Monday, February 18, 2019

Saut du Basque

The Powers that Be took pity on us, and okay'ed the repertoire class to go ahead with only 5 students registered, though a sixth signed up in person the evening of the first class. Only five of us showed up that night though.

Before class, while I was loosening up in the hallway, Jeff (our ballet master for this class) asked me two questions: first, did I know how to do a tour jeté; second, did I know how to do a saut du basque?

I remember clearly learning tour jeté when I first took ballet in the mid 1980s and I enjoyed doing them. We've done them in other classes since I started back almost eight years ago, and I feel pretty comfortable doing them.

Officially this class starts with a brief warm-up, followed by learning a section of a ballet. This time we're going to learn a piece of Coppelia, as performed by The Australian Ballet. We started by watching this video on YouTube, then began learning the corp de ballet steps. This first class we worked on learning first 40 seconds of this video. Every run-through involves two tour jetés and two sissonnes, large steps that require significant energy. Never think for a moment that these women are anything other than athletes who not only have to do challenging movements, they have to make it look effortless.

I survived this first class, and left feeling like I wasn't holding the others back too much. I even went to my regular Saturday morning ballet class, though I really shouldn't have -- I was very sore Saturday night and Sunday.

The second repertoire class was this past Friday. Again I showed up early to get a head start on our warm-up. Again there was the question about saut du basque. By this point I'd watched a couple of videos but I didn't recognize it. I answered that it sounded familiar but I couldn't say if I had or hadn't done them. Jeff explained that many teachers don't teach it because it's a turning jump that lands on one foot, and thus risks injuring the dancer if done improperly. The host of one of the online videos I watched explains that she "wouldn't suggest it for beginners; intermediate, maybe; but this is more intermediate-advanced." Scary.

After the warm-up we looked at the sequence of steps that follows what we'd learned the week before. One of the steps is a cabriole devant, another one that sounded familiar but I didn't recognize. Jeff decided that we should perhaps leave out the beat, turning it into something of a temps levé. My brain doesn't want to leave out the beat, though I don't get much elevation and it's mostly the upper foot coming down to meet the lower rather than the reverse.

Moving on, we reached the saut du basque. This sequence begins at 0:54 in the video. Jeff explained this sequence of steps and we tried it. It's a saut du basque, coupé, battment to second, fondu. Much to my surprise, the saut du basque felt comfortable to me, as if I'd done it before. I can only assume that this is "muscle memory" from previous experience. The sequence flows nicely.

When I signed up for this class I was worried that I wouldn't be advanced enough, and I'd be a drag on the pace of the class. I knew three of the other four students take intermediate-level classes, and have been taking ballet for much longer than I have. However, this was one of those rare moments when I looked around the room and realized everyone else was struggling with this sequence of steps, and I wasn't.

Next week should be interesting. Three of our band of five students will be absent. That leaves just one woman and myself. We're jokingly referring to this as the "Pas de Deux" class. I'd love to learn a pas de deux for real, but I don't know if that's actually in the offing.

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