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!