Waiting for my second ballet class of the day. I used to take three classes a day when I was younger and it's really nice to be able to take two classes a day, if you can afford it. The second class is always better because you are warmed up. I met an old friend from my past dancing days and we shared barre in today's afternoon class. She, being a professional, was more concerned with what she could do, not how she looked. Also, in center, I noticed how she really pushed herself to do everything, whether her body wanted to or not. This is real dedication and this is how you get better, I thought.
After we finished a very structured barre, and went on to center, the teacher saw her kind of fall apart and commented that she looked so nice at barre and "I know a part of you wants to find the freedom in space to move," and kind of made her feel more comfortable. I, too, struggle to be good in center, without the use of the barre. With the barre, it's easy to pull up and stand straight but in center you are on your own, vulnerable and exposed.
The focus of the class was on the triangle of the back and maintaining a straight back, straight meaning held and firm, while moving around. The teacher said it may at first feel stiff, but it's the only way to have the freedom to move from your center. We started center with an adagio and then went on to pirouettes, finally to jumps and graduating to grand allegro. Afterwards I stretched on the stretcher that was in the studio, draping my back over it, trying to get the kinks out. As class was disbanding, I asked my friend, who teaches children, what she tells her students who can't bend their backs and she said to warm up with little movements, otherwise "you'll hurt yourself." I told her about the girl in yoga class who, standing on her knees, could bend all the way back until her head touched the floor, and she said, "that's a lot of work right there." I didn't realize it, but it is, and my yoga friend must have worked hard to get there...
"Did you all have a hard day today?" tonight's ballet teacher asked. Everybody seemed drained. Well, I have been conditioned to take class no matter how I feel, so there I was, fussing with my alignment again. I think I irritate teachers because I am so obsessed with body structure. After class, the teacher asked me to just do plies and said that I was always trying to control the movement instead of just letting it happen, like, poop down, splat. I told him I am always afraid to let go and he said, "I can see that." I told him I was afraid that if I really pulled up my legs and did strong pirouettes, that I would fall and he said, if I feel that way, to be careful.
I stood at center barre with another young bendy girl who seemed to be able to turn herself out. She doesn't understand my pains, I thought. Young girls are so unforgiving to more mature women in class and it's almost like I feel teased. It was interesting that the teacher remarked, look, this is your stance and you just hold yourself together, push the floor, and move around. Yes, I thought, it's that simple. All these contrivances don't really matter; what matters is being honest, and, honestly, when I see myself in the mirror and how my left side caves in because my leg is crooked, no wonder I look dangerous when I turn.
There was another really good student who was having problems today and the teacher asked her where did it hurt, is it a surface thing or deep inside, do you feel the pain around your waist, he came and tried to find the spot where she felt the pain, and said it was her psoas. After class, too, he showed her how she had to be able to bend in the crease between the hip and leg and she would feel much better. I think that's a big part of my problem, too. So I will stretch my psoas every day, along with my hamstrings and tight glutes. I always feel this pinch, too.
Even though I thought I looked terrible, class was fun and I didn't make any major mistakes, aside from not looking as graceful and happy as I would like to appear while working hard at dancing well. Put a smile on your face, my other teacher always says.
Some class moves:
1. Plies and releves facing barre.
2. Tendu front, plie, tendu inside leg 2x; tendu side, plie, tendu inside leg 2x, etc.
3. Two tendus front, 3 side, two back, 3 side, plie passe leg go of the barre and balance. (My arms just don't want to stay solid and I tilt.)
4. Pas de chevals and enveloppes.
5. Tendus with plies, tendus en croix, tendus side, 1st 1st 5th, 5th, 5th.
6. Pique front 2x, 2x faster piques, two degages, balancoire; repeat en croix.
7. Plie releve cou de pied, releve passe, releve attitude, stretch to arabesque and swing to front. All this while balancing.
7. Developpes ecarte and efface, penche, back to arabesque, balance.
8. Ronde jambes with plie, passe to arabesque; reverse.
9. Port de bras circular, front, back.
10. Frappes en croix, 1x, 2x, 3x frappes.
12. Grand battements 2x front, 1 side, 2x faster side, 2x back, 1x side, soutenu to other side.
1. One tendu croise, 4 tendus side, 2 tendus side, side, 2 degages, side, side, pirouette from 5th position to 4th, pirouettes.
2. Adagio developpe seconde 2x ronde jambe, promenade dehors in seconde, swing leg to arabesque, tendu. (Trick here is to lift leg a little higher for better leverage, if you can!)
3. Pirouettes from 5th, pas de bourre, pirouettes en dedans, attitude pirouette extend to arabesque, plie pas de bourre, inside pique turn
4. Jumps, changements, with echappes and pirouettes.
5. Glissade assemble, sissonne, faille, glissade assemble, sissonnes seconde, pas de basque, pirouettes.
6. Allegro: Bourres to pirouettes to fouette turns.
I don't know that it is wise at an older age to have more than one class. The advantage would be that you could work your rotation, which sports doesn't do, but strengthwise, I find the gym better training, which this afternoon's friend also said, that you need to find ways to work on yourself so you can look better when you are dancing.
One thing I did notice tonight was that I am beginning to feel my entire back, due to extensive Pilates training this month. I thought that Pilates would help my stiff hip joints, but it is much more than that -- it teaches you to be aware of your entire back, the carriage of your arms, your neck, as well as your pelvis. Really, for me, if I could maintain a better integrity in my turnout, I think the pelvic tilt problem would be solved. I really believe that most problems in ballet are due to incorrect turnout, which is so foreign to life.
No matter what, though, I will always love ballet, as I told these two girls in the dressing room who were talking about hip hop and jazz. It may not love me, but as they say, it is sometimes more important to love than to be loved...