July 16, 2011

Dance-Vacation: Highs and Lows. Mostly Highs.

Second week of my summer dancathon and both my Pirouette Fairy and Inner Ballerina have ganged up on me. Drinking their mojitos somewhere on a sunny beach (which currently is not here), having a blast, thinking it´s their vacation. Just you wait.. Ladies, this is a dance-vacation! Now get your asses back in here!

Seriously, my initial holiday-buzz has faded a bit.. When you´re staying at home, you still have to do the dishes, cook the food, clean the house, listen to the upstair´s dogs bark, take the same bus to the city.. While friends are jetting off to Chianti, Italy or to Paris or Tokyo or even to summer cottages hidden next to lakes somewhere in the Finnish countryside. Sigh. But this is what I signed up for - no schedules, no travel plans, just ballet and beach. The weather is no longer beachy, but thank goodness for ballet!
Toes and Treats

The first week went swell (read my previous post), the second week started stiff-bodied. Could not believe that two days of not doing anything would throw me off my game. But that´s what happens with daily classes - the more you dance, the more you notice even the little breaks in-between. I remember our teacher M-P telling that she used to hate Mondays, because of Sundays off! Then there is the fact that I´m no longer twenty, which means more up-keep and maintenance. You can´t take anything for granted anymore! And do you remember the toes I banged first day? Well, they are still bothering me on the big jumps. That´s why I took yesterday off, to add a third day to this weekend and let them little toes heal properly. 

So, Monday did not start with a bang, but it ended with corks flying. Had a lovely get-together with my ballet girls at a fairly swanky brasserie. Guess what we talked about? Yup, ballet. It´s so much fun to be among dancers, you never run out of topics (dance!) or things to do (dance!). Oh, and the cava and pink raspberry mousse cake was very nice too. Talking about treats, I have decided to limit my chocolate intake to posh Varlhorna only. It´s so expensive that I dare not buy more than 3 pieces at a time! But this way I can have my choc, and eat it too. Another boring fact of life after thirtysomething: your metabolism slows down, making it harder to keep excess weight off. Another reason why I love ballet: it is the best kind of interval training - which raises you metabolism! Now, where is my chocolate?

O Pointe Shoes, Where Art Thou?

Tuesday we went shopping for pointe shoes, but left empty-handed. Well, I did find Bloch Pumps on sale, but the pointe shoes came in all the wrong sizes and widths. I did, however, get to try Bloch´s Morph -model, but it´s not the fit I had hoped for. And I didn´t care for the pre-inserted spongy bit inside the box. It just felt weird. I also tried the Balance European, but I was not so convinced as to hand over my money. The sales-girl was very nice and helpful, but sadly had little knowledge about pointe shoes (which she admitted herself). The shop does specialize in dance sports, not ballet, so I had figured as much coming in. We had been hoping to go to Grishko´s own small store across the Opera, but it´s closed for all of July. Like I said, no luck in the shoe department.

Morphs and Euopeans, I think..
By Wednesday I was still dancing way off my game, not helped at all by the worst case of crankiness. I guess vacations are no guarantee for non-stop fun & cheer. I just could not find my center, pirouettes were all over the place and I kept messing up combinations I had already learned! Grrr.. After class, I just stayed on and practiced on my own - which I like to do whenever I get the chance. I got some extra pointers from our Summer Sub, who was in no hurry to leave. Might as well share them with you.

Class Notes

Pirouettes - for a clean double, you need hardly any impulse. Certainly not the kind that would have you spinning like Baryshnikov in White Nights. If you had the skill. Go on, sit back and dream.. However, all you need is love and a deep plie, instant pose, and quick spotting of the head. Nothing new then. My biggest obstacle is that I overthink my turns, and that I get too excited (as in nervous excitement). Then, at the last moment I do something that throws me off my axis. The point is, that I really need to learn how to relax. Because whenever I´ve been calm & collected, turns just happen. I´m not saying to dance carelessly, but to care less. Like, pirouettes? Sure, whatever.

Economical dancing - how to dance with the least effort and still be on top of the music, with clean and sharp technique? Don´t muck about with anything that does not belong in the choreography. No adjusting of positions, no shifting around. Keep it simple where you can. Be fluid in your movements, not superfluous.

Fouettés Fun? Why, Yes.

Thursday back in business at last! Our Summer Sub gave us another challenging and fun center to do, and this time I also got the tricky ballotté sequence right. The adagio has been one of my favorites, I almost wish I could video it and share with you :) Pirouettes were kind of there, The Fairy was back in the house, but she´s a lazy girl, that one! Only at the end of class, I finally managed to reign her back in. We did a combination of emboité jumps and sous tenus: 4 x emboité - 2 x sous tenu - repeated twice - third sequence starts the same way, but after the final sous tenus straight into fouetté turns, in attitude devant, with arms at the side. That was a totally new move for me! And the first time anything fouetté-related was actual fun (and not desperate).

Who Needs Botox?

Still, could not resist staying behind after class. I find it odd that everyone else is always in such a hurry to leave class, even when there is space and time to dance some more! Sometimes I´ve turned my best pirouettes après-ballet, when I´m all warmed-up, yet totally relaxed. So I practiced more turns, and discovered I can do piqué turns in arabesque and in attitude (sort of). I could have gone on forever, which made my teacher comment that I reminded her of her 12-year old self, always staying behind to work. Last week I was estimated 10 years younger, this week I´m twelve. At this rate I will soon be reborn. Hey, I read somewhere that you only grow old when you stop dancing! So let´s all not.


  1. I love your blogposts, Johanna!
    It's so nice to have a ballet vacation, but it's normal your body (or your fairies) think it's holiday time ^^
    Anyway, I would love to be able to have some classes during summer. ^^
    "You only grow old when you stop dancing". Great quote. We dancers, we're all younger than anyone else! =D

  2. Thanks Nerea, that is so sweet! I hope you get back to classes soon!

    I´ve been relaxing all weekend, ballet limited to youtube only. Found this great Italian ballet master, Ludmil Cakalli. Been watching his class videos all day :)

  3. Hey Johanna! I love your blog, I really do! And your feet are gorgeous, even though I am sure some times they don't feel this way! But they are.

    And thank you for that link you posted in the above comment! I will be using them too!

    And who knows, maybe I will manage fairly decent pirouettes soon :D

  4. Thanks Nina - you go girl! I bet you will own those pirouettes in no time :)

    If you can, practice balances at home. Focus on perfect alignment. Working leg nicely turned out and long & strong, retiré foot open at your max turn-out and placed just at knee. Make sure your foot is pointed without the ankle sickling. Keep butt down, core strong, shoulders down and breathe. Feel your axis.

    You can also do half turns at home, from fourth. I find it´s safer than full pirouettes, you don´t want to crash in the liquor cabinet or anything ;)

    Thanks for the foot-compliment. The left one is blushing as we speak :D

  5. Excellent idea! I only started aging when I stopped dancing and now that I'm back at it I'm getting younger every day!

  6. Great post, Johanna!

    I love the idea of a ballet vacation! I haven't been to class in well over a week now and positive that my first class back won't be thrilling! How fun to be able to just dance and hang with ballet pals!

    My teacher often tells us that if we relax into our movements more, it will be a little easier. But it's so hard to relax when you are so focused in class. It's true that some of my best pirouettes are post-class too! So I guess there's a lot of wisdom to being really warm & happy to get good ballet results :)

  7. I just read about your toes and I hope it had been sooner. You may want to read into this pages It has a nice article abot the treatment for acute injury and injuri prevention among other things that are useful :)

  8. Thank you for your concern and for sharing that link. Every dancer should read it for homework!

    My little toes are much better now, it´s just down to a minor nuisance. Luckily nothing was fractured.

  9. Thank you bead109! But how is getting to meet Manuel Legris in Japan not a dance vacation? ;)

    Sometimes you do suprisingly well after a short and fun break - just warm up properly before class, and try to get some stretches in. More likely is you will be sore three days after..


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...