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

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