May 22, 2013

The Wind Beneath My Fingers

I have this one bad ballet habit: my index finger which keeps sticking out like a lightning rod. I call it the pointy pointer. Like with all mannerisms, it's difficult to tell when it began and how it prevailed, but it's damn hard to get rid of. It takes a lot of corrections and reminders to retrain automatic responses. And sometimes it takes a picture to really drive the point home. A friend of mine took this impromptu shot after our last Sunday class of the season. Nothing planned about it, hence the red face (caused by lack of air-conditioning and subtropical temperatures) and no make-up (would have melted away). We were in a hurry, and only took a couple of photographs - not the hundred you would need for one perfect image. Still, I was pretty happy with this one. Had it not been for the pointy finger!



Next class, my teacher took me aside. Which means she gives you a lengthy correction, which you repeat until you get it (half-)right. This time, it was about my fingers. I have repeatedly been told to soften the movement, even to play with my port de bras. I love these kind of instructions, because I want to dance - not just do technical exercises at the barre. Of course I work continuously at improving and refining my technique, but there has to be expression in dance. The fact that I'm still shy about expressing myself in class is, however, a topic for another post.. Back to the index. It's not sticking out all the time, mind you, and I don't dance around with crab hands! But it's there when I tense up, or when I do big jumps with arms in couronne, or when I try too hard.

Yesterday, my teacher told me imagine that my fingers were moving with the wind. It made me think of leaves rustling in the summer breeze, a most welcome sound and sight after a long winter.. Hands and fingers should not be static, but just as alive as the rest of your dancing body. There can be subtle movement, even when you're  holding still. It's something to work on, and I'm looking forward to seeing and feeling the change. Such is ballet: you live, you learn and you dance. With the wind beneath your fingers. 

18 comments:

  1. What a lovely correction, and image, your teacher presented. I love the thought of the fingers moving with the wind, no less static than the rest of the body. That's a very cool thing to ponder. It makes such sense. And you described it all so well, I can see it in my mind - in fact I'm sort of doing it, right at this moment! : )

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    1. Thank you, Terez! I'm doing it right now, too.. :) I love working with images, as it adds a whole new layer to the dancing. The moment you start to interpret an image, it changes the movement. Of course, not all images work for every dancer, but sometimes it makes all the difference. It's like when our teacher tells us to converse with the floor, or to caress the floor with our feet..

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  2. I do the same exact thing with my index finger!! It often happens when I am nervous (about to go on stage) or if I am putting to much tension into my movements when trying to do the best I can. I've been working on this corrections for about a year now and my teacher has said she's seen improvements. With a little time and practice I'm sure you will fix this small detail!

    Keep dancing and posting <3

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    1. Thank you! I know it's going to take effort and time.. But it's good to know that you're improving - it gives me hope that I can do it too! :)

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  3. You're in good company, Tereshkina tends to point in the direction where she's going too!

    http://www.theballetbag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Swan-Lake_Viktoria-Tereshkina-by-N.Razina.jpg

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    1. Hahahaa, thank you, Jennifer! :D But I suppose it's a very subtle thing.. When the hand and finger is just right, and when it's a little bit too much. Very hard to keep fingers soft and expressive while jumping big allegro at the same time! Tereshkina looks of course fantastic :)

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  4. I suffer from a myriad of hand/arm issues that are only magnified when I'm in concentration mode. I've recently started taking modern classes again and ironically enough this is the one and only place where I nail my ballet arms. Much to the aggravation of my teacher who constantly has to tell me to relax.

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    1. It's funny how ballet arms pop up everywhere, even outside of dance class! But from what I've seen, it's often easier for ballet dancers to adapt to modern dance arms, than the other way around. Especially if modern dance is introduced into the dance curriculum early enough. Modern dancers without a strong ballet background tend to look too "modern" with their port de bras in ballet class. I don't know if it's some mental resistance or deeply ingrained habit. Anyway, it's good to be fluent and flexible in a variety of styles. And I think that your modern classes will also help you to relax in ballet.. :)

      Thanks for commenting!

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  5. Thank you for this wonderful post! I don´t have the trouble with my index finger (by the way, my teacher also told us to feel the wind...) but with my elbows. After a long combination, with challenging steps, my elbow sinks down making me look like a duck trying to fly away... I´m working on it, and recently it has been improving, however it still happens when I´m tired!

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  6. I'm sorry, but the image of a duck in ballet class, trying to fly away.. It gave me a good laugh! :D Thanks! But, I'm sure yours is not a Duck Lake.. You are aware of your elbows, which means you can self-correct. You can pat yourself on the back for having such awareness! Just remember to support from your back, and you won't tire as much. Wish I could explain it better.

    Thank you so much for commenting :)

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  7. mäkin olen jo tässä vasta täyteen tulevan kahden vuoden aikana onnistunut kehittämään yhden ikävän käsitaipumuksen; tangolla mun toinen käsi on aina piirun liian matalalla ja "pyöreänä". joskus opettaja tulee korjaamaan useita kertoja saman tunninkin aikana, ja muidenkin korjausten jälkeen se on aina se käsi mikä vielä lopuksi siirretään. erityisen helpoissa sarjoissa osaan tietysti jo ennakoida tulevan korjauksen, mutta en vain mitenkään ole onnistunut saamaan tunnetta siitä, missä käden pitäisi olla.

    mulla on sulle noviisina taas pitkästä aikaa kysyttävää (koita jaksaa!) olen nyt pitkään hautonut ja unelmoinut astetta kivemman harjoituspuvun hankkimisesta (sen t-paita, treenihame ja legginssit -yhdistelmän sijaan..) ja projekti onkin valinnanvaikeuksien ja sen ihan täydellisen leotardin etsimisen vuoksi siirtynyt siirtymistään. nyt en enää malttaisi millään! onnistuinkin sitten löytämään aivan ihanan puvun, mutta se on valkoinen. näkyyköhän tuollaisesta pahasti läpi? ja muutenkin, millaisia alusvaatteita leotardin alla kannattaisi pitää? googlettamalla on löytynyt niin monenlaisia(kin) mielipiteitä. ajattelin ostaa myös sellaisen pienen hameen erikseen, ja mietin sitäkin, onko se kuinka käytännöllinen verrattuna pukuun jossa hame on kiinni, ts. joutuuko nostelemaan tai kiertyykö muuten jotenkin hassusti. ja osaatko sanoa, miten kokoihin kannattaisi yleisesti ottaen suhtautua? heidän kokotaulukoissaan mahdun s:sään aivan juuri ja juuri, ja vähän hirvittää että puku olisikin sitten liian pieni...

    anteeksi tämä hirveä kysymystulva. mä vaan niin luotan sun kokemukseen! onneksi löysin tieni tämän blogin puolelle, olen vain siellä sun toisessa blogissa ihmetellyt ja kaivannut sun postauksia. :)

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    1. Hei!

      Käden oikean asennon löytäminen on yllättävän vaikeaa, mutta on myös hyvä muista että eri opettajilla/koulukunnilla on hieman erilaiset mieltymykset asiasta. Joka tapauksessa kädet ovat enemmän tai vähemmän hartialinjan edessä, kyynärpää ei roiku alas, ja kannatettu kaari jatkuu sormiin asti. Voima käsien kannatukseen tulee selästä asti, ja hartiat pidetään leveinä, samall kuin olkapäät ovat painettuna alas. Mä yritän aina välillä itse katsoa minne mun kädet asettuvat, koska ope ei ehdi joka paikkaan. Tunne siitä missä kädet ovat, vahvistuu kyllä harjoittelulla!

      Valkoisesta leosta ei näe läpi, kunhan se on edestä kokonaan vuorattu (yleensä näin on). Mulla on yksi valkoinen puuvilla-lycrainen perusleo, ja sen alla on tosiaan ihonvärinen vuori. Taitaa olla Capezion mallistoa. Alusvaatteista: Itse en pidä mitään puvun alla. Puvun haarakiilassa on samanlainen "kangasläppä" kuin alushousuissa tai uimapuvuissa, ja alushousut ovat siten ihan turhat. Toiset tykkäävät pitää stringejä alla, mutta mä en vain pidä mistään ylimääräisestä. Leo pitää sitten titenkin pesaista joka käytön jälkeen. Sukkikseet/leggarit puen puvun päälle, ja siihen päälle yleensä jotkut lyhyet shortsit tai saumattomat mustat microkuitupöksyt. Jos kuitenkin haluat pitää alushousuja, suosittelen saumattomia ja ohkaisia ihonvärisiä. Alushousujen ei pidä näkyä.

      Hame on kätevämpi erikseen, näin voit vaihdella pukujakin. Hamosia joutuu välillä säätämään tunnilla, mutta ei niin että siitä olis haittaa. Mulla on myös yksi jossa ei ole nauhoja ollenkaan, vaan kuminauhavyötärö - ja se on kyllä kätevä.

      Balettipuvut ovat yleensä pieniä kokoja. Mä olen 161 cm pitkä ja painan siinä 52-56 kilon välillä. Käytän puvuissa ja hameissa kokoa M. Jos on pitkäselkäinen, kannattaa myös ottaa isompi koko. Eri valmistajien välillä on kyllä eroja.

      Kiitos kommentista ja kysymyksistä, yritän päivittää toistakin blogia pian!
      t. Johanna

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    2. voi että, unohdin vastata- en siis voi kuin kiittää neuvoista. päädyinkin suurempaan kokoon, ja niin leotardi kuin hamekin tulivat juuri sopivina, s olisi ehdottomasti ollut liian pieni ja seuraava toisaalta liian iso. valinta osui muutenkin nappiin, puku miellyttää päällä ihan valtavasti niin mukavuudessa kuin toki ulkonäöltäänkin, heh!

      enpä olekaan ikinä käsien asennon kanssa painiessa tullut ajatelleeksi opettajakohtaisia eroja - kiitos hyvästä huomiosta! eiköhän kaikki tosiaan harjoittelulla ajan myötä loksahtele kohdalleen, mun pitäisi vain muistaa keskittyä yläkroppaankin enemmän. sitä on niin helppo unohtua miettimään vain jalkoja ja keskivartaloa kun taas todellisuudessa niin käsien kuin vaikka ryhdinkin hallinta olisivat kokonaisuuden kannalta aivan yhtä tärkeitä. tässäkin kyllä niistä lohdullisen löysistä t-paidoista luopunminen teki tehtävänsä, aivan toisella tavalla tulee katseltua ja korjattua ylävartalon asentoa kun ei voi vain piiloutua kankaan alle. tuli vihdoin oivallettua ihonmyötäisen vaatetuksen merkityksen (vieläpä näin alkutaipaleella..) ihan omakohtaisestikin!

      mutta isot kiitokset vielä avusta!

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  8. Hi!

    I'm also a late starter, I started ballet at 20, after about five years of contemporary and lyrical jazz. I'm just wondering where do you dance and where did you dance? I find it extremely difficult to find groups for 20-something dancers who have not danced for that long. So, basically, I'm more interested where and in what kind of a group you started out with. In my experience, most classes are either for pros, kids or then they are very relaxed and not strict, so not exactly how I like my ballet.
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi!

      I was lucky enough to start with a real beginner's class for adults (teens past 14 yrs incl.), no previous ballet background required. First class, we sat on the floor and flex-pointed our feet. It progressed slowly from there. My current dance studio also offers complete adult beginner classes, followed by basic levels, then basic-intermediate, intermediate, and finally advanced. Most students study several years in one level, and some are happy to challenge themselves no further than intermediate. In upper levels, we do have more variety among students, and you can have pros sharing the barre with late-starter adults. Kids have their own classes.

      Classes are pretty strict - not ballet school strict, but strict. The atmosphere is friendly and encouraging, but we do treat our work and corrections seriously. Exercises begin and finish in the poses required, and we end class with reverance and applause. No chatting in class, no sitting or slouching around, but we still have lots of fun! :)

      Where in the world do you take class? Any chance of finding a more suitable studio?

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    2. Hi!

      I am actually studying in a small university town at the moment, but maybe I'll find a better school when I move to a bigger city. In the town where I live in, there is only one studio, which offers one ballet class a week for teenagers and young adults, but the dancers in that class are very different when it comes to skills, I feel like I'm not learning enough beginner things, when most of the class is closer to an intermediary level. This makes me worry that I might pick up wrong technique or bad mannerisms.

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    3. Hi!

      I understand your concern.. It's very difficult for a teacher to cater to various levels in one single ballet class per week. You should have the chance to start from the very beginning, and progress with care and corrections - depending of course on your motivation and goals.. But I sense that you'd prefer to study ballet in a more serious manner? There's a real possibility to pick up bad habits and mannerisms, if the class is too challenging for your current technical abilities, and if the teacher has little time to give corrections along the way. Then again, taking class once a week is not very effective when it comes to building your muscle memory, so it might not be that bad. Still, you might want to have a talk with your teacher and tell her that you want to progress beyond a basic level..

      Or you could focus on other forms of dance, just for the time being. You already have a strong dance background, and it would help you further once you move to a bigger city with more ballet class options.

      Hope this is of any help..

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    4. Thank you! It was encouraging, I sometimes feel like there is no point of wanting to dance ballet since I didn't start it at a young age.

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