About Me

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I danced underwater, I mean, I did my lane walks and then opted to do an underwater barre instead of swimming, as it was late and I had been with puppy all day, at puppy school, and then just enjoying the day.  My dance teacher said she did this often when she was sore, and it really does help to feel the power of the water and doing barre steps against its resistance.  It works your muscles but you are not sore because the water takes the pain away by acting as a sort of cushion.  I think this would be a good way to strengthen my legs and hips and especially, to work my turnout, since the water provides equal tension on all sides, as another teacher commented when I told him I liked to swim and practice dancing underwater...

Puppy school is so much fun and I wonder who is learning more, me or puppy.  I agree with this trainer that it is the owner's responsibility to control a dog and do what's best for their dog.  A good owner will make for a good dog.  So, I must be more consistent with the exercises, as dogs learn through repetition.  There is just so much to raising a puppy and it is a very short time that they are small, so you need to really devote some time to them at this stage of their life, and it is so rewarding to love your dog.

After puppy class I took Yasir to the park and lake, where he met some other dogs, and I loved to watch him playing and discovering everything for the first time.  He is still young enough to run freely without running away and since a puppy will follow you around, I am using his youth to impress upon him the importance of returning to me, although once he is bigger, I will have to really watch him.  Even now, there is always the danger of running into something or someone, so you must always guard your dog against harm.

Now he is home, sleeping and playing with the large beef trachea I bought him, since he is teething and needs something interesting to bite on.  He is outgrowing his toys and starting to take the stuffing out of his once-favorite bear, but he seems to be more gentle with his stuffed objects than my previous dogs, perhaps because he has been the youngest puppy I have had and I remembered my vet's words about training young, which is really paying off...

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Day...

and I did not dance...no joke.  I have been feeling very sore lately, I think because of this chilly, wet weather and it is making me lazy, so I just went for a swim and then yoga, but I try to work out a little every day, and missing dance today makes me realize how much I identify with myself as a ballerina...

There will be puppy school tomorrow and I have other matters to settle, so it is nice to have some time "off" and just chill.  Nothing better than a hot computer on a cold day.  Also, a warm puppy...

So in yoga class at the gym the teacher was twisting her leg into her side like it would break off and I asked her how she does this and she said it was all in the hip flexors.  So I asked her how to get more flexible hips and she said it takes more practice.  I don't know, because I know from dance experience that if you overuse your hips it can lead to surgery eventually, but maybe it's all in how you do it, as an old dance teacher used to say.

I think tomorrow I will try to go downstairs to the basement gym and try to do my own class, although I don't have the discipline, but then, I remember a yoga class long ago where the teacher never showed up and a young Indian girl did her own class and I asked her how she got up the will to do it, and she said it was a way of life at home, so it must be for a dancer, I thought.

It is a hard life being in shape with all the emotional baggage we all carry, I think.  I had an interesting conversation with a girl in yoga class and we talked about how women have all these hormones that affect us so much so it is hard to shut off the mind sometimes, as the yogis tell us we should do.  I think it becomes a matter of finding an inner stillness through prayer and just letting go of yourself and your ego, really.  So, I will let you know how my self-class turns out tomorrow... look on the bright side, though ... the warm weather will come and lift everybody's spirits ...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday News...

I took my puppy out for a really long walk today.  We went all the way to the zoo and I let him run around again.  He loved the farm and being with the big brown cow, who was watching him intently as he jumped crazily around the still not-there grass.  Soon it will be nicer outside and we can spend more time outside, but when he got home he was nice and tired and so I snuck out to afternoon ballet with a Russian teacher.

Her class was much appreciated.  After yesterday, I am even more conscious of proper form and tried to do the movements that the young girls did so easily.  I found that if I extended my arms and relaxed my legs, something the Pilates teacher said when I ask why I have so much tension in my hamstrings, my posture and line looked much lighter.

The movements were standard to the other girls, who knew the class, so I followed them until I could repeat the movements.  I really enjoy dancing along with younger girls because they have so much fun in ballet class and don't feel the pains of grown dancers.  In fact, the teacher yesterday remarked to the boy in class who was learning tours, you must feel like a little boy who is playing and having so much fun, not to be heavy at all...

Then I went to the gym, to yoga, followed by Pilates.  I don't know how I found the energy for all this, but the energy comes with applying yourself to the task and now I feel so much better, ready to sleep and energize for a new day.

1. Facing barre, tendus to side with plies, backbends.
2. Tendu force arch, arms in and out, plies with port de bras forward, back, side.
3. Degages facing barre.
4. Ronde jambes double, 7 more, around off the floor, grand ronde jambes, penches.
5. Fondu front, carry side, back to front; en croix.
6. Frappes 4x front, 4x side, 2x front, 2x side, 1x front and side; reverse, beats with arms.
7. Developpes en croix.
8. Grand battements slow and faster rhythm.
1. Passe releve pirouettes.
2. Adagio: Present 5th with arms in cradle position, tendu to side with elonge arms, soutenu around, pique arabesque penche, circular port de bras, bourre around, lunge on knee.
3. Jumps changements.
4. Jump sissonne en tournant, quatre beats, assemble devant, pas de basque assemble.
5. Pique turns with coupe jetes.
6. Reverence: 1st position, port de bras forward, back, side, arch over into bridge.
It was nice to take a basic class like this and really work on rotation.  I noticed also how much head movements and arm positions will help your posture and I tried to "fix" myself in the mirror when I looked crooked.
Yoga: restorative, with sun salutations, lunges, stretches.  Pilates: magic circle held with hands to do roll-ups and oblique curls; also, bending over legs and curving back felt good.  Leg stretches with magic circle, leg circles, plank, Pilates releves.  Tough exercise: leg lifts to side in kneeling position.  Hip flexors did not want to work -- also, bridges with leg lifts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday afternoon

The air smells springtime fresh and the sun is shining.  Now for some flowers...coming home from a nice ballet class in Printer's Row, I feel energized and ready for the gym.  I was talking to the teacher after class about my alignment and having used the Reformer yesterday at the gym and he agreed that it is good to do other things besides ballet, to shape my body and muscles.  I liked his class, near the end he said, life is hard, you pay to come here and for one hour of the day you should feel happy.  Dancing is hard, but it makes you think positive when you hold your head up, present your arms, and really extend your legs from the hip.  Ballet is all in the hips, he said, and you have to contract and rotate in the hips before you can use the legs.  Not the opposite, where you tendu and then squeeze your middle at the end.

There was a young boy in class who looked very elegant and strong.  He just came from YAGP in New York, the teacher said.  Another young girl from the suburbs was there, too, who had nice arms and was very ladylike.  And my old Russian non-dancer friend who wants to learn ballet and still is not experienced enough in movements, but attending class regularly is the cure for that, which she has been doing.  So, it was a good group, although having only 4 people in class puts you on the spot and I could see the teacher really scrutinizing me.  Look in the mirror and pretend you are someone else is what I should do, I thought, remembering my afternoon teacher's words.

I took my puppy, Yasir, to the park where he played with some bigger dogs, although I have to watch him.  One dog in particular kept jumping on him and so Yasir kept falling on his back and the owner didn't even do anything.  That's why you have to watch it, the trainer told me, and not let your dog be another dog's experiment.  Always better to be conservative, never mind if people think you are "unfriendly."  But he did meet a kindly Golden Retriever and some smaller dogs and had fun.  Later at night, after my swim (now I feel great), he played with some Chihuahuas...
1. 2x demi-plie with full port de bras, en croix.
2. Tendu to 4th, press through foot in plie; en croix.
3. Degages 4x with piques; en croix.
4. Ronde jambes with balancoire.
5. Fondus to releve and tombe back and forth, front and back. Tendu grand plie side, turn to barre, pique attitude, extend to arabesque.
6. Battu with ronde jambe en l'air.
7. Frappes en croix; doubles side, front, back.
8. Grand battements 2x slow, 4x fast, en croix.
9. Face barre and do releves on one leg (also, before barre we did tendus facing barre)
1. Adagio: developpe croise devant, developpe efface and ecarte.  Promenade in attitude, extend to arabesque.
2. Tendus front, back, glissade 2x, chasse forward, pirouette.
3. Balance, balance with extended sweeping arms, plque attitude promenade.
4. Jumps: 1st, 2nd, 2nd with beats.
5. Glissade assemble both sides, jete jete, chasse pas de bourre grand jete, faille, ronde jambe to pose.
6. Fast pique turns.
In the pique turns, you must lift the working leg to passe immediately.  Use the arms in definite positions.  Don't sacrifice being lyrical for being sharp.  Sometimes you have to dance sharply because it trains your muscles better so you respond to pirouettes immediately instead of taking forever to do a movement and you are not really in any kind of place with your body, but just hanging around.  Use your head, look under or beyond your arms; extend everything.  Yes, this is what the Pilates teacher said, that I must extend my limbs out of my joints...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday morning...

Really Monday night still...tired after ballet class followed by Pilates and then yoga, but it was worth it because I feel great.  However, the yoga teacher was right about too much activity keeping you up all night.  Better to work out during the day, I guess.  Anyhow, Yasir, my puppy, had a good run in the sand at the beach again.  I am taking advantage of his size to let him go because when he is older and stronger he will not be so easy to contain and also, people think he is cute and he gets away with it...

I went to a new class in the South Loop area today but it was cancelled since no one else showed up.  But, the teacher said he is looking for some students to put on a performance and asked me if I was interested, wow!  I think a performance would really motivate me, too, to get really better, since I would be in the public eye.  So we talked and he said he admired my dedication and how I work.  He told me dance is his passion and so, naturally, with passion comes work and dedication to perfect the thing you love, I think.

So I returned home in the chilly afternoon and took my puppy for a walk and then headed for class.  After my conversation in the morning, I really applied myself in class and the teacher likewise worked with me more, saying things like, curve your arms more and keep them in front of your body, tuck in your stomach when you turn, move your head more, more energy, jump higher...it was great to be treated like a colleague...

In yoga class, the teacher corrected my shoulders and I asked him how he did it, because I could really feel the difference in my stance, and he said he just pulled my shoulder blades down.  This is the key, to keep the bones down and not lift them when moving, as in ballet, when the teacher said, "put your hand on your waist and don't move it."  Pilates was rough, it seems harder now.  I think I am reaching a plateau and hopefully a new level, now that I understand and feel my core.  Now the next step will be to use my muscles better.

Ballet class:
1. Tendu point roll through arch, place foot down, plie; en croix.
2. Tendus with plies; port de bras.
3. Tendus en croix, degages in 1st with arms.
4. Ronde jambes with fondus, developpe front to passe to arabesque; penches.
5. Turns at barre with balance in a la seconde.
6. Frappes en croix with doubles to side, repeat on demi-toe.
7. Rende jambes en l'air with fouette turns.
8. Developpes, heel in hand stretch.
9. Grand battements with swing arms.
1. Tendus forward a la seconde, degages to side, plie passe pirouettes.
2. Chasse pas de bourre pirouettes en dedans, pirouettes en dehors ending in arabesque fondu.
3. Adagio: Tendu croise devant, step with arms an haute, developpe ecarte, fouette to arabesque, promenade in attitude to third arabesque, fondu, pas de bourre, pirouettes.
4. Balance front and back, pique turns, coupe grand ronde jambe to pirouette; try pirouettes a la seconde in en dedans.
5. Jumps: changements with echappe pas de bourre sou sou balance.
6. Glissade assembles with sissonnes changing in seconde, pas de chats with 5th arms.
7. Temps leve arabesque, skip pas de bourre, arabesque temps leve with 2nd arm; repeat reverse -- tricky!
The teacher made comments about getting the combinations right, saying that in a company when a director says something, you must do it immediately, not the third time you hear it, because companies don't have money to pay for lengthy rehearsals.  Also, move the head when you jump, don't sit in plies.  Watch yourself in the mirror sideways like you are somebody else, she said.  This was really helpful...
Yoga:  sun salutations, warrior 1 and 2, triangle, reverse triangle, chair pose, lunges, boat pose, inversions.  Enjoy the new space you feel...
Pilates: move arms across body, bridge poses, roll ups, rocking body, planks with leg lifts back, pushups, side series with leg extensions, teaser...
...Tuesday ballet class was another audition class, lots of dancers:
1. Tendu combination: tendu 2x croise devant,  cou de pied, tendu side to back, tendu epaule, efface, tendus side to other side; repeat reverse and then away from mirror.
2. Soutenu releve ecarte tombe pas de basque, waltz in line, chasse pas de bourre pirouette en dehors.
3. Jumps en face, turning, 1st, 2nd, changement, plie rest.
4. Zig zag grand jetes.
5.  Cool down stretch, hands on floor.
We went over the second combinaton at length, with arm corrections and this teacher 5-point pirouette: broad shoulders, press leg into ground, and suddenly I felt like I was pirouetting around on one leg!!!
--Today I tried to pay attention to the teacher, even though I had done this barre so often, after the conversation yesterday about respecting class, I will pay more attention to other people and not be so, well, self-centered...
Then it was time for the gym, where they are having their annual March Madness, and I headed for the Pilates stretch class, a lot like yoga except not as ritualistic.  We did hamstring stretches, stretching our head sideways, shoulder rolls, arm stretches...then I opted to go to the Pilates room, skipping yoga this once, and I got to use the Reformer and Cadillac machines.  After this I felt really tired and tried to swim but the gym was crowded because of the free food and music and so I walked underwater for a while and went home to play with puppy!  
Reformer:  Press pelvis down and contract abs, really push everything down, legs in straps, push legs away at 45 degrees in a Pilates plie.  I could feel the traction and resistance.  
Cadillac:  Arm presses really worked my midback, hard to press bars away, and then pick up pelvis in bridge while pressing arm bar.  This was extremely exhausting because I used muscles I never used before, the fine ones right into the joints.  Grueling but really worth it, like everything that is hard, you feel great afterward.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


My favorite day of the week.  The runners were in the park and Yasir ran around a bit, too, and then I went to Joffrey Academy.  The class was the same, as this teacher likes to repeat the combinations so that we can perfect the movements, but, as always, every day is different in terms of how your body is and what to work on.  I felt a little less stiff, since I realized on Friday how my hip flexors didn't want to work and so it was important not to hoist my legs up but to go through the socket, something I am feeling now due to Pilates and yoga training that pinpoint these joints so important in classical ballet.

Then I got home and took Yasir to the beach.  He had a mad run in the sand; there was nobody on the beach except for another dog and his master and I was tempted to join them but it was so cold that I just let Yasir play in the sand for now.  The waves were really choppy and it was surreal being there alone, but it felt great to be with the elements and watch my energetic puppy.

After being at the beach, I wanted to go for a swim at the gym, but I settled for walking underwater and practicing tendus in the water, followed by the whirpool, steam room and sauna, which felt good in this cold weather.  I stepped outside and felt warm, temporarily.  Now I am home with Yasir and he has been very good today, playing with his toys and being more quiet.  I went to see what my former kitten, Tiger, was doing, since I was watching him this weekend while my neighbor was away...Tiger had knocked over some food and tore through a roll of paper and generally made a mess, so Yasir is doing great in comparison...