Monday, May 25, 2015

Harry Potter Studios

This one has NOTHING to do with ballet.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Well, maybe not

Wednesday evening I came to the conclusion that whatever was bothering me wasn't going to go away by Thursday evening, so I emailed my regrets to the studio owner. I feel bad because she and I exchanged several email and I basically promised to show up, and I had to cancel. But I had an obligation to folk at work and I really want to be healthy for next week.

Thursday afternoon I was told that due to the extremely early spring (or mild winter, take your pick) here in the UK the pollen levels have soared to record levels, and the government health people say that 100 to 150 thousand people will suffer from hay fever this year who have never experienced it before. That seems to include me. Too late to change my mind about class, and I really didn't want to sneeze my way through it anyway.

I'd been taking Claritin (spelled Clarityn over here) since Monday, but I've always found that it's better at preventing a reaction than responding to one. Yesterday I resolved to find some Zyrtec, which works better for me when dealing with strong reactions. Unfortunately you have to get it from a pharmacy here, even though it's available without a prescription. And all the pharmacies near me opened at 9am and closed at 6pm, which is impractical when you have to be in front of a class from 9 to 5:30.

Today class wrapped up in mid afternoon, and I drove off to score some good drugs. I found a great parking space (tough in small towns where the roads are narrow) and went in to consult with a pharmacist. My plan was to get some Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as a backup, but they only sell it as a sleep aid here. Instead I left with my Zyrtec and some nasal spray I'm told will also help a lot. The Zyrtec has already helped quite a bit, and should get better after I take my second one tomorrow morning.

I thought about going back to CSB Monday evening, but it's a Bank Holiday here Monday, and the school will be closed. Oh well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sometimes I hate being right

Yup, I was right, I'm sick. Not in the head either, though that hurts too. I wrote the previous post on the train out of central London to the suburb where I'm staying, and as I walked off the train I suddenly felt badly chilled. Checking my temperature I found it was 100.6F (38.1C), and eventually climbed to 101.2F (38.4C) before I got to sleep.

Fortunately my temp moderated enough by morning so that I could make the meetings I came here to attend (what, you thought I flew across the Atlantic to take a ballet class?), but it's still fluctuating and I have a congestion and a cough.

I was hoping to take another class Thursday at a studio in the suburbs but I'm just not up to it. Right now I'm just hoping I don't lose my voice this week, and recover enough by the weekend to enjoy some days off.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Central School of Ballet

I spent this afternoon sightseeing in London. I've been feeling like I might be coming down with a cold, so although I had my dance gear in my backpack I really didn't expect to feel like going. Standing in line to see Churchill's War Room I noticed that many people around me were also sneezing and sniffling and wiping their eyes. There was so much pollen in the air you could see it, like little dust clouds. Inside the museum, which is all air conditioned I felt better, so I Hunt d down a Chemist's (pharmacy for US readers) and bought some Clarityn. That and more food (and lots of herbal tea) has fixed many of my issues. So about 90 minutes before class I headed into the Underground for the short trip to Waterloo.

Only to find my day pass had ceased to work. It took about 45 minutes for the three people in line to understand how an Oyster card works. No problem, I think, the bus will only take 17 minutes. Except it took forever to find the fricking bus stop, and then the bus took a diversion (detour) through the worst of London rush hour traffic. I managed to walk in to the door all of 2 minutes before class start, and I still had to change.

Paid my £9, climbed one set of stairs to the changing room and hurriedly changed. Ran back down those stairs, down the hall past the front door, down another flight of stairs, and into a concrete block basement room where the class had already started. Music was blaring from an amplified iPhone, but the floor was nicely laid Marley.

I found a spot at a rickety portable barre (barely) and tried to blend in. This class is called "beginner improvers" and is supposed to be for those who have grown out of the "beginner" class but aren't ready yet for the more advanced classes. My schedule really didn't allow for any other class, but it seemed like it'd be a good fit. In many ways it was. Some steps they're just learning, like pas de bourrée, while others they clearly have been working on like pirouettes. Other than having balance and flexibility problems from the lack of warmup, my biggest problem was remembering the sequence of steps.

The instructor, a man, was wearing a shirt that had his full name written on it in sequins and a hat that had his full name on the back and his initials on the front. Clearly he's shy and not given to self-promotion. He has a good rapport with the class, and knew many of them by name. I didn't get any direct comments bad or good, but a a newcomer in a class with well over 30 students in a relatively small classroom I would expect them only if I did something seriously bad.

I'm on my way to my hotel now where I'm going to take a long soak in the tub. Cuz I'm sore!

Friday, May 15, 2015

ALICE (in Wonderland)

For anyone fool enough to use this blog to decide whether to see The Washington Ballet for this weekend's performance of "ALICE (in Wonderland)", definitely go. I saw it Sunday and it was spectacular.

Having learned most of what I know about Lewis Carroll's work from small excerpts (and Grace Slick) I missed some of the references. Fortunately my well-read gf helped fill in the gaps. The hedgehog croquet was well played, made incredibly cute by the efforts of children no doubt recruited from the TWB school. And the March Hare made my nose twitch. It was seriously fun for the adults as well as the smattering of children in the audience.

If only that had been the last TWB show of the season for me.

Continuity and Endurance

One of the things I've consistently had trouble with is moving from one phrase to another smoothly. We learn a sequence in phrases, then try to execute it as a long sequence. I often get stuck at the end of a phrase and find myself behind at the start of the next. Talking to other students I see this is a common problem.

Recently, though, I've had more success in transforming the phrases into unbroken sequences. The first time this happened we were doing a petite allegro broken into three-count phrases but danced to 4-count music. Normally this works out badly for me, but on this occasion last week it just all flowed together.

Tuesday I was one of the first into the classroom, and decided to try some pirouettes. Not only did they work nicely, I was tempted to try some doubles (but didn't). Yet later, when we got to turning combinations after barre and some other exercises, I had difficulty controlling them. I think the difference is in how tired I am, rather than specific technique.

Lastly, during grand allegro I found myself alone on the floor. We were supposed to be going in groups of two and maybe three, but my fellow students had clumped together for (self-protection of their egos?) and left me by myself. It was a simple combination of sauté arabesque derrieres, chassés and pas de bourrées, though one of them was backward (upstage leg raised) into which I hadn't quite figured out the transition, and ending in what I think was supposed to be a little assemblé tournaunt. I decided to just put on a show, and though I stutter-stepped through the confusing transition I finished with the highest tour jeté I could muster while landing in fifth. I either did really well or blew it really badly, as the other students were pretty much silent, but I didn't get any specific corrections from the instructor. Maybe white men can't jump, but we jump better than most women.


I went to see the final production of The Washington Ballet's season, Tour de Force. Between work and other stuff I'm feeling a bit stressed, and discovering that rather than my normal 6th row seats I was in the second to last row didn't help. Perhaps I was not in the best frame of mind at the beginning. But then neither were the dancers on stage at first.

I would think you'd want to start such a collection of performances with something strong to set the tone. The pair of dancers I saw were energetic, but at times were as stable as I was in Tuesday night's class. Which is to say not very. The woman obviously bailed out of several turns early, though she did it with control. At another point she was supposed to take a dramatic attitude derierre pose with arms in high fifth, but she held on to her partner's hand for a long time and had to grab it for balance several times. I'll be the first to admit that I have trouble holding that pose too, and on demi-pointe rather than full pointe, but I'm not a pro. Still, there were no falls or anything hugely embarrassing.

As the night went on the performances got better. It ended with Balanchine's Serenade, which makes interesting patterns but lacks drama. And men.

Speaking of which, can't classical ballet find more roles for men than as a prop for the women, with occasional bursts of leaps and turns? What about nuance?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Adult Partner Classes?

After class last night I asked the instructor if this school ever offered adult partner classes. See, back in the mid 80s I got to work with the girls' pointe class so they'd have an opportunity to see what it was like to do lifts and turns with a partner. I have fond memories of this and think it'd be fun to learn.

This instructor used to manage the place and still has a lot of influence. Her response was an emphatic "NOOOOooo!" She explained that they don't teach partnering to the kids until they're quite advanced, and the two things she would never offer to adults is partnering and pointe. (Those who have already learned pointe elsewhere may be permitted to wear them in class and get advice, but it's not taught.)

Frankly I'm disappointed. I'll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go to come close to any of the academy-track kids, but I think it's silly to limit the adults that way. It's not like we're going to damage our dance careers by learning it prematurely.