Saturday, December 17, 2016

Like a frosted doughnut

While the folk farther north are getting snow, we got something I consider worse: ice. Overnight we got a thick coating of freezing rain that has left trees, building, sidewalks and roads covered with the slippery stuff.

To make it to the stretch class without hurrying, I'd want to leave home at noon. Although temps are forecast to rise as high as 60F (15C) tomorrow, at 10:30 this morning it was still below freezing, giving me cause to doubt whether it would make sense to drive to the ballet school 40 minutes away. As noon approached it was clear that it would be foolish to try. Now, at 1:15pm, the air temp is still only 32F (0C) and my street is still a sheet of ice.

On the other hand I'm healthy and warm, have plenty to do at home, and have the fixings for far more food than I'll eat in several days. So life is good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


When I finished the stretch class yesterday I felt trashed. The muscles that are tightest (hamstrings, quads, and glutes) were twitching and I really hoped I hadn't overdone it. Yet after lunch I felt pretty good. Good enough, in fact, to make plans to go to the Beginner II ballet class this morning.

It was not to be. After falling asleep shortly before midnight (a common time for me) I found myself wide awake shortly after 2am for no apparent reason. Try as I might I didn't get back to sleep until almost 6am, which is very unusual for me. When my alarm went off at 8am I had already been up for 10 minutes, feeling very sore in several areas. The soreness and lack of sleep scuttled many of my plans for the day. Eventually I was able to get back to sleep for another couple of hours.

The worst of the aches are my hamstrings and psoas, to no great surprise, as that's where I'm tightest. My shoulders are also sore, which attests to both my present inflexibility and the thoroughness of the class. Even after taking some ibuprofen it still hurts to move around. Not so much as to be incapacitating, though, and I'm hoping it'll end up being a step in the right direction.

Let's do it again next weekend!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Stretch class

It's amazing what excuses one can come up with to avoid going to class.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Suzanne Farrell Ballet

I'm just leaving the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's presentation of a Balanchine three-fer: Danses Concertantes, Gounod Symphony, and Stars and Stripes. I really thought I was going to arrive late due to traffic, but I managed to get seated minutes before the lights dimmed. Whew!

I usually prefer story ballets, as I can get bored with nothing but patterns of dancers regardless of technical challenge. Danses Concertantes is an exception. I really enjoyed watching the trios do their thing. There was one duo; oddly I thought the male dancer of this duo was a bit uneven, doing some harder steps well then being shaky on simpler steps. But overall I really liked it a lot more than I expected to.

I expected to like Gounod Symphony more, as it's a classical ballet with lots of dancers. Technically they were very good, but I found myself thinking some of the principal parts were slowly paced. Maybe my preferences are shifting?

Stars and Stripes was fun. Despite the women's corp looking a bit like the June Taylor Dancers -- on pointe --  at the beginning, it got better and better. All in all a fun afternoon.

I do have one question, though. Why can't women jump? A man doing a tour jete has three movements: up, rotate, land. A woman doing the same step appears to do it as one motion, with the landing happening almost at the same time the other foot leaves the ground. Is this stylistic or a physical limitation?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

World Ballet Day

Tuesday was World Ballet Day. In honor of this I dragged myself down to the studio and took a class.

Ballet simply is not one of those things you can do once in a while. I started getting cramps in my calf muscles within minutes of the start of barre, and thanks to the big mouth of one of the other students we finished barre with a bunch of one-legged relevés. Apparently this is what our instructor calls a "restorative" class. I bailed out after barre, feeling less than restored.

Yesterday I was limping. Last night I had to get up and stretch several times. Even now, two days later, I'm still a bit sore.

On the other hand, I think my balance is still improving. I didn't try any turns but I was able to hold various demi-pointe positions balanced on one foot for longer than I remember being able to before.

I think I just need to get back into the habit of going to class on a regular basis.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Recognizing that I really need to get back to class more regularly but won't be able to make it Tuesday evening, i decided to attend class this morning. This class is officially the same level as the Tuesday night class, but in actuality is easier both in movement and in mental challenge.

Despite this, however, my legs gave the same "WTF?!" reactions, though perhaps a little less stridently. That aside, my balance seems okay and I didn't have any real difficulty with barre aside from not being as flexible as I'd like.

At the break one of the new (to me) faces approached me and asked if I was the author of this blog. For a half moment I wondered if I should deny it, but then my ego took over and admitted to it. Apparently I have a local fan! She doesn't normally go to weekend or evening classes and I don't go to weekday classes due to my work schedule, so this is the first time we've run into each other. I guess I'll have to keep the embellishments of my ballet prowess to a minimum from now on. I'll leave it to her to admit her guilt if she chooses. :-)

Center work proceeded fairly reasonably until about the 75 minute mark, when I started feeling like I'd run out of steam. Fortuitously this happened just before jumps, which I didn't want to do anyway given the state of my legs and feet, so I took a breather and watched from the sidelines instead. I did feel much better when we started turns (two step-over piques followed by a chassé, pas de bourrée, pirouette sequence) so I joined back in. The last bit was quite simple - échappé, pas de bourrée, glissade, assemblé - which went well other than finding my legs wanted to glissade right even when everything else was moving left. I guess that will go away with practice.

After class I was sore and stiff for the first few hours, but that seems to have mostly dissipated. I'm hoping that continues i to tomorrow, as the day after the previous class I walked only with great stiffness.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Worst Part

The worst part of not going to class for three whole months is the first class. I have cramps in my calf muscles, in my feet, below my diaphragm, and an ache in my lower back. And this after only 75 minutes of a 90 minute class. At least I was smart enough to leave the bottle of ibuprofen in my dance bag.

I guess the good news is that I finally got off my ass and went to class. Sitting on my butt all the time hasn't done me any good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A visit to the Podiatrist
So I haven't been posting much recently. This is probably related to not going to class much. See, for the last few months my feet have been aching in the heel and the posterior edge of my longitudinal arches. This happens every morning when I get out of bed, and when I get up after sitting for a while. Various massage therapists have applied the tricks of their trades, but nothing much changed.

A couple weeks ago I drove my girlfriend to see her podiatrist. I liked the guy, and while I was there I asked about getting an appointment for myself. Today I had my own appointment and he identified the problem as bone spurs on my heels at the posterior end of the longitudinal arch. These develop when the ligaments and tendons start to tear away from the bones under stress. When my feet aren't under stress things start to heal, only to be torn again when I stand up and walk. Thus the ache.

The "good" news is that he doesn't blame ballet. He points his finger at the boots I wore this past winter, saying they flex in the wrong place and twist where they should be stiff. I'm about to buy a pair of new hiking boots (the soles of my old ones are badly worn) and now I know what to look for and what to avoid.

He also says that they've learned that surgery is not indicated for this sort of problem. He thinks they'll heal over time, given the opportunity. He hand-made a pair of soft arch supports from tape and padding that slide over my feet to support the arch. Although he said I could go to class wearing these supports, I'm going to be away from classes for a few weeks more for other reasons. Maybe the break will aid the healing process.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Late to my anniversary

It's not uncommon when I show up for the first time at a new-to-me ballet studio for someone to ask me if I'm new. I've gotten in the habit of answering, "New here, yes. Not new to ballet." Which leads me to try to remember when I started.

Ignoring the few years I took classes in the mid-1980s, I started in May 2011. Which means it's been five years. Five years? Really? It doesn't seem like it. Well, maybe when I first get out of bed in the morning.

It's been interesting. I've taken classes at five different schools in the DC area, three on a regular basis and two as a drop-in. I've also taken a half-dozen classes in San Jose, a few in Raleigh, and one in London (yes, England). I was tempted to drop in on a class in Kyoto, Japan, but having neither my dance gear nor more than a smattering of the language I passed; I still wonder whether knowing Ballet French would have been sufficient.

My level of interest waxes and wanes. This time last year I was taking three to four classes a week; in the first six months of this year I think I'm averaging one every other week. If I can find decent ways to get there, taking classes at TWSB will add possibilities at times when I have scheduling conflicts with MYB classes. Maybe the second half of this year will be wax-on rather than wax-off. ;-)

Something a little different

I didn't make it to class this past weekend, instead taking advantage of the nice weather to enjoy one of my other hobbies. Nor did I make it Tuesday evening, succumbing to the temptations of a freshly-cooked salmon dinner. I really didn't want to go two whole weeks without a class but the only Thursday night class at MYB is Advanced Beginner and I wasn't feeling up to that.

I've been thinking about taking a class or two at TWSB for quite some time. I've also been wishing I could take some classes from a male instructor. I checked TWSB's schedule and found they had a Beginner 2 class this evening with a male instructor. Woot!

The studio is new, having only opened earlier this year. It looks new and smells new, with sprung Marley floors. The instructor turned out to be a nice guy in his 30's, I'd guess, with a good singing voice and a hands-on manner. At 75 minutes the class is shorter than the 90-minute classes I'm used to, and the difficulty level is lower than even the Sunday Beginner 2 classes. But he gives a lot of feedback and detailed directions, and this may be something I can benefit from. The slower pace also allows me to focus on little details that otherwise I wouldn't have time (or brainpower) to pay attention to.

The only real problem with this place is that it's a bitch and a half to get to, traffic-wise, being across the border into DC proper. Even at 6pm it took every bit of an hour to travel the 20 miles twixt my house and the studio.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Top o the class

I knew I wouldn't get to class either this weekend or tomorrow, so I made arrangements to attend a class this evening offered by someone who taught the classes I took several years ago. Her studio is on the opposite side of town from where I work, so this takes some juggling of my work-at-home schedule.

This evening's class was a bit slower than I'm used to, as two of the other five students were taking their first ballet classes ever. Since I went mainly to keep limber I didn't mind, and used the time to concentrate on finer details I usually don't have time to think about. I got some exercise, a break from work, and a chance to be one of the better students in the class.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Help me, Obi-wan Ibuprofen, you're my only hope

This evening I was inspired to stretch a little more during barre, and seemed to be somewhat more flexible than usual. But mid way through center my mid-back started aching. Not like I'd injured myself; more like I'd strained the erector muscles a bit.

Toward the end of class it was getting distinctly worse, so I bailed on the last exercise. I carry ibuprofen in my dance bag (doesn't every dancer over 50?) and I took one before seeking out dinner. Now that I'm home I'm debating taking a second before heading to bed. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On the Island of Misfit Monkeys

I left for class late, and was quite worried that I wouldn't arrive before class started. In fact, I walked up to the front desk thinking class would just be starting and I still needed to change clothes. Yet on my way to the men's dressing room I encountered our instructor in the hallway. What the...?

I'd correctly remembered that evening classes started 15 minutes later than they used to (for about the last year), but I misremembered the old start time as the new start time. Great. They say memory is the second thing to go... and I can't remember what the first thing was.

So quite unexpectedly I had 15 minutes to change and stretch before class. It was during this time that the hallway conversation turned to the subject of a year-long sabbatical on the island of misfit monkeys. Don't ask; it wasn't my idea.

Tonight there was a familiar face I didn't recall seeing for a while. It was a former regular who is working as an au pair in Paris. She was so excited to be home she really seemed to want to talk. Unfortunately, in this class, I really can't afford to skip the descriptions of the exercises once we get past the first few familiar ones. 'Tis a shame, too, as I'm sure she has some great stories to tell. Such as French ballet classes focus very heavily on the artistic qualities and very little on the physical strength required to actually execute ballet steps, so she was finding our classes exhausting. She did make an unsolicited offer to play tour guide next time I find myself in Paris. Should that occur.

I've been feeling a bit asthmatic the last few days, so I felt a less energetic than I might otherwise have. And the infrequent-ness of my attendance leaves me more prone to calf muscle cramps. But my balance seems to be better and better, and when I can muster the energy my turns are improving. Now if I could just lose 30 pounds I'd be pretty happy.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Picking the wrong first class

I'm going to be busy tomorrow morning so I went to class this morning instead. Our instructor opened class by welcoming a "guest artist", who really was a new student. New, as in never having taken a ballet class before. In the class I refer to as Beginner 2.75 because it's almost as hard as the Advanced Beginner class. Not the best choice.

I'll give her credit, she stuck it out through about half of barre (with some help from the instructor), but bailed just before rond de jambes. The instructor tried to talk her into staying for the class that follows, which was the the first class of the 5-week Introduction to Ballet, but she couldn't stay. Such a shame.

Today's class was thankfully smaller than last week's, there being only 20 students rather than the 30 we had then. There really isn't room for 30 students in that room!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Adult Weekend Workshop 2016?

Apparently two weeks is as long as I can go between classes before my subconscious starts prodding me to go back. Late last week I woke up from a dream, a dream about trying to learn a sequence of steps in center. I almost knew the sequence, but the more I thought about it the less well defined it became. Then I realized it was a dream and I was awake. Point taken.

After class Saturday (yes, I went) I noticed a flier for this year's Adult Weekend Workshop. For those who missed reading about it last year, it's a 3-day (Friday - Sunday, 5 hours a day) workshop for adult dancers at the Beginner II and higher levels, ending in a "recital" Sunday afternoon.

How has it been a year already? This time last year I'd been taking classes on a regular basis, often at the Advanced Beginner level. So when registration opened for the 3-day Adult Weekend Workshop, I allowed myself to be talked into signing up. I ended up spending Sunday evening laying flat on my back on the floor with my legs elevated on the couch to alleviate some of the throbbing in my calves and feet. I had a bruise under my toenail that lasted months. And I was tentatively considering signing up for the next one.

But I'm not signing up this year. No way, no how. Since late last year I've been making a couple classes a month, maybe. None have been at the Advanced Beginner level. I'm in no shape to take on a 3-day ballet marathon. Maybe next year.

That's not to say everything is terrible. I felt pretty comfortable in Saturday's class. I think my turns are improving, which is amazing given how rarely I attempt them — I even got a compliment on a pirouette. And I seem to be able to grasp center sequences faster than I have in the past. I sat out one center sequence because I was just feeling too out of it, but that allowed me to recover enough to put some energy into the rest of the class instead of just stumbling through it.

I think if I go back to a regular, more frequent schedule I'd do okay. One Beginner II class a week for sure, and maybe a second when I have time. I miss the challenge of the Advanced Beginner classes, but I have too much going on right now to make the time commitment required to get back into them.

TWB: Carmina Burana

Sunday evening I attended the Washington Ballet. Septime Weber came out at the beginning to introduce the night's selections, as has been his habit. I mention this because of his conspicuous absence two weeks ago. I'd worried that as his tenure as Artistic Director comes to a close that he'd decided to stop, but I'm glad to see that wasn't the case. Even if his spiel is almost word-for-word the same as what is printed in the program, it's nice to hear him tell the story.

They opened with Balanchine's Theme and Variations, a classically-styled ballet set to the music of Tchaikovsky. Technically a very challenging piece, I felt my legs getting sore just watching. Balanchine wanted everything faster and crisper, and this ballet demands that of all the dancers. It has no apparent story line, though, which is somewhat unfulfilling. The principal dancers were attired in brilliant white, but the rest were in something of a bland, uniform peach.

The highlight of the evening was the return of Weber's Carmina Burana, set to the music of Carl Orff and featuring the voices of the Cathedral Choral Society arrayed on scaffolding around the edges of the stage. As Weber explained, the songs were originally thought to be sacred texts, but were later discovered to be bawdy, lustful drinking songs. A description simply cannot do justice to this production. When the curtain went up again after it was over everyone lept to their feet in thunderous applause. And I mean everyone. No milking the bows while the audience politely claps, everyone was still applauding loudly when the curtain went down.

I'd have to rank this among the best productions I've ever seen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

It Burns! It Buurns!

I made it to class this evening. Oh how it burns! And hurts and aches. Everything from hips south, though primarily in my feet. Clearly going to two or three classes a month doesn't work for me; I need to go to class regularly or stop going altogether. And I don't think I'm ready for that.

Don't get me wrong; many things went well this evening. I'll feel better once the ibuprofen kicks in.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

It's been SO long

It's been so long since I was in class regularly I think I over-stretched a muscle just getting dressed.

I was hoping to ease my way back into class by taking the easier of the Beginner 2 weekend classes. Of course this meant the regular instructor was on vacation and the Saturday instructor was subbing. I really like her, but she's not known for easy classes. She did tone it down for this group, despite their comments, as evidenced by the absence of single-legged relevés.

One of the barre exercises proved a bit too complex for me to execute, though I think I would have had it if we'd repeated it, but most seemed pretty easy once I figured out the timing. I know that I would have been struggling desperately a couple of years ago. In center things went well until the last exercise where she introduced a new step I've never heard of before -- something about fluttering legs. I was rather tired by then and skipped that, not having brain power left to absorb it. But most of my turns were strong and controlled, which I was pleased to note.

All in all, not bad after getting to only ONE class last month.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Out of class for another week

Well, wasn't that fun! It's not every day you have the opportunity to answer the question "What is the level of your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?" with TWELVE, damn it!

(Far too much TMI below. And bad Star Wars metaphors. You have been warned.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Accumulating rust

After a couple weeks off, mostly due to snow but also work, I made it back to class. With my off-and-on attendance I opted for Sunday's Beginner 2 class. I got a late start and walked in the door a few minutes after scheduled class start. Of course class didn't actually start for several minutes more, but I really didn't have any time to warm up, and since it was only +12F (-11C) out, "not warmed up" was literal.

The cold seemed to have penetrated my head too, because I made a number of silly mistakes during barre. Mostly it was a matter of forgetting what came next or just skipping ahead. I got a couple of corrections for not keeping my knees straight, especially when extending to the rear. These were less a matter of not paying attention than feeling all sorts of stretch behind my knees when I attempted it.


Yet all was not bad. At one point we were in coupé en demi-point and I found I could hold that fairly well without touching the barre. In center my balance wasn't spectacular but neither was it horrible. When we got to turns (a combination of waltz turns and pirouettes I ended up in the first group to go and did pretty well when turning turning to the right en dehors. To the left the first turn didn't really want to go but got better on subsequent turns. I even remembered to spot on occasion. En dedans, though, eeechh! Has it really been that long?

The more rewarding bit was in the petite allegro where we where challenged with a cross-timing combination of 3-3-2 (glissade, jeté, sauté; glissade, jeté, sauté; glissade, assemblé). I usually get stuck in such a combination at the end of a phrase but this time I was able to keep the movement going and stay with the music. It wasn't pretty, but it was an accomplishment.

Due to medical stuff the chances of me going to class tomorrow night are nil. I expect I'll be able to get to class this weekend, though. I'm looking forward to getting outside then, as we're supposed to go from the frigidly cold +12F this weekend and snow today to +60F (+15.5C) on Saturday!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Big Changes at The Washington Ballet

Septime Webre, the Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet for the last 17 years, is stepping down effective June 30th, 2016.

The announcement did not name a replacement. Instead it indicates that a search for a new Artistic Director "is proceeding immediately."

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Four! I made it to Four!

After a good start to the month things went to hell. Two weeks sick, two kidney stone attacks (and a half day in the ER), and over 30 inches of snow has kept me out of class until this weekend.

I thought I'd ease my way back in with a Beginner 2 class, but the regular instructor is out and this class was more like 2.5. I started off strong but by the end of barre my energy was fading. I did some center exercises and skipped others, going from feeling hot to chilled by the end even with my sweatshirt on. Then during Reverence, of all times, I overstretched a muscle in my side and it went into full spasm. Damn that hurt! Now, an hour later and with lunch in my belly, I think it's finally calmed down enough for me to drive home.

That was TWO classes in December and FOUR in January. Not exactly a major achievement, given that not long ago I was taking four classes a WEEK. But at least I'm back in class.

Oh! I almost forgot. There was a seriously funny moment in class today. The instructor was giving feedback on petit battement, saying the foot should just touch the front of the standing leg and then the back. The woman she was talking to innocently asked, "So we should touch ourselves?" Silently I covered my ears with my hands and the class broke up into gales of laughter.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Don't want to Adult today

The 2.5 feet (78cm) of snow that fell on this area over the last couple of days has put a damper on things. I really want to just pull the blankets over my head and go back to sleep, but I need to go dig my car out. I have appointments scheduled for Monday afternoon.

On average we only get a storm like this once every few years while some years we barely get any snow. And when it does snow heavily it usually disappears within a few weeks. But that doesn't mean I haven't started wishing I lived somewhere with warm winters.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Another word: sick

Seems like staying home from class last night was a good idea for another reason: I woke up this morning coughing and feeling congested. Rather than bring whatever bug I caught into work and sharing it with my co-workers I decided to stay home. I gave proper notifications, then climbed back into bed and slept until early afternoon.

Right now I'm running a temperature of 99.3F (37.4C), so I suspect I'm going to be home tomorrow as well. I had been trying to figure out how to juggle various obligations this weekend, but I think class just dropped off the schedule until I'm back to 100%.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One word: owww!

The conflict I had for tonight's class resolved itself, and yesterday I entertained thoughts of going to class. Yet two days after the nasty cramp in my adductor my legs still hurt. Last night I was seriously concerned that one or the other would cramp, and this morning they still occasionally twitch in certain positions.

Perhaps it'd be best if I took it easy this evening, and snuggle up with a nice jug of Gatorade.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January is a different month

Ten days into the new month I've already gotten to more classes than I did all last month: a Saturday and a Tuesday of the Beginner 2.75 flavor, and today's true Beginner 2. The Saturday and Tuesday classes were mentally challenging due to the long combinations. Today's class felt markedly easier, allowing me time to really focus on form, at least until the last couple of exercises when I just felt tired. The combinations at the end weren't complex, but I was tired and I still sometimes have trouble stitching phrases together into a continuous movement.

I though I'd done quite well, getting only a few minor spasms in my feet and calf muscles during barre and feeling quite mobile this afternoon and evening. However, while getting up out of my chair this evening, I was hit with a horrific cramp in my left adductor. After some minutes (hours, it seemed) the cramp loosened enough for me to hobble to the kitchen and get some water, vitamin and mineral supplements, and Gatorade. Now, lying in bed with the laptop on my legs, I have to be careful of my position as both adductors are still twitching and acting like they may cramp again.

At first I couldn't figure out why I'd gotten the cramp. Then a possible cause occurred to me. The weather here has been balmy, with temps in the 50s and 60s. It's also rained a lot, making it quite humid. Since this is nominally winter the thermostats are set to keep the classrooms above 72F, but the actual temperature half way through class was 76F. All through class I felt hot and sticky, and I sweated a lot more than usual. I guess I allowed my electrolytes to get out of balance.

I'm going to have to miss Tuesday evening's class because of a conflict. There used to be a Beginner 2 class Monday nights, but it's now an Advanced Beginner class and I'm not ready for that yet. Wednesday is Beginner 1, which is now agonizingly slow, Thursday is another AB, and there are no classes Friday evening. So it may be next weekend before I get another class.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

It's a New Year

So I made it to two classes in December. Two whole classes. I guess that's better than one or none.

I have an appointment tomorrow so I started the year with a Beginner 2 class this morning. I'd had nasty cramps in my feet and calf muscles the previous two classes and made a point of drinking some Gatorade in advance to forestall a repeat. That seems to have worked to some extent, with just some minor cramping in the longitudinal arches during barre.

I felt pretty good through most of class. The jump combo was 4 changements, 2 quick step-piqué thingies, and 2 even faster pas de bourrées. I must be out of practice because I couldn't keep up; I'll console myself by noting that neither could 2/3rds of the other students. But I tried. I guess I'll go back to practicing PDBs when I'm standing around waiting.

The last exercise was a jumpy twisty thing that I normally would have enjoyed, but I just couldn't wrap my head around the sequence. I watched the others for a while trying to pick up the pattern but never did. I'm sure it'll seem trivially easy next time I see it.