July 31, 2011

Sleepy Bunhead

You know you´ve had enough of the dancing when you wake up, stand up and are actually relieved that there is no dancing on the day! The body is tired, and brain might like something other than ballet for a change.. Happened to me this lovely Saturday, after one week of working nine to five, followed by dancing between five to nine. Ah, the bliss of daily dancing - which can only be dimmed by the less-than-blissful morning trek to work and back. Nah, seriously, I like my job and the means it provides - but merging my work schedule with life & dance is quite the challenge! Especially when my inner clock is still in holiday sleep-in-late-mode..

Mondays and Tuesdays I get home from class reasonably early, before 8 PM (20:00 hrs) - still plenty of time for whatever else. However, on Wednesdays and Thurdays classes end after 8.30 PM, which means I´m home just before 10 PM. At that point I´m starving, tired and if it´s been a good class, way too wired for sleep. Should be in bed within one hour, but with facebooking, the blogging and the tweeting, the stretching and the eating - no can do. Before you know, it´s past midnight and I´m looking at less than 6 hours worth of sleep. Dang! Did I mention that I´m so not a morning person?

When you dance daily, rest is vital. But don´t try to hold off with the R&R until the weekend, or else your dancing suffers. Fatigue is not just a serious buzz-kill but also detrimental to muscle tonus. Any dancer knows that in order to dance full out, you need your brain and body to work in optimum harmony! Now I just need to follow my own advice.. By the time the past week had reached Friday I could have slept standing up. Class was late in the evening, so I went home first. Any sane, non-dancing person would have hit the couch and stayed there. But has sanity ever stopped me from dancing? Nope. Nor did it stop the attack of the yawns midway through class - which my teacher of course noticed! How embarrassing.. To my defense, the air inside was hot, humid and stagnant. I was not the only one feeling its slumbering effect!

So, what do you do when Big Sleep is but a wink away and you´re still in class? If there is imminent danger of you crashing into anyone, or hurting yourself, then of course stop! Tell the teacher that you have to sit out, but don´t leave the class (unless you are falling asleep just sitting there). Stay until the end, watch and try to learn something, and if the class ends with reverance, get up and finish in style. Do, however, not make a habit of this! Once is really enough.

If you can still manage, do pace yourself. Dance clean, do not mark but don´t push too hard either. As for myself, I have danced so long that I just went on autopilot. Of course it helped that the class was of beginner-intermediate level, and all the exercises familiar. But I missed a couple of steps anyway. Did a grand jeté developpé when there should have been a straight leg, and wobbled on my center grand plies. But class was not an entire waste. We did this exercise in center where you temps levé into arabesque, then walse around with the back arabesque leg coming forward and through.  Caught myself in the mirror and realised that I was rushing and losing proper ligne in the process. Autopilot and auto-correct, not too bad for a dancer half-asleep. ;)

Oops, I´m doing it again - it´s 11 PM! Sweet dancing dreams everyone!

Le Spectre de la Rose. Nurejev and Fonteyn.


  1. Feedback it is then!
    Just as a general feedback, I love the picture of Nureyev and Fonteyn. They remind me of an era, when ballet was a little less sport and a little more about the emotion, the feeling and the moment, when two dancers took the stage to tell a story instead of showing off their super long extensions. Don’t get me wrong, I really admire ballerinas who can perform six o’clocks. That conveys images of dedication and long, hard training. And in some roles, it adds to the fragility of the character. Just too often, these hyperextension are used to mask a lack of artistic interpretation. (or maybe I’m just jealous, because my own developpe is a meager 85 degrees… :D)
    OK then, moving on. The second thing that resonates is your bit about dancing clean. The desire to impress goes rampant in ballet class, both in my own head and the heads of others. Bigger, higher, longer, faster. Why is it so hard to just make that grand battement lower, but then do it with a straight supporting leg and without tilting your torso? I used to have the bigger, higher, longer problem about half a year ago, and then one day, when I forced a split stretch, something snapped in my hip. Voila, now the right leg, that used to have the high extensions, can barely go above 90 degrees.
    Sorry for the rambling comment… I’ve had too much ice latte today. :)
    -Noora, TheDanceTheorem

  2. I completely understand the dichotomy between wanting to dance all the time and yet feeling relieved when there is a dance-free day! The work-dance balance is definitely a challenge. For the summer our classes & rehearsals are all Monday-Thursday, which has its pros and cons. I like having my weekends "free" (meaning, I can catch up on sleep, work my 2nd job, do errands, maybe some socializing), but I do find myself exhausted come Thursday after four days of work-all-day-dance-all-night. But then those 3 days off feels like too much of a break and by Monday I feel like I'm off my game again. Though I've been very grateful that the teacher for the Monday class teaches in a way that is great at getting me back in the game and thinking about all the little things I need to be working on. I often wish there was a way to combine my work and dance so that I could have a better balance! Ah well. ;)

  3. Hi Noora!

    Yes, dancing has become more athletic and more spectacular - improved training methods and changing tastes have both contributed to this. However - and here I agree completely with you - when those extreme 10 minutes past 6 o´clock extensions become the default value, it all gets a bit too much for my taste.

    Dance consists of phrasing movement and lines to music. There must be nuances, whispers as much as shout-outs. Who would want to listen to poetry where every single word is emphasised with an exclamation mark?

    Like those seriously over-split grand jetes, or the arabesques that close in on the back of the head.. as a result the illusion of infinite line is lost. But I do love to watch beautifully executed extensions -in class, or when the choreography calls for it!

    It is wonderful that we have dancers with such seemingly limitless physical capability - but the art and intellect and soul cannot take a backseat. There are sports, and then there is dance.. A dancer who can do both is mind-blowing, but a dancer who has less of extension can be just as amazing.

    As for those grand battements (for us regular folks): legs have to be straight, of course, but the upper body has to give a little space for the leg to move freely. NO tucking under of the pelvis, but:

    - for a grand battement to the front, add a small cambré of the upper back. I have been instructed both by Marie-Pierre (she of the 6 o´clock) and by G to do this - and it works! NOt only does it look better, but your leg actually does fly higher :)

    Thanks Noora for your comment - you really should think about a blog of your own. I would be a regular reader! :)

  4. Rori, could not agree more with you! I look forward to the weekend, but usually I´m restless after one day already.. and hate Mondays because of the break in between. The more you take class, the more you feel even the shortest breaks and how it affects your body. A well-timed R&R does only good, but too much throws you off your game!

    I´ve been following your blog and summer training - I´m amazed you get anything else done at all! But such a wonderful experience, I wish I could be there to see you dance :)

  5. Well said, as always :) I completely understand the push-pull between wanting to dance more and getting enough rest to sustain it! I know that feeling you describe very well and have learned (often the hard way) to listen to my body and take more rest when I feel like I'm not recovering normally :)

    I have also been "that person" who was trying (and failing) to stifle a yawn during class...and was mortified when I was noticed, and felt I HAD to explain that I was overtired and NOT bored with class! Sometimes difficult to burn the candle at both ends with grace ;)

    I also like yours and Noora's observation about ballet losing some of the emotion and artistry and clean lines with the emphasis on gymnastic ability, uberflexibility, and "tricks"...hopefully the pendulum will swing back and bit and maybe we'll be able to find a happy medium? And I have to admit that I am biased, but I really like that the National Ballet of Canada ("my" ballet) seems to be striving for this balance. I think the Americans, ala Balanchine, started the bigger, higher, faster, more athletic race that has taken off. But that's why I'm glad we have LOTS of companies in lots of countries...I especially like the way the Danes have kept their Bournonville roots but layered more modern technique on top of it. They are such clean and gorgeous dancers!

  6. Kaija, thank you for your insightful comment - as always. If you come back to read this follow-up, would you perhaps like to e-mail me at ? There is something I would like to ask you.. :)

    I love the National Ballet of Canada! I have never seen them live, sadly, but there have been many brilliant documentaries and some performance recordings on Finnish TV. The alst I saw was Four Seasons, with music from Vivaldi. You probably know it..

    The RDB is another favorite company of mine! We really do seem to have the same tastes in ballet :) I consider myself insanely blessed, as we currently have one of RDB´s retired stars teaching class once a week. M-P was a principal dancer from 1994-2008, and I love the many influences she brings over in her teaching. It is so cool to receive instruction that was handed down to her from Schaufuss! :)

  7. @Johanna and Kaija,
    I think one of the main reasons for this sportfication and "sexification" (talk about hordes of teenagers swarming to see Roberto Bolle on stage) of ballet is the ubershort attention span environment that is currently rampant. It is easier to be impressed by a six o'clock than by watching the subtle gestures of a ballerina. A six o'clock is like instant gratification compared with the diligence it requires from the audience to understand a ballerina's interpretation.

    Actually, one of the best ways IMHO to see this trend in ballet is to watch the final act of Swan Lake (where Rothbart and Siegfried battle) as done by different ballerinas for example Fonteyn, Yevteeva, Murphy, Lopatkina +others, and focus on the scene where Odette is parting from Siegfried. Different ballerinas offer very different emotional inputs in this scene...

    I've been blogging now and then, and currently have a new blog
    but, a word of warning, it's a mixed salad there, without any juicy ballet dressing... As we have discussed earlier, I don't think my ballet experience is enough to actually write about dancing.


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, ...