About Me

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Saturday!

Dear dance diary, it's Saturday...and I went to pointe class. I love to dance on pointe, but first I had to take the advanced technique class, which is right before. I had not been in this class for a while and since the same combinations are repeated all week, I was a stranger to the center, and the teacher put me in the first group, as luck would have it.
So, the barre was pretty usual. Tendus, flex, point, plies, ronde jambes, not too bad. I concentrated on my form, especially the arms, and watched my back bends, to try to make the shape of an arc, not just bend at the waist. When I did plies, I tried not to "sit," although my hip flexors sometimes did not cooperate. Also, I tried to point my toes and keep my legs taut.
Then in center, as a result of this diligence, I felt more balanced and actually turned quite well. Placement is so subtle but so important. I once studied with a dancer from Argentina who barely spoke English who used to always say this, that there is just a slight difference between doing something and doing it correctly, and the difference is in the line. An elegant line, he would say...I used to watch him, especially when he would mark his grand jetes and other jumps, telling us to pause in the air. He just blossomed like a flower, and looked so happy up there...
Well, we did tendus in center with promenades and developppes and then pirouettes. We did turns from 5th to 4th; then we jumped: 1st, 2nd, quatres. Then the grand allegros: echappe, trois, pas de bourre over, glissade pas de chat, cinque, pas de bourre, poses en tournant. Then we did pique arabesque tour jetes and turns en dedans. I asked the teacher after class how to releve better when turning to the right, and he said I should be more forward on the standing leg. Then I watched as various students practiced variations for auditions. One young teenage girl was really sweet and a knock-out dancer who did double turns with emboites and then more double turns in diagonals. Another teacher who was watched commented that she should lift her arms slightly higher, but told her she looked great. A dancer is born...
The pointe class was full of young 13-14 year old girls and a few adults. I recognized a girl there from Joffrey Academy and we chatted after class for a while. The Joffrey students are very polite and nice. So we did some releves without shoes at barre and worked our metatarsal arches, then we put on our shoes and did parallel releves and then releves in 1st, sou-sous, passes, and various pas de bourres. We ended barre with pique arabesques into the barre, falling back, and then pique arabesque again. I still have trouble keeping my arabesque leg straight. The teacher said to really use our thighs or we will fall over with bent legs. Also she said not to "pump" the releves and plies, but to push the floor with our heels.
In center we did pique forward to sou sou, little developpes so that we transferred our weight back. I was doing this incorrectly until the teacher said to be sure to go through 5th position each time before moving on. Then we did arabesque piques along the barre. The last part of class was some more exercises. In center standing parallel with our arms parallel to the floor, we did plies and releves, bringing our arms down with each releve, and trying to balance. Kind of like in Pilates class. It's hard for me to balance on demi-toe, still. I must work on my ankles. Then we did releves in parallel on one leg, holding onto the barre, and then some calf stretches. Everyone curtsied to the teacher after class.
Then I went for a swim. I was so tired but once in the water, I felt new strength and did my laps. I was happy just walking through the water and relaxing into the strength of the water, but I kept going and it was with satisfaction that I finished my workout. I remained in the steam room forever...

Friday, January 7, 2011


It has been Christmas again for me, since my father was Orthodox. I just bought a Christmas scented candle, nice on this cold night, and yesterday I bought a small Christmas tree, so I can observe Christmas quietly. I did go to ballet class tonight and, surprise, an old friend taught. He was a good dancer and I could see how his class was not structured but the movements were phrased, such as tendu front, plie, tendu side, plie, tendu back, plie, tendus 1st, 5th, 5th, 1st, tendu en croix, fondus with inside leg to fouette to other side, etc. When I didn't get the combination, he looked at me and said, "fish, fish," that is, eat more fish (brain food) and you will get it, ha, ha.
So the barre was very mental. I looked at my other side in the reflection in the large window, because the standing side doesn't just "sit," it needs to work, too. Sometimes when I think my leg is straight, it's bent, and so on. I am really trying not to "sit," and hold my back and waistline, like my other teacher said. You have to always look like a young girl in ballet.
That's why I like ballet class, because I feel like a little girl again, playing and having fun. Such an escape. In center, at first I looked stiff but then when I relaxed into myself a bit, I found that I could turn better. After class I practiced the fouette turns we did in class, finding that just flinging my leg around was better than doing it stiffly. When I just flung it out, eventually I got into the movement and was able to fix it as I moved along.
So class was good, but when I go to the gym, I feel more loose in class. It's surprising how the subtle movement of Pilates can change your body so much. And the flexibility of yoga can really improve your extensions. I think I had the highest and most pointy extensions in class today, even though the younger girls were less stiff.
It started to snow again, a fitting end to Christmas Day.

Not Really Thursday anymore, but...

Well, it has been a long day with business, but I did go to yoga class in the morning and Noah taught a very smooth class, going through all the basic transitions, saying that with time all movements will get smoother. He invited everyone to a traditional class this Saturday where all the postures are explained, something that no one does anymore. You know I'll be there!
I was next to a wrestler and Noah commented that wrestlers are really good at yoga and the young man said that wrestling is all about the hips and I whispered to him, maybe I should try it to improve my hip flexion. I also asked Noah about this after class. He says I'm stretchy, but I asked how to improve my flexion and he told me I need to work on strength...
So then I worked on the computer for a while and the swim instructor walked by and then finally I took my swim. It was very relaxing and I really got a good workout. Then I started the rush hour journey to dance class, talking non-stop on my cell phone about business matters and it helped pass the time and also helped me distance myself from the others on the crowded bus.
So I arrived later than I wanted to class but got to a barre at the wall and started stretching, doing some yoga stretches. I remembered the one where you bend forward and place the palm of one hand outward and grasp this hand with your other hand, over both feet. I can really feel this in the hamstring. Everyone else was stretching, too, as this was the advanced class and this was the best of the best. There was only one man in class and the rest were all young girls. I remembered what the dental assistant said about age not mattering...
I was so tired I didn't really care and consequently had a good class, until the fast jumps at the end, where I lost it. What was the combination? Sissonne, sissonne (which way were these going?), emboites, chainnes to inside pique turn 2x, assemble, quatre. I just could not keep up the fast tempo and everyone else got it but me. I was marking it initially and then I saw that there was only one group and this threw me off, but I should have been able to pick up -- this is advanced class, after all...well, the teacher didn't mind at the end and smiled at me. I guess I try.
Some other parts of the class went really well. I was able to turn much better after all my Pilates classes. The teacher said to hold the core and just float the turns...he commented to one very good student that her turns were too soft. Just go around, he said. The turn combination were all very floaty and adagio-like. There was releve arabesque 2x to pirouettes; detourne to renverse; arabesque turns 3x to pirouettes and attitude turn. Also chasse pas de bourre pirouette, chasse forward to pirouette(s); and adagio with grand plie, developpe a la seconde to arabesque promenade, lunge forward to pirouette en dedans.
The barre was all about balancing -- the teacher said we must find the balance right away. We did passes with pirouettes at the barre, balance in attitude and extend to arabesque and swing leg forward letting go of the barre. We did frappes on demi-toe with double and triple frappes to the side and hold the balance. I liked the grand battement combination: swing the leg forward, battements to the side, swing the leg back in arabesque battement. The fast tendus were almost impossible and I struggled to point my toes.
I had the same problem in center when I tried to point my toes while jumping. The jumps with pirouettes were easier somehow today. But, I will have to keep my wits to follow this teacher's petite allegro jumps. Changements with assembles, glissade jete, coupe, coupe, assemble, jete coupe assemble, beats. I will have to figure out some way to understand jumping patterns...
So I stayed for a while and stretched and waited forever for the bus. Another girl came and said her iPhone was telling her there was no longer any bus service. Oh, no, I thought. I had stretched too long and now will have to walk to the train, but she offered to share her cab with me and I got to the train, which was full of young girls. Such a cold night to be out, I thought. I was freezing by this time and walked home in a cold daze, although the bracing dry cold of the January night did feel rather good.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Spend a great deal of the day attending to business, but I did manage to start the day with a Pilates group class. It is the one with arm weights where you sit on a Swiss ball and then do arms exercises such as lifting the arms up and down sideways, bringing the elbows to the chest and then raising the weights up and down, bending the back over to a diagonal position and then bringing the arms with elbows bent back to work the triceps. Then, walking over the Swiss ball, bending the knees in a crouching position on the ball; then getting into a plank and doing pushups. Also better today was the exercise where your back is at a right angle and, holding the ball for balance, lift legs sideways. I could see that I lacked mobility in my left hip joint, which is why I have trouble straightening my left leg in ballet class...
So I concluded the day with a great beginning ballet class with my favorite classical teacher who always brings me back into the correct form. Near the end of class, when we were doing glissades, I tried closing my eyes to really feel the movement: demi-plie, lift right leg up, jump with the left leg and bring it to the right leg in the air. The teacher said, while I was doing this to the left side, point your toes and straighten your leg. I still don't quite feel it on the left side the way I can on the right side. It is good to close my eyes like this and just concentrate on the feeling because some things that look right in the mirror are not always internally correct.
For example, when I look at the backs of my legs in the mirror, I see that I am still not using my glutes correctly, which is why I cannot fully use my legs. I must feel the whole leg muscle from the top. Pilates is really helping me isolate my legs, though, and I felt much more solid in class today, even marking some of the combinations away from the barre successfully, like fondus, which are hard. When I demi-plie on my left leg, which is weaker, I can see how I start to turn the muscles in instead of using them. So, the glissade to the right is weak because I cannot jump and straighten my left leg successfully still. But I cannot give in to it. I must work it until it is strong...
So, we did a lot of plies and demi-plies, which are so important for the strength of the legs. We did a great part of barre facing it, doing tendus, degages, fondus with developpes, ronde jambes, letting go occasionally to see if we were transferring our weight successfully. Tonight the teacher stressed weight transfer. You must learn to stand on one leg in ballet, he said. We concluded barre with grand battements and I could see, standing near the teacher, how his torso did not move, while mine jerked as I moved my legs. Also, the teacher was watching my legs throughout to see if they were straight, a bad habit I have, of relaxing the leg.
Even with tendus, when you tendu, your weight is transferring. There is always this weight transfer. We did tendus in center and I found that my legs got straighter if I really tried to move my legs out as far as possible, really stretching out the movement. The teacher talked about the torso being still, just the thing I was thinking of at barre. Then we moved on to jumps, glissades and changements with glissades. Today there were no pirouettes, although we did do balances in passe and then rising on demi-toe and coming straight down with both feet, the teacher stressing that it is very important after a demi-toe balance to arrive back to 5th position with both legs.
Trying to look pretty and graceful while working hard is hard work, but I tried my best to look pleasant and ladylike in class, remembering what my other teacher said about not sagging in the waistline. There was a new girl in class who was a yoga instructor and we talked and I said that yoga mentally destresses me. I think it applies to ballet, too. Ballet relaxes me and the more I use my mind and focus, the better I look and feel.
Then I walked halfway home in the fresh powdery snow until the bus finally came. I felt so energized, I'm sure I could have walked all the way home if I had to. The night was quiet and warm for January, perfect walking weather. Nobody was outside, and I felt at peace with the elements.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Busy Tuesday

Whew!  Went to ballet class, swim, and now the dentist.Then, if I'm lucky, I can get in a Pilates or yoga class.  I could have gone home after ballet, but I really wanted to get into the heated Lakeview pool now that it has undergone maintenance.  It was a short swim, but I had the whole pool to myself and some needed peace and quiet.  Even the locker room was empty.

It was nice to see Mike again after a long holiday.  I had forgotten how much he requires you to move in class.  After all, he is a contemporary ballet person.  "Move, Dorothy, or someone is gong to run into you." After class I always ask him, "How am I doing?" and today I remarked that I'm back to my old habits.  "You'll catch on," he said.  He's always so encouraging.  After I finished class I ate my grapefruit while I watched his company rehearsal for a while.  I noticed how the dancers all looked so professional; that is, they were businesslike in their approach to their art, almost cool and aloof.  For me it is hard to do this and I think sometimes I act childish in many ways when things don't go my way.

Well, I hope the dentist won't hurt too much -- there I am being childish again -- and then I'll tell you the details of what we did...

The dental receptionist wears many hats.  She gave me some job hunting advice.  A former model, she assessed my head shape and coloring and commented that I have nice skin and a good head shape and said a little color and makeup would bring me out.  Exactly what I was thinking yesterday at the comic book store, about bringing out my depth.  When she told me she was 45 and understood about competing with young kids out of school, she said she wasn't going to let age stop her from enhancing her looks, saying she was better and smarter because of her age, too.  What an inspiration...

Then I had some coffee, again, at the bookstore cafe and dutifully went to a really nice Pilates class.  I was near the teacher and so she gave me a lot of individual attention, telling me not to pop out my ribs when doing roll-ups, and to keep my straight legs even straighter, keep my shoulders down and away from my face, and breathe more.  I need to work more on my abs, she said, really hold your stomach in and it will help the back.

I was a little disappointed with my performance in ballet class, though.  I used to take much more ballet when I was younger and now seem to enjoy the gym more, because it makes me stronger.  How to translate this strength and boyish athleticism into the graceful world of ballet...


1. Stand parallel, roll down to floor, walk forward on hands, bend alternate legs, roll up; repeat, rolling shoulders, bend elbows down to floor.
2. Plies with port de bras.
3. Tendus through feet; tendus 1st and 5th en croix.
4. Degages in 2nd with degages in 5th en croix, sou sou soutenu to opposite side.
5. Ronde jambes with sweeping port de bras, grand ronde jambes with arabesque penche.
6. Frappes in 1st, 2nd, with beats; repeat on demi-toe.
7. Developpes en croix.
8. Grand battements en croix.
Stretches at barre, splits, bridge pose; self stretch.

1. Tendus croise to coupe, elonge, efface, 5ths, to other side; repeat from croise derrierre; repeat facing away from mirror.
2. Adagio:  developpe croise, developpe seconde to passe to seconde; picked up pas de bourre en tournant; developpe arabesque, plie, pas de bourre.
3. Allegro: waltz in line 2x, pique arabesque, faille, step through, pas de bourre pirouettes, detourne, fouette arabesque to other side.
4. Jumps: beat trois, coupe, assemble, changement, glissade jete, glissade jete, glissade pas de chat, coupe assemble, changements; repeat reverse.
5. Grand allegro: chasse pas de bourre grand jete, contretemps run tour jete, pique arabesque, chasse pas de bourre, grand jetes.
6. Turns in center:  3x pique, 1x fouette turn; 2x pique, 2x fouettes across the floor en diagonal.

I realize now that it is still difficult for me to combine steps in center.  That is why I am good at barre but lose it in center; I need to learn to put the phrases together better. While dancing with a more experienced dancer in center, I noticed how she flowed gracefully from one step to another without thinking.  It was normal for her, whereas I hesitate.  When surrounded by a group of less experienced dancers, I could not hold my own because I didn't know what I was doing, so I just bailed out, but...you can't do this on stage, can you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday, Monday...

I started the New Year with a bang -- a new job interview in a doctor's office.  I was so nervous and fidgety...I went to the neighborhood comic book store on the way to Christmas Blend coffee at Starbucks and said to the clerk, I don't interview well.  He asked me if I was introverted and I said people when they meet me don't realize how many-faceted I am and he said he agreed that some people have no depth.  How to bring it out, though...

Well, back to my normal routine now, going to the gym for a swim, having a turkey/ham sub sandwich (special today), going home to get ready for ballet class after two days off.  I told the doctor at the interview that I work out every day since she wanted to hire someone who was sports-minded, but it's always the young perky thing that gets the job and not the serious, deep type like me.  Well, I can only pray and live on.  It was nice spending time in church over the holidays, too -- good for the soul and something I need to do more often, like I used to, in better times.

This neighborhood is so charming, in fact, I happened to walk by a building I was thinking of moving to.  It will be hard to adjust to the peace and quiet after living in the crazy city, but all of that has a way of wasting your time.  Besides, the people in these quiet neighborhoods are more real and friendly, too.  So, I'm going to finish my coffee and get going...or maybe stay for a while.

"Tighten the tuccas..I don't want your spine rounding...the minute you life your spine..."  Class was all about holding the derrierre underneath your center.  She told a girl who was doing a temps leve arabesque to put her fist behind her waistline and push it into herself as she jumped forward.  In pirouettes I especially felt this "long" spine.  "Long spine...and it hurts..."  Yes, it does, but, as the teacher said, you can't dance without engaging the derrierre because it supports you.  Even your working leg needs to have the "tuccas under and up."  Something I really need to work out, to avoid looking like a cushion, ha!

We spent a lot of time at barre doing every exercise this way and so in center we only did a couple of combinations.  Tendu ecarte, efface, temps lie, tendus back, balance, balance, chasse pas de bourre, pirouettes.  Then we did a grand allegro: temps lie arabesque, balance, 3x, chasse pas de bourre pas de chat.  One 14-year-old girl kept laughing because she couldn't breathe, but since I had my swim today, I felt energized, although some water would have helped me feel less wasted away.

At the pool, the swim instructor was there, swimming with paddles and I asked him after my usual laps what the paddles did and he explained that they work your shoulders harder and then you have to use your core more.  He had red ones but he said I needed the green ones, or maybe just the yellow level, which are smaller paddles than his big red ones.  It was so delightful to swim alongside him because the swimming became fun instead of a necessary drill.  I am getting better but now I need to enjoy myself.

Same with dancing.  One thing about the young girls in my class who are sometimes a little silly, as the teacher said, at least you are laughing and not crying.  I hope I am not turning into a grumpy adult, I thought.  Have to watch it...so now I am watching the pointe class with these young girls who are all so young and pretty and slim.  But, in my class, when I did what the teacher said and held my body up, I felt just as young as they are.  It hurts, but the pain is worth it.

Note:  In and forward, it can't be back.  We all have a natural curve in our spine.  It's at the waistline.  It goes in and up, never back.  Now hold the tuccas against this.  Tighten...it hurts.

Then I walked home after a day that seemed to last forever.  The city is the best at night and I will really miss city nights if I ever move.  It is the place to be for night people.  There is an old song, "Night in the City," that goes "there are places to come from and places to go."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday morning

Yoga class...yoga makes me realize that the purpose of life is to live and not let all these unnecessary obstacles get in your way.  No ballet today, just resting for my job interview tomorrow morning.  So, I'm off to lunch and it's a cold January day.  The beginning of a new year makes me feel slightly disoriented but it's a nice feeling, too, like making fresh tracks in the snow.  Then for my swim...and, of course, with every new year, trying to balance the budget for the best somehow.  So, that's why I like yoga, and any kind of exercise, because I don't have to think about all these things.  Anyhow, the sun continues to shine!

So I had a chicken sub sandwich with spinach, lettuce, tomato, onions, black olives, oregano and then I went swimming for a nice, long time.  I am feeling more loose in the water and I am more comfortable and my movements are getting less choppy.  Sometimes I can't believe how much I am swimming without getting tired.  Now I see what Michael Phelps says about feeling comfortable in the water.  It's a comfort you feel in doing something you know well, perhaps even dancers feel comfortable dancing when they get really experienced.  What's hard for most people seems natural to them.  As for me, I know that doing something difficult and getting through it gives me such a feeling of satisfaction.

So now I am home again, doing nothing.  After such a great workout I am depressed that it's over.  But there will be more tomorrow, after my interview, and this too, these matters of the day which are hard for me, I want to learn to master this year and maybe tackle business matters better.  There is a satisfaction in practicality, too, like getting your life straight.