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