Classical ballet -- how to be refined and not give in to your body. Just finishing class, I was stretching and watching the advanced class and, in particular, a very good student who used to dance and is getting back into shape. I noticed how her body, almost doll-like, was able to achieve the correct placement (well, almost, because the teacher came around and corrected her back and pelvic area when she was sticking out or hunching her back) without grimacing and acting gracious and pleasant.
I opted to take the beginner class today because of the remark I got from someone in class who said I was hoisting myself into positions. After class, I asked the teacher about this but, as it was between classes, she didn't have the time; however, placing my hands on my hips like my pointe teacher said to a girl in class, I could see how I wasn't grounding myself and using my arches to spring up into pirouettes. True, I am hoisting.
In my class, we did some preliminary stretches. I always like to learn new ways to stretch. Lying on the floor on our backs, we flexed our feet and alternately pressed down into the floor with each leg. Then, lying on our stomachs, we alternately lifted our arms and then lifted our chest as high as we could. Straddled sideways, we stretched our torsos toward each leg, and then we twisted sideways with our torsos.
Then at barre, we did tendus, ronde jambes, developpes, and fondus. While the teacher showed the steps, I marked them while facing the barre in order to watch my alignment. How I wish it were that easy to keep the same stance in normal barre position. My torso is not strong enough and I tend to slump and droop my arms. The teacher came around to me several times and asked me, "where are your arms?" It is necessary to engage the pecs and back of the arms and hold the shoulders down, otherwise, you are not supported. Just as the legs must turn out (and I noticed in the mirror how I am still not rotating my thighs like another teacher remarked), so must the arms be held for counterbalance -- otherwise, there is no stance. Also, the pelvis must be engaged and not fall back.
At break, I asked the teacher, who I am getting to think of as a regular teacher here at Joffrey Academy, if she had seen the new Black Swan movie, where the dancer is obsessed with herself and goes mad. I thought to myself, this is probably me! So, after water break, we did grand plies in center (!) and I tried to stand up straight, noticing how it was easier with my hips forward. The teacher had corrected me for that at barre, because otherwise you are sticking out. Not classical and not ladylike!
After we did the grand plie, we did croise tendus, lifted our back leg in arabesque (this was easier if I counterbalanced with my back), did pas de bourre to the other side. Then we did tendu plie to the side and suddenly picked up our working leg into passe. I watched to try and square my hips. I have a tendency to pick up my hip with my leg, something I discussed with another regular student after class. She likes to wear little tutus in class for fun. I want one, too! That is why I look like I am hoisting up.
Then we practiced pirouettes across the floor. She corrected a male student, who was bringing his body back to settled into his plies. Hold the pelvic floor and bend between the legs before you push up. Magically, I was able to turn effortlessly when I tried this. He commented that he is too critical of himself and I whispered to him that I am the same way, after the teacher said he was getting better.
I think this self-criticism is necessary because if you are so smug in your accomplishments, you will stay at the same level. Well, now I am ready to venture out, having done my class for the day. As I write this, I am surrounded by ballet piano music and the advanced class is still in progress. I wish I could stay and watch them, because there is so much to learn. I am going to try to have fun and see a movie, though, maybe Black Swan...