Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm ready for SPRING already!

Between the weather, some personal stuff, and the WEATHER, it's been more than a week and a half since my last class. And I'm feeling it for sure. Especially in the hip flexors. And it's only a month before the Men's Master Class in San Fran. So far to go and so little time.

Tonight there were no professionals and no pre-pros in my Advanced Beginner class. The exercises actually felt do-able. My balance was way off, but my lame-duck piqué turns were good enough that I could focus on foot placement and spotting. My pirouettes en dehor were ok, but en dedans they were crappy. We had a couple of tour jetés in the last combination, which were fun — I like catching a little air.

I am so totally ready for warmer weather. The forecast for tonight says it might get down to -5F (-20.5C), with the wind making it feel like it's -20F (-29C). That'd set a new all-time record low for this date. Maybe the bears have it right: I want to hibernate until Spring!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A peek In The Wings

I just got home from one of The Washington Ballet's In The Wings presentations. These are hour-long discussions of up-coming ballets featuring TWB's Artistic Director Septime Webre and others. Tonight's topic was Sleepy Hollow, a telling of Washington Irving's classic story of a headless horseman chasing Ichabod Crane through the woods late one night. Joining Webre tonight was Composer Matthew Pierce, Trainee Ballet Master Luis Torres, who also dances the part of Ichabod Crane, and a friend of Webre's whose name I missed, but is a retired professor of history and helped inspire the selection of the subject.

The presentation started with Webre's description of the sequence of events that led to the creation of Sleepy Hollow, which led into an overview of the historical context of Washington Irving's stories. We learned how the score was developed, and were treated to bits and pieces played by Pierce on the violin he uses for much of his composing, one his mother bought for him decades ago when he was first mastering the instrument. The presentation wrapped up with some insight from Torres into how the choreography developed. Finally, Webre outlined the hectic schedule for opening week, starting next Monday, including the revelation that the female lead dancer broke her ankle doing laundry Friday, and is being replaced with a principal from American Ballet Theater who just started rehearsals this week! Ain't live theater a trip!

Walking into the facility I was reminded again that The Washington Ballet was started and continues as a school, as I had to worm my way through younger students who had just finished classes and were waiting to be picked up and older students who were getting ready for evening classes. Other than being dressed a bit differently, it wasn't a lot different from many other evenings. I recognized an instructor who teaches at both schools and nodded to him, receiving that odd acknowledgment you get when the other person thinks you look a bit familiar but otherwise can't place you. On the way out I bumped into a pianist who plays at both schools, as several do. At the end of our time, Webre shooed us out exclaiming, "There's a class in this room in 3 minutes, so we have to get out!" Checking the schedule I noted with a laugh that the class coming in was their Adult Beginner class. Maybe I should have stayed!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Turner is Broken

I got to my Beginner II class a bit later than usual this morning, and a newbie had camped out in my usual spot. An entire portable barre in the front row was open so I stood there instead. No big deal, until one of my classmates says loudly, "Hey Reece! Someone is in your spot!" The woman standing there gets all embarrassed and says, "Is this your spot? I didn't know! I'll move." Hilarity ensues. In the end I insisted she stay in "my" spot.

I'm not sure what I did, but I seem to have broken my turner. I could barely manage decent pirouettes en dehor from fourth, and en dedans just wasn't happening. This problem persisted through Advanced Beginner too, which I stayed for.

Speaking of which, I'm kinda thinking I need to drop out of the Beginner II class. Not because I've learned everything there is to learn there, but because three hours of ballet is a lot. I'm quite sore this afternoon. As my girlfriend jokingly said, "You let the ballerina beat up on you for three hours? You poor baby." I tell you, I get no respect.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


I missed Tuesday night's Beginner II due to other commitments, and took this opportunity to check out the Thursday night Advanced Beginner class. This was a class I was taking semi-regularly a year ago, but somehow I developed some apprehension about it. Unlike Sunday afternoon's class we had neither pre-pro nor professional dancers, and it felt a tiny bit easier. Or less unfamiliar.

My balance is getting pretty good. It's no longer unusual for me to be able to hold retiré on demi-pointe with both hands off the barre for a full measure of music, and sometimes longer. Not always, and not always at first, but not uncommon. I got a smile and a head nod of acknowledgement from the instructor tonight for that. Some of that is greater strength in my feet, but a lot of it is greater flexibility in my hips so I can hold a more erect posture with less internal stress. I credit my therapist for the latter.

Sunday I'd skipped the last exercise in the center because I just couldn't wrap my head around the entire sequence. I didn't feel all that confident with it tonight, but I got through it with only minor screw-ups, both left and right. Maybe it's time to make this a regular part of my schedule. Again. What a difference a year (and a good surgeon) can make.

One of the steps new to me this evening is "précipité". As you might expect, this is French for "precipitate", which tells me almost nothing except it usually is a lead-in to something else. I seemed to be the only one who didn't know this term, so the instructor briefly described it as "a couple of quick steps" that, in this case, lead to a piqué arabesque. I'm still looking for a better explanation.

In my search I came upon a new (to me) adult blog that I want to check out: "mercietchatons". She wrote on the same step on November 4th, 2012. Her explanation isn't any clearer, but the blog itself seems interesting.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ballet Double Header

I spent a week in the Frozen North (aka Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), during which I attended NO ballet classes. I did look, but when my initial searches came up empty I let it go. Turns out I wouldn't have had time or energy anyway. I did get to class this past Tuesday, which went well. Yesterday I had other stuff to do, so I went to class today.

Apparently I haven't been to a Sunday Beginner II class in a while, because when the instructor walked around greeting new students, she stopped in front of me and jokingly asked my name too. I swear it hasn't been that long!

I noted several interesting things during class. The first was that during the first barre exercise the instructor told one of the students that she wasn't ready for this class, and could stay and observe if she wanted but she really needed to be in the Beginner I class that followed. It was done encouragingly and semi-privately, but still... Ouch! I guess I've been taking Beginner II or higher for long enough that I don't really think of it as difficult anymore. That's not to say I don't have something to learn in every class, but it was eye-opening. I don't think I've ever seen a student bounced out of class before.

Another thing I noted is that more women are wearing pointe shoes for barre, and some in center, even though this school does not offer adult pointe classes. It's instructor's discretion whether to allow it, and another student in this class was asked to switch to soft slippers until the instructor got to know her better. Again, quietly done, but still an Ouch.

I've been thinking about going back to my old routine of 3-4 classes a week, and that would mean going to Advanced Beginner classes again. For some reason this idea seems a bit scary, especially since the Thursday evening class is reputed to be a bit harder than the Sunday afternoon class. I felt pretty good at the end of Beginner II, so I took a spot at the barre in Advanced Beginner. No, I didn't get kicked out. I made more mistakes and got more corrections in AB than in B2, but nothing embarrassing. And in what I suspect is intended as encouragement, the instructor mentioned to everyone that some of us in AB were taking their second class of the day. That wasn't necessary, but I think it's her way of telling me I should be in this class more often. Maybe she has a point.