Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stupid @$%&ing Ankle

For a few months now I've had some pain in my ankle when pointing my foot. Not quite feeling like achilles tendonitis, but something is going on. After Sunday's class this weekend it was positively aching. I couldn't even make it through jumps and I had a noticeable limp after class. So, I figured it was finally time for some professional intervention, as my treatment plan of compression bandages and a few glasses of wine were obviously not helping. I went for a complementary injury screening this morning from a local PT office, thinking they could poke around at my foot and at least be able to wager a guess as to whether I'm looking at a nasty strain or the dreaded torn tendon.

Total. Waste. Of. Time. Dude didn't even examine my ankle, and basically told me to do more theraband exercises, take regular doses of anti-inflammatories, and ice my ankle. Thank you, Captain Obvious. I know you're not a physician, but at least do me the courtesy of examining my ankle for swelling and stability.

I guess I'll give one of the foot & ankle docs he recommended a call.  Stupid @$%&ing Ankle. Sorry. Not dancing makes me cranky.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spanish Not So Fly

So last night La Danseuse decided that class was doing really well, which meant it was time too introduce something new. We learned this across the floor movement where you have your hands on your waist in "Spanish Arms" (google scenes from Don Quixote for reference), and you walk (or promenade, maybe?) grandly across the floor, do some chassés and sautés, but while the footwork is easy, all the while you have to twist your upper body toward the moving leg while turning your head the opposite direction.

Um....yeah......not so much..... My head hurts just thinking about it again. But at least I know what I'll be practicing at home this week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What would you do-oo-oo for a Klondike bar?

No, this isn't a post on frozen deliciousness, but hey - keep reading anyway!

Today a friend of mine emailed me, asking whether I was meeting up with The Gang at a local watering hole for wings, brewskis and good times. Without even giving it a second thought, I typed out my reply, "No, I'm feeding my ballet addiction tonight. But maybe next time!" A few moments later, my friend responded with, "Yeah, I should have figured, it being Tuesday and all."

Cher reader, there was a time when you would never see me turn down an invite to hang out with my friends and toss a few cold ones back. I love beer. I love friends. Hell, I even love wings. "I should have figured," coupled with my reference to "my ballet addiction" kicked off a little thought bubble inside my head.

Am I really addicted to ballet? And, assuming the answer is yes (because come on, we all know it is), like any good hard-core junkie, what have I given up in my all-consuming passion for my drug? And most importantly, is all the sacrifice worth it?

On the surface, I guess I never thought of the things I've given up for ballet because I feel like ballet has given me so much. But when you get down to it, I really have sacrificed some things for my passion. Things like Friday and Saturday nights out (Have you ever tried spotting while hungover? It doesn't stop the spinning, trust me...), Klondike bars, or in my case, all carbs. Because, cher reader, while the average person you meet on the street would probably not call me obese, I know that if I want to get up on pointe in the next year, I need to shed some Ell Bees (that's lbs, yo). And for me, what works best is a controlled carb diet. So yes, I have put an end to my love affair with carbs, all for the sake of what may be a pipe dream of mine in ballet.

I've also given up pedicures (it just gets all scratched off),  most of my high heels (got to stretch those Achilles!), and quite possibly my sanity. After all, what 30-something in their right mind would give up all those things for something they will (1) never do professionally, (2) is seen by most people as a hobby, and (3) is a little wack-o?

Why do we do it? Because of what ballet gives us. Peace of mind. Better understanding of our bodies. A creative outlet. A sense of beauty. An appreciation for a historic art form. Another way of loving ourselves.

Ballet may be a highly addictive drug, but I refuse to believe that something that makes me feel this good, even with the aches and pains, can be bad for me.

My name is Black Sheep, and I'm an addict.

And I still want that Klondike bar.

What about you, cher reader? What have YOU given up for ballet? Do you think it is worth it? What have you gained? And, of course, what would you do-oo-oo for a Klondike bar? Comment away.....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black Sheep Goes Modern

On Friday night I had the opportunity to view Winter Fire, the Joffrey Ballet's collection of three modern pieces: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, After the Rain, and Infra. It was my first time seeing a live modern ballet, and while I think I ultimately prefer classical, it taught me some very valuable lessons.

1. There is beauty in pushing boundaries. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated takes classical technique and bends, torques, and shoves it to the next level. William Forsythe's choreography for ITM,SE is quick, technically challenging and precise but sometimes creates caricatures out of arabesques and port de bras. The result, rather than being grotesque, is more "Cirque du Soleil." And I like it. It made me realize that while perfection in a line is certainly something to strive for, it's not everything. And sometimes, going that extra mile is completely worth it.

2. Never underestimate the impact of music. ITM,SE had a pounding electronic score which completely distracted me from the dancing. I absolutely hated it, and that's a strong word from me. Infra, however, had similar dancing at times to ITM,SE but the score absolutely complemented the dancing. The music for After the Rain was sentimental and lovely, perfectly paired with the staging and choreography. I want to learn that choreography someday - Christopher Wheeldon is a genius, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

3. Everyone has a story. Even modern dancers. From what little I know of modern dance, it seems to be more about movement and less about the story, or at least, the story isn't as immediately recognizable. But a story absolutely unfolds when you have dancers who connect on a deeper level. The final pas de deux in After the Rain left me breathless. You can actually see the dancers supporting each other emotionally, and feel the love in their dancing. After the Rain really told a story, and Infra did as well, but not on as emotional of a level for me.

4. Now I know why ballerinas wear their hair in buns. I love loose hair on dancers. I think it makes them look free, other-worldly, and beautiful. But in Infra (Wayne McGregor choreography), Ricardo Santos' partner (not sure who) had long red hair in a ponytail that kept whipping him in the face during those assisted pirouettes. I felt so bad for him! Imagine getting a face-full of hair every 2 seconds. Beautiful, absolutely. Practical, not so much.

5. Good men are hard to find. When I watch ballet, I tend to focus on the women, because I'm mesmerized by the pointework and impossibly thin, flexible bodies that I continually strive toward. So when a male dancer can steal my attention, it's a pretty major thing. I'm sure that all the Joffrey's dancers are phenomenal, but watching Ricardo Santos and Derrick Agnoletti dance was a real treat. Ricardo's lines are pure artistry. He has impossibly long arms and hands that look just lovely in everything he does. Derrick is like a little firecracker on stage - so full of movement and joie de vivre that you can't take your eyes off him. His final PDD in Infra (I believe it was with Christine Rocas but I can't be sure) was beautiful, showing the softer side of his dancing. Plus, it doesn't hurt that costuming for Infra was basically underwear and tight t-shirts. Le sigh.....

Anyway, I think I'll stick with classical, but seeing Winter Fire definitely gave me a new appreciation for the heights to which we can take this art form. Seeing Joffrey dance was a real treat, one I hope I get to see again. And now, back to the real world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Classe à Paris?

In a few weeks I will be travelling to Europe, aka My Disneyland. I love Europe and cannot wait for 10 days of bliss in Paris, Brussels and Prague.

My trip itinerary reads like a hedonistic, indulgent novella - cooking class in France, Belgian waffles & chocolate in Brussels, brewery tour in Prague - and I realized - France is not only The Grand Dame of Cuisine, it is also the birthplace of ballet. And what better way to honor that heritage than by taking a true ballet vacation?

I was all kinds of excited about this idea until I actually started looking for classes. Cher Reader, you would not believe how difficult it is to find an adult open class in another country, namely, France. I speak a fair amount of French, so navigating the websites hasn't been too difficult, but finding a beginner or intermediate class that (1) accepts walk-ins, (2) doesn't require a long-term commitment, or (3) is an actual barre + center class has been near impossible.

Interestingly, I learned that many ballet studios in Paris offer barre au sol, otherwise known as floor barre. Having never heard of this before (perhaps I'm behind the times!) I did some mad Googling. Evidently, in barre au sol, the teacher leads students through a series of exercises on the floor which mimic and are meant to strengthen floor work. Think of doing your entire barre series while lying on the floor. It's an interesting concept, but as fascinating as this sounds, if I'm going to be in Paris dancing, I want it to be with a barre (standing upright) with a fabulous French teacher with bun, skirt, and the whole 9 yards. Is that too much to ask?

So I'm putting it out to you, Cher Reader, if you know of any classes one might take in Paris, please let me know!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pas de Crap

Tonight's class went like this:

6:30pm - YEAH! I'm here early! Gonna stretch, do some theraband exercises, check in on Foursquare, you know, important stuff. I'm feeling great!
7:00pm - This is great. There's only about 20 people in the class (about 1/2 of last time) so we're going to have individual attention and this is going to be so much fun!
7:10pm - Wow. Tendus REALLY hurt my ankle. Ce n'est pas bien.
7:30pm - If I smile a lot and use fantastic port de bras, do you think La Danseuse will completely miss the fact that my entire right leg is horrible? My pas de chevals look like pas de crap.
7:50pm - I don't think I can do this.
8:05pm - Thank god. Center adagio. Slow is good.
8:15pm - 32 changements? You have to be $%*&ing kidding me. Where's the barre...I need to hold on to something.
8:17pm - OMG my ankle is going to crumble into pieces.
8:20pm - Échappé, coupé derrière, coupé devant, coupé derrière, pas de bourre, changement. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Kill me now.
8:23pm - I don't think I can make the last 7 minutes of class. Glissades and pas de chats will have to wait. Stretch. Must stretch.

Yeah. It sucked bad.

Come on, get happy!

Happiness is a funny thing. In fact, I would say that Happiness is the ultimate motivator - is there anything we do that isn't in some way driven by our insatiable hunger to be happy? There's a very endearing movie called The Pursuit of Happyness and yes, that's Happyness with a "Y." Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos has started a movement called "Delivering Happiness," which teaches that not only is happiness a primal drive in life, the act of giving happiness to someone else is the ultimate reward. Think on that for a while!

Happiness can be found in the little things, and for me, ballet is no exception. I urge you, Cher Reader, whip out a pen and paper (or your iPad) and jot down your answers to this question: "What about dance makes YOU happy?" Refer back to that list when times are tough, you need a quick pick me up, or class doesn't go so well. Having never met a list I didn't like (seriously, you should see my epic to-do lists), here's the start to my list...
  1. Legwarmers. I absolutely love leg warmers, and they put a smile on my face every time I slip on a pair.
  2. Inner Dancing Peace. When I dance, I physically can't focus on whatever I'm stressing/obsessing about and execute a pirouette. My mind won't do it. So when I dance, I get the closest I've ever come to inner peace - it's just me and my plies, and we get along splendidly.
  3. Tutus. I don't know why, having never worn one myself, but the thought of them makes me smile.
  4. Épaulement. For me, the leg movements may technically be ballet, but it's the artistry in the head and arms that makes it dancing. A dancer with great épaulement will captivate me much more than fancy footwork.
  5. I'm happy that ballet has made me see my body in a different light. When I started back up a year ago, that mirror was my greatest foe, and I saw every flaw and imperfection hugely magnified out of proportion. Over the past year ballet has made me see strength instead of bulk, curvature of The Line instead of fat, and balance instead of awkwardness.
  6. That moment when you balance and feel like you're floating. For me, those moments are still rare, but when I nail a relevé passé, I'm all, "YEAH GIRRRRL!!!! ROCK ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF!"
  7. Men in tights. 'Nuff said.
At the end of the day, I'm happy that my body and my life situation still allow me to dance. And on most days, that alone is enough. :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Where's the Barre?

I love days off from work. I can lounge around on my couch sipping coffee, trying to convince myself that getting out of my PJs is necessary, and that I should actually do a little ballet workout. A few weeks ago, I took some fantastic advice from two of my favorite blogs, spent a few hours at Home Depot, and bought the tools necessary to make my own barre. I largely worked from instructions from this post about building a PVC barre (from Leotards and the Buns in Them), but I think my next incarnation of The Barre will be this one, from Bead 109's fantastic blog.

I ended up covering my bar with faux leather contact paper - it gives it a nice look, is easily wiped down in the event of sweat (although we all know ballerinas don't sweat, they glisten like dewdrops), and makes a cool conversation piece, especially since the barre sits quite visibly in the yoga/ballet/piano room adjacent to my living room.

Pretty, and functional!
I love my barre, but have found my home workouts to be a bit, well, uninspiring. For one, my music seems all off, and I have been unable to find any music for download/purchase that really works for a home barre routine. And then, there's the fact that my apartment was built in the 1890s and has a slight (OK, severe) lean to it. Usually I just pretend that I'm dancing on some fabulous raked stage - which, by the way, has to be the hardest thing EVER - but still, it kills home practice. In short, it is easy for me to come up with reasons to NOT practice at home, even though I really SHOULD. Quelle dilemme.

So, instead of being a good little bunhead and practicing on my homemade raked-stage barre of glory, I'm typing this blog. And drinking coffee. On my couch. In my PJs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Italian Arias, Yes. Italian Changements, not so much.

Last night was like the IHOP of ballet classes. Pas de basque....Italian changements.....and let us not forget All. That. French. Additionally, La Danseuse decided to teach class to orchestral music rather than the traditional piano etudes. A little Italian opera, a little German symphony...I have to say it was a nice change, but it actually threw me off quite a bit, as I found myself listening to the music rather than focusing on my dancing.

Now, my background is in music. Started piano at 9 years of age, and I'm still playing today. Throw in about half a dozen other instruments I learned over the years, and I could have my own one-woman symphony. I love music. It can make me cry, make me giddy, make me sleepy....you name it, there's an Opera for that. But for some reason, my brain cannot concentrate on dancing and Cavelleria Rusticana with the same attention span. Never was that more apparent last night than during Italian changements.

In my all-consuming hatred of frappés I forgot about the seething ire I have for Italian changements. La Danseuse only made us do them once or twice in all of last year, and last night, set to Rossini, I just couldn't do it. Imagine, if you will, a frog trying to jump rope. Or go over hurdles. That's what I looked like. Not a pretty sight.

I hate when you have a class that leaves you feeling defeated. Ce n'est pas bon.