About Me

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Romantic Saturday

I am not what I seem, ha, ha.  It's just that all this fitness stuff makes you feel, well, sexy.  It is Saturday and here I am watching television and typing on the computer again.  I see couples walking around and it makes me feel a little left out, but then the feeling goes away because I do have hobbies and interests.  It is depressing that women are judged by their popularity -- even in high school, if you didn't have a boyfriend, you were a failure.  I remember my teen years, always having crushes on boys who turn around and date the cute, blonde girls and how it hurt me that I was always the one watching...

So away I went to beginning dance class, which was packed.  I want to take the easier class because I wanted to wear my pointe shoes for as long as possible.  I survived the adagio and then when we had to do pirouettes and chasses in center, I took them off because I did not want to create chaos among the groups.  Even the adagio was challenging with pointe shoes: tendu front, plie, tendus side to second position, plie releve in second position, then do pirouette(s); then releve in 4th position, then do pirouettes, rotation, pirouette(s) en dedans.  I had not done pirouettes on pointe in a long time and, surprisingly, they were better than before, because of all of my gym workouts, which made me strong.  The teacher said at barre that the minute you let go of your center, it's over.

Absolutely.  The center (core) is everything.  I am still working on mine and really have noticed the difference.  The other center combination was chasse efface 2x, chasse pas de bourre pirouettes; then we did jumps, 1st, seconde, echappes with beats; then across the floor, chasse croise battement; chasse efface battement -- then the battements became fouettes.

Most of the class centered around barre exercises, which is the way most beginner classes are.  There were a few balances in passe, arabesque, and attitude, something I found particularly challenging on pointe.  Visualize a spiral, the teacher said to another student when we did the attitude balance.  I find that being on pointe is such a strange experience in terms of balance and muscle control of the body; that is, you use your legs so differently and must be rotated and really symmetrical.  The hardest thing for me was doing decent tendus with straight, pulled up legs because if your legs are crooked on pointe, it looks terrible...

Then I swam at the gym and practically fell asleep in the steam room because it felt so good to let my muscles just go limp.  I am turning into a swimmer -- now I churn throught the water just like the swimmers I had watched when I first joined the gym and wondered how they did it.  I look, well, normal, like a swimmer, that is, not just someone who is in the water moving around.  I wish I could look like a dancer, like the ones I watch and wonder how they do it...

Then I went home and had an interesting conversation with a man in the elevator as we were going up.  He is a teacher who chooses to work in a poor neighborhood, even though he could have remained in the suburbs.  We talked about the importance of status and class and he remarked that the poorest people are even more status conscious because of their lack of resources and materialistic symbols.  We discussed the fact that children who want to succeed cannot belong to their community that does not support them and yet they cannot belong to the elite social class either because they are not accepted.  But he wore a wedding ring, already taken...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday and Scoopage

Scoopage, the Pilates instructor said, meaning to scope in your abdominal wall instead of stick it out.  Nothing should stick out, I guess.  So we had a traditional Pilates class, bridges, leg circles, side series, roll ups, and the like.  The teacher asked what we would like to work on in the future, and I said hip flexors, noticing how my hips were so wobbly in the side series, where you move your legs but not your hips.  This came into play again in tonight's ballet class.

First I went in the pool and walked around, not having time for a swim and wanting to get to class.  There were a lot of Academy students there as well as familiar faces from other places I have been.  It seems like after a while you see the same set of people who regularly go to class, although you don't really know who they are.  They are your dance buddies and the dance world is strange in that we know and don't know each other, but it's good that way and I guess it teaches you not to get personally involved in a professional sense.

It was the same class as before, with the same confusing barre combinations.  "First fifth, fifth first, fifth fifth, pas de cheval en croix, pique pique fifth,  pique pique seconde fifth, pique back swing, pique front fifth, pique side fifth, pique back fifth, fifth fifth fifth. (Degage combination).  Good for the mind.  Then in center we did the same tendu pirouette combination, also confusing: tendu front 2x, tendu back, tendu side side, tendu en croix, plie pas de bourre pirouettes.  Next was adagio: developpe croise, developpe arabesque, developpe ecarte, pique arabesque pas de bourre, inside turns.  Then more confusion in the jumps: 3x first, 3x seconde, 2x changements; then jumps echappe when assembles and also temps leves jetes with temps de cuisse.  The grande allegro was balance, balance, chasse pas de bourre pirouette, waltz in line, pique arabesque faille, step cambre attitude, pas de bourre en tournant, pirouettes with fouette turns.

Everybody in class is quite earnest and competitive in a good way and I enjoyed dancing once again with a wonderful teacher.  My turns are getting more solid from Pilates except for my still wobbly left leg; I asked a student about this and if she ever had this experience, and she suggested that I do in and out passes to strengthen the thigh.  It is always nice chatting with other students about dancing.  I did notice my stance in the mirror and tried to stand square.  I also tried to move my torso more, like the teacher in yesterday's class, to move the ribcage, but this flexibility will require more work tomorrow...

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I just came from class, after walking for blocks in deep snow until a bus came, getting hit by salt pellets on the way, but it was refreshing to walk for a while after dancing...

The teacher was late because of snow traffic so we were warmed up by the school's main teacher, doing plies, arms in and out and elonge, but first beginning with tendu plie back, around to side, go to seconde through demi-toe, port de bras side.  His is a more jazzy approach and when the regular teacher came, everything seemed suddenly more straight and angular.  I like to watch this teacher because not only is his technique impeccable but his movement flow is so charming, like a dancing doll.  I watched as he showed deep port de bras forward and then really bending back with an arch, something I am trying to do.  Last time he taught he told me I looked a little stiff, but I am learning from him how to "dance" and not just pose.  It is a slow process but I feel different now when I dance.

1. Tendu fondu front, grand plie, port de bras forward; tendu fondu back, grand plie, port de bras back; plie releve in seconde.
2. Tendus slow front, two fast front, same to back, releve side; repeat back, side, plie passe balance.
3. Tendus en croix in 5th, balancoire, arabesque releve balance; repeat back to releve balance front.
4. Ronde jambes with fondus, developpe front, passe, extend side; penches.
5. Balanchine frappes:  en croix, beats to side, passe balance, turn, then faster passe balance with turns.
6. Ronde jambe en l'air, single, double, stretch leg on barre, take leg in hand and fondu developpe front, carry to side, stretch in, let go and balance.
7. Grand battements front 2x, side 3x, repeat reverse.

1. Tendu front, back, side coming forward, pas de bourre, passe with leg in back, pas de bourre, same passe to 4th; pirouettes.
2. Adagio: Developpe seconde, ronde jambes, plie pas de bourre, releve turn a quarter, then turns en dedans, pose tendu croise.  (Really exaggerate everything and if it looks funny, it is the beginning...)
3. Pique arabesque, windmill arms to arabesque fondu, promenade, moving arm out to side then in arabesque with arms high 5th, plie, pas de bourre en tournant, pirouettes en dedans, detourne, pirouettes en dehors to 4th, then again.
3. Jumps changements, changements with echappes and turns, jete, assemble, sissonnes arabesque, sissonnes side, passe releve, turns.

The teacher coached our pirouettes again, saying that all this setup business that people do is really unnecessary and the body goes up and down and that's all you have to think about.  At barre, when we did pirouettes from 5th, he said, just move the shoulders around, don't linger (looking at me as he said this, because that's what I do).  So I practiced a little, it's like a snap of the body, as I watched him at barre.  He is so good at turning and he just turns his shoulders around in one piece and gets around.

After class I sat for a while and said to the teacher that I felt more together today because I rested during the blizzard, saying that you can't just keep pushing yourself every day and not rest.  Also, I commented that the Pilates class I took today really set me up for ballet and I could feel solid and placed.  He said Pilates is great.  I told him the teacher today said to me after Pilates how I need to tuck my tailbone so that I am straight...then I thought of today's Pilates class...

...After some grueling glute work in Pilates, I could really feel my tailbone for sure...this class was called Steel Pilates and the teacher looked like a piece of steel herself.  She led us through bicycle legs, crunches, and using the magic circle to squeeze our knees in and out.  Then we were on our stomachs, preparing for pushups, which I cannot do with a straight body still.  We did regular pushups and tricep pushes, which are more difficult.  Then the glute work...

On all-fours, raise one leg out to side and using knee action, move leg sideways and back, to chest and back, raise leg up and down sideways.  I think I felt every muscle in my back after this.  We did some ab work, too, with crossed legs.  It was a great class, very hard, with lots of reps.  I often felt, how many more reps, but I kept myself together and didn't quit.

After class the instructor explained how, even though I may have back and pelvis problems, which are common, if I learn to use the muscles correctly which support the bones and joints, I will get stronger and then my bones will be able to bend better, too.  I told her that's exactly what the physical therapists I have had believe as well.  I want to continue with this class and other Pilates classes because I like the challenge of Pilates and how it conditions your whole body and makes you feel powerful.

Then I swam for a while and went to the gym office to discuss expanding my membership to possibly the top level.  It will be a sacrifice money-wise, but, like the sales agent said, think of how great I will feel and look.  I wish I had started all this when I was young because it is all so important, and SO MUCH FUN!!  Especially the dancing!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowbound Wednesday

Everybody was outside enjoying the snow all day.  After the windy storm last night, the day turned out to be a real winner.  Everything was closed, except for Starbuck's Coffee and Macy's, so people were out with their kids and all the dogs were happy.  There was no gym, no ballet, although I will probably go to the gym room in my building and ride the bikes and work on some of the machines.

I just stayed outside all day, like when I was a kid and I would play in the snow for hours, until it got dark. The sky turned beautiful pastel blues in the afternoon and it just makes me want to make a big painting of it.  Nature is so beautiful.  No matter how I feel, if I go out for a walk and just look at the sun, the moon, the trees, the lake -- I feel alive and human again.  Although I live in the city and have romantic notions of the wilderness, every time I see a glimpse of it, I don't want to go back to my normal life.  It's kind of the way I feel about dancing.  Once in class, I don't want to leave because I am so happy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blizzard Tuesday

After such a happy Sunday, the day ended with disaster.  As I sat in a bookstore downtown reading a book and having some coffee, I had laid my tote bag and things on the floor beside me and, absorbed in the book, I did not notice that my bag, wallet and ballet clothes were gone!

Well, I hope the thief is happy with my pink leotard, pink tights and pink ballet slippers and I wish him well in his robbery attempts during the Blizzard of 2011.  Thank you, Mother Nature.  The worst part is replacing all of my IDs; however, the dance studio said they would issue me a new card, considering the circumstances.  Anyone who robs a starving artist is beyond me -- we are criticized so much by the masses, who don't realize how hard it is to stay in shape, play an instrument, paint a picture -- all of this takes money, which they would rather have to buy things from stores for their "happiness."

My happiness today was getting myself together and going to dance class.  Yesterday I didn't do a thing and had to go about replacing everything that I lost, so it felt good to move and be thankful that I am safe, which is the most important thing, after all.

1. Standing parallel, slowly bend down and touch floor, walk out with hands as far as you can go and alternately bend knees.  Repeat, rolling head and then shoulders; also bend elbows to ground.
2. Plies with port de bras, really bending torso.
3. Tendu ball foot en croix; tendus in 1st with tendus en croix with arms.
4. Tendus 1st 5th en croix.
5. Ronde jambes with chasses forward, back, pas de bourre in circle away and toward barre.
6. Frappes front, side, side with beats.
7. Developpes front, plie, swing leg to arabesque; developpe seconde; repeat reverse.
8. Stretch leg on barre, grab leg with opposite arms and pull leg, opening chest; do splits, bend forward, arch back, point and flex feet.
9. Port de bras down to floor from 5th position.
10. Grand plies with grand battements.
1. Tendus forward, plie in 5th, Two tendus forward and back croise; 1tendu, grand plie.
2. Tendus 5ths with arms, efface back with elonge arm, tendus side to other side; repeat with degages.
3. Tendu efface, walk around yourself, developpe seconde, pas de bourre chasse arabesque; developpe efface, plie arabesque pas de bourre.
4. Waltz in line 2x, pirouettes, elance jump seconde, inside pirouette, detourne.
5. 3x pique turn, one soutenu, en diagonale.
6.  Cool down, walk to fondu 4th, port de bras, dancers moving at random ("Move, Dorothy, we don't have all day!")

Well, I was okay until the end when I get tired and want the class to end.  It was such a relaxing class for me, though, that I just wanted to float through the end, but directors and teachers have other things in mind.  It is movement that matters, not appearance.  When you look at a beautiful dancer, what do you see?  Is it someone who is attractive or do you wonder who they are and how they got that way.  I feel, like this teacher does, that we all need to move more and I constantly strive to learn how to look more beautiful as I am moving...just a thought.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pensive Sunday

I am not the cheerleader type -- the teacher in this morning's ballet class kept prodding me when I got confused with the ballet step patterns.  "I'm sleeping," I told him.  He used to be in the late Larry Long's class years ago with me when he used to dance and now he is teaching.  Trouble is, I like to play the role of the brooding romantic heroine and don't like to be perky and girly, as you know if you have been reading this blog.  After class, I talked to the pianist about quick study movements and other things...

It was the same class as before, with the same confusing combinations and everybody struggled to remember the "patterns," as the pianist referred to learning musical phrases and how it's easy for children because their brain synapses are more active, and that is why, for example, European children can learn several languages, whereas adults struggle to learn new things.  I remarked that it is true that senior citizens get muddled in the mind but studies have shown that learning to dance stimulates the brain.

Another lovely woman who was immaculately groomed for class, makeup and all, said she really enjoyed the class, and it was a beautiful class and I really tried to open up physically to be more expressive.  After yesterday's prodding and trying to be over my leg and after learning about the "crease", I looked almost nice in class, breezing through the movements since I have been keeping myself in top shape, swimming and exercising at the gym.  I looked at my legs in the mirror and thought, no more cellulite around the thighs, ha, ha!  It's a lot of work, but being strong pays off, as I could see from watching the women ice skaters on television yesterday.

I could have been more pulled up and used my muscles more, but in terms of alignment, I looked like a 14-year old young girl.  Everything was placed, now to look more "perky."  The only bad time was the fouette turns at the end when, to the left, my left arms dangled.  Yesterday, the teacher tried to fix this as I practiced pirouettes, almost getting smacked in the process.  Yes, if things are not done right, it can indeed be dangerous.  I said to the pianist after class that to get better you have to take risks, though, and he commented on how his best performances were when he had a positive attitude.  He also remarked that sometimes things can not be as perfect as you would like but you have to at some point get through the whole process, because, for instance, in a performance, you must keep going...

Now I feel empty and drained somehow, since I gave so much in class, so I have gone to the Art Institute, where I am typing this, surrounded for a while by the works of great artists would gave their all and it's comforting to me to be in such a creative place.  I thought the admission would be free today but that is only the deal on January weekdays, extended through February 4.  I must make it a point to return here...