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.