About Me

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Saturday...

so why am I so tired?  I got up today and felt like I weighed a ton and I don't feel much better now.  I think it is moving things in storage, too much lifting, but as I told someone in ballet class this afternoon, if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger. My arms feel great but my back is even more sore.  A guy at the gym told me to really suck in my stomach and keep my back straight, but how do you bend over piles of miscellanous items and maintain decorum?  It's one thing to lift weights in a gym but heavy labor in the real world is a different story...hmm..

So I went to Lou Conte Studio and there was a big audition going on for the Oklahoma Ballet and some girls afterwards told me they were cutting people at barre and all throughout, saying, you can go now.  It was nice to see so many dancers all sitting around and stretching and dressed for the audition and I recognized a few familiar faces in the dance community to which I feel accepted, even though I am not a dancer.  It felt good to be surrounded by my "friends."  A man walked past me as I was eating my subway roast beef sandwich with spinach and extra guacomole, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, cucumbers, hot peppers, carrots and pepper and oregano, spiced with mustard, the way I like my sandwiches, and asked how to get out of the studio.  I was sitting in an empty corrider because all the dancers were sprawled out by the exit.  I told him, go down the hall and turn left and he took one look at the hallway and realized why I was sitting alone...

Dance studios like this feel like home to me and I never want to leave. I stretched until I felt all pulled out, something I didn't do yesterday since I had to leave early to attend the ballet and then my feet felt tight all night as I walked home.  The cold air finally froze them and the sharp pains disappeared.  I think people marvel at how I can walk like this for miles but the girls at the audition understood.  One young girl said that dancers don't feel the pain and it's scary.  I said, yes, because you can overdo it and not realize it, but dancers at her level are so fit that they have a higher pain tolerance.  She agreed, saying that a person off the street wouldn't make it through plies...you want me to do what?

Class Highlights:
1. Friday night class was packed...we did a nice barre and I concentrated on really using my feet and being properly aligned and moving within my frame, trying to hold my back straight and not "stick out."
2. I stayed for a little bit of center:  tendus croise and seconde with pirouettes.  I tried to push from the floor maintaining a straight leg and holding my arms properly.  Later I was told by someone at the ballet that I really need to spot.  It is the key to turning, to look at something and really look where you're going.  True, I'm too stiff and need to loosen up, I said...
3.  A little bit of adagio:  developpe croise front and then croise back, developpe a la seconde, fouette arabesque pas de bourre...
4. Saturday barre I focused on my feet again and being as tall as I could be.  How tall can you be, asked the teacher.  This will lift your focus to the torso and not dwell on the legs so much...
5. Ronde jambe and really hit all the corners.
6. Try to use the ball of the foot in frappes.  This is what prepares you for jumps, the teacher said.
7. Developpe seconde only to your turnout or else you will "stick out."
8. Center tendus with demi plies, chasse forward and pirouettes.  I tried to spot, like I was told so many times.  It is so important to use the torso...dancing is not just legs.  Hopefully someday I can use both with equal finesse...
9. Adagio croise front, croise back to promenade in third arabesque, sou sou balance.  The teacher said not to look at yourself in the mirror in croise devant.  You should be looking at the corner of the room; also, cambre ever so slightly so that your back spirals, instead of looking stiff.  Watch the arms in arabesque.
10. Floor allegro: balance front, balance back, developpe ecarte, balance en tournant, chasse pas de bourre pirouette finishing with arms held in front, Bourneville style, acknowledging your successful pirouettes.  Be proud you nailed it, the teacher said.  I remembered the ballet last night and how the dancers did just this and then everyone applauded.
11. Jumps:  32 changements to warm up.  I tried looking up at the ceiling to feel the fifths.  They need to feel natural.  Then we did glissades with jetes and assembles and the teacher said there is no assemble that you pick up your leg -- the assemble comes together in the air before landing.  We did reverse jetes and the beginners could not understand but the teacher said they are the same, except going the other way.  I was even confused at first until I remembered this principle.  When in doubt, always use logic, I thought to myself...
12.  Actually the last two should have been in reverse order, because the allegro was the last thing before reverence:  stand first position, bend forward, plie, bend sideways, bend back, tendu back and bow to teacher and pianist.

All done!  No swim today.  Winter is returning and I have too much to do at home to prepare for my new puppy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday - not fade away...

The Pilates teacher gave me a what gives after the noon class. I could not do anything to save my life, after lifting things in storage yesterday and all morning. She said, if you want to modify the class for yourself, do it alone, please and of course she is right. The purpose of class is to discipline yourself and do what you are told, not what feels good. She also said that some things that feel good are not always the best things for your body, and we all know this is true. However, my condition today made me realize that it is also not the best thing for your body to do everything to the extreme unless, of course, you are in such fantastic shape that there can only be one way for you to go, which is forward to the next level.  Otherwise, less is more...

We did not do any leg lifts but just simple roll ups and lots of back arches from lying down on the stomach. Since my back was so sore, I could see that the reason I have trouble with these is not my muscular strength, but simply the articulation of the backbone. Of course I want to have that beautiful ballerina arch but I am not young, either. That is not to say I can't improve, and I'm sure I'm in better shape than other people my age, but it requires the detailed kind of work, not a quick fix. So, lesson learned.

I did not swim today because I was so drained, so I just stayed after class and stretched in the solitude of the empty room.  It will be hard to move and I will be sad to leave my cozy apartment but I have overstayed my visit here and it is time to move on...Being alone always helps me think...I was never the social butterfly, which is why I am going to the ballet alone tonight again, which is sad when I see all the couples there, but everybody has their day. But, before I go to the ballet, I want to dance more and more these days...and so off to class!

Thursday has faded away...

Like the full moon, vanished...I just came back from the 24-hour gym where I had a good solitary swim and then a nice whirlpool bath, which felt really great since I had been moving things in my storage space all day and was pretty sore.  More tomorrow, unfortunately, but then I get to go to the ballet afterward!

You can imagine how I felt in ballet class tonight, my favorite teacher, too, and I was so stiff, except my arms felt really strong from all the lifting I had done for 2 hours in the afternoon.  There was a beautiful young dancer in the class who moved so elegantly.  It is always a treat when I see a really good dancer in class because it inspires me to become better.  Actually, I didn't do so badly and in some ways it was the best class ever...

The teacher said that we will all get a moment when we will feel like ourselves and project ourselves no matter where we are...that we will feel as comfortable in a strange place as in our favorite familiar studio.  I agree and have heard it said that you must be your own dancer.  Since I go to so many different studios, it is easier for me to detach myself like this and there have been moments when I felt like I was the one in charge.  It is definitely a worthwhile feeling.  Also he said to experiment with our steps, how do you feel when you turn, what does it take to make it happen.  Look at it in different ways.  This is so much more meaningful than just doing the prescribed movement, I thought.  Also he said that he sees us using our arms to try to get around but it's all in the middle, in the waistline, in the stomach or core than makes you turn.  You must feel your opposite side and head moving you.

I feel that since taking this teacher's class my turns have definitely gotten more reliable and they would be perfect if I could get my warped left side to be more solid and strong.  Stretching hard after class I could almost feel the kinks leaving my back and this feeling was even more pronounced in the whirlpool at the gym, where the water pushed me so hard that it was almost painful in some spots where my nerves had been trapped by my misaligned sacroiliac.  To get the muscles around this painful area is my quest, and all of these images this teacher gives us in class definitely take the pain away; however, this is not the gym and I still have to work on my presentation so that the people who watched the class would feel entertained by me, not alarmed at my efforts.

Our teacher was practicing a jump routine he was to do in a performance and I noticed the articulation of his feet and good bouncy jumps.  It was so entertaining that even though I was stretching, I could not look away.  This is what dancing should look like, I thought.  Also, the beautiful dancer in the class presented herself this way, in that she did the combinations but had a smile on her face, not a frown!  Even though this class has always been a challenge for me at times, I continue to go because anything I can learn from this excellent teacher will make me happy.  In a way, dancing is my happiness.  I have really grown to love it in a way I never expected, to the point that whatever else happens in my life doesn't matter as much as having a bad class.  Shades of Black Swan!

Well, I certainly don't want dancing to become this obsessive thing and it was a beautiful moonlit warm February night, so there are definitely other things in life but sometimes I feel people are so lonely and that is why they go to the gym or to dance class, to feel better.  Still, it is my goal to look better, even though I will never look like a real dancer because I started too late to acquire the correct technique which develops your body.  It is just that I feel that sometimes I don't reach inside myself as much as I could because I feel inadequate and this is a terrible feeling, but it is something a lot of people feel and so they give up and don't try or don't care...

The teacher corrected me quite a bit, too, which is always good...don't make your ankles soft, point your toes, pelvis straight, straight knees; in other words, like my pointe teacher would say, stand up straight, young lady.  Be a proud, beautiful dancer, yes!

All the movements at barre are to prepare you for dancing in center...experiment with your balance, let go of the bar, feel how it feels to stand on one leg -- your weight has to shift on the leg...

1. Tendu front, back, glissade, glissade, tendu front, back, side, pas de bourre.  Pique arabesqud, fondu, promenade to corner, developpe croise front, grand ronde jambe to arabesque, arms high ffth.
2. Jumps echappe pirouette, step cambre pas de bourre en tournant, inside turn, detourne, chainnes, pique pirouette dehors.
3. Glissade assemble, sissonne, sissonne, glissade jete coupe assemble, quatres.
4. Echappe land on one leg, assemble, emboites, chainnes, pirouette pique dehors.
5. Jump seconde, beats, chasse pas de bourre grand jete, grand jete, coupe, pique turn dehors.

Now to get some sleep and move more excess baggage tomorrow.  Simplicity, simplicity...it will take as long as it will take (heard on late night Craig Ferguson Show)...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Still Wednesday

I went to my favorite Pilates class with weights this morning and now my back feels like I was run over by a truck.  So sore.  But it's good for my arms.  Sitting on a Swiss ball with 2 lb. weights in my hands, I moved my arms up straight to the side, up and down.  Then bending my elbows at my side, I moved my arms up and down at right angles, then pulsing up, up, up and down, down, down while my arms were at right angles by the shoulders.  Then I moved my elbows toward each other, then I moved my arms in and out while bent.  Then leaning over with a flat back, I moved my arms straight back, and then tried to touch my hands behind my back.  After the arm series, I walked forward over the ball and did pushups and pikes.  Then finally lying down I held the Swiss ball overhead and moved my arms back and forth; then placing it between my ankles, I did the hundred Pilates crunches and moved my legs up and down and sideways while holding the Swiss ball.  Then I swam alone in the pool and the steam room felt really good.

After going home for lunch, I walked downtown to Joffrey Academy for beginning ballet.  Beginning ballet is deceptively hard because it is hardest to do the simplest movements well, like really pointing the feet, using the face, arms, holding the legs straight and moving gracefully with every movement.  We did a good basic barre and an exercise in turning at the barre, turning a quarter, and then a three-quarter turn.  Another student asked what makes you turn and the teacher said it is the torque created by the turned out leg position.  The teacher herself had exquisite feet and really used them with every movement and she was quite beautiful.  I told her after class that I was trying to look more graceful in class and not just grunt through class like I was at the gym.  Now I'm exhausted but ready for a well-deserved rest.  A good day's workout!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I went to Mike's class early this morning.  He was saying how when we are in his class to move, otherwise we would not be there.  I am feeling more and more like a dancer, although I still get looks from some people that seem to say, why are you here and why are you working so hard for no reason?  There is a group of dedicated dance students who will always take class because they love it...I remember once asking my voice teacher how far I could get with singing because I am obviously never going to be a professional and she told me to go for it and be the best I can be.  Why not?  Why must there be a reason for everything that prevents us from doing something challenging and out of the norm?  I met a runner in the pool this afternoon and we were talking about how most people will never understand why we knock ourselves out to be fit.  She is not a professional athlete and yet she has trained for marathons to the point of ruining all of her joints at the age of 40.  "I think people are jealous," she told me, and I told her that it's more than that, it's that it's somehow not "proper" or acceptable to be different from the average mindset.

As I have said before, when I look back and think of how much fun I'm having, I really don't basically care about what people think.  Why should I?  They are simply strangers and we will part ways and is it worth it to get so involved...I think I am finally getting more poised and learning how not to diffuse my energies, too.  I think the teacher was impressed today that I actually got his combinations right and actually did decent pirouettes and really tried to use my arms and torso.  Now to fix my feet, I commented to a dancer after class...

I went downtown to purchase a ticket for a Friday performance of the Joffrey Ballet and noticed a flyer about a spring benefit with a picture of a dancer wearing pink pointe shoes on it.  Ballet is like love, I thought, pretty and graceful, not harsh like the world can be.  Why not lift your spirits and do something pretty and fun?  Why be normal, ha, ha...

Then, heading home, I went to the pool and got out just in time for yoga, my hair soaking wet.  After class, after moving inside and out, my hair took on an interesting shape and I kind of looked like Shirley Temple.  The class was so much fun and I was next to a young curly-headed man who was wearing a weird looking t-shirt and he was quite good at yoga, too.  Another Japanese girl was amazing and she did a great bow pose.  I have to learn this, where you lie on your stomach and invert yourself as you reach for your feet with your arms and make a curve with your entire back, like you used to do when you were a child.

At break time after Mike's standard barre, I just walked around the studio to the music of Romeo and Juliet (the teacher always plays real classical music scores for our combinations), thinking of the young girl who was being taught how to "walk" in Sunday's class.  Kind of like little developpes, with the foot grazing the ankle and then stepping forward.  Imagine walking down the sidewalk this way...

Some center moves:
1. Tendus: tendu croise 2x, arms 1st to 5th, cou de pied, tendu elonge, efface, moving arms up, tendus seconde to other side; repeat croise derrierre; do facing away from mirror to "feel" it.
2. Run 4 counts to center, demi plie 5th, move working foot out and turned in with twisted and then move foot out with forced arch and elonge arm; soutenu to pirouette en dehors; pique arabesque, faille to pirouette en dedans, flick foot out turned in, rotation to efface, run off.
3. Step developpe ecarte, detourne, rotation waltz in line, chasse pas de bourre pirouettes to both sides.
4. Temps leve arabesque, glissade assemble, faille, faille, glissade pas de chat 2x, run off with step of choice.
5. Pique turns en diagonale with turning turns in center, continue en diagonale.  

I knew he would do this step today -- I commented to my teacher yesterday that he likes to do these turning turns and I asked her how they are executed.  She told me to look at the corners of the room and sure enough, the more schooled dance students did them exactly this way.  The teacher had said previously to look at the walls, which is about the same thing, but somehow looking at the corners was more logical.  Also in class today I found that really staying with the music made the steps so much easier to do.  I noticed this in Sunday class, too, that music and dance are so similar and, having studied music at a young age, I hope someday my dance movements will be more "musical" like the teacher in Sunday's class, who moves so musically.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine

Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in the business of the day that we forget the important things in life, like love, so today I will remember all those who loved me, my parents, my friends, my pets, because love is the most important thing in the world.  Without love we cannot grow and life has no meaning.  I hope everyone is having a beautiful day surrounded by those they love and I hope everyone appreciates the love they have received.

Happy Valentine's Day...

Well, of course I did work out, Pilates in the morning with new crab exercises -- on side with knees bent, lift feet only off the floor and do crabs -- move upper knee in and out, then touch knees together with feet apart, then touch toes with knees apart.  My planks and pushups are getting a little better.

Then my swim and then late ballet class downtown with a New York dancer who does releves in parallel facing the barre and talks a lot about letting the body be comfortable in ballet positions and feeling the movements through the body.  We did a nice adagio in center -- developpe croise front, croise back, croise seconde, then pas de basque with same arm as leg, using sweeping arms and elonge.  The grand allegro was much the same -- waltz in line with pique arabesque faille through.  We did pirouettes followed by grand jetes, tour jetes, and for jumps, we did glissades with ballonnes and echappes.  A well-rounded class...

I walked home looking at the Michigan Avenue hearts exhibit once again.  It was developed by Northwestern Hospital to create awareness of heart health and it was fitting that it remains for Valentine's Day.  I saw an occasional couple walking around but there was not much action, which surprised me, but then, love is a rare bird and I'm just a hopeless romantic.  In the works of Plato there is a passage about love being equal to intellect in that love will lead you to knowledge just as much as thinking will and I still think that love is the better way...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday is my favorite day of the week...

because I like going to church and being surrounded by saints and angels, like St. Valentine.  St. Valentine's Day would have been my former dog's birthday, and I miss him so.  He will always be my Valentine and I will never forget him.  I hope to see him once again when I am over the rainbow bridge and we can be together again.  He was a truly loving dog and did not deserve to die so young.  I try to hope that maybe he was so beautiful that God kept him for himself.

Class today was perfect and the weather was so perfect that I walked all the way home, about 2 miles, stopping along the way for some vanilla frozen yogurt.  I have heard that swimmers need more calcium because swimming does not build bone mass sufficiently since it is low impact.  As for swimming, well, it helped me do the grand ronde jambes in class today:  pique arabesque hold, plie, pique arabesque hold plie to other side, developpe croise front, fondu to ecarte, double ronde jambe en l'air, developpe fondu in efface and promenade a la seconde to front, grand ronde jambe to arabesque.  I did the legs easily but noticed how much it affects the torso and noticed that my shoulder wanted to ride up.

The teacher (my favorite -- I always enjoy his class so much) emphasized in class today how we all want to move our hips to get the leg around and how the transitions to steps need to be sharper, as in passe releve, just do it in one beat.  The promenades were too slow, he said, just keep the leg moving and move the opposite shoulder into it.  We did an exercise where we did pointe tendu croise, fondu and swing the leg to second position and as we pull in to passe to move the opposite shoulder at the same time.  He kept telling me that I was pushing my torso instead of just letting it happen.  I finally managed to do it better...

Also, at barre, he commented to someone to open their back and support the passe balance and I could really feel the difference if I just opened my hips like he kept telling this girl and kind of broadening and stretching my back, but holding it at the same time.  The thing about ballet is that you need strength but you need to pull out, too.  I discovered this feeling for myself when I stretched after class in a second position straddle with flexed legs and then tried to achieve the same open leg position while pointing my feet.  I had to not grip my glutes but use my muscles and straighten my legs while pointing my toes.  The legs were relaxed but held.  This is what my voice teacher used to refer to as controlled relaxation -- while breathing and singing, you need to use your diaphragm but at the same time open your chest, like you are showing off a beautiful necklace.

We had several stretch breaks during class and after barre I just lay on a big blue Swiss ball and saw how much I needed to open my ribs to get completely over the ball and touch the floor with my fingers.  Also, after class, I monkeyed around with my long green theraband I got from P.T. and, holding it in my hands  after placing it under my feet, I tried to bend back in a yoga camel pose which ultimately would lead to touching the floor with your head, chest stuck out and leaning all the way back to your legs, which are in a kneeling position.  What is wrong with sticking out the chest, I thought -- it really looks feminine.

As for being more feminine, I am not consistent with this and still tend to muscle through class in a somewhat unladylike fashion and I wonder what the teacher must think.  It is also not polite to wipe your face and stand around posing unnecessarily, I am sure!  Oh, dear...I must work on acting more graceful.  My pointe teacher always says to me that she loved ballet as a young girl because she could feel feminine and girly.  Also, as a dancer, I am after all supposed to dance like a woman, maybe not a princess necessarily, but men and women move with different mannerisms in dance, like it or not.  I am so futuristic and mental sometimes and think dancing should just be movement and physicality...

So now I am going underwater at the gym (to grunt) but I will try to swim gracefully....  Not too bad, considering there was a swim class going on and I shared a lane with a girl, but it forced me to really rotate my arms against the barrier, so I got better arm movement, which is everything in swimming.  Then I hurried home to see the rest of the Grammy Awards Show.  I watched Lady Gaga on the huge gym TV, coming out of the sky playing a weird-looking piano and dressed like future woman...I was most impressed by Mick Jagger, still sexy after all these years, singing and looking good...

1. Plies and releves facing barre.  Traditional plies with port de bras.
2. Tendus front plie, releve, releve; side, plie releve, releve; back plie releve, releve.  Releve balance.
3. Tendus 3x front, 3x side, 3x back, port de bras forward and back.
4. Fondu tendu front, 2x degage, fondu tendu side, 2x degage, fondu tendu back, 2x degage, releve arabesque balance.
5. Ronde jambes with port de bras, balance in passe.
6. Frappes 3x en croix, beats, balance.
7. Passe plie front, extend to arabesque; passe plie back, extend front, ronde jambes en l'air.
8. Grand battements en croix.
1. Tendu front, side, pas de bourre passe passe.
2. Pique arabesque plie to both sides; developpe front to ecarte, ronde jambes; developpe efface to promenade and grand ronde jambe to arabesque, passe over to pose croise.
3. Pique turns, chainnes, releve arabesque to pirouettes; detourne to pirouettes en dedans.
4. 16x changements, then with echappes.

Then I stretched some more and watched the teacher coaching a little girl who had done a variation in competition.  I admired the girl's extensions and high arched demi-toe.  I also noticed how the teacher poked at her back and stomach while she was doing a high arabesque.  Young girls have no back pain; however my back is really getting better now and the Pilates training is helping my overall alignment so that I don't dump my stomach, even while I walked home.  My arms are getting better too and not caving in.  I feel like my whole body is opening up, even my face.  Now to be consistent, as another favorite teacher of mine told me last week.

I hope all my dance friends have a wonderful week.  Stay strong and be happy.:) and I will try to be more positive because I still really do love myself despite all my flaws...hmm...I just discovered an old Polish proverb:  The man who can’t dance thinks the band is no good.