About Me

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday and it doesn't look like January

Champagne always makes me sleep forever but I finally woke up and am headed out to the gym for a swim.  The sun is shining but it got cold, not like yesterday, which was a beautiful night for celebrating.  It's Saturday and then there is Sunday and it is such a nice, relaxing weekend!  I hope everybody is happy and healthy today...

The gym was more lively today and I had a good swim, although I weaved around in the lane and my breathing was not as deep.  After a ballet class, I do much better.  There is nothing like ballet for a good workout.  That is why it is so popular with adults.  Whether you dance well or not, just the act of taking class will help your joints, posture, and especially your endurance, I am learning.  It's a shame that in our world, only the successful and beautiful are respected and others who try and are not so gifted are laughed at and not accepted.

Well, something made me turn around in the cold night air and head to church for the Saturday evening mass.  It was an impulse I could not ignore -- I was drawn to go.  When I got there, I realized it was the Mass of Epiphany and the scripture readings included the story of the Magi, my favorite.  When they saw the star, they followed it to find baby Jesus.  The priest, in his homily, said that there is a place inside of us that is like the manger, a place of poverty, where we hold our deepest wishes.  Seeing the Baby Jesus represents love and a world of no cares, said the priest.  It is what draws us there, our deepest wish, to be loved, to love, to have faith.  When you go to the manger, you find Jesus; when you look inside yourself to your manger, so you will find your faith to make your inner desires come true.

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

Well, I am going for a swim at the gym before they close early today.  It's a warm, rainy day in Chicago and I am all wet from walking in the rain already.  I came from ballet class with a better sense of form from taking class with the artistic director at Joffrey Academy all week.  After being in such a class, going back to a normal technique class is just not the same, but I will try to remember the passion and why I dance.

So, during class, I concentrated on becoming loose and extending myself, which I learned from the artistic director at Joffrey Academy.  You never want to pinch your movements, he said, showing how to extend the arm or move through the space you have.  So, working this way, I found it harder to control my appendages, namely, my feet, because I was thinking more of pulling myself out of my body.  So now my body feels great and I don't feel pinched in the waistline like I normally do.  Mostly, I need to find a more natural turnout and then the pinch would really disappear...

So we did a classical barre and the teacher commented on the same thing I was thinking, to find your stance and move naturally to a balance.  No force.  Force, yes, but there is a balance...hard to explain.  The hardest thing for me is to find balance in a pose where you must let go of the barre, such as doing frappes on demi-toe without holding on.  I find my middle moving more than my legs, it seems.  Part of it is fear, too, and lack of trust, as the teacher said.  All the teachers always say you can really do these things...

1. Plies in 1st, port de bras front and back; plies in 2nd, port de bras side; plies in 4th, port de bras side and back; plies in 5th, port de bras back.
2. Tendus front through foot, strike heel to ground; en croix.
3. Tendus to 5th with demi-plies en croix.
4. Ronde jambes with fondu attitudes extend.
5. Fondus en croix with developpe seconde to ronde jambes en l'air.
6. The infamous frappes!
7. Tendus and degages en croix; face center and pique arabesque and hold!
8. Barre stretches croise, seconde, arabesque, penche down and grab opposite foot to attitude stretch.
9. Developpes with grand ronde jambe to arabesque; also developpe seconde and cambre to barre, fouette attitude, extend to arabesque while letting go of barre.
10. Grand battements -- think of using just your foot, not the leg, for a lighter effect.

Since it has stopped raining, I will walk to the gym, although it is nice and cozy here in the bookstore cafe with my skinny caramel latte and peanut butter Cliff Bar and a book on stretching I am browsing...

The gym was pretty deserted, so I had a good swim and now I am home, just relaxing and thinking ballerina dreams...The Real Black Swan

1. Tendu croise, seconde, efface, seconde; developpe croise, seconde, fouette to ecarte, promenade arabesque, penche, releve faille, pas de bourre en tournant, pirouettes.
2. Pirouettes in 5th 3x, end in developpe a la seconde; repeat sides.
3. Glissade jete pas de chat pas de bourre, temps de cuisse, beats.
4. Releve attitude, chasse tour jete, tour fouette, jete developpe seconde, contretemps pique arabesque tour jete, chasse pas de bourre grand jete.

I feel restless when I am still; that is why I need and love to dance, because it is a way to occupy my time and use myself with abandon.  As the teacher said today, there are not many times in life where you can feel yourself moving in time and experiencing the moment fully.  Yes, it is like an addiction, but, since my resolution is to be real from now on, I must go on to other things.  As another dear teacher said who is no longer with us, what you learn in life will be applied to your dancing.  I believe every artist needs to be well rounded, as did Diaghilev, who made his dancers look at paintings and art.  Also, they say a great blues singer must experience pain in order to feel a song, or, as a French friend said, life is suffering and pain, not always a happy face.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Eve

I attended the last class with the artistic director at Joffrey Academy.  We were in Studio A upstairs again, where the Joffrey dancers take class and there was actually a dancer from the Joffrey Ballet in our class today.  I saw him in the elevator and didn't realize he would be in class; then, when I walked into the room, looking for a spot at barre, there was an empty space behind him, so I boldly went there.  He asked me if I wanted him to pull out a barre and I said that maybe I could learn something by standing behind him.  I found a foot stretching slab of wood on the floor and, sticking my toes into the strap, tried to stretch my entire leg taut, remarking to him that, this was as far as my foot would go.  But, after doing my elastic band stretches, I tried the stretcher again and somehow my arch popped up more.  I am inventive that way in class...

The teacher walked in and started to show the first combination, which we always did facing the barre.  I have taken to marking the combinations with him, moving when he does, to feel the movements.  It is one thing to know the movements and another thing to do them well and so I always try to imitate dancers who are more experienced and trained than I am.  So we did tendu side, plie touch working heel to ground,  tendus to the side, then tendus en croix bringing foot in a wrap to 5th.  Then we started class...

I noticed how the Joffrey dancer would often let go of the barre and move his arms with the leg movements.  Of course, he made no mistakes following the teacher at barre, or in center as I saw later.  And, he was bold and really moved, not a shrinking violet like me.  That's part of my problem, like the problem the dancer in Black Swan has, being more confident -- the director character in the movie told her to stop being so cowardly.  Insecure or not, you become what you do, I think.

Well, the class was the usual, with plies, tendus, ronde jambes, etc.  There was one nice combination where we did 3 degages front, 3 side, then bring inside leg in front and start from back.  Also, we did a temps lie movement in fondus.  Fondu front, step, temps lie, fondu back, temps lie, double fondu side, ronde jambes en l'air, passe to attitude, plie around and extend leg to fondu arabesque, then balance in passe.  We did en cloche legs with pique front, side, front, then to back, then fondu developpe into passe into fondu developpe the other way, developpe ecarte and flic foot derrierre and balance on demi toe.  We did plie push arch of foot, tendus side, same with inside leg, to plie and repeat.  We did beats with fondu to efface, to efface derrierre, to side, then demi toe and beat around the ankle.  Finally, there were grand battements:  face efface at barre, tendu, degage, battement, repeat efface derrierre in arabesques, then side battements.  We also did a combination with tendus to plie to detourne, then tendu inside leg back, soutenu, etc.

I went dutifully to drink some water and returned and the teacher promptly began showing the first center combination.  It was similar to what we had previously done in that it started with fondu croise, rotate to step derrierre with opposite arm, then back to front with developpe a la seconde, fouette to arabesque, promenade dehors in arabesque to fondu croise front, 2 glissades to renverse pas de bourre en tournant, pirouettes.  Then we did a similar tendu center combination:  tendus croise front 3x, back 3x, degages to side in 1st position, pas de bourre over and under with picked up feet which the director likes to do, into pirouettes.  We also did another pirouette combination where the teacher said to lean backwards as we developped into efface on demi toe and then did tombe pas de bourre into pirouettes en dehors.

We did a combination where we went to 5th position sou sou and then developped the leg to seconde while on demi toe into tombe pas de bourre pirouettes en dedans.  The teacher emphasized that when we do movements like this from fondu to developpe to move the head into the movement in order to keep a better balance.  There is a lot of torso movement like this in this teacher's class and the Joffrey dancer I saw today also said that this teacher does this all the time.  I think it's a nice feeling moving the body this way, instead of just feeling like your center is a dead fish.  The center is your core, but it is an interesting concept to move your core as well as your head and arms and not just the legs.  The legs do the work, but the rest of the body is important, too, in terms of muscular sensations.

I thought, watching these dancers who really moved in class so that it was hard for me to find my space in which to move, I will never really be a true dancer like this because I enjoy using muscular concepts too much.  I will always think of ballet as athletic, not just being in pretty poses and so I struggle to look feminine in dance class.  I was never the girly girl, but there is a place for dancers like me, too.  Why not?  I just need to be bold enough to stand by my convictions.  One thing I learned in class today, I can't stop myself to scrutinize my looks.  I need to feel freedom or I will cramp up and retreat into myself...

Well, it is almost time for restorative yoga class at the gym.  I missed going to the gym yesterday and today I was not quite as strong in class, but more of that later...

Restorative yoga was just what I needed.  We laid our heads on blocks and also placed yoga blocks under our middle back, to open our chest.  Then we did the standard yoga poses, downward dog, cobra, forward bends, but mostly we just relaxed into the yoga blocks.  Then I went for a brief swim -- I just had to -- emerged, and still wet, towel over my head, went to Pilates, which was difficult for me because there were a lot of positions where the legs were in 45 degree angles from the floor and it felt hard on my hip flexors.  Afterwards I asked the teacher if more reformer work would open up these deep areas, since on the reformer you have the machine as a brace.  It is interesting how machines can help you, I thought, after my experience with yoga today.  All the standard Pilates exercises done, I went home and almost fell asleep watching television with my kitten.

But the program was too interesting, so I ate a chocolate nut protein bar, something new I found at Trader Joe's today, because nuts are good for the brain and help you think, so I was jolted into a state of half-sleep to watch a BBC program about the history of Paris.  The hostess was a kind of intellectual student type of person, just the kind of person I like.  She spoke about the royals and how chocolate and cafes and fashion came into existence centuries ago when foreigners would travel to Paris for these things.  I learned that Marie Antionette was the first super model and her pictures illustrated the current fashion vogue.

Also, we visited with her the Bastille and all the famous historic places, including a Paris bar that had an actual guillotine, a small but deadly device.  Then she spoke of the old French intellectuals like Robespierre and the Rein of Terror and we saw the coffins with the remains of Louis XIV and other kings.  Then she spoke of the original Bohemians, thinkers who would get together in cafes and discuss culture and art and we visited the first cafe that existed in Paris.  This cafe culture was later adopted by the Paris students and we saw the Sorbonne and heard some students talking in French about philosophy.  I thought, I would love to be there in a cafe right now.  I love cafes and drinking coffee and thinking about intellectual things.

The program concluded with the modernization of Paris and the struggles of the poor, who live in tenements on the outskirts where there have been riots because these people feel slighted by the other well-to-do Parisians.  The hostess said Parisians will continue to be rebellious and avant-garde because that is what makes Paris stay vital and new.  It was nice to see camera views of Paris throughout, and I almost felt like I was there vicariously.  I love to watch programs like this that entertain and educate at the same time.

I know I am still being a thinker and not facing reality.  I want what she said in French in the show about having your butter and bread, to have my cake and eat it, too.  It is hard to stay real and still be imaginative, but it will come...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday - Let yourself go

Today I went to see the Black Swan movie with my sister.  It's her birthday and I bought her a bouquet of lavender roses and had it gift-wrapped nicely.  We stopped to eat and then saw the movie about the toll obsession can take.  At the end, my sister said, you can't let obsession do that.  I admire my sister because she has a lot of self-control, whereas I tend to be more emotional.

I could identify with this movie and the character.  While it is good to immerse yourself in something you love, you must also face reality.  I am not going to give this movie away, like I did the last movie I described, because it is so popular.  You will have to see it yourself; but, I can say that this dancer paid a high price for perfection.  The director of her company kept saying to let go of the technique and stop pretending, something I hear a lot, too!

After taking another ballet class at Joffrey Academy this morning, you would think I would want to think of something else, but my sister wanted to see the movie and she asked me questions, like, when the dancer put her feet in the rosin box, what's that -- or, when she was banging up her pointe shoes, what's she doing.  Technically, the dancing was okay, but I would rather see Makarova dancing this role, not an actress, although the acting was impressive and I really believed the character.

So, you wonder, why do I take class and work out when I should be thinking about more practical things?  Well, since I lost my job of 13 years and, although I have a job of sorts, it's hard to find better work, I feel that now is my time.  Like in the movie, now is my time...although my resolution for New Year will be to be more realistic and after watching this movie, I saw what can happen if you're not realistic about your goals.

So, this morning in class, we started with slow tendus and cou de pieds facing barre, then onto plies, cambres, ronde jambes, beats, developpes, battements, balances and the artistic director, who has been teaching this class all week, even approached me at barre and corrected me today, telling me to keep my heels forward and stop looking at the floor.  I thought it was nice that he was considering me as someone worthy of improvement in this class of want-to-be dancers.

In center we did a variation on our usual adagio and it was not as straightforward and so it's hard to describe.  It was something like tendu fondu forward, detourne, step arabesque and passe through to developpe efface, then developpe a la seconde and then rotate to arabesque, promenade, step to turns en dedans, chasse pose foward.  It is still hard for me to understand these torso changes in this class, especially when we got to the last combination.

This was pique arabesque, fouette, fouette again, developpe croise to grand jete.  Straightforward enough, but I remarked to another girl that I had forgotten the mechanics of fouette, because my torso was not turning the same way as the other dancers.  Also, when the teacher said, let's move and we did temps leve arabesque, faille, detourne, temps leve arabesque to other side, I struggled with directions again...something to work on as usual, my movement quality.  I am great at static poses but lose it when I have to cover the floor.

So, tomorrow I will go back again for the last class with this great teacher and try to understand how to use my torso.  It will probably be the last time he will be my teacher so the expense will be worth it.  Moving the torso is very important and since I know I cannot give up ballet, it will improve my dancing, as will the gym classes I am taking.  The gym is always a place I can relax and experiment with what I am learning from dance.  It is the space I go to as a non-dancer, although dancing will always be special to me...

Watching the movie, I thought the artistic director in it resembled my current teacher, a sure sign I have been taking this class too long, although I love dancing for people like this who want to draw out what is inside of you.  You are your worst enemy, forget the technique, too stiff, let it go, do it again...yes!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sleepy Tuesday...

I woke up late so I missed taking class with Mike but then I found out he wasn't teaching anyway and so I headed to Joffrey Academy.  I'm glad I saved my money for this class.  We were so packed in our usual studio that Alexei, the artistic director, led us upstairs to the more spacious studios used by the Joffrey Ballet.  We were in a huge room with a plaque with Gerald Arpino's name on it.  He was the co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet and later became artistic director when Robert Joffrey died.

We started class facing the barre as usual, doing slow tendus and releves and port de bras.  Then we did the customary class, starting with demi-plies and grand plies in all positions.  Then we did tendus with plies en croix in all positions, followed by degages and then ronde jambes with developpe passe extensions.  Throughout, I tried to listen to the artistic director's corrections more than I had in previous classes.  He stressed how to hold the arms and head, inclining the head along the arms.  Also, he said to open the back and not tilt the pelvis back.  Significantly, today he stressed that the body weight should always be centered and not to sway away from this vertical balance and stance.  The arms and legs will move, he indicated, but it is always within the body's center of weight.

We continued barre with fondus and developpes and extensions.  The teacher mentioned that the ballonne poses we did should have the incline of the body and holding the arms in second position.  We did not do frappes today but we did beats around the ankles and then a balance.  We did a lot of steps in cou de pied today and this was carried into center.  Often, a teacher will give barre combintions that have a reference to the center's activities of the day.  We completed barre with grand battements:  tendu, degage, grand battements, en croix and then the teacher told us to stretch.

I hastily put my dance bag into a corner while he demonstrated the first center exercise, which was the same as the previous class adagio step:  tendu fondu croise, head under 5th position arm, temps leve to tendu fondu croise derrierre; close 5th position, lift other leg to arabesque and bring through passe into developpe efface; 5th position, developpe ecarte, passe, attitude promenade with one hand on hip.  Here the teacher said to keep the shoulders down so you feel the balance of the stance.  Then, coupe renverse, pas de bourre en tournant, glissades with character arms, to pirouette(s).

Next combination was tendus croise front and back, with pirouettes from 5th position, dehors and dedans.  We then did a combination with attitude turns:  pique arabesque, faille, step attitude turn en dehors, land in 4th, pique arabesque, soutenu, pirouettes.

After this were jumps:  jumps in 1st position, echappes, jump twice in 2nd position with trois beats to end.  We did the tricky combination with brises again:  changements, brises vole with assembles instead of the chasses forward and back which confused me last time!  So we proceeded to the Polonaise in A flat echappes with sissonnes followed by saute ronde jambes en l'air, glissade derrierre coupe back, assemble devant.

Then was the grand allegro:  pique arabesque coupe passe chasse grand jete, pique arabesque fouette, fouette again, pique arabesque, chasse pas de bourre glissade grand jete, contretemps pique arabesque step, balance with leg in cou de pied, one hand on hip again, other arm 5th position en haute.  We ended class with a cool reverence:  demi-plie sweep arms behind back a la dying swan, swoop arms up through 5th position, swoop down, step, courtsey.  Everyone bowed to the teacher.  I will take this class again tomorrow!

So I went home, made a sandwich and then went to my favorite bookstore, where I found a Latin calendar at half price.  Felix annus novus!  I love Latin...then I went to yoga class.  We did sun salutations:  raise arms overhead, dive down to touch floor, get to downward facing dog, down to cobra, bring right leg forward into lunge, bring other leg to meet, stand up; repeat.  Oh, first we did breathing exercises where you blow in and out while closing your nostril with your fingers.  So we proceeded to triangle pose:  stand sideways, bring right foot parallel and left foot at angle but keeping hips square, bend down to bring chest over front leg.  Then triangle:  lean into hip, bring hand down to floor, other hand raised overhead.  Then we sat and, crossed legged, we stretched chest down to floor.  Then into corpse pose...then to Pilates, after soaking in the steam room and whirlpool, and running laps in the pool.

In the pool, I tried to do the combinations I had learned in ballet class:  pique arabesque, faille, developpe seconde, passe to fondu efface, promenade attitude (that was fun) but I had to quit to get to Pilates class.  Pilates was hard!  Placing the magic circle between our knees, we pressed our legs in and out while in a bridge pose.  We did the side leg series while holding onto the magic circle, trying to bring the leg up and then swinging it over to touch the floor.  While in plank position, we brought knee to chest, also, we slid back and forth in plank.  Then, standing, we placed the magic circle between our ankles and, lifting the right foot and balancing on the left, we squeezed the magic circle; then we circled our right foot forward and squeezed it, then we swung the leg behind us and squeezed the circle, all the time balancing and not moving on the supporting side.  I did it!  Then we placed the magic circle on our waist and squeezed the arm into it, then behind our heads, then behind us, squeezing the magic circle.  Then we balanced on our toes and class was over.  I'm wasted, I remarked to a guy in class...

On the way home, I stopped at the bookstore to finish reading the article in Psychology Today magazine about beauty.  Beauty is equated with being a better person, somehow.  Beautiful people are more successful.  However, it should be kept in proportion so that it is not beautiful to look painted or resort to plastic surgery when obsessing over how we look.  The article concluded, beauty comes from within, yes, but don't forget the lipstick, girls.  Yes, I thought, striving for beauty is a good thing, as long as it is pursued in a healthy fashion.  Time for bed after a chocolate protein bar.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday and Christmas lingers...

I am a winter baby and I feel that, when subjected to extreme condition, I truly find myself.  Now, stretching after a Pilates class followed by a swim, I feel so...human.  As I stretched in the steam room, mimmicking curling like a ball a la Pilates, I thought, this is how embryos start, how humans are formed.  They are curled into this round shape.  Ballet is full of round shapes.  It is this stiff computer position that modern man has assumed that is the root of all physical problems...

The Pilates teacher today said that proper posture is the key and this creates less tension to the joints.  To the muscles, too, I feel.  I spoke to the teacher after class about my tight left shoulder and she gave me some exercises to do:  take a yoga strap and hold it with your hands behind your back and do a backbend, starting with the head, not the lower back.  Like a back dive, I remarked.  Also, back against a wall with arms bend overhead, begin to "walk" down the wall with your hands.  See how far your back will bend.  Also, hold your elbows behind your back and move the shoulders out as far as they will go.  I said it's all stress and she said it is the stress we put on ourselves.  Still, it is a strong person who can resist the goings of the world and be so disciplined.  Funny, but in a ballet class last week, when everyone followed a barre combination and consequently everyone did it wrong, the teacher said, you are all afraid to trust yourselves...

Wrapped in a ball shape, curl your abdomen into yourself and feel how stretched and less tense your back becomes.  There are shapes your body needs to make, not just walk like a robot....well, yoga class later will be my chance to make more healthy shapes.  I will forego ballet today because my budget will not allow.  Thank goodness you go to the gym, the Pilates teacher said.  Maybe I will try a barre by myself today, which I have done during past Christmases, when ballet classes were not to be found.

The day has merged into night.  Last night I stayed up late to watch Jane Eyre on PBS TV, but could not manage to see the end.  It is a masterpiece book about a governess and her employer who become drawn to each other, even though she is not of his society.  Well, tonight, I am at the bookstore now, waiting for yoga class, reading magazines.  There is an interesting article in the winter 2010 Dance International about Degas.

Degas lived in the Montmartre district of Paris surrounded by artists such as Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh.  He was close friends with Manet.  What a place to be!  The area itself was a mix of the rich and the poor and a not-so-nice place to be, but the art world flourished.  Degas was interested in capturing movement on canvas, "a snapshot of a moment in time," the article, Ballet and Brushstrokes, goes on to say...in the article, Degas is quoted as saying, "People call me the painter of dancers, but I really wish to capture movement itself."  How interesting that I have been thinking about the same thing today, movement...the last paragraph was especially intriguing:
"Degas saw the ballet dancer in all her working glory, not the glamour of make-believe.  He gained an appreciation for ballet as a career, which required years of endless practice and dedication, much like his work as an artist.  Having devoted more than half his oeuvre to ballet, Degas reveals the hidden life of a dancer in 19th-century Paris.  Each painting is a portrait, an artist's memory frozen in time."
Well, it's almost time to try to do my own barre before yoga...plie, tendu, degage, ronde jambe, fondu, frappe, battements.  Then maybe some turns and jumps...hmmm...interesting article about beauty in Psychology Today magazine.  If people think the quest for intelligence is admirable, why don't they feel the same way about the quest for beauty?  I have been in the bookstore too long!

Now I am home after taking another Pilates class and then the yoga class with Noah right after.  On the way home, I felt like a different person, actually enjoying the cold winter air.  I feel more powerful than I did last winter.  I am watching a fascinating program about the pianist Glenn Gould and how he was so artistic but lonely.  I can imagine how, after giving everything to music, life would seem empty as a result.  "My favorite motto has been that behind every silver lining is a cloud."

Yet he found joy in clowning around, like singing a German art song to elephants at a zoo.  He wanted to live on a farm with a soprano he had met and raise puppies.  He many films of himself dressed in outrageous clothes, portraying outrageous characters, like sitting on an empty beach dressed in an overcoat, hat, gloves, glasses, and just sitting there.  He died, finally, at the age of 50 after having many strokes.  He lived for his art.

I enjoy so much reading about artists, especially when I can get glimpses into their character.  Artists are my superheroes, bigger than life.  I wish they would be appreciated more for all they do for the betterment of all; they are so often underrated.  In the show, I learned that Mr. Gould's approach to the classics was to bring them out of their jaded existence by rendering new interpretations.  He absorbed music internally so much that he gave it new life.  I love art and always will.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day)

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...