Saturday, December 30, 2017

Oh my aching...!!

I went back to class this morning after a week off. It wasn't my idea to be off this long, but I couldn't find an appropriate class due to the holidays. I knew the result would be that this class would be harder than usual, but I didn't expect it to be like this.

Before I start ranting, I'll mention that our instructor was not wearing pointe shoes today.  She didn't arrive as early as she normally does and thus didn't get much of a chance to warm up before class, and we actually started on time for a change. This was a very full class, with 29 students by the time the last of the stragglers came in. Three of the students were wearing pointe shoes at barre -- two continuing through center -- though one of them was a school company member proudly wearing her Nutcracker Cast T-shirt.

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of the students about the difficulty level of this class. They've been taking the Advanced Beginner class that starts a bit earlier, and they believe that this Beginner II class is more technically challenging. I haven't taken that Advanced Beginner class, but it echoes my own opinion that this ain't no Beginner II class. I suspect that sentiment is also shared by the two newbies in this class who clearly didn't realize what they'd gotten themselves into, though they bravely tried to keep up as best they could.

Now on to the ranting...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Conversations en Pointe

In the dressing room before Saturday morning's class I bumped into a man who I used to see at the school regularly, but hadn't seen in well over a year. He said he'd intended to take the Advanced Beginner class that started at 10am, but had arrived late and decided to take the Beginner II class instead. Apparently we've been in the school at the same time quite a bit, but he's been in class when I arrive and I've been in class when he left.

As has become her habit since at least September, our instructor was in the hallway warming up wearing pointe shoes. I once asked if she'd bought new shoes and she said they were a half-dead pair that she'd pulled out of the school's hand-me-down bin one day. I'd half-jokingly asked her when she was going to start teaching class wearing them, and she'd laughed and said "Never!"

Apparently "never" arrived Saturday morning.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A question about leg warmers

When I first started ballet classes, way back in the 1980s, I bought a pair of leg warmers because everyone wore them. It being the '80s, they were purple. I still have them, though the elastic has long since dried out. When I went started taking classes again a few years ago I didn't bother with the leg warmers. In fact, I started wearing shorts thinking that would help dissipating the heat I generate.

We're quickly moving into winter here and it looks like it may be a cold one. A couple weeks ago, while I was shopping for new slippers, I saw a rack of leg warmers . I decided to get a pair for when a studio is especially cold. It's no longer the 1980s so I grabbed a black pair.

At first I wore them while I warmed up and pulled them off after barre, just before starting center. The last couple of classes, though, I've left them on all the way through class. I thought I would feel hotter, but it hasn't felt that way. And it sorta feels like I have more spring in my legs while I'm wearing them.

Does anyone else find this to be true?

On a tangentially related note... Last night, in between center combinations, our instructor gave one of the students a compliment on her attire. Apparently feeling that it was inappropriate to single out this student, she started offering compliments to each of us in turn. When she got to me she kinda hesitated, as if she didn't know quite what to say. Here I was, dressed in black slippers, black leg warmers, black tights, and a tight midnight-blue T-shirt. If the floor had been black, as it is where I take class Thursdays, I'd be nearly invisible. I grinned at her and said, "I'm dressed as a ballet ninja." Blink. Blink.

Hey, my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane. Even if it sometimes makes other people question my sanity.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet: Farewell Performance

For the past 16 years, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet has brought to life the ballets of George Balanchine as only one of his muses could. This year she decided to fold the company after one last set of performances, to focus more on teaching and passing her unique knowledge on to others.

Tonight was the last of her company's farewell performances.

The best seats I could get in the Kennedy Center's Opera House were way up in nosebleed territory -- Tier 2 -- but second row and near the center. It's a very different perspective than my Washington Ballet seats, which provide a frontal view of the stage. From way up high I had a better view of the patterns the dancers made. But there's no way I'd trade.

The lineup this evening was:
  • Gounod Symphony
  • Tzigane
  • Meditation
  • Serenade
The view from above was ideal to watch the patterns in the Gounod Symphony. Tzigane and Meditation were more character driven, and were filled with emotion. Serenade went back to interesting patterns, with small snippets of character and bracketed by a pair of striking visual images.

At the end of the company bows, the lead dancer did the usual and brought the conductor on stage Then, when it all seemed about to end, she went back to the wing and brought out Suzanne Farrell herself to thunderous applause. At age 72 and hobbled by the physical ailments that develop over almost 30 years as a professional dancer she appeared a bit unstable on her feet. The thunder continued unabated as she received a bouquet of flowers, and then the dancers who weren't already on-stage, former company members, and staff filed out from either wing, each placing a flower on what threatened to become a floral mountain at her feet. Only when all were on stage did the entire assembled group take their final bows and the curtain descend. Wow.

Thank you, Suzanne Farrell, for your work preserving the works of George Balanchine all these years. We look forward to the next phase in your career.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pulled a muscle in my... err...

I skipped Tuesday night's class because I had an appointment with my eye doctor. Last night I was a bit rushed getting to class and didn't get as much warm-up time as I'd like before class started. Even on my best days I'm tight through my glutes, quads and hamstrings, and I really felt it during barre.

This is relatively easy class, which allows me to focus on the details of technique without struggling to remember complex combinations. Although sometimes I feel like it's cheating that I'm not challenging myself, I really think I benefit from this. It's also a slow enough class that I don't end up thoroughly exhausted, which leaves me able to think and move properly during the last 15 minutes of class. Which means I don't feel like I'm such a klutz.

Although we've had 10 or more students on occasion, last night there were only six of us. That allowed adagio combinations to be performed all together, and allegro combos in groups of two or three. People seemed to pair themselves with another of similar skill, and I paired with the young woman who has recently started taking barre in pointe shoes. One of the last combinations was sauté arabesque, sauté passé, glissade, pas de chat, sous-sous and hold. She and I both are able to let the music dictate the timing, and it was really fun to watch in the mirror as we danced in sync.

During the break after barre our instructor was talking about the time she blew out her Achilles tendon doing nothing particularly strenuous. She blamed it on an antibiotic she was taking at the time that apparently has a side effect of weakening tendons and ligaments for about a month afterward. I made a mental note to consider such effects in the future, because I sure don't want to tear anything.

After driving home, as I walked from my car, I felt an odd twinge in my right buttock and it felt like my right leg might give way. I took a couple cautious steps and found that, although there was a twinge every time I transferred weight to my right leg and it felt unstable, I could walk safely. I'm not prone to paranoia, and I know enough about physiology to know that I really didn't damage anything, but I wonder if I didn't pull a muscle during barre due to the minimal warm-up and chilly temperatures. The sensation has since gone away, but I think I'm going to be more careful to gently stretch before class from now on.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Something for the ladies

Okay, ladies, here's a picture sure to set your hearts a-flutter:

New shoes!!!

What? Isn't that what I'm always hearing y'all talking about? I mean, I once dated a woman who had over 100 pairs of black pumps alone. I have maybe 4 or 5 pairs of shoes, so this is a major addition to my wardrobe.

ANYhoo... I didn't feel like getting out of bed Saturday morning so I slept in. Then I drove 25 miles the opposite direction to the Footlights store in Frederick, Md. The Silver Spring store is more convenient, but it's half the size and has only a tiny selection of men's styles. When I arrived I realized I'd stupidly left my dance bag at home, but since I shop for most of my dancewear here they have records that show what I've bought previously.

I tried a pair of So Danca slippers but they weren't comfortable and felt very lumpy under the ball of my foot where the pleats attached to the sole. I ended up with Capezio Hanami stretch canvas slippers, style 2037W. They are quite stretchy but are apparently unisex-sized so I ended up with a 12.5 Wide, compared to my non-stretch 10.5 Medium Romeos.

The Hanamis came with the criscross elastics already attached at all four ends with what looks like both hot-melt glue and stitching. As I put on one of the shoes both the elastics on one side popped loose, so I have to assume they weren't sewn on that side and QA failed to catch the defect. The woman helping me offered to reattach the elastics, as they have a sewing machine in the back for just this purpose. Later she gave me a discount to atone for the defect, which I wasn't expecting. Customer service is why I'll drive 50 miles round-trip to patronize a quality local store.

This morning I tried them out in class. I really like these slippers! They turn well, don't twist on my feet, and flex in the right places. I'm curious to see how well these wear.

I also bought my first pair of leg warmers since the 1980s. I still have those in a drawer, but the elastic is totally gone and the purple would look garish. I've mostly kept my legs bare to radiate some of the excess heat I generate, but I wanted to see if keeping them warmer would alleviate some of the heaviness I sometimes feel during the petit allegro segment of class. It felt like it may have helped, though since this is the REAL Beginner 2 class (rather than Saturday's Beginner 2.75 class) it's hard to tell.

Speaking of that, taking this class instead of the Saturday class is good for my ego. Rather than flailing around and desperately trying to remember a long combination, I feel more confident and can focus more on technique. I also got several compliments from the instructor today, which never hurts.

It also seems like any lingering (or imagined) issues this instructor and I may (or may not) have had have been forgiven. Today's class felt relaxed. When I screwed up a step in the petit allegro (a jeté rather than the intended assemblé), I mouthed a silent "Shit!" She spotted both the error and the epithet, and knowing I'm my own harshest critic she smiled at me and laughed knowingly.

Maybe I could take BOTH the Saturday AND Sunday classes. And maybe it's nearing time to get back into the Advanced Beginner class Sunday afternoon too. I really don't need a social life if I have ballet, do I?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Another milestone

Each of us tracks the passage of time in his or her own way. One of the ways I track it is my slippers. I haven't gone back through this blog to verify, but I believe this is the fourth or fifth pair of shoes I've worn holes in. Always under my right big toe, if it's not obvious.

If I remember correctly, there were at least two pairs of Capezio Cobras I wore out and I think this is my second pair of canvas Romeos. Then there were the first pair of white Cobras I got when I first started 6-ish years ago that I gave away because they were a bit too small; they had some wear but no holes. In my bag I also have a pair of leather Romeos which I don't wear often because they're a bit too tight and are blindingly white.

Sometimes I feel like I should be like Wesley Snipes's character in "Major League" who nails his batting gloves to a board every time he steals a base. Only mine would be worn-out ballet slippers.

Some people have suggested I swap the shoes left-for-right to get longer life out of them. From a practical standpoint I don't do this because the shoes form to my feet and swapping them wouldn't be comfortable. But there's also the "oh hell no, I've worked hard for those holes!" reaction.

I figure I can get one more wearing out of these tomorrow, and then I'll have to go shopping for new slippers in the afternoon.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Overheard at the Barre

This morning, while warming up before barre, I overheard an older woman talking to another. Her husband has started cooking, and she was laying into him for not being the best chef ever. The recipe said it would take two hours but it took him FOUR hours because he was being overly careful to remove all the stems from the herbs rather than just removing the biggest ones. The onions he used were too strong and she couldn't taste the milder herbs. On and on she went; he just couldn't do ANYTHING right in the kitchen.

I'm not a violent person, but I really wanted to go over and slap her across the face. Here she has a husband who is learning something new and all she thinks about is how she's "suffering". Was she born with crazy cooking skills, or did she learn it by trying like the rest of us mortals? Would she rather have a husband who flops in his recliner, demands she bring him a beer, and expects a gourmet dinner on the table every evening at 6pm sharp?

It's been two hours since this happened and I'm still furious. I've been trying to cook more at home and I find her comments personally offensive. I don't know if she's sniping at him because she's insecure and views this as an intrusion into her domain, or if she's just a judgmental jerk.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ballet Techniques review

I've now taken three of the four classes in the four-class "Ballet Techniques" series. It's so much like an intro class that it seems like it should be easy, but it's not. Or maybe I should say this is really basic beginner stuff but I'm still having trouble with it. Of course, that's why I wanted to take this class in the first place.

This posting started out to be a narrative of the first two classes, but it's taken until now to sort out what I wanted to say. I've finished the narratives but switched to more of a commentary (or rant) at the end.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Adult Pointe class is a bust

After avoiding the topic for a few weeks, I asked Susan if she was going to pursue holding an adult pointe class at Joy of Motion this spring. She says that JoM doesn't really want to hold an adult pointe class.

She asked whether I'd had any luck at Md School of Dance. I told her that Kim Parmer didn't want to teach any additional classes, and that Mané wasn't interested in teaching an adult pointe class. I said that they might be willing to host the class if she wanted to teach it, but she didn't jump at the opportunity.

I asked Susan what adult students who wanted to learn pointe ab initio should do. She suggested that anyone in that situation should pick out a beginner-level class and ask the instructor if it'd be okay to take class, or at least barre, wearing pointe shoes. Of course, that's pretty much what people are doing now.

If there is a bright side to this, it's that there is heightened awareness of the interest. You'll still need permission, which you would have needed to do anyway—and let's face it, some people are not physically prepared for pointe work—but you're unlikely to get the death glare for asking. There are at least three or four students in Susan's Beginner II classes at MYB who take barre in pointe shoes, and one or two often do the entire class. There are two in pointe shoes in Mané's Thursday night class at MSD, one who just started. So you wouldn't be the only one. However, both instructors suggest talking to them before investing in pointe shoes.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


If this wasn't class number 3 of a pre-paid 4-class series I would absolutely go back to bed right now.

edited to clarify: This is not a reflection on the class. I just hate mornings. Especially this morning, for no particular reason. I had plenty of sleep, but I really did NOT want to get up and get ready for class.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Distilled white vinegar for the win

It seems every time I post about dancewear it turns into a rant.

For those who may not be caught up, I've been trying to clean a favorite shirt I often wore to ballet classes. It's an UnderArmor shirt intended to be worn in athletic activities. Despite several machine-washings and air-dryings, an ammonia odor would develop every time I wore it to class, but only after I sweated in it for more than about 30 minutes. That translates to a bit more than half-way through barre.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ballet Technique with Stephen Baranovics

One of the problems with learning ballet as an adult is that you often don't get an organized, comprehensive introduction. Instead you jump into a class with other adults, some of whom know what they're doing and others who are just as lost. There are many parts of ballet I can do without thinking about it, and others of which I'm clueless.

If I was starting over from scratch I might take MYB's Intro to Ballet enrollment classes, but after six years of classes I think they're targeted a bit lower than I need. So I was intrigued by the announcement of a four-day ballet technique workshop being offered by the Washington School of Ballet (the school associated with the Washington Ballet professional company). Here's an excerpt from the flier:

Ballet Technique with Stephen Baranovics 

Sundays 9:30am-11:00am
October 15th-November 5th
Cost: $76 for all 4 classes

Pre-registration is required. No drop-ins.

This four-week workshop is designed for students with a minimum of 2 years of ballet training to help them strengthen their technique and provide the tools to move to the next level. The workshop will cover the 7 movements of ballet as well as pirouettes, jumps and turns.

Sign up online, at the front desk, or by calling 202.349.0261.

Class will be held at the Joseph C. Coleman Studios (The Joe), 3308 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Stephen Baranovics also teaches a class for younger boys at MYB immediately before the Saturday Beginner II class I often take. Some years ago our instructor for was suddenly taken ill on her way to class, and he substituted during barre. I've been curious about taking a full class with him ever since. I've taken a very few classes taught by male instructors, and I find the differences in technique to be very helpful.

I decided to sign up for this class, despite it meaning that I have to get up at some horrendously early hour on a Sunday morning. I hope it's worth it!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Help me, Obi-Wan, you're my only hope

This posting is nothing but me venting, mostly about the adult pointe class debacle. If this interests you, by all means proceed. If not, you've only yourself to blame.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pointes all over

When I arrived for class this morning, Susan and one of my classmates were in the hallway limbering up in pointe shoes. Apparently this has become a regular thing with Susan before class.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Ballad of the Stinky Shirt

But first some real ballet-related stuff.

In the last few classes I've been having trouble with my pirouettes. They just didn't seem to be working as well as before. Last Sunday I realized that I'd gotten lazy about the placement of my working foot during the turn, getting it only to mid-calf and probably not well turned-out. Last night I found myself doing it again, and made a conscious effort to correct the placement, and it really helped.

Now on to the next verse of the Ballad of the Stinky Shirt.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

That Smell

When I was growing up there was a band called Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 1977 they who released a song entitled "That Smell". It's a classic.

That's not what this post is about.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I need to learn new curse words

Ever have one of those days where it may have been better to just pull the covers over your head in the morning and refuse to get out? Yesterday was one of those.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Big Tease

This evening I arrived early for class to make sure I had time to warm up first. As I was stretching in the hallway I heard Susan come out to do the same. When I turned around to say hello she was wearing pointe shoes and doing relevés. I've been taking classes from Susan for several years now and I've never seen her in pointe shoes before. Was this a sign that she'd decided to commit to teaching the beginner pointe class?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Some people don't know when to quit

Some years back I was taking classes at the American Dance Institute. This started as a ballet school, then shifted focus to sponsoring new dance works. In 2015 they decided to stop offering classes altogether. In 2016 they rebranded themselves "The Lumberyard" (no, I don't get it either), closed up shop in this area and moved to New York.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered where many of the refugees from ADI ended up: the Maryland School of Dance. Their adult program is pretty sparse, but it does have a "Beginner/Intermediate" ballet class Thursday evenings, and I know the instructor from classes at ADI. I've been looking for a class Thursday nights, and the only one available at MYB is an Advanced Beginner class which is more of a challenge than I'm looking for at the moment.

I'd thought about going to this class last Thursday, but when I got to work I realized I'd left my dance gear at home. This evening I had a conflicting appointment, but that got canceled at the last minute. Since I'd already planned on leaving work earlier than usual I had time to drive home, change, and get to MSD early enough to check out the place. There are several studios, though some have small columns in them. The floors are synthetic over plywood (I'm not sure if they qualify as "sprung" floors or not) that are reasonably comfortable to dance on. When I arrived there were two different children's classes in progress, one of which was their Pointe I class and the other their Pointe II class. Interesting to watch!

There were several folk in the Adult class that I recognized; one or two from ADI, and one from MYB. Unlike the classes at MYB, which vary from a dozen to as many as 25, this was a class of 7 or 8. I chose an unfortunate place at the barre which had me facing away from everyone else during the first side of each exercise, and of course I was unfamiliar with the exercises. This meant I botched bits of most of them as I tried to remember the sequences. I'm also still kinda tight from class Tuesday resulting in a bit of cramping in my calf muscles, though that actually got better as the class went on. Overall I'd put this on par with the difficulty of the Sunday Beginner II class at MYB, and much easier than Susan's Beginner 2.75 classes. The students ranged from two or three who were clearly much better than the rest down to a few who struggled with basic steps. I'm still not doing double pirouettes, but I fit nicely just below the top few. Maybe this is a way for me to get three classes a week without having to flail in the Advanced Beginner classes.

Speaking of pointe classes... I spoke with Susan after class Tuesday evening. Apparently Joy of Motion is pretty insistent that a series class needs to run 13 weeks, and she isn't sure she wants to commit to a 13-week series. I'm feeling like I really can't encourage her any further without becoming really annoying. It's really up to her, so if y'all want this class to happen you should probably talk with her yourselves.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Total eclipse

Like many, I headed off to see the total solar eclipse last Monday. It was absolutely indescribable. One of the most interesting things I noticed was that the cicadas got louder and louder as the sun's light became dimmer and dimmer then abruptly stopped at the moment of totality, leaving an eerie quiet. Then, when the sun peeked out from behind the moon, their song began again even louder than before, then diminished as we returned to normal sunlight.

What's this got to do with ballet? Not much, except it meant I missed my weekend classes. The Tuesday before I missed due to another social activity, and last Tuesday I missed due to car trouble. So it's been a couple of weeks since my last class. This weekend I had commitments Saturday, but next weekend is the Labor Day three-day holiday here in the USA and my regular school is closed and I really didn't want to skip yet another weekend. Thus I found myself in the Sunday morning Beginner II class.

The Sunday morning Beginner II class is the easier of the two weekend classes. The routines are shorter and less complex. I find some of it lacking in challenge, but I make up for that by focusing on the details of technique that I may not have time for while trying to keep up with the Saturday morning class. It's also something of an ego boost because I can generally get through all of the centre work without feeling lost. I even earned a few compliments from the instructor!

On the other hand, being away from class means I hurt more during and afterward. The seat I sat in on my way to and from the eclipse is uneven, which torques the muscles in my lower back (quadratus lumborum I'm told) which makes my hips hurt and aggravates my right IT band. By the end of class I was walking rather unevenly. I guess I really need to get that seat fixed. It looks like TWB's adult program will be open this weekend so I may try to get down there rather than miss yet another weekend.

For anyone wondering about the adult pointe class, I know nothing new. I haven't talked to Susan since my last update and she's on vacation this week. I'll probably see her in class a week from tomorrow.

Speaking of adult pointe, I met commenter Michelle M., who introduced herself at the beginning of class. I've seen her in class before but I didn't have a name to go with the face. It was nice to meet you, Michelle!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Adult Pointe: complications

I asked Susan for clarification re acquiring pointe shoes. She says anyone planning to attend this class should show up for the first class with pointe shoes in hand.

Pointe shoes really need professional fitting, and the fitters get really busy around the start of a new semester when all the kids need new shoes. Also stocks get depleted. From what I've observed while I've been shopping for dance gear, getting fitted for pointe shoes is not something you'll dash in and get done in a few minutes. Schedule yourself some time.

So... if you're serious about taking this class and you don't already have well-fitted pointe shoes, it might be a good idea to start your search soon.

That's the good news. The bad news is a few hiccups have developed:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Adult Pointe: Almost time to ante up

After a couple weeks away, I got back to class yesterday. I didn't get there as early as I would have liked, and as I passed Susan on my way into the studio I asked if she'd settled on a day and time for the Adult Pointe class. She said said she really was too busy to teach yet another class -- she's already teaching four days a week on top of her full-time job. I expressed disappointment and went to find my place at the barre and start warming up.

Coincidentally I was sharing the barre with one of the women who regularly takes class en pointe, and I said that Susan seemed to have dropped the idea of a pointe class. She said she understood, as she was pretty busy herself. In the middle of this conversation Susan walked toward the corner of the studio where I was standing and started speaking. At first I didn't think she was speaking to me, but as my brain tuned in I realized she was saying that Thursday was the only day she could schedule the class, and she'd submit a class request at Joy of Motion when she was there Monday. Wow!

So all you folks (and friends of you folks) who wanted an adult pointe class, listen up! This class is on the verge of happening. Here's a summary to date:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just like Calculus

When I was a senior in high school I took Calculus as an elective. I basically failed every test. The teacher gave me a passing grade because, as she explained, she could tell from the tests that I was just a week or two behind the rest of the class. I guess she was right, because my college Calculus I class seemed easy and I had one of the highest grades in the class.

That's how I feel about the combinations we get at the end of ballet class. I'm generally too tired to absorb the sequence, but with repetition and time for it to sink in I figure it out. Unfortunately, by then we've generally moved on to something new.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Is this dancing or swimming?

It's been a bit hot and humid here the last week. A "heat wave" here is defined as three or more consecutive days where the high temperature is 90F (32.2C) or above. It's been that hot since last Tuesday, though the official high yesterday only hit 89F (31.6C) Sunday so technically the heat wave is over. Yeah, right.

Tuesday night's class was sparsely attended, which made for an active class. I asked about the adult pointe class and Susan said enough people had expressed interest to justify a class; now she has to figure out when and where. I asked her to let me know, as I might want to sneak in and watch just to find out what a pointe class is all about.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sometimes we're our own worst enemy

I went to Philly for the day yesterday, which forced me to miss my usual Saturday morning class. This morning I motivated myself into the car and arrived at the school about 10 minutes before class. It looks like they have a new desk clerk, and he's still learning the business of checking in students. This resulted in a bit of a queue. Nervously glancing at the time I was quite relieved when one of the regular desk clerks called out, "Oh! Hi, Reece! Julie's class?" Problem solved.

Walking down the hall to the changing room I encountered this morning's instructor. She smiled and said, "We have a guest artist today!" I'll choose to interpret that as good-natured teasing for not having been in any of her classes for several months, though for some reason I'm never quite sure. Chalk it up to a touch of insecurity, and insecurity leads us to make poor decisions.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It's the heat AND the humidity!

After taking a week off for the US 4th of July holiday, I went back to class this weekend. I'd piloted a charitable medical airlift mission Friday, and despite guzzling water during the 5.5 hours aloft I managed to get myself pretty thoroughly dehydrated. Waking up Saturday morning I realized that going to class would be foolhardy and made plans to go Sunday instead.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Adult Pointe classes in Bethesda: Who is seriously interested?

I had another chat with my instructor tonight about an adult pointe class. She's willing to teach one, IF there is serious interest. Are you folk interested enough to make this happen?

Here are the key points Susan and I discussed:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Getting old sucks

Getting old sucks, but I haven't found an acceptable alternative.

Monday, June 19, 2017

En Pointe Orthotics

Here's a link to an article in the Australian Dance Magazine describing a molded pointe shoe padding known as *En Pointe Orthotics* or EPO.

Basically it's a custom-molded orthotic that helps support the toes and distribute the dancer's weight evenly across the foot. It sounds like a really great invention. Give the article a read and let me know what y'all think about it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Reasons to take Adult Ballet

Recently I came across an article worth reading entitled, "Reasons to take Adult Ballet". One of the key quotes in it is:
Adult ballet isn't about the pounds you'll lose — it's about everything that you will gain.
And that is oh so true.

One of the reasons I take it is that it forces me to focus on something apart from my day-to-day life. If I lose that focus my feet don't end up where they're supposed to. I can't even daydream in class. And I find that very helpful in clearing my mind of all the things that are weighing on me.

Another are the fitness benefits. Although short combinations are anaerobic, I'm pretty sure that a 90 minute class keeps you active enough to be counted as an aerobic activity. After far too many months away from class I felt winded by the end of barre, and I can certainly see improvement in the last few months.

Give it a read.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

No, I'm not Susan

I'm happy to note that my "normal" response to not having specific plans for a Saturday morning now seems to be to go to class. This is a change from earlier this year where I'd happily spend Saturday morning reading the news or a magazine.

Friday, June 16, 2017

More thoughts on Adult Pointe classes

First my activity log...

I've been very good about going to class recently (though not so good at updating this blog). Last Saturday I left home for class at my normal time but got stuck in terrible traffic due to road repairs and didn't arrive at the studio until far too late. I opted to eat lunch first, then take the Stretch class in the afternoon. Wow, did that hurt! Clearly it's like ballet: take it on a regular basis, or don't take it at all.

Tuesday's class was the first in a long while where I didn't feel the need to sit out a section to recover. Not even the jumps. I'm going to claw my way back to taking 3-4 classes a week if it kills me. ;-)

Now on to the topic at hand...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Adults on Pointe

I had a conversation with one of the other students in my class Tuesday night. She was wearing pointe shoes and was getting advice from someone with more experience on the best way to tie her ribbons. I asked her how long she'd been on pointe and she answered that she'd just started.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Skipped a week

I skipped class last week. I know, I'm bad. Tuesday I was planning to go bit got involved in a project and lost track of time until it was far too late to get there. This weekend I had a better excuse: I was in Toronto!

This evening I made sure I was ready well in advance and arrived in time to warm up while listening to our instructor talk about her recent trip to England. Yes, she was in Manchester when the bomb went off, but she was nowhere near it. I told her I was glad she didn't get blown up, "cuz I didn't want to have to break in a new ballet instructor." :-)

It's kinda frustrating to go from taking three or more classes a week and feeling good to taking one and being exhausted. The biggest problem is that it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue: the only thing that will fix it is that which also highlights the problem. But you have to just keep plugging along. I'm trying to be more careful about my diet and I'm working on being more active. That includes getting to class more often. Every week I feel the need to sit out less and less of class, and feel a tiny bit better at the end. Tonight I sat out the jumps but otherwise participated in everything and didn't feel totally wiped out. Little steps.

Oh! We had a second man in the class. He's clearly new to this. He was wearing clothes more suited to going for a run, and he seemed to be having a fair amount of difficulty with basic positions. I'm not sure what prompted him to get into this class (what I call Beginner 2.75 level) but he definitely was struggling. I spoke to him at the break to let him know this was "almost Advanced Beginner level" but he barely even acknowledged me and never said a word. Hey, I tried.

Friday, May 26, 2017

TWB: Frontier World Premier

Last night I saw the world premiere of The Washington Ballet's newly commissioned work "Frontier" by Ethan Stiefel. It was quite good! The scenery/video and the lighting designers deserve kudos.

The second piece was "Jardin aux Lilas" by Anthony Tudor. I was not impressed, though I expect my issue is with the choreographer and not the company. I felt like I was stuck in a Madonna lyric. You know the one: "Strike a pose." A friend described it as a series of very pretty still images, with not a lot of dance.

The third piece was "The Dream", by Frederick Ashton, a delightful retelling of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Absolutely fantastic. Julie Kent has added more emotive expression to Maki Onuki's technical expertise this year, and Brooklyn Mack is still amazing. But the unexpected highlight was whomever danced Puck. The program lists Johnathan Jordan but an announcement was made of a substitution. I missed the name but I think it was Andile Ndlovu. I wish I knew for sure because he brought so much speed and energy to the role I felt exhausted just watching him. I think he must have gotten a Big Gulp sized espresso before the show!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Easing my way back in

With the involvement of a trigger-point therapist, a licensed massage therapist, and a chiropractor, the worst of the tension and pain in my neck has subsided to the point where I can return to class. It still hurts if I turn my head too far, but it's not debilitating.

It was gray and dreary outside here this morning, so... I went to class. Barre was fine, but by half way through center my brain didn't want to follow the combinations so I sat out the rest. Felt fine by reverence but I can hear my bed calling me to go take a nap. And now I think I'm going to do just that!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Not sure what I did, but...

Back in the mid 1980s (yes, I'm that old) I had a very high stress job. Before I quit about two years later I developed knots in the muscles between my shoulder blades. I still have those knots but they only flare-ups occasionally, usually when I'm under significant stress. I'm not sure what I did, but I seem to have reactivated those knots. Turning my head, or tilting so the weight isn't naturally balanced over my neck, causes pain that radiates from behind my shoulder blades up into the base of my skull. It makes driving quite awkward.

My intent was to go to class tonight. I made sure I had freshly-cleaned dance gear and everything. But the idea of doing much beyond sitting still, as straight as practical, somehow does not appeal to me right now. So I'm going to skip class. Maybe I'll get there this weekend instead.

Monday, April 24, 2017

She missed me!

After having attended the Tuesday night Beginner II classes for two straight weeks I missed last week. I had a good excuse: I had a regular conflicting activity that night. To try and keep up my involvement I went to class Saturday morning instead.

This instructor always uses the same first barre exercise, something I'm thankful for, as it lets me get settled without having to learn a new routine. It's also her habit to walk from one end of the studio to the other during exercises to get different perspectives of the class. This time, though, she came up to the opposite side of the portable barre I was using and said softly, "Missed you Tuesday."

Awww! She missed me! It didn't seem the right moment to hold a conversation so I answered only briefly, but at the break I explained about the periodic scheduling conflict and she replied that she was trying to encourage me to stick with class as a regular thing. Thanks, me too.

Our weather has been really crazy this year. After a few days where the temperature reached the low 80s it dropped back into the 50s. Saturday was cold and rainy outside, which meant the air conditioning didn't need to run to keep the studio temperature down. However, that also meant that it wasn't taking the moisture out of the air, and the studio felt like a bathroom after a shower. The windows had condensation on their insides, and walking on the normally-nice marley floors sounded like there was tape stuck to the bottoms of my slippers. I stayed into the first center exercise, then decided the heat, humidity, and sticky floor were a bad combination and excused myself to go have dinner and lots of water.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Oh wow, I'm sore!

I'm sore, and not just in the places I'd expect. I'm not surprised that my hip flexors are sore. Nor my calf muscles or feet. But my shoulders and neck? This almost feels like that achy feeling you get when you're sick. I hope that's not it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How I wish I was 26 again!

When you're in your 20s your body rebounds faster. Not when you're in your 50s.

Barre seems to be fine. I'm still getting some incipient cramps in my calf muscles and feet, but not as bad as last week. Last week I bailed after the first exercise in centre. This week I stayed "till the end, but skipped several of the exercises. Somehow in the last year I've gained 5 lbs which isn't helping.

It's something I've said here before, but I'll say it again. I either need to do this on a regular basis or stop. And I don't think stopping would be a good idea.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Still not dead

I went to class this evening! Woot!

My balance is good. My calf muscles are not.

Now I'm going to bed.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Instead of going to class yesterday I went to see Allegiance, a movie presentation of the Broadway play featuring George Takei, which addresses the shameful forced relocation and internment of 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese descent during World War II. I consider it time well spent.

I'd tell everyone to go, but there was only one showing nation-wide, and that was Sunday, February 19th, 2017, the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, known as the the Day of Remembrance. Maybe it'll come out in DVD form, or in the cinemas again. Watch for it.

This afternoon I got a message from the ballet teacher from the school west of me, letting me know that they would be holding class tonight and asking me if I would like to attend. It's rarely practical for me to do so because I work on the other side of the city and the commute is prohibitive. However, on those occasions when my client has a Monday day off, sometimes I drop in.

I really didn't plan on it, but having missed class yesterday I decided to go. This class is only an hour, rather than the 90 minute classes I'm used to, but lacks the break after barre. I did a lot of walking yesterday, and for some reason this made my calf muscles feel tight and knotted. I didn't get there early enough to have much time to stretch before class, so I did have some issues with them cramping. Still it was a good workout.

Afterward, as I went to settle the bill, the owner of the studio remarked, "Oh! Your teacher has told all about you. I hear you're very good." Huh? What? I've been in classes with people who are good. I'm better described as "very persistent." Then I noticed a familiar face passing the desk. It was Runqiao Du, former principal dancer with the Washington Ballet, former principal dancer with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, full-time lecturer at Towson University, and former artistic director at ADI, where I took classes a few years ago. He's now a "guest instructor" at this school. Now that's "very good." For a little hole-in-the-wall studio, they're bringing in some serious talent.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Embrace your Bowl

Every class there is some key phrase uttered that I want to use as a title. Some days I even remember them.

This one comes as part of an explanation of keeping your hips level while raising one leg. Think of your pelvis as a bowl full of hot liquid. As you raise your leg you don't want to tilt the bowl and spill its contents. This led to the admonition to "embrace your bowl", and much giggling among the students.

This is not the only key idea for today. The other is that hiking for three hours the day before will affect your performance in ballet class. Unless you do that sort of thing every day (I don't) it takes longer than 18 hours for muscles to recover. Nothing really aches any more than normal (for an hour after class) but some bits of the last 10 minutes felt a lot harder than it seems like they should have been. Oh well... that'll get better.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Another class, another ache

Last weekend I had a great time Saturday touring the Smithsonian museums with a friend, but that meant that I needed to spend Sunday catching up on chores and other obligations and didn't get to class. Today I was a little later going out the door than I liked, but I did go.

We jokingly say this school is in a slightly different time zone because every class seems to start 5-10 minutes late. Today I was perhaps 3 minutes late and the class was already a quarter way through the first barre exercise. I wasn't the last student, though. One was rapidly stripping off her street clothes in the hallway just outside the door as I ran in and she begged me to stay with her so she wouldn't have to walk in alone, but I declined. And then another student or two arrived after she scurried in.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Well THAT was stupid!

I thought I saw a typo in my previous post ("We're gonna die") so I went to edit the page, then changed my mind and tried to cancel the edit. Poof! No more post!

After some flailing about I realized I'd reverted the page to draft state rather than deleting it. I've reposted the page. Whew!

After the one-legged relevés we did at the barre Sunday I was expecting to be sore this week, but I wasn't. I worked late today so I didn't go but I am starting to think about going back to two classes a week at some point.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

We're gonna die

I was determined to get to class this morning to avoid missing the next step in whatever our instructor is developing. My knee-length shorts haven't gotten through the wash yet, so I dressed in full-length tights. It's winter, right?

Checking in at the front desk I was reminded that our regular instructor was out, and the instructor from the Saturday morning class was substituting. Yes, the instructor who teaches Beginner 2 as if it's 2.75. I love her dearly, but I'm still ramping up from my months-long layoff. If I wanted to be in her class I would have shown up yesterday.

Quite a few of the regulars were absent, and there were a fair number of new (to me) faces. Two of them were younger women who showed up because they knew this instructor and wanted to take her class, and the three had an animated chat while I warmed up.

Barre was fairly typical for this instructor, meaning most of this class's regulars were puffing and sweating from exertion. When we broke after barre I went out to fill my water bottle. As I passed the two women I overheard one say to the other "We're gonna die!" The other nodded in agreement. Hey, this is not your average Dolly Dinkle ballet school; even the adult classes require real work.

Center went pretty well. I've been working on stretching my hip flexors and psoas so I can maintain a more erect posture with less work. I spend much of my life sitting so these are abnormally tight on me. I think it's working because my balance continues to improve in tiny but noticeable increments. Most of my turns are more stable than they ever have been, which allows more attention to things like spotting and how my working leg is positioned. I did have to sit out part of one exercise as recovery time, but that was a conscious decision that I'm comfortable with.

I may be a year older but I'm not the ones thinking I'd die.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On a roll

Does twice in two weeks count as a streak?

I made it to class today. Even got there early enough to get my "regular spot" at the barre. The ladies at the front desk clearly recognize me, but I've been coming too irregularly for them to remember my name. How quickly fame fades!

I think I did reasonably well. A few twinges in my forefoot when pointing really hard, but otherwise no cramps or other nastiness. I'm not expecting more than a little stiffness in my legs tomorrow, unlike last week where I could barely get up and down steps until Wednesday. We still seem to be in the early part of some nominal semester, and I'm going to try to not miss any classes for a while. Some things my brain remembers how to do my feet seem to have forgotten, but nothing that won't come back with a little practice.

My balance seems to be pretty good and my turns continue to improve. One of the key things I'm learning to focus on is staying upright -- the more "vertical" I am the better my turns are. This also seems to be true when merely balancing in arabesque and attitude, and especially so during a slow promenade turn.

The instructor has begun to offer me more corrections, and even tease me a bit in class. This is a good thing, by the way. Maybe she's forgiven me for my transgressions.

I made the comment to someone (not someone from this studio) that I was going to sit and decompress after class for a bit. She replied that ballet classes were decompression for her. Frankly I was a bit nonplussed by this. Ballet doesn't come naturally for me, and requires a lot of concentration. It's also completely different physically from anything else I do on a regular basis, so it's quite a workout for me too. I would have expected someone who has taken ballet in the past to understand better.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The start of another year

Happy new year, folks!

I'd planned to go to the stretch class yesterday, but it was snowing. I don't really have a problem with snow, but too many drivers in the DC area have no clue how to deal with it, and I just didn't want to be on the roads.

So this morning I attended the Beginner II class. I'm rusty. The studio was closed both new year's and xmas weekends, and there was ice the weekend before that. According to this journal I got to a stretch class December 10th, a ballet class October 4th and two in September. Bleagh.

To top things off, I overslept and didn't arrive at the studio until after the time class should have started. They never manage to actually start on time, so I walked in as the instructions for the first exercise were being given and didn't have time to warm up first. Fortunately there were only about 18 students and I found a place at a barre easily with minimal disruption to the the class.

Barre was long, lasting about an hour. Nothing terribly strenuous, though, as if this was the start of a new class and not just the continuation of the year-round drop-in class. On the other hand, that's pretty much what I needed. My muscles aren't really happy about being stretched in now-unfamiliar ways, but my balance was pretty good. In center we did a series of exercises that built in complexity, and when we added pirouettes I didn't have too much trouble with them (I'm sure my form is off, but I got around okay and felt stable doing it). If I tried to focus too much on any one of my problems other things fell apart, but I figure that will get better as I get back into the routine.