After coffee, I went to Pilates class at the gym. I have no core strength -- everyone can do push ups except me. My extensions and flexibility are good but I need a stronger middle to lose my waistline pinch. My achy back prevents me from doing better pirouettes and Christmas is next month.
It felt good to assume the Pilates neutral spine -- when I swam afterwards, I just glided through the water. Alignment is so important. Drying out now, ballet class later...
It was pouring rain but I went to class anyway and did I say lazy Monday? There I was, stretching my feet with my new purple Bunheads theraband when the teacher walked by and said, "Dorothy, put your pointe shoes on, we're having a pointe class. Okay, I thought, stuffing plastic bags around my toes because I didn't have anything else to numb the pain. To think I almost left my pointe shoes at home, but a dear teacher once said that all dancers should have their pointe shoes in their bags just in case...
I started to do plies while everyone was getting ready. These teenage girls are strong and no match for me, but at least I'll stick to basics and maybe I'll get by. Well, we did plies, thank goodness; it was a regular barre, except everyone was wearing pointe shoes. I felt my knee kind of buckle when she asked us to do releve attitudes, so I thought, okay, if I can't releve, at least take it easy and don't get excited. This is not my time to break something. Throughout barre, the teacher said that our backs must be straight, like if we had sticks in them, and to pull up our thighs really hard.
Imagine an orange, she said. If you squeeze it from the bottom down, it gets wide in the middle, but if you take the same orange and squeeze it sideways, the fruit will gush out of the top. Same with the legs -- if you sit into your legs, they will get fat, but if you squeeze and rotate them, they will be pencil-thin. Interesting...well, nobody wants fat legs, do they?
Now we were in center and I thought, everybody will be doing pirouettes, oh dear. I have watched this class before. So, the teacher said, do a sou sou and hold it; do an echappe into 4th position and hold it and so on, no wobbling. After the last echappe, we were to do pirouettes from 5th position. I just marked at first, but then I tried it, remembering to push from the ground with my whole foot, like I was taught in my last class. It wasn't easy, but I almost mustered up the strength to do it, and leaving my heel on the ground really helped with stability.
Then we did sissonne arabesques, pique attitude, passe, sissonne second arabesque, passe releve ecarte. Jumps are hard, aren't they, she remarked. Well, this wasn't too bad either, except I could have been more pulled up, but at least I did the exercise. The teacher commented that this was very important, to do precisely what is required, because, come auditions, you will be eliminated -- they want to see who can pick up the choreography exactly as it is described. Same at barre when we did emboites and some girls didn't move their heads sharply enough. In Russia, the teacher said, you would do them all day until you did them right, and the teacher would come and hit you with a stick. Out of 200 students, she said, how many do you think make it? About 8, she said.
She said, do you know how to work in class? Really working in class is applying all the concepts, pulled up legs, turned out plies, straight back, correct arms. Work harder, she told us. The last step was bourres across the floor, with sweeping arms. Somehow it was hard to coordinate the arms and legs and she stopped us to tell us to watch her arms and do as she did. And how does the bourre end? In coupe, with your foot touching the ankle of the other leg.
Lazy Monday, indeed. But, I love dancing on pointe, I really do, and I was happy to be given the opportunity, and teacher singled me out to be in the first group to do the bourres. I think that pure and simple technique really helped me get through this class. All the other girls were so much more advanced but I noticed how some of them didn't push from the floor, how some of them didn't use their arms, how they didn't turn out. Sometimes, being advanced, you think you know it all. I don't think you can ever take dancing for granted and there will always be someone who is better.
After class the teacher was in the lobby and I said, thank goodness for Pilates class at the gym -- it really helped me get through pointe class. Thinking about my structure saved me from twisting my ankle and let my body have the power to do the class. Oh, we ended the class, actually, with 32 echappes into second position and it was so easy. My legs felt so strong, I could have done more...