This morning I left the warmth of my cozy apartment for the cold gym. Into group Pilates class I went. This Wednesday class is really crowded. We work with Swiss balls and weights and I really enjoy the arm exercises. Sitting on the Swiss ball, we use free weights and first move our straight arms up and down sideways. Then, elbows bent and arms at sides, we move our bent arms forward and back, up and down over our heads, and sitting forward a bit, we swing our arms backwards and pulse. I could feel my heartbeat rise.
After this, we walked over the balls into a plank position and did pushups and crawled on top of the balls into a crouch position. We also bent over the balls and lifted alternate legs sideways without moving anything else. This was hardest. After this, I went home and fed my fish, Claude. I went back to the gym after lunch for a swim but, as the water was cold and I had to get to ballet class, I walked through the water sideways, back and forth, and did little developpes. Now to ballet...
Wow! Ballet was the best ever. I think all the Pilates, yoga and swimming has straightened me out. After class I was even able to rise from a cross-legged position without using my arms. This is accomplished by pushing into the floor, a Pilates teacher said.
The whole focus to me was my feet. Since my foot was black and blue from twisting it yesterday, I was very careful not to sickle. The teacher examined my foot and said discoloration is not good. I knew he would give me good advice, like he always does. It is such a pleasure to have a great dancer as a teacher -- they don't come into your life every day. Also, at barre the teacher said, use the front of your leg, the inside...that is how I was able to push from the floor better.
Everything looked better. My glissades sparkled because I landed with my ankles bent and turned out. My releves looked more feminine and graceful because I was being more forward into the front of my foot, like a Pilates teacher told me. Even my passes looked prettier after what another teacher said about keeping the heel forward with the toe pointed. "See how Dorothy sickles," she remarked to the other girls in my Monday class. I used to be upset when people criticized me like this but now I require this type of critique and I hope I am becoming more graceful mentally as well and acknowledging other's opinions graciously.
The class was very basic and we slowly worked through plies with arms and tendus en croix and ronde jambes in a slow rhythm, stopping in every position, front, side and back; and then up to speed. I noticed how if I just tried dragging my foot through first position, eventually my leg turned out better and my foot was allowed the space in the movement to point. Standing at a side bar, my right side was aligned whereas on my left side I have the bad habit of bending my knee when my leg moves out. There is an exercise for this: after class, I pressed my thigh down into the floor to straighten the back of my leg.
Also, after class a new student said that sickling is caused by bad hip placement and I said, yes, this is what a teacher had said, that the hip bones must be forward, but not tucked, just forward. She always says this to me when I get into pirouette stance, that I am leaning backwards. Also, today's teacher also has said many times to me that I do this.
So I am on the right track now, I think. In a way, when I look at myself in the mirror, I almost look too good and then I get embarrassed; however, I know that I have pudgy sides and I could stand to be firmer. Sometimes we reject brilliance, I think, because we feel we are unworthy of being better than the norm. But why not? Why not hold my middle, my other teacher said. You can still hold your middle, she said. Even though I am older now, why not? Why can't older be just as beautiful as youth?
Well, I digress into vanity. So, to continue with barre, we did frappes very meticulously, flexing and pointing the feet. We did them also on demi-toe and I tried to stand very tall and high in my arches, and really push my knees back, as another teacher said, something which is not easy in frappes. But, if the knees are not pushed back, there is too much pressure on the joints and the inner thighs don't engage. Lastly, we did grand battements, which I tried to do keeping my hips down and squeezing my buttocks in back battements, which is where the movement should come from, as I noticed when I got on a machine at the gym where you push a bar back with your foot to extend your entire leg...
The center felt really good tonight. We did tendus to the side, which, suprisingly, I did without bending my knees because I was using the insides of my ankles. Then we did grand plies and I was able to sink down with this proper alignment. I also tried not to lean back, which the teacher said is usually what happens when doing this. In my case, I also want to lean forward with my chest, but I have been trying to stand with my chest forward, as a favorite teacher of mine always told me to do.
Everything clicked tonight. We went up to sou-sou and then passe balance, where I kept my heel forward on my knee. I really saw this clearly at barre -- I need to stand sideways more often... Then we tried this with pirouettes. I tried to spot and be natural, even though I was holding my body very tightly. When we did pas de bourres, I opened my arms wide to the side and held them high, something I felt today while working with weight in Pilates. No droopy arms! I stood aside to practice pirouettes with my arms plastered against my sides and when my sides moved with me, I found I could turn effortlessly. I often like to experiment with movements like this, but I have to remind myself to pay attention to class, too.
Then we jumped: demi-plie, glissade, demi-plie, assemble. Changements with echappes. I remembered how this teacher said to rebound and it was much easier to point my feet, something I struggle with when jumping. After class we talked about the Black Swan movie and the teacher said that the star looked very professional except when she was in a lift and didn't point her foot -- amateurish, and something a professional would never do! I think I must see this movie; the dancer in it was obsessed with perfection. I think I am guilty of this sometimes, too. We stretched and I walked through the dark, snowy night to my cozy apartment.