52 weeks in a year and here was week 1 of 2012. I had three classes this week for a total of 4 hours. That included one Intermediate class and two Advanced Beginner classes. First off and most importantly, I had a great 1st week of the new year, not because my dancing was anything special but because I went to class ready to work, ready to learn and I feel like I was successful in that. I love ballet class and I really want to get good at this. And by good, I mean that I want to be comfortable enough to walk into an open adult ballet class, I want to be able to learn simple choreography and actually dance in class and I want to turn, I want to turn, I want to turn! I never hide my enthusiasm for ballet because I just don’t see a reason too. I love it and I want other people to love it too. Maybe that’s not cool, but I didn’t care about being cool when I was 15 so I see no reason to start worrying about it now!
So let me tell you that my Awesome Ballet Teacher, Michael, has a sixth sense or something equally fantastic because he always seems to know what questions I have without my even having to say anything. He covered a lot of things this week that I had been thinking about and wanting to really get into my head and into my body this year. Here is what really started to make sense this week and hopefully some of it might help you too!
Stability in the standing leg, I’ve got to have it. It feels as if it’s easier to hold a balance with a slight plié in the standing leg but ultimately I’ve got to get on that standing leg. Michael says that we have to drill down through the ball of the foot. Interestingly enough, it’s not a solitary movement focused in the foot, to drill down you also have to have the counteraction of pulling up, reaching up through the top of the head and lifting up out of the hips with the torso. The working leg also has to work in counteraction to the standing leg, meaning that you have to keep your square and stretch into the turnout of the working leg in order to create a balance in with the whole body over the standing leg. Getting that standing leg straight, solid, and strong takes the whole body getting over it and locking in.
Turning in not spinning. Guess what? It’s about getting up on the standing leg. If you are really on your leg then you can relevé on that leg. If you can pull up into relevé with that passé nice and high and turned out, then you can turn. Sadly I am still have trouble with that. There is good news though – becoming a turner is not just trying to turn, falling off, trying to turn, falling off – working on a balance on relevé with the working leg in a nice high, turned out passé and being able to get up there quickly and hold that balance is going to get me there!
Getting out of the hips changes everything. If I want to get up on my leg, I’ve got to get out of my hips. If I want to turn, I’ve got to get up on my leg… so there it is. So what does getting out of the hips mean and how do I do it? I means extending the torso as opposed to collapsing in and down. Awesome ballet teacher always says to grow, get taller. Which at first was kind of funny to me because I gave up on growing any taller, oh around the age of twelve! I did have a growth spurt though – at seventeen to reach my full fabulous height of all of five feet tall! Oh the grandeur!
Today Michael talked about pulling out the hips in order to feel lighter on our feet. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately because when you watch really beautiful dancers there is a lightness, a buoyancy in their movement. I want that and I always think about that when I think about dancing but when I get to class, I just feel heavy. When Michael dances, I see that lightness. He just sort of dances up, up, up and watching his feet like a hawk hasn’t shown me how to get that. In class today, he said that he always imagines levitating, dancing above the floor, and to do that you have to get out of the hips.
So this week has been all about stretching up and drilling down, trying to place my body over a strong, straight leg while lifting and reaching up. Truth be known, its pretty freaking exhausting and classes this week have kick my butt. But I’m glad for it because the fact that my whole body aches means that I’ve been using my whole body to dance and ballet demands nothing less.
It is no secret that Manuel Legris is my all-time favorite and that I watch this video clip all the time but this really is a great example of getting up on your leg, being out of the hips, dancing up and practically above the floor and pure, beautiful technique… clean turns, gorgeous rond de jambes, amazing lines… perfection. Be inspired!
Manuel Legris, Sleeping Beauty, Paris Opera Ballet
I have to say, I had a good first class back at the university, but I feel as if I’m not able to get all the moves right. I am having problems getting my legs to move “correctly”. Last term, I felt I wasn’t as challenged as I was in 2010. After every class in 2010, I felt sore from class. Then in 2011, I had a new teacher and I never felt sore. Now, I have the same teacher from 2010 again and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be up to her tempo. I guess we’ll see! Thanks for the blog. 🙂
Hopefully you will feel wonderfully challenged in 2012! I’m fortunate that my ballet teacher keeps things challenging, even in easier classes where he knows I’m pretty set, he have me work on more specific things to keep engaged. I’m sure that you will get your legs back under you soon. What I’ve learned (the hard way) is to just go, just move! I have a tendency to overthink and my teacher can see it when I do and he does not let me get away with it! As a result I’m learning to stop thinking about it and just move, turn, jump, just go! My brain will catch up and after fumbling about a bit, it all seems to start to make sense. So let’s just move and see where it takes us 🙂
I used to have your standing leg problem for a long time. I just couldn’t fathom why I had to stretch it out, when keeping it just ever so slightly bent felt so much more stable. It turns out my idea of a straight leg was not really straight, that is, when I thought I had a straight leg I wasn’t really stretching out those leg muscles. A ballet teacher once compared a ballet dancer spinning on a slightly bent leg to a top spinning on a slightly bent support. “Which one do you think will be more stable, a top with a straight support or a top with a bent one?” she asked.
Ultimately, my problem was my core. It was weak and so I guess I compensated by keeping my knee bent. Then I took pilates, and literally half of that class was devoted just for the core ab and back muscles. After that keeping the knee straight became a lot easier all of a sudden. I also started paying more attention to really stretching those leg muscles to make sure the leg is poker straight Try thinking about pulling up or growing as tall as possible, not just from the leg but from the back, stomach and neck as well while you’re on demi-pointe. It might help 🙂
So exactly right! I admit to a weak core. I’ve started working on it and have really begun to see a difference. I’m starting to view getting on my leg and getting out of my hips as a whole body movement, definitely! When I pull up and think of myself as reaching up and trying to suspend, the leg definitely straightens and the balance improves. It’s a tough one though because the core strength fairy does not make overnight house calls.