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.