About Me

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rainy Saturday

I slept too long for the morning ballet class so I decided to go downtown again.  On the way, I stopped at the bookstore cafe and had a cinnamon latte while I read a foreign fashion magazine.  My mother loved to read fashion magazines and I think I learned to read by reading fashion magazines and comic books even before I went to school.  I had started to drizzle on the way out and now it was wet and rainy outside.

The nice thing about dancing is that you can do it anytime and forget everything, including the weather.  The teacher today was a Pilates instructor and I shared a center barre with a dancer friend and she showed the combinations at our barre.  She began with plies and port de bras and I was amazed at her turnout -- not only were her feet completely turned out but her hips and legs were, too, just like in the old ballet manuals I have browsed.  It must be all her Pilates training, I thought.

A lot of dancers were confused by her combinations because she wasn't the regular teacher and she told the class, what feels right is the best way.  I also noticed her port de bras was not as extreme as mine but rounded and feminine; another teacher often tells me I am too extreme with my turnout...

We did lots of leg swings and fast degages, fondus and ronde jambes en 'lair.  There were a few combinations where we did fouettes at barre and chasse pas de bourre en tournant away from barre into balance arabesque.  Arabesques and pirouettes for Christmas, please!

So we proceeded to center after a short break and started our class with temps lie and ronde jambes a terre with pirouettes.  Then we did the same steps reversed and did inside pirouettes.  Next was adagio, where we did a fondu with the working leg in attitude forward and developpe into extended croise leg to ronde jambes en 'lair, fondu pas de bourre en tournant, swing leg into arabesque, plie, balance, balance, detourne, chasse forward to circular port de bras.

Then we started jumps with jumps in 1st position, second position, changements, jetes entrelace, glissade assemble with sissonnes.  Last was grand allegro:  developpe ecarte chasse faille, developpe ecarte other side, balance en tournant, pique turns dehors and dedans; repeat.  It was a nice, dancey class and my stiffness from the rainy day had vanished.

So I waited patiently for the bus to take me to the pool and, after some Indian food (cooked veggies comprised of potatoes, carrots and peas with spinach goulash -- I love Indian cooking) at the Whole Foods hot bar nearby.  There was a girl handing out ginger tea, perfect for my chilly bones.  By the time I arrived at the pool, my jacket was so wet I dried out with a towel...yes, it had rained all day.

Once in the pool, I saw that cold water was being pumped in so I was too chilled to swim.  I did laps with leg kicks and ran up and down the lane and practiced side steps and developpes.  I also tried arabesques and plies underwater and stretched my legs along the side, noticing how the water aligned me correct and trying to memorize this feeling where my bones and muscles felt square.

Then I fell asleep in the steam room while stretching.  When I woke up from my cat nap, my achy body felt much less stiff.  I am thinking that this winter I really need to take advantage of my gym membership by using the hot baths and classes in yoga and Pilates and also maybe just soaking in a warm tub.  Now I'm home, cleaning my apartment and watching the old classic James Stewart classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Friday, December 10, 2010


I went to 11 am Pilates at the Old Town gym and the teacher said she would be subbing at the Gold Coast gym, so today I had two Pilates mat classes with the same teacher.  The earlier class was all about balance: we stood on one leg parallel and lifted our knee up at a right angle and then swung our leg and chest out to be parallel to the floor, arms extended to the side.  I noticed how my leg wanted to go sideways instead of straight back.  In order to do this well, you really need to squeeze the glutes.  Also, holding a Swiss ball and standing with legs apart and slightly turned out, we lifted the ball over our heads, keeping the shoulders down, and then squatted as far as possible, holding the ball forward.  Hip flexor action required here.  We also moved our arms to the side and over our heads, like going into a ballet 5th position of the arms.  Nice.

The other class was very crowded and more challenging and traditional, with oblique curls, roll ups, chest lifts and planks.  Hardest part was rolling up through the vertebrae with arms out and up but keeping the shoulder blades pressed down -- have to work on the shoulders.  Done with lunch, going back for a swim...

Didn't swim today -- caught up in Friday in the city commotion.  Hard to stay focused this time of year but it teaches me to stick to priorities, like dance class!  Getting ready now...

Interesting thing I learned in class after we did some barre exercises that went from balance in attitude on demi-toe to passe and then the teacher discussed pirouettes.  The action of bringing the leg into a turned out passe with the heel of the foot forward is what creates the circular momentum, I thought.  It's the torque.  So, if you don't turn out both legs, your turn will not happen...hmm...

My back hurts now from all the squeezing and trying to hold it, so I need to stretch my torso and create more space somehow, but I think what will help this is the rotation of the leg into passe and doing it slowly without jerking, something the Pilates teacher said today -- slow, controlled movements that flow, yes.  The class tonight was not as intense as some other Friday classes, or was this because I was working?  I didn't do everything perfectly, but I think I was working.  So we did cambre in second position to tendu fondu, pick up working leg to 90 degrees and promenade around, passe, circular port de bras, pirouettes.  We jumped more today:  changements with quatre beats, sissonnes side, arabesque, step assemble, with quatres.  Finally, we did pirouettes across the floor, inside and out, and then I walked home and bought a book on the human body with pictures of dancers in it at a bookstore that was going out of business.  It was nice to sit and read and relax and watch the city on a Friday night.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just Barely Thursday

Well, today I am off to yoga and then a swim at my favorite pool and then a ballet class with one of my favorite teachers who corrects me and teaches me so much about classical dance.  It will be a good day!

I was stretching on the floor of the women's dressing area when some senior ladies were concerned about my health, ha, ha!  I always sit on the floor but I guess some people think this is strange.  It seems that a lot of things we try to do with abandon are strange to others and this is because I am a child at heart, really I look like a little girl; in fact, a boss I once had kept telling me to grow up.  Well, like Peter Pan, I don't like the way some adults act, like they think they know all about everything or something.

So I went to yoga class and noticed how this tension created by conflicts can affect your whole body and I thought, right or not, I should just blow it off because some people will never change their ways.  I continued with yoga, trying to make my mind and body flexible.  I would like to continue with this teacher's class because he's a fun person who knows how to laugh at things, but my gym membership is limited for now.  We did a lot of triangle twists and he came up to me and told me to bend my knees more in reverse twist.  Tight hip flexors again and when we got to the part where we cross our legs in front and swing them back to a plank using the strength of our forearms, I lost this movement, too, as well as the movement where we swung a leg over our elbow and then extended the other leg in a sort of off the air split, as well as the pose where you are in a shoulder stand and then, bobbing the head, you bring your body around to a plank or downward facing dog.  However, I did go to the wall and tried the elusive handstand, noticing how my body was much straighter than it had been and I could almost get it vertical -- the Pilates is good for me.

Then I swam in the empty pool, taking my time and walking around first, doing little developpes and noticing how my legs would not move out of my sockets.  So I held my back straight and down and magically it was easier.  I did a lot of backstrokes, which felt good and also stretched my straight leg against the wall of the pool and really pushed against it, feeling the right angle I could form only underwater; also, I did back bends against the edge, which I could also do underwater, noticing how I needed to relax and just sink into myself.  In yoga, the teacher said, we never want tension in our backs.
Now for something to eat, hang out, and go to ballet...

Swing legs in attitude, stretch down and back.  Plies, tendus 1st plie, 2nd plie, tendus 1st, 5th, 5th, 5th.  Fifth position, tendu plie, passe, en croix. Swing leg front, back, demi toe balance, ronde jambes a terre.  Fondu front to side, ronde jambe en 'lair, swing leg front, fouette, balance.  Developpe seconde, balance, pique arabesque balance, passe to other side, penche.  Grand battements to a little off the floor, en croix.  Stretch break--

Center:  Tendus in second back, tendus croise, pas de bourre back, tendu 1st, little developpe side, repeat, chasse pirouette, step cambre leg back, 5th, tombe pas de bourre front.  Balance, chainnes, step over pirouette, chasse arabesque turn, temps leve, inside pirouette.  Adagio, developpe a la seconde, fouette to arabesque, rise, plie pas de bourre, grand plie, inside pirouettes.  Jumps, changements echappe, assembles.  Then, little developpes turning to chasse to inside turn to arabesque turn, step developpe ecarte.

Class was a blur.  Surprisingly, though, I was dancing and the teacher said "You're the best," after class. I need more stability, I replied.  I need more confidence, too.  I could have done much better, but the teacher said to the class, it's all coordination and movement.

Back home, winding down.  I will always love ballet.  It has been my constant for a long time and has become a part of my identity, even though I'm not a professional.  I think I get it from my father, who loved to dance the kolo, no matter what, happy or sad.  Dancing makes you come alive and even though you may not execute the perfect pirouette, there is a joy in dance that I have found nowhere else and with no one else, except perhaps with my pets, which I will always love, too.  People come and go and I still dance.  I am so grateful to have had such wonderful teachers and wonderful dancers to learn from and to have become acquainted with so many talented people.  I love them all, too.  So, as a friend asked me, "where will you dance tomorrow?"

It's Wednesday

And I can't sleep.  I often get like this when I am very active and it's hard to calm down.  Well, I did get back to the gym in time to eat a steak sandwich and go to yoga class.  This class was nice and slow, with lots of shavasanas in between poses, which consisted of the basics:  downward dog, warrior, tree, leg stretches, shoulder stand, plow, horse, triangle.  The teacher interestingly told us to bring our arms way back as we got up from the sun salutations, which felt nice on my back.  I learned from this class that I need to increase the arch in my spine, especially in my mid-back area.

Then I went to the pool but since the water was freezing cold and it was a cold day, I just did some leg exercises and went to Pilates class.  There was free coffee and veggies at the club today, so I munched on pineapple, oranges and broccoli after Pilates, which was good, especially using the magic circle to squeeze against.  We did oblique exercises, roll ups, the side series with leg circles, plank and some arms stretches.  Then I bought some bananas.  They were on sale at the grocery store, so I think I will make a banana pie.  So, in a few hours I have another complimentary Pilates session.  Pilates and yoga are doing wonders for me -- I walked home in the cold and felt like a teenager.  Now for a little rest...

"You need to move,"  the Pilates teacher said, "I danced with Atlanta Ballet and became a New York dancer and was taught Pilates by dancers who used it to turn out more and have extensions, but it was all superficial and external.  Then I discovered the natural anatomical positions and could do more because I had a core."  "It's like Crispy Creme doughnuts," I said, "Nice on the inside but no substance inside."  We discussed babies, how they moved their arms and legs and bodies, which are neuro-muscular connections which we lose when we start to "edit" our movements.

When you work correctly, the pain is gone.  On the recliner, I learned about pushing my tailbone into it to find my natural arch.  It's okay to arch the spine, like a proud bullfighter or flamenco dancer.  They are sucking their stomach in and up but not tucking, which ruins the back and hips.  The instructor said I have overworked pecs, periformis, psoas and weak glutes, hamstrings and QL (quadratum lumborum).  It's hard to find the inner muscles but the instructor said, think of a tree and, with no base, the branches will not grow flowers.  The more you extend, the more rooted you must become, especially in the abs.  I have weak abs, too.

On the reformer, I moved my legs up and down cables while keeping my tailbone down.  It felt like I was sticking out in the back, but that is because I am so used to tucking that the normal position feels strange.  It was hard at first and I didn't want to crease in my hips, but I finally felt the release of all my painful tightness.  Then I had my arms in straps and tried to do the Pilates arms, finding how much I underuse the muscles behind my shoulders, which should be down and held.  Lastly, leaning against a wall with my knees just slightly bent, I breathed into my diaphragm, which wraps around your front and attaches to the back like a dome (I thought of the pregnant woman I had seen on the train this morning) and it was also difficult to press my ribs into the wall and breathe deeply and correctly.

Joseph Pilates was a very smart man, I thought, because it is true that when you distort body positions, as in dance and sports, you will hurt.  It is then that you must find the normal movements you were created with and go inside yourself and find your inner strength.

Despite the children and the general commotion of the holiday season, it was nice to get into the heated Lakeview pool for my first swim in two days, and it was nice to apply my Pilates principles while swimming, engaging my stomach and core and keeping the backs of my shoulder blades pressed down, too.  Now to dry off and head for ballet class...

Wow!  Ballet class is nothing like the gym.  The gym is more relaxing and forgiving whereas with ballet your body is under constant scutiny.  Not only must you execute the movements properly, you must also look charming while doing them and this is not easy for me, tomboy that I am, alas.  My bones did not want to move today, but after Pilates, my execution was much better, except that I stuck my back out and couldn't maintain my turnout during pirouettes.

How to turn out and still keep a neutral spine.  That is why there is nothing like ballet, because ballet engages turnout, which nobody seems to understand.  Class tonight was great with a great dancer who always looks good and is always charming and makes the class fun.  He was explaining that when you plie before the pirouette to another student who struggles with the turnout concept, you are already getting ready to spring up.  Aha, I thought, the reason for this turned out position where your legs look like old French furniture is that it sets up a corkscrew effect that enables a rotated movement such as a turn.  Think about it, if you were parallel as in a jazz turn, you would spin around but not create this circular motion which is what is so pretty about a pirouette.  Pretty but hard!

Similarly, with jumps, you must point your feet and keep your legs straight.  It is not easy to have the strength to become so taut, I thought.  Even squeezing your legs coming out of a pirouette is hard, which is why I probably stick out in plie.  You must use your inner muscles to squeeze your legs together and that is precisely what the teacher said as we left the studio, squeeze the hell out of your behind.  Also, he reminded me to push from the floor in jumps and mentioned that a friend of his said the secret of pirouettes or releves is to feel the inner muscles behind the calves.  Yes, I believe it, it's the inner muscles.

Everyone says ballet is bad for your body, even the Pilates teacher today, but I think it's bad when you do it incorrectly or try to move too extremely.  Certainly the teacher tonight is working correctly and although I'm sure he has pains, he is not ruining his body because he knows how to work.  The class went like this:

Warmup, swing legs in attitude front and back, stretch forward in parallel, stretch back; repeat.
1.  Demi plies, plies, port de bras.
2.  Tendus from 1st position with demi plies.
3.  Degage legs 2x front, 3x side, 2x back.
4.  Degage from 5th, demi plie passe flat to back, degage back, demi plie passe flat to front.
5.  From 5th position, fondu and extend leg forward, fondu and extend leg back in arabesque, ronde
6.  Developpe leg seconde, ronde jambes en 'lair, tendu second.  Also, turn from second to barre, leg in
     arabesque, releve and balance, then bring extended leg to passe and turn to other side.  There were
     lots of balances in passe which I could not do because my arms were not supporting me (!).
7.  Two grand battements en croix.

Center:  8 tendus from 5th travelling back; 8 to front; 8 degages same way.  I can never fully extend my leg going out in tendus (!)  Then we practiced pirouettes: passe to 4th position, pirouette(s) to 5th -- I found that doing them over and over helped me feel the movement more than just doing one or two and stopping.  It's hard to stop a pirouette and this, I believe, is where turnout comes into play, because when you maintain turnout you will stop.  Still, my head felt stiff because it seems like when I am using my muscles so precisely, I don't have the freedom to move my head.  But, there must be freedom in the movement, no matter how hard.  The body must breathe, I have learned from gym classes.

Adagio was developpe seconde, turn to arabesque, turn back to seconde.  Here, I saw that I must use my sides better.  So, then we jumped -- changements with sissonnes, then sissonnes sideways with two sissonnes in arabesque.  Then we did changements with pirouettes, something this teacher always likes to do, and, finally chainne turns in diagonal across the floor.  These were easy tonight because I have a sense of moving my sides around now.  The chasse plie in between was hard because of the turnout element.  Then the teacher played some soothing jazzy music and told us not to go out into the cold night until we stretched.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Tiger, my kitten, looked me in the eye and said, "Get up, time for your class.  And I will just sit here by the window all day, ha, ha!"  Magically my buses arrived on time and there I was.  I even had time to purchase coffee between buses.  There was a young male dancer from Thodos Company there and I stood behind him at barre.  Barre with Mike is always fun) because he plays classical musical recordings), except for the extensions...get into the splits, bend forward, rise straight up, point your toes, now arch your back...at barre, lean sideways and grab leg on barre (you are stretching a la seconde) with opposite hand, bring leg up to head, plie, releve, let go of the leg and ronde jambe to arabesque.  Then, lying on your back, do the bridge pose and walk your feet closer to your hands, releve, squeeze knees together, slowly come down.

I especially like the ronde jambes in this class, where you pas de bourre and temps leve to the other side.  Mike likes circular movements, I think, and I watched the company rehearsing one of Mike's pieces and noticed how he motioned to them to move around in circles more.  He is so creative and intuitively understands movement...I wish I did.  I think today he was watching me more since I am learning about how to move correctly through Pilates and yoga training.  Now that I am on this track, I feel less awkward, too, because I am moving correctly at last.

In center, we did waltz in line three times, then a detourne to pirouette en dedans, coupe pas de bourre, point croise tendu, third position arms, swing leg to arabesque, coupe, contretemps to other side.  The teacher spent some time on the different positions and precision of the movements, including correctly using the arms.  Although he doesn't dance anymore, he still has a great line; better than his students!  So I tried to mark the movements with him like I like to do, to see if I was bending the right way.  It's so easy when I move with someone -- when I am on my own, I just don't have the same energy and attack.

We did this combination facing away from the mirror and then back the normal way, and soon I was not so preoccupied with the steps as with the movements, which eventually felt like dancing, like I had just heard this music and was moving to it.  This is how center should feel, I thought, and I remembered talking with the dancer yesterday after class who said that, by the time you arrive at center, you have set yourself up and then don't have to think about technique.  I relayed this to a girl in class after the end of class, when I remarked to a regular student of this class, "Spaced out at center," and then I told her, "I wish my center could be as neat as my barre."  Mike always says when things aren't right in center, it's time to get to another technique class and do the barre again, like getting back on a horse after falling off.

Then we worked on a jump combination -- there were not a lot of combinations today, as the teacher chose to spend the time showing us how to refine our movements.  Do it slow by yourself, he said.  He teaches us good ways of working in his class, too.  The jump combination was temps leve arabesque, glissade assemble, faille assemble, tombe pas de bourre glissade pas de chat, glissade, jetes.  The teacher illustrated how the pas de chat was moving one leg and then the other, like a cat.  Since the dancers were running out of room at the end, Mike said to do the jetes en menage.

Class over, now downtown to settle business.  It's nice coming into the city now, as everything is decorated for Christmas.  But, since it's not too bad outside today, I want to get to the gym for a yoga class and then my now daily swim.

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.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Classical Sunday

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...