St. Stephen is the patron saint of the Republic of Serbia. It is also known as Boxing Day, when the poorer classes would get gifts in common boxes. So, with all the trappings of Christmas, I am reminded to be humble and devoted to the true symbolism of this wonderful holiday.
I attended ballet class at Joffrey Academy again, a master class taught by the artistic director. Actually, while stopping for coffee nearby, I saw him walk by through the window. Even in ordinary clothes, he looked commanding. So I walked out, drawn to the piper, on to class...
Many of the movements were the same as last week and now I am getting used to this style of dance where there is epaulment and pure structure. We started class facing the barre, tendu front, turn leg in and out, demi-plie; repeat en croix. Then port de bras sideways, and, holding the barre, cambres back. Now when I see myself cambre back in the mirror, I see that the arch of the spine begins in the mid-back, as another one of my teachers stresses; otherwise, the shoulders and head look awkward.
We did plies at barre with sweeping arm movements; look under the arm, arabesque arm, with lots of balances. I liked one combination where, after tendus, you degage the leg forward and then envelope it back around the ankle of the supporting foot. The teacher stood by the pianist and I noticed his stance, and the way he held the barre -- it all seemed so natural. Even his turnout looked natural, something I still struggle with. How to look natural while working the turnout. You don't want to look stiff or mechanical. Ballet should flow as graciously as this teacher's arm movements.
I marked the combinations and paid attention to detail, as I was in my now usual spot at the front of the barre, away from the mirrors I do not like to look into. Sometimes I feel I am too "sporty" in class -- I often stop to stretch my hip or shoulders, etc., instead of looking "classical" like the other students who obediently stand and watch the combinations and do not mark. At Christmas supper, my sister remarked that I was so rebellious when I was young, never wanting to conform but doing things my way. Maybe I need to be more complaint -- for instance, in one combination where we did an attitude type of movement en croix, I marked it and felt the movements but, when it came to repeat the combination, I did not know their sequence! As they say, a dancer must do what he is told.
It's just that the movements of ballet all feel so special to me that I must feel them in my bones and not just spit them out like a computer. Well, we continued with fondus, and after this combination, the teacher said to make sure to plie with both legs, and I thought, if I have a class with him again, I will pay more attention to these corrections, too, and not just digress into my head...but dance stimulates the brain, too...
So we did ronde jambes and frappes and, oh, when we tried frappes on demi-toe, I actually could let go of the barre and balance while doing frappes -- something Thursday's teacher always likes to do. I just felt light in my torso and somehow the balance just happens. We did developpes, and I still struggle with developpe arabesque, because my back is too tight.
In center, I noticed this, too, during the last combination where we did a pique arabesque after jumping around. I saw in the mirror that my supporting leg was bent, but only on the left side, my weak side. I remarked about this to another student I knew and she said she has noticed a lot of dancers are having trouble with their left sides lately. I said it was because it is not our dominant side and when you get into a hard class, if you lack strength, you will collapse on your weak side. Something I have learned from physical therapy.
The center was the best ever, maybe because I am getting used to the style of the class. We started with step fondu tendu back, temps leve forward, developpe first arabesque, passe working leg to efface, developpe leg seconde into attitude, place one arm on supporting hip and promenade around; balance, balance, renverse to fourth position, pirouettes. The teacher said to really turn the torso in renverse. I followed him as he did it; he does everything so well with his supple, well-trained body. Once again, it is truly a joy to attend a class taught by a true master. This teacher has such a wonderful movement quality, I thought.
We did the usual tendus croise, ecarte, arabesque, fondu efface, soutenu to fourth position, pirouettes. My pirouettes are getting more solid now that I have attended master classes where the stances are really analyzed and broken down. Even though I am not the most accomplished dancer and sometimes look very awkward in class, I really benefit from these master lessons.
We did not do very much adagio in this class and proceeded soon to jumping. We warmed up with jumps in 1st position, echappes, and second position. Then we did brises with chasses forward and back and this simple chasse threw me off. I think I need to really work on my movement quality. This teacher's approach is playful, like children just move and follow each other. I really enjoy a class where you can just come and dance and have fun like this.
Then we did echappes to sissonne ouverte, to sou sous on both sides. Finally, we did pique arabesque, coupe, chasse pas de bourre grand jete; pique arabesque, chasse to tour jete; pique arabesque, faille, step, developpe croise, chasse pas de bourre, grand jete to pique second arabesque. Lots of arabesques in this class!
Then I went dutifully to the gym for my swim, after stopping to buy some fruit and muffins (whole grain with blueberry and raspberry filling), and a protein wafer bar, in case I get hungry later. The swim was good; I met a man I knew who loves to swim, an adult who was on his local swim team. He was still swimming when I left the pool to go home. Now I am home with my kitten, watching a documentary on baby horses who are trying to learn how to move...