What a fabulous summer vacation day it has been! I could write an entire post just about it, but lets get straight to the pointe (pun absolutely intended). This summer my school is offering ballet classes Mon-Fri, but no pointe classes at all, not even the kind where you have 15 minutes of exercises at the end of class. Dear readers, no way am I going to store my shoes away until mid August! Twelve weeks without is too long, especially since I´ve been making a bit of progress every week. That is why I consulted my teacher G and - yay - got permission to do a regular class in my pointe shoes! So today I hopped, skipped and piquéd my way some three levels down to basic ballet and it felt like.. a milestone.
Before the basic class was my own int-adv class, which was good too. I don´t know what is different this week, but my balances have been better than in the longest time. No wait, I´m on vacation! That must be it! That and sleeping more than 6 hours each night. I guess earlier nights are a must if one wishes to balance and pirouette. I probably should reduce that tweeting habit of mine.. Anyway, back to class. I was changing into my pointe shoes when the next group came in, lots of new faces. But oh dear, you should have seen some of the bambi-caught-in-headlights expressions.. One girl thought I was packing up, and was about to drop her stuff at my barre spot. When I told her I´m staying not leaving, she nearly double-backed out! Me: "Yes, this is basic class, but I´m still a beginner on pointe, and no, pointe shoes are not required!" Big relief all over.
Modifying a regular barre for pointe shoes:
- Class starts as usual with plié exercises. I decide to do one side as I would in soft shoes, and the other up in relevé - we have been doing this with my other teacher M-P, so I feel confident enough. But it´s way harder with just one hand on the barre, especially if you do a grand plié on pointe all the way down, that is going over the boxes (with a fully pointed foot).
- I do all relevés rolling up, not springing up, and all balances on pointe. A couple of times my teacher comes over and corrects my ankle positioning or reminds me to straighten my knees more. When we do cambrés, she tells me to do them in relevé as well.
- Fondues are hard, and for a moment I wonder if I could turn towards the barre - but I don´t want to distract the girl next to me - so I do them on my stronger side, but with the heel down on my weaker side. Frappés on pointe, and when my teacher praises my effort I almost topple over!
- Since this is basic ballet class, pirouettes are practiced facing the barre. Tendu to the side, 1/4 ronde de jambe to the back into fourth, plié and passé relevé, without turning first. We have been doing this in pointe class as well, so no prob. Except that I still worry about hitting the barre with my knee (would not be the first time). Fortunately for me, many girls in class do not yet have that plié - straighten knees fast -coordination, so our teacher adds another plié-relevé exercise which is identical to the one we have been doing in pointe class. Good thing too, because I really need the work!
- Developpés into arabesque, and here G comes over to push me over my box. I´m just glad we are not yet doing penchés! The stretches (jambe sur la barre and talon a la main) I do in relevé, just like we have been doing with M-P. Grand battements with heel down, but I think we have done these sur la pointe as well..
In the center it´s your basic tendu-pirouette enchaînement, but G tells me I can do just the preparations instead. This elicits more curious looks from the others - maybe because some expected more skills from a student in pointe shoes. Guess I should have worn a Learning sign on my rear! When we get to the jumping part of class, 16 x sauts in first, I´m told to do relevés instead - but I would not have to do all sixteen, and could do the exercise in a slower tempo. I feel strong enough to be defiant and do them anyway. Changements come next, and I can´t think of any way to modify, so I jump with the rest. Making lots of noise in the process. Then G surprises me.
She tells me to go up into fifth, and hop my changements on pointe! I have seen this, but never done it. Your knees stay slightly bent, and you don´t really jump up high, just enough to get off the floor and change legs in the air. I do as I´m told, then she corrects me (smaller jump, quicker change), I hop again and it works! And it´s fun too! I´m so surprised that I don´t even notice everyone else watching and waiting.. After that it´s back to normal basic ballet stuff, glissades and pas de chats across the floor, and no difference with pointe shoes. Except for the noise.
I´m very happy to discover that the tempo and difficulty of the class suit me just perfectly. There is really nothing I have not done or attempted to do in pointe shoes before. Marie-Pierre´s pointe classes have been an excellent preparation for this, and I feel pretty close to strong and confident! In addition, Gabriella gives me bonus stuff to do, despite having to look after three barres full of other dancers, and I really appreciate it. I´m also a bit proud of myself that I already know how to modify the barre, and after class G tells me to add even more. Balances, where there are none, and if I need to, face the barre while doing fondues.
Dear readers, usually I do not write about every detail in class - but this time it seemed more relevant than usual. I hope I didn´t bore you out of your pointe shoes! It was just such a new and exciting experience for me - to be one of those dancers who comes to "regular" class all nonchalant in her pointe shoes. In all of my 17 years of dancing, I never thought I would get here! Of course, I have many more years to dance before I (hopefully) reach my current soft-slipper level. After all, I have been on pointe for only eight months, once a week. And I know it will only get more challenging! But apparently I did quite well today - which is enough reason to give myself a pat on the back and simply enjoy this milestone.. with a lovely glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. Cheers!