision."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Classes while traveling?

Sorry about the rare updates. I used to write most of them on my phone using Bloggeroid, but for some reason I haven't been able to get them to post unless I have a WiFi connection. If I try using the cellular data connection, everything goes poof!

I've been getting to class a bit less regularly, but for good causes. Like an absolutely killer Halloween party only a 3.5 hour drive from home. No way to get to a weekend class when you're two states away late on a Saturday night. Still, I've managed to improve in some areas. It's becoming more common, though not yet routine, to be able to hold my balance in passé relevé on demi-pointe for longer and longer; Sunday I held it for several measures (not beats — MEASURES). I even got a called out by name for it! Woot! If I'd managed decent turns later in class I'd be even more excited.

Speaking of turns, last Tuesday's class is worthy of noting. We were doing a sequence which alternated piqué and soutenu turns, and the instructor wasn't happy with us. She felt we were sort-of going through the motions, rather than dancing with energy. I decided to really attack the combination while paying attention to spotting. Based on the whoop and compliment from the instructor, I must have done pretty well. Unfortunately that burned a lot of energy, and by the last exercise in class I was wiped out.

While I have your attention... does anyone have a recommendation for adult drop-in ballet classes in the Raleigh, Durham, or RTP area of North Carolina? It seems I may spend a few weeks there in the next few months.

How about the Boston suburbs out near I-495 nearish Rt 2? I guess I could trek into Boston proper for class, if it starts late enough in the evening.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Men's Master Class

Ballet is one of the few activities I can think of where men are a true minority. Others I could think of would be nursing and traditionally "home oriented" activities like sewing or knitting. I don't know about others' experiences, but it's quite common for me to be the only man in a class of 15-25 women, and the most man-heavy class I've been in had three or four other men in it.

In class Wednesday, one of the women handed out glossy cards advertising Ballet San Jose's "Master Class" series for the 2014-2015 season. One of them is a men's only class, taught by former ABT star José Manuel Carreño, now the artistic director of BSJ. I've only had a male ballet teacher once, when the director of ADI substituted for an instructor on vacation, and I think there is a lot I could learn from one. Of course, the problem is that the class is being held in San Francisco, 2500 miles from where I live near Washington, DC. Ever the optimist, I emailed my boss to see if it's likely that I'll have a need to be out on the left coast around that time, and he said yes, he'd pencil me in! The only hitch in the plan is that I may not know until 2 weeks before the class whether I'll actually be out here. The registrar at BSJ was kind enough to accommodate that, saying we could confirm or cancel my registration then.

Last night I checked the card to verify pricing. I knew the class he's teaching this month was $100, and was surprised to note that the men's class was only $50. After spending a lifetime seeing advertisements for various "Ladies' Nights" where women get discounts, this is quite the reversal. For once, being a man is getting me a discount!

Ballet San Jose, October edition

I found myself in San Jose, California, again this week. I've gotten used to adding ballet gear to my business-casual work attire when I pack, and had classes with Ballet San Jose on my schedule for Wednesday and Friday evenings. I've taken enough classes here — this week makes six, I think — that I'm starting to recognize the regulars. The instructor greeted me with, "Oh! You're back!" so clearly she recognizes me. Of course, being a male in an adult ballet class already makes me fairly unusual.

Wednesday morning I put my dance gear in a backpack, and ended up leaving it in my hotel room. Fortunately I was able to get to the hotel in time to change and drive downtown in time for class. The classes this summer were in the large dance studio on the second floor, but this one was in a much smaller studio on the third floor. The instructor handled the difference in size quite well. Apparently the adult drop-in classes are often relegated to this room.

Class was pretty good. The instructor seems to have given up on the torture of a hundred relevés, and we only did a reasonable number of them. Oddly, my turns seemed way off balance, and I felt a bit shaky. I had trouble completing a single full-turn pirouette from fifth. I'm guessing I hadn't managed to rehydrate myself from Monday's 6-hour flight, because I woke up around midnight with nasty cramps in my adductors and quads despite having gone out of my way after dinner to pick up some Gatorade.

Thursday my legs were sore all day, most like from the cramps and not directly from the class. It didn't interfere with work to any great extent, though.

This evening (Friday) I remembered to bring my backpack with fresh dance gear. i got to the school early enough to change and do some simple stretching. Class was held in the first floor studio, which I hadn't seen before. It's a bit like being in a basement, with lots of pounding and rattling noises from the dancers in the classroom above. We had lots of newbies, so we did barre facing the barres and mirrors. I really think I prefer the barre to one side, though.

I'm guessing my stretching before class helped (along with proper hydration) because everything seemed to work better. i could get my pirouettes all the way around, though I know I've done better. In center, we did a series of piqué turns at what felt like an excruciatingly slow pace. Doing them so slowly was hard, but it did give me time to think about the suggestions our instructor gave me. I also found myself able to rotate almost slowly enough to match the tempo of the music, and hold the position until coming down with deliberate intent rather than falling out of it. If I could get my head to rotate further when spotting, I'd be pretty happy with things.

I have to say I've been fortunate to train mostly in studios with well-maintained, sprung floors with nice marley on top. The floors in this place are uneven and the seams between the synthetic overlay are covered in duck tape, and I'm gathering this is pretty common as no one really complains about them.

I expect to be back here for a week next month, and again in January. I thought about getting a 10-class "card", which would save $2/class, but the "card" is only good for 3 months and that's probably not worth it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I NEEDED that class!

I've been feeling increasingly stressed and edgy for the last week or so. Work is unsettled, and I've needed to put in a good bit of overtime. Social commitments have interfered with getting to class, and I've been feeling stiff and sore. I really wasn't looking forward to class last night, but I went as a matter of habit.

And I'm so glad I did!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Still going... and going... and going...

I'm up to my neck in work, and updating this blog keeps falling off the list of things I have time to do. But I'm still getting to two classes a week, most weeks. It's a lot more fun than going to a gym, so I make time for it.

Today in my Beginner 2 class several things happened that hadn't happened before. During barre we did one sequence which ended with a sous-sus, passe retire on demi-pointe with a pause at the highest point, and back to sous-sus with the working foot on the other side. Going to sous-sus I had both arms in high fifth, and decided to try keeping them there. And it worked! I was stable all the way through raising my working foot, the pause, and lowering my foot, all without reaching for the barre. I wish I could say I did this on both sides (I can't) but it was something of a thrill.

In centre we were doing pique turns at (for me) an excruciatingly slow speed. The first time across the room I was having trouble matching pace with the music, and our instructor made a general comment that we should treat each turn independently rather than as a series. The second time across I did just that, and found I was able to hold the demi-pointe balance after each turn before deliberately stepping down for the next. This is a new experience for me. Maybe there is benefit to these slowly-paced turns that I hadn't considered before.

My spotting is also improving. I don't have the rotational flexibility to be able to track a spot far enough that I can flip my head around and immediately see it (and the need for glasses doesn't help) but its becoming more instinctive to look for the spot as I turn. Hypothetically this should help avoid getting dizzy.

Unfortunately, one of my other new experiences was a serious bout of motion sickness after all the turns. So much so that I had to sit down in a corner for the last few minutes of class. I've been dizzy in class on many occasions, but I don't think I've ever felt sick to my stomach. Bleagh.

Still, I decided to challenge myself by taking the Advanced Beginner class immediately following B2. Fortunately I'd stuffed a second shirt in my bag so I didn't have to do barre in a dripping-wet shirt. I didn't have much trouble with barre, aside from one sequence that confused many of the regulars. One of the sequences went from degage a la seconde on demi-pointe to a fondue derrierre, to attitude derrierre on demi-pointe, through enveloppe to a tendu avant with a demi-plie. We did this sequence a couple of times on both sides, and once I did the whole thing without touching the barre. This is starting to feel like dancing! Woo woot!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A hurting puppy

Here I am in San Jose again, recovering from another beginner-level class at Ballet San Jose. Kudos to the instructor for remembering me from the two classes I took from her two months ago!

I managed to get to class a half hour early, giving myself time to stretch beforehand. Unexpectedly we scored a live pianist for the evening, which was nice.

Barre was a faster pace than I'm used to, but I didn't find any of the patterns terribly difficult. Releves, though... I just can't do as many as the instructor expects. I made it through two of the three sets in parallel, then had to stop. I was counting myself lucky until she started again in first. I'm just going to have to learn to quit earlier and not try to keep up with this crazy woman.

Center started with a lot of balancing on one leg. Developpe en croix followed by a rond-de-jambe en l'air, all while standing on one foot. Mostly stable with occasional falling over. I think I'm clenching my standing foot, because it started hurting about half way through.

The turns across the floor were pretty simple: two regular pique turns, a step-over pique turn closing to fifth, and tendu to prepare for the next set. I acquitted myself pretty well, though the floor was seriously sticky. The music was a bit slower than I'd have preferred, but a bit too fast for me to feel comfortable attempting to do it double-speed as a few of the better students did.

Jumps were nothing exciting, though by then I was tired and ready to be done.

As I was leaving, the instructor told me she thought I'd done quite well. It's good to hear that on occasion. I told her I'd try to make it to Friday night's class.

I don't know if I'm going to keep that promise, though. Not quote re-hydrated from the 5+ hour flight out here, I had a bout of nasty cramps in my quads early this morning. I've been drinking water like mad ever since, hoping to avoid a repeat, but my calf muscles are still badly knotted from all the releves. Tomorrow I may go in search of some Gatorade. If I do make it to class tomorrow, I'm definitely going to skip some of those releves. Otherwise they'll have to wheel me onto the airplane Saturday.

Monday, July 28, 2014

(Re)Learning to turn

We had a substitute instructor yesterday. She normally teaches at The Washington Ballet school, but is covering for our regular instructor who has personal obligations this week. She's really good, but unfortunately doesn't appear to teach adult evening classes.

One of the sequences in center included two pirouettes en dehor. The humidity level was lower, and floor didn't feel so sticky. While we were marking the sequence I found that my turns in one direction felt far more stable than usual, with less of a tendency to fall out of it at the end. I concentrated on repeating that success, and by the time we moved on most of my turns in both directions ended with the feeling of being balanced. If I can do that consistently I'll be much happier.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

That's dancing

Has it really been over a month since my last post? Wow. I suspect it's because my usual time for blogging is while eating after class, and recently I've spent that time being social. Cuz it's not because I haven't been going to class.

Tuesday evening the instructor was apparently feeling inspired, having recently returned from a reunion of sorts with her dance academy classmates. This resulted in the center work being rather lyrical with a lot of emphasis on making the steps flow together. Thus the comment she made to the effect of, "It's not a series of separate steps; they blend together. That's dancing!"

Despite getting to two classes a week (Tue & Sun) on a regular basis, I've been feeling quite tight. Yeah, yeah, not enough stretching between classes. Somehow, during barre, I managed to overstretch something in the outside of my left heel. Not a "pop" but just a little ache. This is the tendon that supports a lot of the weight when on demi-pointe, and the ache got a bit worse as class progressed. I ended up skipping most of the jumps at the end of class as a result. I limped a bit after class as it tightened up, and I'm still walking a bit stiffly. I'm going to give it more warm-up time before class Sunday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Still almost invisible

Ballet San José is experimenting with holding an adult beginner class on Friday evenings, and I managed to go. The same instructor in the same room; the big difference is that I arrived 30 minutes ahead of time so I could stretch before class. I think seven of us showed up, one of whom is a young man who I think said he'd just started a college dance degree.

Again, barre took over an hour. I thought the instructor was going to give us a break on the relevés but I was mistaken. This time, however, rather than trying to hang tough I simply stopped when my legs said so, thus avoiding the later lack of control due to twitching, shaking, and other signs of muscle exhaustion. Aside from that it was a good workout.

With only about 20 minutes left for center work we only did a few exercises. We started with a simple tendu, lift, hold, close to fifth sequence en croix. Then we did a variation of the pirouette preparation exercise, which is something I want to practice on my own, followed by the combination tombé, pas de bourrée, plié in fourth, pirouette en dehor to fifth avant, tendu and repeat across the floor. We then did some simple jumps (changement and echappée) in place, which was followed by a sequence of sauté arabesque with opposite arms, step through, chassé and repeat. Then came reverance and we were done.

I was going to entitle this posting "still invisible", but I did get two comments. One was to raise my arms higher during pirouettes, and the other I've forgotten. I'd guess I'm in the upper 1/3rd of this group. I'm not terribly impressed, but it's an OK place to go so I don't miss a whole week of classes on these trips.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Do you know the way to San José?

I decided to drop in on the Ballet San José's adult beginner class this evening. I was quite rushed when I arrived, and barely finished changing in time to help put out the last few portable barres and take a spot at one of them. There were about a dozen students in total, most in their 20's, I'd guess, and two of the others were also men.

Barre began with exercises to limber the ankles and legs, then pliés, and finally a seemingly endless repetition of quick relevés that left my legs aching and twitching. We then did fondues, frappés, petit battements, grande battements, and eventually developpés. All in all a thorough workout, but it consumed about 2/3rds of the 90 minute class.

When we finally did center work, it was a simple adagio of tendu, lift and hold, tendu and close to fifth performed en croix. My balance hasn't completely returned, made worse by the (over)work at the barre and a health touch of jet-lag. I'm just not used to class starting at 9:30pm and ending at 11pm. This was followed by a sequence of plié, sous-sus, plié, passé relevé, plié in fourth, pirouette en dehor to fourth, rise to tendu derrièrre, close to fifth, and repeat. My pirouettes still leave much to be desired, but I'm getting all the way around and not falling over.

We also did a sequence of "lame duck" (en dehor) piqué turns, which are apparently new to most of these folk. Last Sunday I realized that the reason I had so much trouble with piqué turns was I was stepping too far out, which throws me off balance. This instructor pointed out the same problem to another student which reminded me of my realization and after that I did much better.

While I wasn't the best in the class, neither was I the worst. During the piqué turns I found myself going first with the more advanced of the other guys because everyone else declined to go first. I felt pretty confident so it was no great stress to be there.

Once again, though, my biggest complaint is the almost total lack of feedback from the instructor. During pliés she did suggest opening up my second a bit, but other than that I might as well have been invisible. It could be that she doesn't want to criticize someone new to her class and potentially scare them (me) off. Or she might think I'm doing well enough that I don't need specific correction and will just get better with practice. Or, like when I'm struggling in my Advanced Beginner class, it's just easier to not embarrass me with lots of criticism. Whatever the reason, though, I'd really like to know how I'm doing and not be left wondering.

Now it's time to collapse on this nice hotel bed.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Just complex enough to be evil

That's how the instructor described one of tonight's combinations. Yeah, it's been one of those nights. If I felt totally lost I'd drop out of this class in favor of an easier one, but I don't. Instead, I'll get all but a tiny segment of a combination. It's like a tantalizing smell that you can't quite taste. A chocolate cookie you can see and smell but can't have.

Realistically, I'm still improving. I'm feeling more comfortable with turns of all sorts. I'm not falling out of pirouettes anymore. I don't think we did a single step this evening I couldn't do, but I'm not up to linking them together at the speed requested. And it's still taking conscious thought to do a bunch of them rather than being free to think about the sequence. But it's getting better.

Does anyone have suggestions for a drop-in, evening, adult class in the northern San Jose area? I'm looking for one to keep me limber during an upcoming trip.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sixteen Weeks

Yesterday it was exactly 16 weeks ago to the day when I bailed out of my last Advanced Beginner class after barre because I couldn't keep up with the pace. I told the instructor I had a doctor's appointment scheduled to find out what the problem was, but I'd be back.

After 10 weeks off I was permitted to start easing myself back into ballet classes starting with the easiest of the classes the studio offers, in which I discovered I'd lost flexibility, balance, and the ability to turn. Slowly, with practice, these have come back. Last week I started to get the hand of pirouettes again, finally getting a full turn without falling out of it only this past Sunday. Tuesday's Beginner 2 class confirmed my progress, and last night I showed up for Advanced Beginner again.

A couple of the other regulars acknowledged me with querulous smiles that indicated recognition with a hint of, "hasn't it been a while?" No one asked, though. None of the other men who had been taking this class were in attendance. The instructor has seen me in her Sunday Beginner 2 classes, and she gave no indication of approval or disapproval. Barre was okay, with a few missteps but nothing out of line with others in the class. Center was a challenge with long (to me) combinations. To my surprise I did pretty well learning the combinations, though I had some difficulty getting my feet to do some of the linking steps. Often I was behind the beat but never completely lost it.

I also did better than I expected with the pirouettes, both en dehor and en dedans. One combination included one en dedans to fifth, then later one en dehor to coupé, and ending with one en dehor to arabesque. I got all the way around on all of them, and by the end I was able to finish in coupé or arabesque without touching the working leg to the ground first. I was quite excited by that, despite my so-so form.

So... Sixteen weeks, and I'm getting closer to where I was. Not too shabby.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pool-side update

I've been to class fairly regularly; I just haven't had much to blog about. Today, though, I managed to get that centered feeling again, where everything seemed balanced over the middle of my forefoot and everything rotated around that. The combination was 2x regular piqué turns, 2x step-over piqué turns, and a series of chaînés. Nothing terribly complex and I felt pretty good, at least until the last run where I got dizzy and almost fell over. My spotting is getting better, but there are limits.

After class I did a couple of pirouettes just to see, and I got all the way around with no effort. I credit the work my therapist did to loosen my hamstrings the night before. If I'm able to do it again in Tuesday's Beginner 2 class I might try the Thursday Advanced Beginner class again.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Halting the backslide

Part of the problem with halting the backslide caused by my 10-week hiatus is that I'm not experienced enough to really know what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong before. For example, I'd just started to be able to do single pirouettes with some consistency, and I didn't understand why I'd lost that.

Sunday's class included more pirouette practice: starting in fifth with arms in second, tendu avant with the right leg, demi-plié in fifth and right arm to first, pirouette en dehor landing in fifth again, and repeat. And repeat. Eight times. Then do it all to the other side.

As I regain strength in my calf muscles and flexibility overall, I'm finding it easier to get up on demi-pointe and stay there with my standing leg really straight. And with that, I found myself rotating easily past the point where I was falling over last week. At least while standing on the left leg; my turns on my right leg haven't caught up yet.

I also clued in to why I'm so slow on the allegro combination we've been working on. From fifth it goes: glissade, jeté, glissade, jeté, glissade, jeté, jeté, jeté, glissade, assemblé, glissade, assemblé, and pause two beats. And repeat going the other way. For some reason I haven't been moving from the jeté directly into the following step, and the pause I've introduced throws me off time. I can only assume I've been doing this because that's how it's phrased in my head. I'm still not springy like some of the better students are, but I'm not tripping over my own feet now either.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Week 9 update

Yesterday afternoon I was walking from the subway to where I'd parked my car near the dance studio. This is the same walk I'd taken in early February, requiring several stops to catch my breath while climbing a rather shallow hill. Only yesterday I didn't need to stop at all; a few yawns were sufficient to keep me moving at a good pace.

Having made it to the studio in time to attend the Beginner 1 class, I went in, changed, and took some time to warm up. This class wasn't as crowded as it was three weeks ago, but there were still a goodly number of students. There were a couple of fun moments as the woman standing to my left and I performed synchronized rond de jambes and other exercises. My relevés are getting more stable and my calf muscles are able to hold me longer before fatiguing.

Center was good too. With combinations simple enough that I could hold the whole sequence in my head, I could add a bit of artistry by blending the end of one movement into the start of the next. Unfortunately my pirouettes still haven't recovered, and I've yet to be able to do more than one or two per evening that don't end in me falling out of it or having to hop the last quarter turn or so. Can I blame that on the humidity making the floor stickier?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Taking the slow, steady road

Wednesday I went to class at the alternate school. The beginner class there is more... err... beginner than at my usual place, and the instructor pays more attention to form than complexity. For example, this class was the first time I recall actually being taught the standard arm transitions from one position to another. At the moment, this is something I'm appreciating more than before.

The instructor for this class also adamantly refuses to allow me to help with moving the portable barres, and makes a big deal about it if I try. I've given up trying to convince her otherwise, and it'll be another two weeks before she relents (10 weeks post-op).

This morning I went to my regular Beginner 2 class. I'm trying to make this regression a learning experience. I've decided I'm depending on my calf muscles too much in jumps, and have started trying to make better use of my pliés by using my quads more. I think this may account for my improvement in the glissade jeté combination we've been doing. I've also gotten better at the turns combo (2x piqué, 3x chaîné), mostly due to the work my massage therapist and I have put into freeing up my neck so I can spot.

On the other hand, I'm still having trouble doing more than a couple pirouettes per class. The first couple are nice, with an erect posture and an easy turning motion, but after that I can't seem to get straight, hold demi-pointe or relevé, or avoid falling out of the turn part way around. I guess it'll get better with time and practice, but it'd be nice to have it now!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Whispers in the bathroom

In the beginning of February, as I bailed out of yet another class after barre, I told the instructor that I had an appointment with my doctor to see why I was feeling so breathless during class, and promised her I'd be back after we'd figured it out. This morning I took a Beginner 2 class from this same instructor for the first time since then. After barre I had a brief chat with her, and she welcomed me back, saying she'd guessed it was something more serious than just bronchitis.

One of the regulars at the school hurt her back a month ago, and she finally had to take a 3 week break from classes to let it heal. She's just coming back from that. While getting some corrections this morning she tried to use that as an excuse, but the instructor was having none of it. After class a friend reported that she'd overheard a bathroom conversation about this: I suspect someone thought the instructor should have gone easier on her, given her 3-week layoff, but she replied that she couldn't really complain since I was just back from a 10-week layoff and was just 7 weeks post-op. Hearing that gave me a smile.

As happy as I am to have things returning to normal, it's still a mixed bag. I'm occasionally screwing up combinations that should be easy. I think this is just a matter of focus, but there is a fair amount of documentation suggesting that long periods of general anesthesia can result in occasional hiccups in memory lasting months afterward. My demi-pointe still isn't as high as it was, and holding relevé for any length of time makes my calf muscles hurt. All this will pass in time, I'm sure, but it's still frustrating. And watching the Advanced Beginner class from the hallway afterward... well, let's not dwell on that.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Balletic Week

This week has been one ballet activity after another.

Sunday I attended The Washington Ballet's production of Peter Pan. Not
something I would have necessarily chosen for myself, but it was part of the subscription. However, I found I really enjoyed it. I think the throngs of kids mixed into the audience enjoyed it even more, going by the shrieks of glee and laughter.

Monday I had class at my regular studio, as I've already written. Wednesday I had yet another class, this time at a different studio, where I renewed old acquaintances and made some new friends. At the end of each of these I was tired, largely because the small class sizes meant almost constant center work, but never did I feel breathless.

Thursday was a TWB production showing off their range of capabilities to a subscriber-only audience. Pieces ranged from a classical pas-de-deux to contemporary male foursome and everything in between, and finishing with Balanchine's Theme and Variations. Quite spectacular.

This Sunday I'll be back in class yet again. I'm going to limit myself to the one Beginner 2 class, though. I am just not ready to go back to the Advanced Beginner class yet. But I expect to be there this summer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Not good at this "take it easy" thing

Since everything was closed in honor of the pagan celebration of the vernal equinox, there were no classes Sunday. Instead I went to yet another instructor's variation of Beginner 2 this evening. I don't think we did anything we didn't do in last Wednesday's Beginner 1 — no, that's not true: I did my first pirouettes in two and a half months — but mostly it was just different. Surviving class is apparently not a fluke, so I'm going to start going on a regular basis again.

As I've written before, I'm self-competitive. In class I push myself to do my best. If I think I can make my tendus snappier, I feel that I should try. And I have. I don't have the speed I used to have, but I'm getting quicker.

There are limits, though. Circular port de bras are not comfortable, causing twinges at the bottom of my sternum. I say "twinge" rather than "pain" because I take the first signs of pain as a movement limit. This is one form of "taking it easy".

Another is taking a break during center work when I feel winded. This one is tougher for me. I feel like I'm cheating somehow when I stand aside while everyone else practices a combo. The difference, though, is that it's just a lack of energy rather than breathlessness. That should go away as I continue my recovery.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I remember this!

It's all coming back to me now: the aches in my calf muscles when I try to walk. Having to push on my chair's arm rests to get up. Falling into my seat when I try to sit down. I haven't hurt like this since... oh... the last time I whined about this a year or more ago.

Wednesday's pliés were uncomfortable and relevés worse, but I didn't expect the aches to last this long. It's just more proof that I need to restart slowly, though I find that hard to do. I ditched the idea of the classes last night or tomorrow, and have set my sights on Monday evening instead. Or Wednesday. Or both... *sigh*

I should also note what I didn't have trouble with. I didn't need to pant to catch my breath between each barre exercise. I didn't have any trouble getting my arms into high fifth, though that's about the limit of their motion at the moment. I didn't hurt during forward bends as long as I kept my back fairly straight. I didn't hurt (much) during backward bends, though that's because I stopped when I encountered resistance. Circular port de bras only twinged a little, which will probably go away with some stretching. I was far worse only a few weeks ago.

But if you see someone walking like a penguin, think of me!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First class in 10 weeks: I survived!

Taking the Beginner 1 class rather than last night's B2 (or tomorrow's AB) was definitely the right choice. I did make it through to the end, but at the end I was running on sheer determination. But I made it.

I felt a little lost at the start of barre. Traffic was worse than I expected, and though I had time to park and change I didn't have time to warm up. Then all the folk who remembered me wanted to know where I'd been, so I really hadn't gotten focused when class started.

It's amazing how fast you can forget things, and how quickly they start to come back. I had to really pay attention to the demonstrations to remember what to do. I felt unsteady, especially on demi-pointe, and my calf muscles (and my feet, of all things) kept threatening to cramp up early on. I lack flexibility, though I can't really blame any of it on the surgery specifically other than the lack of activity. In center, I figured out the adagio combination fairly easily, and my balance started coming back on the second repetition.

At the end I found myself out of breath. Not the rapid but ineffective panting of February, but the slow, tired sort of feeling you get from exertion at a faster pace than you're used to. Not surprisingly, my pulse rate was quite elevated, but my oxygen saturation was back to 98% by the end of reverence. The only thing I need to do to fix this is keep exercising.

More classes. Oh, the horror!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

32 Hours and counting...

What, me eager? Naah...

It's been 10 weeks since I bailed out of an Advanced Beginner class after barre because I felt so out of breath, even though I was breathing just fine. As I left I told my instructor that I had an appointment the next week to find out what the problem was. I haven't been in a ballet class since.

It's been 9 weeks since that appointment, during which I took a good look at my echocardiogram and said to my doc, "So I guess I'm having surgery." That day I had my dance bag in my car in the expectation that I'd go to class that night. I still haven't opened that bag, though I took it out of the car long ago.

Tomorrow it will be 6 weeks since a crazy woman with a great sense of humor and brilliant skills repaired a valve defect that I was barely aware of six months ago. Almost immediately the shortness of breath vanished, though it's taken me until now to heal enough that I can go back to class. I'm still officially prohibited from "lifting any ballerinas" (her words, not mine) for another four weeks, and it'll be months yet before I'm back to normal.

I thought about cheating a day and going to the Beginner 2 class tonight, but I worry that after 10 weeks off it would be more than I'm ready for. Tomorrow's Beginner 1 class is the safer option, and will tell me where I stand without the temptation to over-do. If I want another class in the short term I have two options Thursday and one Saturday.

For the moment, though, my focus is on tomorrow. Stay tuned for a post-class update tomorrow night...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

7 Days and Counting

In just 7 days I'll officially be allowed to go back to class.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The perils of being a male ballet student

One thing I've learned from being a male ballet student is that it's impossible to blend into the crowd or otherwise stay anonymous. In a school with well over a hundred adults taking classes I suspect I could count the number of men who take classes regularly on two hands. I'd guess there's one male for every 20 female adult students, if that. When I check in before class I rarely have to give my name to any of those who staff the desk.

I was reminded of this when I went to pick up my tickets to the Spring Concert at the will-call desk. The woman sitting there often checks me in before classes, and when she saw me she remarked, "Oh! I know you!" and pulled out the envelope with my tickets. This after not having set foot in the place for six weeks.

Sometimes it's nice to be recognized. :-D

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A bit of good news

Saw my doc today. She said I can go back to driving immediately, but she wants me to wait another three weeks before returning to class. I guess another few weeks won't kill me (I do have a barre at home), and I can spend that time trying to restore the flexibility in my shoulders.

Not everything I wanted, but it's still progress.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Six Weeks

It's been six weeks since my last ballet class. This afternoon I attended my school's Spring Concert, which showcases the talents of the kids in the pre-pro track. It's really inspiring to see what these kids are capable of doing.

I'm torn between wanting to rush off to class this week and holding back another three weeks as my doc originally suggested. All I want to do is barre, even a Beginner I barre, just a small step toward getting back to the way I was in November. I'll ask in a couple days when I see her.

Center would be an unplanned bonus, but I still have some significant limits on the mobility in my arms. I can raise either arm about half way to fifth, but not both at the same time. The lower positions don't seem to be a problem, but I need to see if I can still reach the barre from a full grande plié position.

And when is this winter going to end? We've had some nice days, but the forecast for Tuesday includes some snow. I'm ready for it to be warm!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A bit better every day

I find excessively cheerful people annoying. You know, those who answer a polite "How are you?" with something like "If I was any better today it'd be illegal." *grrr*

Monday, March 10, 2014

I dance ballet. This is me OFF-balance.

As Samuel Clemens wrote in 1897, "The report of my death was an exaggeration".

Not that anyone was actually saying that, but who knows when I'll get an opportunity to use that Twain quote.

I'm not back in class yet, and I probably won't be until April. But the big, scary stuff seems to be behind me, and I'm starting to see benefits. Now it's just a long slog back to attempting my next double-pirouette.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Answers, and another hiatus

After bailing out half way through class Thursday a week ago, I skipped classes this weekend. The doctor I was to see is geographically close to the dance studio so I'd scheduled my appointment for late Tuesday afternoon, thinking I'd go straight to class from there.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Waste of Gas

Been feeling sub-par all week. I skipped class Tuesday because of my heel, and that little annoyance has gone away. But my endurance has been low; sometimes walking down a flight of stairs made me feel tired. I've booked an appointment with my doctor for next week to find out what the hell is wrong.

Tonight I went to my Advanced Beginner class. It's been a looong day today, and I was looking forward to a little stress relief in class. Instead I about fell over twice during barre, and not from lack of balance. I might have been able to tough out center, but then again sometimes I listen to my body when it says it's time to go.

Forcing myself to be objective, I did get 50 minutes of exercise. It's not my usual 90, let alone the 180 of my usual Sunday, but it's something.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Lame Duck

As I implied last post, I did get to class yesterday. With mixed results. In B2 we did a bunch of piqué turns, and I'm starting to get the hang of them. I still have trouble getting my head all the way around, which means I tend to curve by under-rotating a bit with each turn. But the instructor said she "sees potential". A nice ego boost.

During AB barre I felt a sudden twinge in the tendon just to the outside of my right heel bone. I pulled up short and gave it some tentative stretches to see if something bad had happened, but it seemed fine. A few minutes later I felt a pain in the middle of the same foot at the metatarsals which continued to ache a bit. But by center it all seemed fine.

In center I did okay with the adagio portion and the first part of the allegro. We did a turning combo that I thought I managed tolerably, until the instructor started telling us that we should start turns while keeping the leading arm in first rather than opening it. That took care of my over-turning tendencies and then some! It is prettier, but it makes it harder.

When we got to the long/fast/complex combo I've been bailing on, we walked through it at a slow, deliberate pace. That helped a lot and at first I thought I could try it at speed, but it's about twice too fast for me still. I found a nice, safe corner and rested a bit instead. Some day I'll get it. At the end we did a combo I thought I understood, but clearly I was leaving out steps in the middle and getting both timing and position muddled up. But the last few steps was the chassé, pas de bourrée, glissade, jump combo, and I managed to finish the last bit in good sync with the other two guys in the class.

Leaving the TWB performance I noticed my heel was stiff, but it loosened up. Today, though, it's been achy and tender all day. At least the metatarsal joints aren't causing me trouble too.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

TWB: The Jazz/Blues Project

After class this afternoon I headed downtown to see The Washington Ballet's production of "The Jazz/Blues Project". I was a bit hesitant about this, because although I like jazz and blues music, I like classic ballet and really don't get modern dance. This was an interesting blend of classical ballet and jazz and blues music. Nothing too abstract, nothing boringly repetitious. I ended up really having a great time.

I'm really glad I invested the money for the season tickets. And this is a perfect example of why I did: it leads me to see productions I might otherwise not see.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A combination to work on

Chassé, pas de bourrée, glissade, jump!

This is the combination we ended this evening's Advanced Beginner class with tonight. Back and forth, across the floor. Everyone else seems to know it, so I need to practice it until it becomes rote.

I've been feeling a bit shaky all day today, and really didn't have the energy for class. I went mainly because I'd gone back for my dance bag after forgetting it this morning, which set the plan for the day. Even barre tired me more than usual. I bailed on (only) one combination that was simply too long and too fast for me to pick up, but stood in the back and tried to pick it up as the others did it. Someday I'll get this stuff.

Time to catch a quick dinner and get home; I have to be at work extra early tomorrow for a conference call with some Swedes and some Finns.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Identification, please!

For some reason my calf muscles have been hurting ever since class Sunday. Not in the usual places, though. This time it's at the very top end of the muscles, below the knee but definitely in the calf muscles. I've been trying to get higher up on demi-pointe, and I suspect this is an area that hasn't gotten as much work before. But I wasn't expecting it to ache so much for so long.

Figuring I needed some stretching, and hoping to get back into my old routine, I went to the Beginner 2 (or 2.75) class last night. I got there early enough to do some stretching before class, and I was surprised how tight my calf muscles still were. This class is quite active, even compared to my Advanced Beginner class, and by the end of barre a lot of the spot soreness was gone. Or else the rest had started to ache enough that the difference wasn't quite as pronounced.

I think I did pretty well. I didn't find the adagio combinations terribly difficult to remember, and I had time to work on some of the finer details rather than just trying to remember what comes next. The first allegro combinations also weren't bad, though I sometimes forget the port de bras in favor of the footwork. When the instructor demonstrated the last combination I was tired and having trouble concentrating, and I just couldn't remember the sequence. I followed each group intently, hoping to jump in at the end, but though it didn't seem all that complicated it was too long to remember and I sat it out.

Every so often through class the instructor would jokingly suggest we all just stop now and go out for tacos. "Taco Tuesday!" she'd exclaim. After class I found that a small group was indeed going out for tacos, so I invited myself along. None of us actually had tacos, but it was fun to be out and socialize. However, there was a moment that highlighted the difference between the others and myself: when we ordered drinks everyone got carded, including the instructor who is quite young-looking, but I believe she's in her early 40s. Everyone, that is, except me. Looking around at the group I had a momentary thought that one might mistake us for a family. A strange thought, but I could think of worse families.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Never give up! Never surrender!

It's a hokey quote from a hokey movie (Galaxy Quest) about a fictitious TV show. But sometimes it seems appropriate on many levels. Including as a parody.

I haven't been to a class since last Sunday due to a combination of work, weather, and social activities. I need to add back at least one evening (Tuesday or Thursday) to my schedule so I can rebuild my endurance. I got dinged during the allegro segment of the Beginner II class for my "unorganized" execution of a piece of a sequence, and rightly so. My brain momentarily dropped offline, and I kinda walked through that part. The combination this was part of is not that complex, long, or physically demanding, and I shouldn't get so tired so easily.

This also shows how having high expectations for yourself is a double-edged blade. Both I and the instructor believe I'm capable of doing better, and I don't get let off easy when I screw up. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to be let off easy — if I wanted that I wouldn't go to a school with quality teachers and high standards, and I certainly wouldn't be pushing myself into classes like Advanced Beginner.

But enough of the self-flagellation! There's lots of good mixed in with the bad. In B2 we expanded on a combination we've been working on for a while. Going to the right, it starts with the right foot in tendu devant, two step-over piqué turns, tombé, pas de bourrée, pirouette en dehor from fourth, détourné, and repeat as space permits. Or something like that; it all runs together this late in the evening. The first time we did this combination a few weeks ago I had significant difficulty controlling the piqué turns. I'd end up falling out of them in a random direction. Today my control is definitely improved, as is my spotting. Other than the momentary brain fart mentioned above, in which I did the turn on the wrong foot, then walked through the following steps, I felt pretty good about the improvements.

That turned out to be important, because Advanced Beginner included a similar combination. Similar in that it started with the B2 combination but then continued with a two piqué turns en dedans and ended with a pirouette en dedans in the other direction, all done at a faster pace.

That pretty well summarizes the difference between B2 and AB: no new steps, but much longer, more complex combinations, executed faster.

To my surprise, I didn't have a horrible time with this combination. I started out dreading it, because I hadn't done a regular piqué turn in months. I think I may have lagged behind the music at points, but I knew the steps and had brain bandwidth to think about the next step a little bit before starting it. That tells me that a lot of this is moving from conscious thought to "muscle memory".

I did bail on one combination entirely because I just couldn't wrap my head around it, though I walked through it several times in the back of the studio as the others took their turns. I could have attempted it — no one in this class would dare criticize another student who had trouble with a combination — but at that point I just needed a break. I jumped back in for the next combination and did better than I thought I would.

Which brings me back to the hokey saying in the title. Never give up. Never surrender. And I'll add: take the risk. It's worth it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beware the Diva Chair!

Work prevented me from getting to class Thursday evening, which might not have been a bad thing given the sporadic muscle spasms I was still having. This morning's Beginner 2 class was huge, and with 21 students there were three of us at each of the portable barres and no room at the barres around the walls. I felt good, with just a few occasions during center when I needed to stop and catch my breath. I walked out feeling ready to tackle the Advanced Beginner class that followed.

Like most instructors of drop-in classes, this one varies the difficulty level of the class depending on who shows up. In today's Advanced Beginner class we had the (mis-)fortune to have several of the girls from the school's company, plus a couple of guys who are either young pros or soon will be. That meant the center combinations were fast and complex, with lots of weight changes. Most of those who are regulars in this class adapted pretty well and probably enjoyed the challenge, but for the last 15 minutes I felt way over my head. It's a serious roller coaster ride going from feeling like I was hot stuff to flailing in the span of 90 minutes.

Looking back, with an hour's distance and food in my belly, I didn't do too badly. I didn't have any problems with barre other than some more spasms in serratus anterior. In center I did my first real double pirouette en dehor from fourth. It wasn't pretty but I was doing worse singles six months ago, and I just wanted to see if I could do it. None of the combinations are drastically out of my reach. I know all the steps; I just can't keep ahead of a sequence that long and that complex yet. But there will be a time when I can.

What about the odd post title? A previous class apparently contaminated a spot in the center with something slippery, so the instructor wiped up what she could and put the high swivel chair kept in each studio for instructors' use over the slippery spot and announced that we needed to "dance around the prima diva". Eventually that got shortened to "beware the diva chair!" Who said we don't have fun in class?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ok, yes, I'm competitive

A friend of mine invited me to join her for a class at one of the places I took class in the fall of 2012. Being a total sucker for an invitation from a pretty girl I said yes. It's interesting comparing this class with the ones I've been taking.

The biggest difference is that this school has one level of adult beginner class, versus the three levels at my current school. This means that this beginner class has folk who really are starting from scratch up through folk who have been taking classes for several years. Barre is much slower paced, as the instructor runs around providing a lot of individualized instruction. Fortunately the classes are smaller than I'm used to (this one had 14 students). I got a suggestion to open my stance wider when doing grand pliés in second. I barely broke a sweat in barre tonight, compared to last night's barre that left me (and my handy hand towel) dripping.

Center work was fairly easy. I didn't have trouble catching my breath until after an allegro sequence which, because of the small number of students, ran pretty much continuously for four repetitions. When we finished I was surprised to realize we'd done no turns other than soutenu at the barre. In fact, the thing I struggled with most was muscle spasms in my sides (mostly serratus anterior, I believe, in case you're keeping score). I'm not sure if I'm dehydrated or if it's the back-to-back classes that I'm definitely not used to.

I guess I've come to accept that I really am competitive. I want to succeed, and to me, succeeding means improving. I want to get better and I'm not satisfied staying in one place. There are a couple of students in this class I remember from a year or so ago, and I don't see that they've progressed since then. I felt like I was pretty much at the top end of this class, along with one or maybe two of the others, and I started wondering whether I'd fit into this school's intermediate class. My friend seems a bit frustrated that she's not improving as she'd like, and I think it may be because she's taking classes that are not really challenging her. That's not to say that there isn't anything to be learned at this level, but I think you progress faster when you're challenged enough to be out of your comfort zone. Maybe I'll try to nudge her out of her nest. :-)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Annual Ballet Class

I went to the Beginner 2 class this evening. The last time I attended this class was the day before I got sick just after Turkey Day. When the instructor noticed me in the hallway before class her comment was a surprised, "Is that Reece? Come for your annual ballet class?" Yeah, it's been a while.

I told her I'd been sick and was still(!!) recovering and might have to bail early. I was hoping I wouldn't have to, but then again this is the class others have referred to as "Beginner 2.75". She said this would be a relaxed class, but the pace she set started me coughing and panting after the very first barre exercise. The coughing subsided and the panting didn't get worse so I stuck it out through the whole barre session. Center seemed easier and I did okay until about 75 minutes in when the allegro combinations wiped out my energy reserves. I sat out parts of the remaining 15 minutes but stayed through reverance.

One satisfying thing I noticed is that my pirouettes are definitely better than they were early this fall. Turning en dehor from fourth I'm getting up and stable, and finishing the turn when I want rather than falling out of it. I even had time to notice the position of the toe of my raised foot, which I've honestly never had time or stability to observe before. I did get told that I'm still putting too much effort into the turn, but that's something I can dial back and that observation came attached to a compliment. I'll take it! Turning en dedans feels like it requires way too much energy, but I'm completing the turn and not falling out of it.

I feel exhausted, but I also feel like I took another step toward getting back to normal. Or whatever passes for "normal" for a man on the verge of turning 53.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I don't make new Year's resolutions. But lots of people do, and quite a few of them seem to resolve to come to ballet classes. I thought last week's classes were heavily attended, but this week is worse (or is it better?) I walked into class a couple minutes late and I couldn't see any open spots at the barre. The instructor pointed out one right in front of her, but even that was a bit snug. We had to be careful during grand battements not to kick each other. I think I counted 21 students.

I did well enough, I guess. I didn't have the O2 reserves I did last week and I had some related lapses in attention, but my balance was good and my posture is still improving in tiny increments. The adagio combination felt pretty good. The allegro combination (glissade, jeté, pas de bourrée, glissade, jeté, assemblé, assemblé) wouldn't have been hard if my endurance had been better. We worked on "lame duck" piqué turns, and from the instructor's comments I expect we'll be doing a lot of them. I need work on spotting and turns in general. If I can just shake this bronchitis I'll be reasonably happy with my progress.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Power of a Threat

My bronchitis just wouldn't let go. The day after New Year's found me wheezing pretty badly, worse than the previous weekend, so I scheduled an appointment with my asthma doc for Monday. Saturday morning I found the energy to shovel the snow that fell early Friday morning, but I was wondering if I'd feel good enough to go to class this morning.

This morning I woke up feeling better than I have in weeks. Beginner 2 went so well I decided to take barre in Advanced Beginner too. It was fun to get more of a mental challenge than I've had recently. By the end of barre I still wasn't out of breath, though i could tell by the trembling in my muscles that I'd run out of endurance. Apparently I didn't look bad because I got some light-hearted teasing from some of the other students for bailing, but the instructor cut them off by saying, "He's already had one full class today!" I think 2 hours and 20 minutes is enough to walk out with my head held high.

I can only attribute my sudden recovery to the same magic that makes a balky car run just fine the day you take it to a mechanic. It's the threat of actually doing something about the problem that causes it to disappear. I just hope it doesn't come back later next week!

Edited to add: Oh holy crap, it's been too long since I had a workout like that, and I think I just failed the "ease back into the routine" thing. Even the instructor was having to pull back on the reins a bit: when she demoed an adagio combination she said "brush to arabesque" but kept her foot on the ground. I assumed that was just to make the demo easier until she called out "To tendu, Reece; we don't lift it until the next exercise." Oops. Color me eager.

Within an hour after class my ankles and what I'll politely refer to as my turn-out muscles started aching. Now, five hours later, I'm getting twitches and threats of cramps in a variety of leg muscles. I just took some calcium/magnesium tablets and drank about a liter of water, and now I'm going to grab my frozen "bag of peas" to see if I can avoid waking up to screaming cramps tonight. Wish me luck.