October 5, 2011

Ballet Buzz

I get no kick on a plane. Flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do.. No, I get a kick out of.. battemants and grand jetés, ballonés and pointe shoes, Balanchine and bourrées! I know there are other addicts out there, but we are not B.A.D. (Ballet Dorks Anonymous). No, we carry our addiction quite proudly, like hearts on our little sleeves. Never mind the dazed glazes of our friends and family, when we recap our classes to the last detail, again and again. Or when we go on and on about the finer points of a McMillan, Ashton or Ratmansky ballet. Or when we dissect the many virtues of Marcelo, Rojo or Hallberg. But thank the heavens and twitter for peer support - I know my non-dancing friends do!

If you don´t dance, you just don´t get it. If you do dance, you can´t do without. It´s a habit that feeds itself. The more you dance, the more you need your classes. Before you know it, you´re cultivating a daily habit. Okay, not daily. Even dedicated and driven dancers need to take a day off. If only to complain about their poor Monday shape the day after.. But your body gets used to it. I loved my Summer Dancathon, taking 5-6 classes per week. Now I´m back to three days a week, which is just not enough! I´m so desperate for more!

My dance-week starts on Monday, and boy do I feel that weekend break! Stiff and hardly any bounce in my body. Tuesday I´m back on my game again, Wednesdays are spent recovering from Tuesdays. Thursdays I´m climbing walls because there is no class (suitable to my schedule and requirements) and Fridays it´s back to advanced class and pointe, but I´m feeling the preceeding two-day break again. I know, I know -  it´s much better than one class or nothing at all, but what can I say? Both body and mind need a regular ballet-fix!

Yesterday´s class gave me such a buzz I´m still riding on its waves. We did a small bit of Balanchine´s choreography - intricate and quick steps and very different from my usual technique class. I´m not sure if it was out of Theme and Variations or some of Mr. B´s other ballets. I asked after class, but I´m sorry to say it did not stick to my memory. Which is funny because I do remember the steps. I gotta say that I absolutely adore Balanchine´s style of movement! And it´s a real privilege to learn (some) of the choreography from Madame, who has also danced in Balanchine´s Serenade (in the photograph above, "seated" right) and Apollo. Once you get your head and feet around the new steps and the speed and the accents, Balanchine is such a joy to dance. Not saying our attempts were any joy to watch though. But I did get a kick out of Madame´s demonstration!

My buzz did not end there. I got some very profound corrections, or lets call them directions instead. You see, I´m always told by my teachers to lengthen my back. I feel that I´ve done all I can, short of growing an extra vertebra. My line is plum, shoulders are mostly down, abs are strong, imaginary someone is pulling the top of my head, and imaginary someone other tugging in opposite direction. Still it is not enough. I can´t do a degagé before my teachers are on my case. Lengthen your back. Longer!  

Again, it goes back to the idea of presenting yourself. I have been standing straight alright, but Madame with her keen eye for the tiniest detail sees that my upper back is holding me, well, back. It´s not so visible as to hit you in the face like a bun gone astray. But it is lacking something. Attitude. Non-apologetic presence. Finally, Madame tells me to lift my upper sternum, and for the first time I think I get it. At least the idea of it. It will take some time to become second nature, but until then I can just fake it. Present myself, instead of holding back. Dear Readers, this is more than relevation, this is a revelation!

I apologize if I´m causing buzz-envy, but it did not end there either. It appears I´ve been jumping my sauts in first all wrong. I´m not sure I do it all the time, but instead of extending my legs in an open première, I´ve been pointing my feet underneath me, with heels almost touching. No idea where I got that from. When Madame pointed this out to me, I was totally baffled (and a little bit embarassed). But: it was the easiest thing to fix. Ever!

Then we did the turning on pointe thing, not piqué turns, not sous tenus, nor chaînés déboulés ( I really have to ask next time). You start from fifth, raise straight onto pointe in fourth, bring back leg in (it stays in the back), turn and open front leg again into fourth, staying up on pointe the whole time. Repeat until you reach end of diagonal. Arms close from 1. arabesque position and open again. The video clip of Lander´s Etudes shows it best, although they cross the back leg to the front (forward to 1:45).

We did this slow, and it was hard. Up, legs together, turn, stay up, open leg, stay up.. Madame, who is not wearing pointe shoes, asked me to demonstrate and darlings, it was not pretty. But I did as I was told, and kept my weight forward and used my shoulder and the inside of my thighs and all the confidence and 'tude I could master. And it worked! By the time we turned to the left, I was having the best time!

Even when there are no short-cuts to technique, ballet remains a short-cut to Happy. Buzzz...


  1. Have to get me a B.A.D. -shirt! :D

  2. I love reading your experiences! I feel so happy for you and your buzzes! =D
    And yep, I might have a little buzz-envy, but you know how it works with ballet; it's encouraging for the next class!
    Oh and by the way, that diagonal looks so difficult... and pretty!

  3. @iepukka: If we can´t be good girls in class, at least there is that.. :D

  4. @Nerea: Thanks for sharing my happy buzz! The good thing about it - there is always more to go around!

    That ballet Etudes is so pretty. And soo difficult! I wish I could do anything with such control and grace :)

  5. Enjoy that buzz!! and go further and further, and keep on writing about other buzz(es?), it´s not envy what i feel but a need to dance more and more!!:)
    I confess Im already addicted to your blog , and i just discovered it a few days ago.

  6. @Baluka: oooh, blog addiction! :D I hope you are reading many other ballet blogs too, one cannot give you all the fix you need!

    I like AdultBeginner´s blog, she is very funny. Bead109 has lovely insights and RoriRoars writes from the point of view of a teacher and adult dancer. Check out my blog-roll on the right!

  7. I totally get the dance addiction :) I would love to have class every morning, like around 9 a.m.; that would be a wonderful start to the day, with my new day's energy and focus to give to class and the post-class glow and clear head/happily tired body to carry me through the rest of the day.

    And yes, I have a little bit of buzz envy, but more of the "sharing your excitement" kind and not the green-eyed monster kind.

    As for your sautes in first position, from what I can tell, they are done either way, depending on what school you are from or who you are dancing for and what they want. I have classes where one teacher wants us to do them with the heels nearly touching in a very small first at the top, while other classes and teachers prefer a bit more open first at the top. So I guess we have to be versatile, like those pros who can do Balanchine ala the NYCB one night and Petipa like the Kirov the next ;)

  8. Good morning Kaija!

    Are you serious, class at 9 a.m.?? I used to take 10 a.m. morning class, and was only barely awake before taking hold of barre! :D But it is a wonderful way to begin the day - and to end it!

    Thank you so much for explaining about the different schools of saut in first!I had never thought that there could be differences in such a basic jump. It had gotten me seriously confused, I mean surely my other teachers would not have me reapeating such a mistake.. But I can be versatile, no prob!

    Yeah, bring on the Balanchine and Petipa and Wheeldon. Ahem, that last bit was me daydreaming.. But would it not be awesome? :D

    Thanks Kaija for stopping by, I wish you loads of ballet-buzz!


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, ...