Wannabe Dancer

An adult’s discovery of dance of all sorts.

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Location: Sacramento, California, United States

A bona-fide cat lady, homebody, wanna-be writer, and faux extrovert. If I'm not gardening, I'm rehearsing for a local theater production.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ballet II, Sept 17

Saturday was Ballet II. This was the first ballet class I’ve taken since last December and, two days later, I’m still aching.

Ballet II is advertised as a class for intermediate and advanced levels. There were three other students in the class with me. Two of them, senior college students, had not taken ballet class since high school. I didn’t catch the dance background of the third, but she appeared to have little ballet experience. Given this group, I expected the instructor to give an intermediate level class, with an emphasis on foundations. I was not disappointed.

The class almost didn’t happen because our instructor was, again, AWOL. This time, the coordinator stepped in to teach. The CD player didn’t work and she had no ballet music, so she counted for our entire barre exercise. For the adagio, she did manage to find a boombox from the basement and some mellow jazz. We did our petite allegro, turns, and grand allegro to jazz as well.

I had little trouble with the class. I was a bit thrown by the plies in parallel, but I suppose it was good to be shaken up. I am also unused to doing barre exercises from first position. I’m accustomed to slamming my working foot back into fifth and, without the arch of my standing foot to “catch” me, I often missed first position when closing. (I hadn’t realized how sloppy my closings had become!) None of the combinations were difficult, but we repeated the grand battement exercise so many times that I was barely able to lift my leg (especially a la second) by the end. Throughout the class, I kept my extensions low and concentrated on alignment, turnout, and elongation.

Having taken class from so many different teachers, I am well aware that each has their own gems of wisdom to share and Saturday’s instructor was no exception. When one of the students complained about her standing leg cramping during rond de jambes en l’air, our instructor exhorted us to feel the motion initiate from our lower abdomen and the top of the inner thighs (near the hip socket). She assured us that it would ease the movement and end the cramping. I tried it as we repeated the combination on the left, and found that she was right. Instead of using only my quadriceps and buttocks to perform the exercise, it felt as if I was using the strength of my entire body.

I’ve just begun reading Vaganova’s Basic Principles of Classical Ballet and was surprised to read the same concept this morning. Dance is not composed of limbs flapping about independently. Instead, movement must begin “from the body.” I’ve always considered the core as simply the source of stability. To think of it as also the center of all motion and action is quite a mental shift.

Although I’m sore and my balletic shortcomings are newly revealed, I did well for having been on a nine-month dancing break. I can credit step aerobics classes for that. I’ve maintained my stamina, flexibility, and strength. Saturday’s class left me tired, but hardly winded. My innate inflexibility has been somewhat beaten back by a regular regime of stretching in the aerobics classes I teach. And, my calves, usually sore after a ballet class, aren’t aching a bit! My butt, though, is another story, despite my attempts to initiate the movements from my “center.”


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