About Me

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Thursday

Nature is so colorful lately, rainbow colors everywhere.  It rained this morning as I was going to the gym for yoga class and I barely made it but managed to fight the traffic somehow. Once there, the yoga teacher started his difficult class, telling me at the end, "with you, Dorothy, I think you don't push enough...etc.," and he says I could do so much better.  If I can do it, anyone can do it, he said in class, as he did handstands with piked legs. I did the wheel pose over a Swiss ball when he was walking in the room, and then he said in class, for you backbenders, you need to focus on bending the back in each pose and then it won't feel so difficult. He remarked I was getting ripped biceps from using my arms in yoga class.

In his class, I feel going into the poses deeper and deeper; toward the end of class, he twisted me on my tight left side so that I could feel what the binding position with hands clasped together behind my back with my knee pulled into my chest would feel like and I felt the muscles of my back getting some needed relief. Believe in yourself, I thought, as I left class and swam for a while.

Then I took Yasir to the park to play with his friends.  He had a great time wrestling with a boxer puppy, running with a Jack Russell terrier, and bouncing around with a young Great Dane. I walked home, taking in the colors of the park as the day came to a close.

I got home and realized I had just enough time to go to dance class at the neighborhood school, so I packed my clothes and got there, seeing the teacher taking a break outside the studio.  She asked me how I was and I told her about my foot, which I had hurt somehow, and was limping on for a week.  I think it was the plastic shoes I had been wearing at work, but I told her I now have some very good shoes and wearing compression socks helped the swelling.  I had wanted to go to the podiatrist but now it seems to be getting better.  "You need your feet to walk on," my sister said.  True, so it's epsom salt soaks for me, prescribed by the pharmacist at the local drug store.

Paradoxically, my feet feel better after ballet class, although I noticed today how flat they were.  I always had trouble pointing my feet in ballet class.  Some girls have such nice feet, I thought, but yoga classes have helped me tremendously in getting over my feelings of inferiority.  Yoga has balanced me to realize that nothing is as important as your inner self and no exterior entrapments should ever get you down.  We didn't jump in tonight's adult class, but we did do a full barre and some lovely turns in center.  It was nice to pirouette again, and yoga class has taught me also to examine how I am standing and correct my stance, the way my yoga teacher does, so when I noticed how I dumped my back while I was turning, I was able to fix it.  "Good, Dorothy," the dance teacher said!

The teacher focused on turnout in class tonight.  I had just been thinking about this very subject while in the pool at the gym, feeling how the water helps me rotate my legs and really feel which muscles to use.  They are the deep inner muscles and you can feel them working but can't see them, like something coming from the gut.  The teacher said to move the hip bones foward and allow the hip crease to happen without tilting the pelvis and looking like a drunk pigeon.  I believe the connection is in the inner thigh, which must move forward also, and the teacher also said to rotate the calves forward, so that everything is moving inside out, kind of like yoga, too.

I must work on my feet, I told the teacher after class, and she said, just worry about standing up. Stance is everything.  No more slouching, not if you want to dance...then I watched the advanced girls in pointe class, their teaher remarking, if you don't pull up your thighs, I will kill you.  I noticed how he corrected a girl who was not turning her head correctly, telling her to see her back before moving her head.  It's nice to be able to have a school nearby, I thought, as I walked home in the drizzly night. Dancing always makes me happy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another ballet class...

     Run to 5th, elonge arms, releve to 4th, developpe 2nd swinging arms, step arabesque, ronde jambe leg front to back, pas de bourre en tournant...nice.
     That was our opening combination, something new, which always makes me nervous.  When you take a class long enough, you become used to the teacher's style, as a substitute teacher told us last Saturday.  Her class was delightful, lots of chasses, body positions, very feminine.
     Today's teacher likes killer extensions, but I remember what my yoga teacher said yesterday, don't hurt yourself to please someone else.  He always tells us not to pay attention to the other people and just enjoy the moments for ourselves, very true. Still hard to do, but reinforcements and comments like this help you grow.
     Then we did waltz in line twice, two piques, and two fouette turns, in diagonal across the floor; also, chasse pas de bourre grand jete.  I wish my legs would open wider in the air, but my extensions are what they are, still, just taking class was good for my form.  We did a pirouette combination and I almost fell backwards in one pirouette, but I am taking more risks now in a positive way, I hope.
     After class I told the teacher I wasn't sure how much I could do because my foot was sore, probably from too much walking.  Since I was running late this morning and the buses were slow, I walked to the subway and then took a cab from the subway.  I told the driver I had to practically walk halfway to class and he said if I had good shoes I could walk better.  True, in fact, I just ordered some very good shoes online, getting ready for the cold...
     It was delightful to take the bus back to the end of the line into the park and the cold air and colors were so lovely.  I got home and tried to walk my puppy there but we got as far as the zoo and the clouds looked menacing, so we headed home, me going to the gym for a bit, just to stretch in the steam room and sauna, after walking underwater.  Contrast therapy, cold and hot, good for the muscles.
     It didn't rain except for a drizzle, but tomorrow is supposed to be windy and nasty.  I wish I could take more ballet classes like this and try to repair my turnout without forcing anything, and just letting my legs go under me, like in the fast music in class where we did the allegro combinations over and over.  Surprisingly, the more I did, the more energy I had.  I didn't get tired at all, probably because of my working out, and maybe even the long walks with Yasir, my puppy.
     Like my puppy, I am always happiest after working out, and I even eat better, too.  This is the life!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn Saturday

I haven't written for a while, so, for a quick catch-up, I have discovered yoga! I took a break from my usual non-stop dance classes to learn yoga, practicing it almost every day in the summer and now continuing into the fall.  My form and posture has improved and I have gone down one dress size, too. I am really fortunate that I can always go to my gym when I want to work on myself.  I was going to lots of dance classes but not really improving significantly because I first had to fix certain problems of form and also change my approach to training, to become more focused on the discipline of it and not just to have fun dancing.

So, today I attended a free yoga class at a yoga shop in my neighborhood and then I went to my local ballet school.  I met my neighbor whose daughter was all dressed in pink, about to take class. I wore my usual basic black leotard, pink shoes, pink tights, and a lavendar knitted warmup brief, which I took off after barre so I could see my lines better in center.  I don't like a lot of coverups because it distorts the line and hides flaws which should be fixed, something I learned over the years from some very good teachers.

This intermediate class was sparsely attended, which is my favorite kind of class, because the teacher can really scrutinize you.  We did a very correct barre, focusing on lifting the head up and not looking down at the feet to see what you are doing, because lowering the head makes you lean forward, which ruins your erect spinal posture.  The teacher talked about being able to feel yourself in space and not just to see yourself visually. In arabesque, for instance, she said it is not the height of the leg but the way it goes out as far as it can reach.  Similarly, when doing chasses in center, she told us to really chasse out because this develops power.  She corrected my passe balance at barre and told me not to contract my hip but really let it move forward.

During barre, after warming up a little privately before class, I decided to purposely stand forward of myself, like the other teacher who usually teaches this class (she had just had surgery so we have a very good substitute teacher) so as not to slump into my side.  I noticed, too, that I could stand to turn out more on my supporting leg and use the bottom of the turnout, rotating more, which creates the correct shape.  The teacher made us do an exercise where we held the knee in the passe leg and let the whole hip go down and under, kind of like turning inside out in yoga.

After class, I ate lunch and took out my puppy, training him a little, too, walking him backward and then changing directions, which he did happily, on a windy fall day...now I'm home, thinking about ballet and how the same principles apply to ballet positions that I have learned from other sports and it shouldn't be so intimidating.  Sometimes it's good to take a few steps back, pardon the expression, to learn how to move forward...
Exercises
1. demi plies with grand plies, rise and balance.
2. tendus from 5th position, coupe inside leg over, changing.
3. Balancoires with passe through.
4. Frappes with double frappes to the side.
5. Developpes and envelopes
6. Grand battements.
Centre:
1. Adagio(to come)
2. Chasses to 4th position, chainnes, balance en tournant, pose to 5th position.
3. Saute arabesque, arm en haute, pas de bourres. En diagonale.
(Much time was spent correcting body stance, turnout, and epaulment.) 
Notes: Use the arms like heavy curtains and really move them to extend the back.  Elongate the legs. Move your head.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Terrific Tuesday!

Wow!  Two ballet classes today, with my favorite teachers!  I think for you, the evening teacher said, you need to find the structure of the step and make your movements clear and really feel the energy.  Don't try to control everything.  You have to take a risk and find for yourself where is your center.  You will find it and then you can move.  I told him mentally I understand but physically it's hard.  It's hard, he said, but it's there.  The steps are the path but you can play with the steps and find for yourself the movement.  Don't try to control it, just feel it.

This conversation all came about after a very "structured" class with adult women.  I was thinking about the morning class and how the teacher said to use your turnout while you are moving.  So I told the evening teacher that I was trying to work on my turnout, especially with the supporting side, because otherwise you are imbalanced.  Hence, the conversation about balance.

Now suddenly I feel very tired but more will come soon...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Master Classes...

It was an exciting week at the local ballet school, with a special guest teacher who recently retired from dancing and has won many awards.  I was honored to attend some of his classes.  The classes went beyond technique or steps or exercises and I could feel artistry, something which happens too infrequently. Most of the time we are taking classes and trying to stay motivated and then when a true artist comes our way, we find ourselves inadequate and unprepared.  Really, it is up to you to make dancing what you want it to be...

So the first day this guest teacher did something really cool in center.  It was a pirouette combination, after a barre that focused on moving the head and really standing tall and using the arms and generally becoming bigger than life.  It is what makes dancing interesting, he said.  During the pirouette combination, which went something like tendu croise and derrierre and seconde and then chasse pas de bourre in efface, the teacher made us pair up with a partner and told us to look at our partner during the entire combination.  The mirror is an evil person, the teacher said, don't look at yourself in the mirror.  Yes, I thought, this is what dancing on the stage with other dancers must be like, relating to the other person.

I skipped a couple of days (master classes are expensive) and returned to the class...this time the teacher said to the class to finish the combination you are doing, not just to end it or abandon it, because people are watching.  He talked about watching a performance in Washington, D.C., where the front dancers in the corps all looked nice but the dancers in the back just slacked off and it looked terrible.  Don't think people don't see this, he said.  Every step you take somebody is watching, so you need to present yourself, your best 5th, your best port de bras, and then end the step as gracefully as you started it.

The next day he continued with moving the head with the arms and correctly using the leg muscles. I watched the teacher a lot to see how he used his body and because he was just so interesting to watch in general. In the whole class, this teacher was the best dancer of all. After this class I watched him teach the pointe class and how he said to the girls to open and close the arms when turning and, when moving the feet, to arrive through the same place.  Make your feet go in a line and arrive at the same place, no waivering.  During class, he said this, too, to be true to the positions, not to fidget at barre because this leads to fidgeting while doing pirouettes and so on.  Always do the movement with the correct execution and don't make unnecessary movements, kind of like what a horseback riding teacher once told me about economy of movement...

Finally, today, he asked, what did I tell the girls yesterday about the arms, and since I had been watching the pointe class, I knew.  In fact, one of the teachers of the school remarked to another teacher, you can learn a lot by watching.  I always enjoy watching the young girls learning how to dance...it is so charming to see them emerge into graceful dancers, something I never had as a child, since I started dance late.  I often imagine what it would have been like had I started early and if I would have ever made it...but I nevertheless take my dancing very seriously, because I enjoy it so much and it is one of the things in my life that will always be there, even when I stop.  It will always interest me.  I always read books about dance and watch dance and it will always be a part of my life, although I can't imagine not dancing.  But, for now, I will continue to learn...

So the teacher left us with the thought of using the face and making the movements "more than what you think."  Stand tall, taller, like your head is trying to touch the ceiling...when you do soutenus, I want to see your face.  Your face, turn, your face, not your bun.  Also, he corrected me during the week and told me to hold my stomach in and not to stick out my back.  There was a lot of emphasis during the week on holding the back and holding the chest up.  "I would rather have you stick out your ribs than slump," he said.  Significantly, today, he told us that when we prepare to pirouette, we need to go through our working foot when we tendu back to prepare to turn, because it is the use of the feet that makes the turn happen.  He said also not to crash down in our jumps, illustrating with his noiseless feet how we should come down from a jump.  I tried it that way and it felt so much lighter but, most of all, it really aided the movement and made it much more effective.

As for combinations and learning steps..."let's learn this," he would say when showing a combination, I got the idea that you really need to concentrate on what you are doing at all times.  He would often say during the week, if you are in the third group, I expect it to be perfect, because you saw all the other dancers do it. You know what happens when you make mistakes, he said, you must do it again until it is perfect.  No mistakes!

I really hope this teacher returns next summer and during the next year, maybe I can apply some of the things we did in class and really think about how I am dancing.  I heard him say to another teacher one day, while talking about what another teacher said...you know when you make a mistake, you know when you do it wrong...you know.  In other words, you must fix it and dance beautifully, because you love it.

These were my impressions of class this week and I will hopefully try to add more detail as I remember it. It was a lovely week and I have many memories of how I danced and what it felt like to learn how to dance beyond the steps, how to make it come alive...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer night...

It's lovely outside.  I just took Yasir for a walk around the neighborhood.  There were some horse carriages passing through and he stopped when he heard the hoofbeats.  He is so alert in the evening, always looking around.  I spent the day in the suburbs to take class with one of my favorite teachers, even though I had worked the night before and just barely made it there.  I was lucky I made all my train/bus connections!

Class today reinforced what a Pilates/dance teacher at Joffrey Academy told me in class on Friday afternoon.  It is so important to understand how movements are executed in order to perform them effectively.  She talked about how children are corrected at an early age like this but, sadly, adult students don't always get this type of attention, or it doesn't sink in until injuries and aches and pains happen which make you think about how you are doing things, as with me.

The Pilates teacher corrected the placement of my hips, telling me to keep them down and to hold the sides and later she explained about the psoas and obliques to me after class.  In order to allow the arms and legs to move, space must be created in these areas.  They also wrap into the back and if something is not correct, you will feel a pain.  Also, she said in class how the large seat and thigh muscles always want to take over, the same thing Saturday's teacher said to another girl in class.

There are exercises to do to pinpoint the areas that should be working, namely, the backs of the legs and inner thighs.  In doing the standard clam, the movement of these muscles is felt at the top of the clam movement.  Also, it is effective to wrap a theraband around the thighs and try to move the thigh in and out, or bend and extend the leg into the floor while sitting down...

I told the Pilates teacher that the problem is in the turnout and there is no exercise except dancing that will develop this.  So, dance I must.  It is such a contrast to the gym in that I must feel more "feminine" and lighter in my movements.  More girly.  I looked at myself in the mirror and saw also how my feet were starting to sickle, even my good right foot!  The feet must turn out, too...

So I asked the teacher today how I can be stronger in demi-toe and how to keep my legs straighter and he said it is because I have weak calves in comparison to my thighs and when I am at the gym I should work on my calves.  So, once I got home and finally got to the gym, I went for a swim but since I was tired and the water was cold, I just did laps with the noodle, which is a good workout, too.

But, the point is, everyone is so concerned about having a workout and burning calories.  If you want to dance, I thought, it is the knitpicky things that must be done, as I said to the ballet teacher today.  So, I spent some time in the water doing calf lifts against the resistance of the water, as well as rehashing some of the steps we did today, like developpes, tombes with pas de bourre, noticing how my legs were moving underwater.  I saw how tight my upper hamstrings were as I did a "barre" stretch at the side of the pool and what was necessary to do a good releve, trying to keep my feet from sickling.  Hard work, but now I feel so much better...