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.