About Me

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday and the Thut

Out of sight, out of mind, unless you wear lycra spandex clothes all day, I remarked to Amanda at my complimentary Pilates session.  It's the thut area, she said, or the area where your greater trochanter connects into your hip socket, where the femur works but is not visible.  A lot of things in the body that are vital are not visible, it seems...

Well, strapped on the Pilates table, which reminds me of a dentist visit, I had no choice but to be aligned properly and it was hard to move my legs up and down while they were attached to cables tightened with tension springs.  Use your stomach, don't lift the pelvis, keep your shoulders down, relax the breast bone, breathe...think of your stomach as a corset that tightens around you on all sides, don't just push it in.  Your shoulder blades should drape down -- do not give in to the natural tendency to raise your shoulders when you move your arms up and down, pressing against a coiled bar, just because your shoulder blades will move up and out.  Resist, resist, Dorothy!  Do not surrender, Dorothy!

I wanted to surrender and let my belly hang out and my shoulders droop but the Pilates machine would not let me.  So this is how it feels to use your muscles, I thought.  Very symmetrical and precise, controlled movements.  And when my legs were pushing in and out in the Pilates frog, so this is my hip crease the teachers keep telling me to use...turn out from the hips, not the ankles...do not torque.  One great exercise good for my tight obliques went like this:  press feet against table edges, hold onto arm bar with one arm and, crossing leg over other leg, twist sides into the crossed legs.  Painful stretch that hits all the back areas. Amanda was able to bend me until I could really feel it.  After this, I explored this gym on the west side, stretching across a swiss ball and using the elliptical machine, maintaining correct alignment of shoulders, hips and arches, trying to feel the crease in my tight joints.

Then I walked down the street in the bright sunshine to ballet class and told the teacher what I had learned and she remarked, what do you think I am telling you all the time.  People never listen...so, on to class to remember what the Pilates machine taught me about the thut.

Well, class was pretty much a disaster because I fell into my old habit of being too careful.  Afterwards, I spoke with another dancer in the class, a male dancer who has danced in the Billy Elliot show.  The teacher remarked during the first center combination, I love the way you move.  It's so nice to see someone move in class, especially a big person like you who is not afraid to take up space.  We talked about jumping -- I asked him, being a man, how does he land out of jumps without crashing, something I have been doing lately.  He said it's in the feet and hamstring area, back of upper part of legs.  Also, he commented that the class barre sets you up for center so you can feel where you are because the body remembers movements.  I think now that center is not the place to work on technique, it is the place to dance more, the way he did.

So at barre we did tendu point and flex feet, demi-plies to plies with circular port de bras.  We did piques with fondus and passes into developpes into penches.  We did frappes, double frappes and beats and balances in arabesque.  I tried to rotate my legs from the hips like I learned in Pilates and found that my movements were much more fluid.  Even my tendus to the left in second were a little less stiff and I actually arched my left foot.  Also, I tried to open my back and feel space everywhere.  Space in the body is another thing I learned in Pilates today, the open back is from a teacher at Joffrey Academy who is trying to help me with my back by stressing my port de bras and just expanding the ribs.  The teacher today said she knows of this other teacher and commented that she really stands off her legs, but then, today's teacher is a stickler for alignment, which is why her class is a staple for me.  She is from the old school, where dancers worked, not like today's push-button generation...

So the center was difficult and I found I was all arms and legs and no core, which the male dancer said after class.  He said you must feel the connection between the front and the back and connect the steps in the body and not just expand like a Gumby doll or a bunch of spaghetti.  So true...

We did tendus croise, fondu developpe croise to ecarte to arabesque to attitude promenade to detourne to finishing with pirouettes.  I tried not to hoist myself up but push my feet into the floor.  This is still hard for me because my arches are not working yet, but after today's Pilates class, I understand not to stand on the outside of the feet.  I think I do this because I think it will make me turn out more, but now I see it doesn't, it only places a strain on my IT band on the sides of my legs.

Adagio was grand plie in second position, raise working leg up and into passe, then arabesque promenade into grand circular port de bras to pirouettes.  Then we did another combination with balances and arabesque turns into chainnes and inside pique turns.

Jumps were hard today and I felt brittle, but that is what the weekend teacher said would happen after Pilates class -- it would make me sore.  Still, I kept going to develop my strength, even though I looked so awkward.  We did sissonnes coupe assemble with beats and glissades and jetes.  I always have trouble moving fast, especially in petite allegro -- hard to articulate and get to the positions, but that is because I am working on technique instead of trusting my body.  Trust your body, the teacher said.

It was good to see another talented dancer in class, that is what I like about this studio on the west side -- it is a place where working dancers come to take a no-nonsense class.  Then magically the bus was there and I was whisked away into the loop, where I grabbed a Subway sandwich with extra guacomole, which I ate in the subway going to the gym...

At the gym, I soaked in the steam room and then walked in the pool, stretching my legs.  I decided not to continue to swim but left the pool for a yoga class, a hard one taught by a lithe young man who is so flexible that he can do the frog and totally bend his knees like a piece of luggage behind his back.  When we got to the handstand part, I bowed out.  You're leaving too, he asked, because other people had been dropping out.  It's a tough class but I thought, instead of panicking and thinking about what I could not do, I should have stayed and modified the handstand by walking up the wall.  The Pilates teacher today even told me, you can only rotate turnout to your degree of hip flexibility and shouldn't try to do things you can't.

So, it's humble pie time.  The dancer I met today said in parting, ballet is hard to do well and you really have to work hard.  I thought of what the Pilates teacher said about correct movements and how hard it is to do things the way you should.  Everyone wants the end result but they don't want to do the work; without correctness, you will never achieve the ultimate goal, a strong, working body that can do anything.

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