About Me

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday - Next Week is Christmas

It was very cold last night so it was easy to get up and get to the neighborhood dance studio for combined level 11 am class.  Everybody is dancing in the Nutcracker and I hope all the dancers will be safe although some will invariably be injured.  I hope, like the Nutcracker, they will mend and become magical again.  Christmas is an exciting time but also very stressful, with all the rush of shopping, concerts, parties and matters of the year coming to an end.  So, if anybody needs me, I have doctors and nurses in my family...

Vanessa taught class -- she danced in Germany and we did a lot of fouettes in class, such as pique arabesque, chasse back, swing arabesque leg into fouette, coupe, pas de bourre pirouette.  That was part of a floor combination.  I am leaving the studio now because it will be closed soon.  More detail at the gym...oh, and one thing I don't want to forget -- Vanessa thinks part of my hip and back problem is that I'm not extending my leg into movements.  She told the class, don't be so much in your box.  We were doing pique turns across the floor and she said to move more but then I started jumping into my turns instead of extending my leg out.  I can see I will need to really work on my feet, like others have said, because if movements are done incorrect, they will only do damage.  Now for my swim...

Swim was wonderful.  I love the Lakeview Pool.  I saw a regional gym manager and told him so, and that I appreciated that the water was kept warm enough to swim on a cold day.  A lot of older people were in the pool today -- I don't usually go so early on Saturday as I am in dance classes, and they all watched me like I had lost my mind, ha, ha, but I am serious about my training!

Likewise at ballet class -- the adults don't quite understand me either.  In fact, a girl I once worked with used to tease me and say, I thought ballet was for kids.  Well, I guess I'm just a kid at heart.  In class, we had a nice barre with lots of tendus and ronde jambes and port de bras.  I felt really stretched out and warm for center.  Center was hard!  Lot of fouettes, as I mentioned before, and a complicated jump combination:  temp de cuisse, faille pas de bourre, faille pas de bourre, sissonne back, sissonnes side, sissonne arabesque ouverte pas de bourre to pirouettes, land 4th position, echappes through 4th, rotation, assemble, quatres.  Whew!  The adagio was nice:  grand plie in second position, port de bras inclined to raise leg a la seconde, fouette to arabesque to promenade in arabesque to third arabesque, pas de bourre, chasse grand port de bras, pirouettes en dedans, pas de bourre en tournant to pirouettes dehors to pirouettes tour de finne.  Lots of steps to remember, but despite this it was a flowy class and then everyone did a reverence to the teacher and the pianist and the teacher wished us all a Merry Christmas, since the school is now closed until January.

So now I'm home reading my new book about ballet history.  I saw some dancers in the school lobby on the way and told them about my new book, a little boring sometimes, but just the thing to read in the cold winter days to come...

Friday, December 17, 2010

It doesn't feel like Friday...

Such a busy day!  I went to the professional ballet class near my apartment and didn't do too badly; I concentrated on form.  After my earlier experience in this class and a swollen ankle as a result, I have been more mindful of my feet.  Sometimes I feel that the others snub me because I'm not professional like they are, but I danced well today because it's Christmas and when there was a gap in the first line center, I stood there, next to the class ballerina, muttering under my breath, I don't care.

Like a teacher once said in class there, it doesn't impress me if you can, say, do the splits and so on.  So, at barre, we warmed up facing the barre, doing tendus out to the ball of the foot, then placing our whole foot down, and sliding it into first position, with a demi-plie -- en croix.  Then we balanced in first position toward the barre.

Similarly, now in traditional barre position, we did slow tendus to 5th, 1st, then in normal time -- en croix -- with port de bras forward, back, sideways and around.  Whew -- what else is left?  Then we did fondus developpe, plie, ronde jambe leg to next position, etc.  I tried to engage my glutes when my leg was behind me, in order to keep a neutral pelvis, something I am learning from Pilates.

We did frappes with flexed feet, frappes with pointed feet, and then frappes with wrapped feet.  Everyone thinks the wrapped foot position is hard but to me it feels good and I can do it well because I have enough turnout...we stretched our legs against the barre with demi-plies and also did a barre exercise where we did a port de bras ecarte and then plied into second position, shifted our weight forward to stand on one leg and then did a little promenade to the other side.  Grand battements were one slow, two fast, in all positions.

Then we did a slow adagio movement:  developpe a la seconde, promenade in second position, passe to attitude, promenade in attitude, straightening into third arabesque, pas de bourre en tournant to pirouettes to pose with third position attitude arms.  Next were tendus front, back, side, pas de basque, pirouettes en dedans to fourth position to pirouettes en dehors.  The teacher said, just as in barre when we slid our feet into first position, the movements of tendu must end in correct positions with the quadriceps touching, otherwise there is no use of the inside legs.  Later, after class, when I practice pique turns, I could see that I was not using my inside leg to rotate around myself and the movement looked weak...

So, we worked on jumps, warming up with jumps to 1st, 2nd, changements, echappes with changements, sissonnes simple sideways and back and forth.  Then we did brises, jete, pas de chat, beats in cinque, brises vole with pas de chats.  I still can't beat my legs together all the way in brises.  The grand allegro was temps leve in attitude to grand jete, moving across the floor, then forward, then across the other way to pique arabesque assemble en tournant, chasse coupe arabesque, fouette attitude alternating to chasse pas de bourre glissade grand jete.

The teacher told me that I wasn't spotting and so after the class reverence (1st position, cambre forward, back, tendu fondu port de bras) I thanked him for his comment, remarking that I was so busy holding everything that I also held my neck too tightly.  Then I stretched, listening to the other dancers talking about their dance engagements, avoiding me because I wasn't a dancer like they all were.  Oh, well, some dancers can be catty like this -- it's part of the competitive life of dance, I guess...

So I went to the gym and swam in the warmed water, dried off, and rushed to Pilates at the Halsted gym.  I was torn between taking a Pilate class or a yoga class and, since I had taken a morning ballet class, there weren't many more options at night.  It turned out that the Pilates class was taught by a yoga teacher, and we did some yoga stretches at the end and, lying on our stomach with arms stretching back, we lifted our chest and legs off the floor.  I still can't do pushups, which were after this...but class started with the abdominal series and alternating our legs and making circles in the air.  Challenging for me tonight were the leg kicks forward and back while lying on our sides without movement in the torso; it is so easy to warp the body, but I really checked myself in the mirror.  The last thing we did were heel lifts and I kept "dancing" and the teacher said after class that I needed to engage my glutes.

I also remembered from yesterday's class, while standing sideways by the mirror, how far my pelvis needed to come forward and not to "sit," or as my other teacher told me specifically, Dorothy, you can still hold your middle.  Everyone left the mirrored room which had ballet barres built into the walls and I felt like dancing but I opted to roll on the black roller instead, noticing how, when lifting my legs, I wasn't keeping my back on the floor.  Press that belly button down, the teacher had said.  It was good to stretch out my IT band against the roller.

So, end of day, at the bookstore reading a new book on ballet history that has finally arrived here...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


So here I am at home, wanting to sag in front of the TV but after Wednesday's class, I find myself lifting out of my hips and sucking in my stomach.  Wow!  I must get some sleep, though, because there will be Thursday yoga and then a swim in the heated pool, hooray!

So now I am awake and must rush to yoga because the teacher is strict.  My dance teacher will be performing today in the Nutcracker and my heart and spirit will be with him as I work out.  I have seen him dance and plan to see his show next week and he is wonderful...

Barely arrived for yoga -- missed both buses.  Well, it was great to get into the triangle and reverse triangle poses, not to mention extended leg tree pose, cobra, and shoulder stand.  The teacher showed the tricky shoulder stand flipping over into cobra with a flick of the head and I asked him if this was wise for people with limited neck flexibility and he said he cracked his neck learning this and you need to first have the stability in shoulder and neck area.  Like anything else, don't try it until you are ready, he said.

Watching the gym TV, ABC News was broadcasting a bit of news about the Joffrey Ballet and how every year a disabled child was chosen to be in the party scene, something which Gerald Arpino created when he was impressed with a disabled child auditioning for the show.  Ashley Wheater said that the child is chosen on his/her ability to understand the role.  There were scenes of the party scene, too, with all the Joffrey dancers.  After missing my buses, it was nice to be here at the right time to see this -- what a treat!

Got my swim in just before the children came.  Swimming always makes me happy.  I like the freedom of moving in the water...grapevine step, pique arabesque balance, emboites to pirouettes en dedans.  Pas de basques with arms, releve arabesque turn balance, chainnes, tombe pas de bourre pirouette en dehors.  Changements, glissade assembles.  Emboites, chainnes, emboites, tombe coupe jete.

Grand allegro:  balances back, tour jete, step fouette balance en tournant, chainnes.  I stood at barre next to a neurologist and we discussed nerve patterns -- it was the adult class with lots of professional people who like ballet.  I think they like the structure of it.  There was one professional dancer in class but some of the others danced better than he did.  The barre was very structured and good, with just about everything:  plies, passe balances, attitude to arabesque, frappes, developpes, and after class I stayed and watched the advanced pointe class.

The pointe teacher was very thorough in teaching technique, saying things like, move your body around in a turn, don't leave your arm back, keep it in second position; dance on the points of your feet, not off the point, push up to turn, don't turn in your back leg when turning; push with the back leg to turn, all of which are easy to say but so hard to do.  The teacher laughed as her students did glissades on pointe, saying they seem so easy but are so hard to do.

It was snowing briefly this afternoon and it gets dark so suddenly now.  It's hard to believe that Christmas is a week from Saturday.  Hopefully I can keep dancing through the holidays and have a happy new year, despite the economy and trying to get by.  I think, though, as the cycles of nature continue, so does life and we all need to live as best we can and not let our worries get the best of us. After all, worrying never solved anything.  So, tomorrow I will dance again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


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.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sleepy Tuesday

The alarm didn't go off in time for me to get to early class, so I went to professional class near my home instead.  The professional dancers are fun to watch but I am still too much into technique to really dance like they do.  I think they laugh at me sometimes because I try to analyze everything, but that's how I am, I guess.  Still, I am getting better, although I don't like to sacrifice technique for an effect.  If my technique were a little more secure, maybe I could let it go, but when I almost twisted my ankle doing brises with hops on one leg going into brise vole, I told the teacher after class that my ankle wasn't rotating so I felt it twist and she said maybe it was a hip problem.  So I tried a pirouette and really tried to move from the hips and it was so much better.

Class was traditional barre with some fouettes thrown in and then the center was very abandoned...tendus to second, developpe croise fondu to arabesque, releve, faille, cambre pas de bourre en tournant, pirouettes.  Then there were lots of jumps, my downfall today because now my ankle has swollen and I just put my ice pack on it.  I think I will take it easy for a while.  I went on an errand and stopped at the fitness store to buy some protein bars and talked to the guy behind the counter about sports and professionals and he said to me that bad form always leads to injuries so I am rethinking about how to approach my technique.  I said to him that this also brings down the level of dance, when it is done carelessly.  At any rate, it's nice meeting sports-minded people like this to share my thoughts.  I still wish I could work at the gym or some similar place instead of just working out...

After taking care of some nasty business of where I will live next year, I went to a much-needed restorative yoga class.  Yoga is so relaxing, and then I worked on some gym machines for a while -- I wonder if this aggravated my ankle condition, but dancers never want to quit.  So tomorrow I will swim, always good for injured bodies.  Like Michael Phelps said, I feel at home in the water...  So, I kind of had a bad day, but I am always happy when the sun shines.  All I need are the elements...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday, Monday...

I said I wouldn't write every day but I love it, writing, that is.  I awoke to the sound of the telephone, asking if someone could view my apartment, so, once up, I got to the gym in time for Pilates.  Very traditional class, with ab work, roll ups, side kicks, chest lifts, but I couldn't do the pushups.  Every time I go I learn where my weaknesses are and, as I said to the teacher after class, going daily has been good maintenance.

I stopped for a sandwich at subway, the daily special with lots of spinach and guacomole, briefly cleaned up my apartment and left for the stairwell with my kitten, where I sat reading a magazine, waiting for the showing to be over so I could go back and get ready for ballet.  It was nice spending quality time with Tiger, my kitten and he seemed to like just sitting with me.

So I packed up my ballet clothes and stopped for a coffee at the bookstore and then went to intermediate ballet with the teenage girls.  I was the only adult today but I thought, in order to get better, I need to develop a tougher skin and not care that they thought I was weird for taking ballet as an adult.  Since when did artists conform to standards anyway?  So I stood at barre, scrutinizing myself, and the teacher didn't really correct me that much today, except for saying that I was off my leg, but after watching yesterday's teacher correct a young girl for this, I knew how to correct myself.  Today's teacher also corrected a student for constantly raising her hip, but I knew what she meant from watching yesterday's children's class.

The teacher remarked at barre that, if you train correctly, you will be able to dance effortlessly, making the point that the pianist there could play the piano without looking at the keys, once she trained herself.  So, we proceeded to center, where we did a pirouette combination:  tendus to the side, tendu front, pirouette from 5th, tendu ecarte to second, pirouette to 5th, tendu croise, double pirouette to end.  I tested my stance, noticing that what this teacher had constantly told me about being forward on the supporting leg was true -- my hip was too creased and I was therefore off my leg, as she keeps saying.  She said to the others, you will have to work harder and listen to me!  Lazy, lazy.

Then the teacher went into jumps, 1st, 5th, seconde to warm up, then a combination:  degages second, echappe trois beats, saute de basque, chasse coupe assemble.  She told me to move my body into the turn and as I was about to assemble, to straighten up -- I was still going forward into the assemble and that was not necessary.  Then she briefly described coupe turns, which I imagine she had been working on with her students, and, as I was not a class regular, I watched the others and tried to follow.

We did coupe turn temps lie, same with other leg, glissade pas de bourre saute de chat; then we repeated with glissade grand jete.  Then I stretched while listening to the pop music of the jazz class starting, and now I am ready to tackle yoga at the gym...

Impossible Noah's yoga class.  He was wondering why people kept leaving after he did the plow and then inverted his back in bridge pose so that his hands and feet touched.  There is one girl who could actually do a walkover from the camel pose; me, I just tried to do the best backbend I could and this girl said you can always modify poses.  She is a devotee and it's true, you can't expect to be perfect when you are there with people who have studied for years.  It was a fun class, though, because it was so physical and extreme but in a good way.  I like the pose where you are in a straddle and then hold your arms behind your back and raise your arms overhead as you try to reach your head to the ground between your feet and ultimately swing your arms around your head to the other side.  It's possible, Noah said.  Also nice is the pose where you are in warrior one, straighten your legs, place your arms behind your back in fists and then bend down over your leg.  Nice hamstring stretches here and good for stretching the lower back, as is downward facing dog.  Supple from ballet class, yoga was fun.

Now I'm home.  It was nice to just stay in my neighborhood and not have to get on buses.  I also enjoyed the coffee in my neighborhood bookstore while getting free Wi-fi.  A man next to me had something up on his screen and I asked if he was writing a short story.  He was, to take a break from his novel.  It turned out he lived in New York and when I asked him how he liked it, he said it was like Chicago on steroids.  I like writing, too, and I like the feeling of just being able to walk everywhere and stay near home on such a cold, snowy day.  New York is nice to visit, but he said it was too dirty and not as liveable...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowy Sunday

The wind was my dance partner as I bourred across the icy street to get some Vanilla yoghurt on the way home from the pool at the gym.  The water was just the right temperature and it felt good to throw myself into the water and let its weight support me.  I learn a lot from just being in the water, finding my equilibrium and it's a good cardio workout, too.

Ballet class was fun today, even though I could not find this same elasticity a terre as I did later in the water.  After class, I remarked to the teacher that I felt awkward in center because I think too much about every detail instead of just dancing.  I remembered how my voice teacher used to tell me, and another ballet teacher I once had, too, that you don't talk to someone by saying each word in a monosyllabic way, as if reading from a dictionary, so why would you dance like that, thinking of every step.  Another dance teacher said in class once, when you walk down the street, how do you walk?  Do you think of every step you take?  Well, that's what I'm doing...everybody says I think too much.  I like to think but if I am going to get better at dancing, I will have to let it go...like a classical string version of the John Lennon song I heard while having coffee and a carrot coconut muffin before class.

Barre:  warmup, grand plie, releve, stretch parallel 4th position.  Plies with port de bras, then tendus 1st position, plie, 2nd position, plie second, tendu derrierre demi-plie; port de bras forward, back, around, back, down.  Tendus in 5th position en croix with plies, balance passe. Swing legs.  Ronde jambes:  fondu ronde jambe, 4x ronde jambes, fondu extend leg front, passe, arabesque, rise and balance arabesque on demi-toe.  Stretch break.  Frappes en croix, then 2x en croix, beats, passe, attitude balance, bring leg back to passe, hold.  [I always collapse in the torso here when I let go of the barre.]  Fondus front, side, developpe a la seconde, fouette to penche, rise and balance; then reverse.  Grand battements, front, swing leg down almost to floor, battement again; repeat to back, 4x side, hold a la seconde.

Center:  Adagio:  Grand plie, developpe seconde ronde jambes, promenade a la seconde and rotate to fourth arabesque, fondu, pas de bourre en tournant, pique attitude to attitude turn, extend leg to arabesque, plie pas de bourre.  Before adagio were tendus with tendu front, pirouette from 5th position, pirouettes from 4th position; then pas de bourre under and over to step pique hold.  Jumps:  changements, glissades with assembles, changements with echappe.  Jump combination: temps lie glissade assemble, sissonne coupe assemble, sissonnes in arabesque ferme and ouverte to bas de basque, step releve; half turn step releve, step assemble forward.  I asked the teacher to explain some jump steps and acknowledged that jumps should have more attack in keeping with their dynamic -- I was treating mine like they were adagio.  The teacher remarked to one girl who seemed dazed, it's ballet class.

Yes, and so to take it apart like this destroys the beauty of the movements.  So, I think from now on I will make less notations like this and just describe my feelings and approach in class and maybe not blog every day because I'm sure it is quite boring!

The most fun today was staying to watch the teacher teach some little girls.  I love watching children dance, they are so innocent and playful.  Me and my friend wanted to stay and give the teacher Christmas presents, so I watched the entire class while stretching.  There were a couple of girls in class who were quite talented beyond their years; in particular, one little girl had amazing feet that she articulated very well and the other girl had amazing flexibility.  I notice how the teacher rotated their legs around to arabesque and said to one child to get more into her supporting side while her working leg was in passe, otherwise she would fall over if she let go of the barre -- also, to stretch the supporting side to make more space underneath the ribs.  In center, the girls were learning to pirouette and the teacher said to spot and use their arms; also in jetes, to use the correct arms -- 1st position to arabesque, and extend the leg and arm together when jumping.

Watching them learn made me feel less awkward because, even though I am an adult and wish I had studied ballet as a child, I am still learning just like them.  The teacher thanked us for our presents and I thanked him for teaching us.  I must work harder though and listen more, so the teacher doesn't lose patience with me, although he tells me I am doing fine.  Still, I know I could do more...

P.S.  While hunting for some boots, I paused in my building gym and worked out for a while.  It was nice to be alone, just me and my thoughts.  I rode a recumbent bike, did the elliptical, the leg press, hamstring curl, adductors and abductors, lat press, and ab curls on the resistance machines.  Now I feel strong!  Good night.