Yesterday after ballet I tried to do those dreaded fouetté pirouettes again, just me on my own. We did none in class, in fact for the past half year there has hardly been any chance to practice them at all. My current substitute teacher made us fouetté a couple of times this spring, but without any preparatory exercises in the center. So the girls who could turn, did turn. The girls who could not (that would have been me), struggled and failed. "Just fouetté" is not really all that helpful coaching.
Last fall, I had just managed to work myself up to two fairly neat turns with a nice finish. My teacher gave us lots of good exercises at the barre and in the center. She would tell us/me to go for just one or two fouettés but aim for a clean finish. However, with baby on the way (her, not me!) further practice was delayed. The first time I tried fouetté pirouettes again this spring, absolute disaster. My substitute teacher looked at me like I was half-demented, I guess she expected more? Kind of flattering, for sure, but..
As an adult recreational dancer you do not take the regular route in ballet education. There is rarely a progressive curriculum to follow, such as Canada´s National Ballet School´s Adult Ballet program. I read their class level descriptions (click here), and basic fouetté turns are indeed taught at the highest class level. Usually you can count yourself lucky to find teachers willing to coach, encourage and push you beyond intermediate beginner levels! I´m talking about seriously clean technique, combined with musicality and expression of course.
I think some, not all, teachers do not see the point in demanding semi-professional class work. I do get it though. Us adults come from very different backgrounds, with various abilities and motivations. But we are united by the desire to dance and to improve in our dancing! Good and observant teachers do recognize the variety of potentials, and push accordingly. I have been very lucky in that aspect. And now I´m on the track of digression, way past my post! I was gonna blog about pointe and that it makes you stronger..
So, yesterday I tried those fouettés again, on my own and in spite of all. And guess what.. I could turn! Going round not just once, or twice but eight times! I did a repeat performance of what I had thought a freak accident just a couple of weeks ago. Then I had managed to turn for the entire music, there must have been at least 12 rounds. For me, a huge deal! Which our sub did not even acknowledge (I had already told that I'm a beginner with fouetté turns). I knew they were not clean, so some feedback would have been very much appreciated. It made me really miss my own teacher - she would have screamed me deaf with encouraging praise! After which she would have corrected me and make do them again. Hah! Well, the most important thing for me (ballet-wise) is that I can turn. Everything is not impossible!
But, big BUT, why now? Fouetté pirouettes without practicing? I tell you why - pointe classes with Madame! Mind you, I can barely pull off a semi-clean 1,5 en dehors turn on pointe. But I seriously did not know that learning pointe technique would make me a stronger dancer overall, in soft shoes and on demi-pointe as well. All those relevés, especially the slow killer relevés Madame loves so much (though sometimes she apologizes, with a big grin, about the sh***y, but oh so necessary work she gives us to do). It´s so much harder to hold your turn-out and stretch your knees on pointe. And because you cannot sit in your shoes, you must lift yourself up at all times. Not to mention all that squeezing of inner thigh muscles.. It's ballet boot-camp! But seriously, it's all done in good and encouraging spirit. Makes everyone only want to work that much harder.
So, courtesy of pointe classes and one very discerning teacher I have new-found strength in my feet, calfs, hamstrings, quads, flexors, abductors, abs, butt, back.. My technique has gotten better, including my turn-out and balances. There is still much work to be done, like being snappier with the head spotting. And other stuff which I can't see while turning. But I am turning. And I'm stronger than ever before.