Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Feeling It Again

So today I'm not such a big fan of ballet stretch as I was yesterday. Today I am suffering the ache of stretched muscles. All of them. We did full body stretching so now I have full body aching. The effort involved in getting out of bed this morning was too great. So I put it off to this afternoon, and still feel achy. Warm bath for me this evening I think!!

One of the reasons I have started blogging about my ballet classes is because I have found a few other blogs from adult ballet beginners and they've been informative and encouraging :) But there's only a few of the. It's nice to read that other people are doing I'm doing and achieving a good degree of success, and they say lots of useful things about how to make progress as an adult beginner, how to talk to people about what you do, why you should wear a leotard and pink tights to class, and many other useful things.

So if you are interested, here are some linkies!

Adult Beginner is a woman in her 30s in America who has been taking classes for well over a year now. She still can't do a pirouette, even though she takes 2 classes a week at open level. This is a source of great relief. I thought I was a weirdo for being so bad at them, turns out I'd be a weirdo if I was doing it right after 6 weeks! She chatters like she's talking to a non-ballet friend. She likes to pass on crazy metaphors from her teacher (nicknamed Smirnoff, because he is Russian!) and she posts photos and sometimes cartoons. She also reviews books. She's hilarious, and I love her :)

David, of Dave Tries Ballet is another interesting character. He's 23, and has been doing ballet for a few months, but is ALREADY of a level to be performing on stage! Jeals. He's doing a small part in Coppelia with his dance school in Princeton. And he takes 6.5 hours of class a week! I wish I could take that many classes. Maybe then I would make as much progress. Or maybe I would just ache all the time! He tells us about his classes, about ballet more generally, and about ballets he goes to see. He also has some advice for brand new beginners as well. I like how much of a ballet nerd he is. It makes me feel a bit less crazy!

Henrik, who posts on Tights and Tiaras, is not a beginner at all, but I love the way he writes. He's not condescending at all and has a lot of really interesting information, including a series on the tools of the trade, and he's just posted the first part of a collaboration on partnering, which is really interesting.

There are a couple of others on my blog roll too, but these ones are my three favourites.

Love and Kisses

Monday, 21 February 2011

an Excellent Start to the Week

How does getting up at 6am to go to an 8am ballet class before a full day at uni, trip to the cinema, and then heading to the pub quiz and out dancing sound for a Monday? Like crazy? I know right.

I've never done such an early class before. Even at school we only had to be in by 8.35am! But this ballet thing has really caught my attention (as you may have noticed from yesterday's enormous post). I'm genuinely loving it, and I decided that I wanted to do *more ballet* than just the one hour a week. But I didn't want to tell you I was going to go to the early class, in case I failed to get up and then had to come and admit it to you.

But I did make it, so now I can tell you! In fact, I made it a whole 35 minutes early. Unlike all the normal people who kept it to a fairly sensible 10 or 15 minutes. I just wasn't sure exactly what the protocol was. So I thought I'd be too early rather than too late. Sitting in a changing room on your own for a while is far less embarassing that being the last one into class and not really prepared to begin!

But it wasn't like that at all. It wasn't even a ballet class, it's a stretching class using ballet style. So we did some things in first position, and second position, and we did plies, tendues and port de bras, and we held our arms in first, second and fifth positons. But we also did a lot of stuff not turned out, and there was no particular focus on ballet technique, it was just stylistic.

Anyway, as you would expect from a class named ballet stretch, we stretched a lot. My legs feel so long. I never understood the concept of feel the burn in stretching before now. I've felt the dull, pleasant ache of gentle stretching. But for example, we were sitting on the floor, legs out to the side as far as slits will go (I'm about 60 degrees tops. I'm pathetic at side splits) and then stretch forward as far as you can. Again this is about 60 degrees for me, and I can really feel it in the tendons in my legs. But then she was like breathe in, and as you breathe out slowly, push further down. So I did. And I was like streeeeeeetch. And then again, and then a third time. And then hold, but keep breathing and sink lower if you can. And the she came round the whole class one at a time, and gently pushed us from the shoulders and waist. Like, not shoving, just pressure, and I was a whole new world of bent over. It burns. But then when we stopped, it stopped burning. No pain. Just stretch. My legs really do feel long.
We also did front-back splits, and turns out what I thought was a pretty mediocre front-back split that I can do is actually kind of alright. I was by no means the lowest in the class, but also not the highest.

I worked really hard in class, came out sweating slightly, again, but had never moved faster than a gentle jog, and that was just at the start to get us warmed up.
And although I've only walked from the studio to uni, about 10 minutes, I feel taller, composed, well held. Quite frankly I feel gorgeous and leggy, which is not something I very often feel at 10 in the morning when I'm not wearing make up.

Ballet stretch is about to become a regular on my schedule :)

love and kisses

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Adult Ballet Beginner

Hi everyone!

I am now an adult ballet beginner! How exciting is that! I've had six classes now and am starting to get the hang of some things! My balance is improving, my hands are becoming more graceful, and when I come out of class I'm ever so slightly sweaty! Nice.

I realised I wanted to learn to dance maybe five years ago now. I'm in an amateur variety show which is really good fun, and we have a dance cast within the main cast. It seemed like they got the cooler costumes, and they were more impressive. Plus if you could sing AND dance properly, at the same time, then it seemed you were nearly guaranteed a solo and a dance number. So I auditioned. Probably one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. I had no idea how to dance, really struggled to pick up the steps because I was so unfamiliar with everything, plus everyone else seemed to have at least done some dance classes, so they had a vague idea of how to move around. After that I was totally put off wanting to dance, and was quite happy just being in the regular cast. Until the next year, when the directors decided to have the entire cast doing dance numbers. Obviously, not quite to the same standard as the "proper" dancers, but more than just the glorified actions we were doing before. And even though it was hard and I didn't always get it right off and it made me totally exhausted, the dance number was the highlight of that show! And now every year we do at least two main cast dance numbers, and they're always my favourite to perform. I've even started being put near the front sometimes, like where people can see me, which must mean I've been doing some things right.

Then last year my dressing room of 7 girls had 5 dancers in it, me, and this other girl, who'd also gone to that audition I had and hated the whole thing. And all week, I was just really envious of their costumes and how pretty they looked on stage, especially when they were doing ballet.

So I decided, right, that's it. I'm taking a ballet class. So now I'm taking a ballet class, and I absolutely adore it! I'm doing it with a friend, and unfortunately she's had to miss a couple of classes, so I'm not sure she's enjoying at as much because she feels behind everyone else. But I love it. I look forward to it all week. I used to practise the barre exercises at home every time I had a minute, although I have recently discovered that practising on your own as a beginner is a sure fire way to learn really bad technique, so now I've stopped. Instead I've been practising balancing, on one foot flat in passe (anyone know how to get accents on my e's?) and also on releve in first, second and fifth positions, and in passe.

I know right, get me!

Passe is when you have one foot (supporting leg) on the floor, turned out of course, and the other foot (working leg) is raised, out to the side again, and your foot is pointed so that your toes are just under your knee, like this.

This dancer is obviously en pointe, which is not something I do. No no. That takes a good few years of training, doing up to 10 hours of class a week and some exercises every day and stuff. But this is passe, and its the posture you typically use in pirrouettes (you know those, the twirly things), which I suck at. Practising the posture without turning builds the strength in your legs so that you can hold the pose better whilst turning, and therefore not wobble, flail and fall over.

Now, what about releve? That's easy, it's just standing on tip toes. Not pointe, like in the picture, but on the balls of your feet with your heels up. Like when you reach for something high up need to be a little taller. So I practise balancing on releve in first position, which is with both feet turned out to the side (from the HIPS, not the knees or ankles), and heels together, if you were standing flat. I also practise in second position, which is with the feet about a foot apart when flat, but still turned out, heels pointing towards each other. Fifth position is with the feet crossed over, so that (in theory) you make an = sight, with heels touching toes. Lots of people find they can do this, but they are often rolling out their ankles. This is how to injure yourself in ballet. As a beginner, I'm good with my fifth position looking more like > or <, with the heel of the front foot touching the toe of the back foot. As the turnout muscles in my thighs and bum get stronger, my turn out will improve without the risk of injury! To do a proper fifth position releve, our teacher tells us to bring our toes towards each other as we lift up, so that our heels are crossed over. We do this at the end of our barre sequences, raising the outer arm to fifth (just forward, but above the head, gently curved like the dancer above), and when we have balance, we have to bring the barre arm up as well, and hold for 8 counts.

So, that was a bit of a ramble, I hope you'll forgive me! But I am finding ballet very absorbing, and extremely exciting! I'm considering, now that my weekly uni classes have stopped (for ever! I have no more before I graduate) I might try fitting in an extra class - the studio I go to has drop in classes - ballet stretch on a Monday at 8am, or gentle ballet, which is an hour and half, on Fridays mid morning, which seems much less offensive. But my regular class is on a Friday night, so I feel it might be better to embrace Monday mornings, and get my week off to a good start! lol

Love and Kisses