Friday, September 28, 2012

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Red Shoes

My local library has a great online lending library - you can download select titles to your iPad/Kindle/eReader for free as long as you have an active library card. I was browsing the titles the other day, when I came upon this book, Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You.

Now I fully realize it's a young adult title, but as I have magpie tendencies where ballet is concerned, I downloaded it and started reading. While the prose is simplistic at best and predictable at worst, there are a few good messages worth repeating.

  1. Not everyone has a ballet body, but that doesn't mean you can't, and shouldn't, dance. Celebrate who you are and your lines (and curves) because they make you, YOU.
  2. You've got to fight for what you believe in. I once had a teacher who said the key to happiness is to find out what your passionate about, and make that your "life" career. What gives you that "fire in your belly," as she used to call it? Once you've found your passion, stand up for it, and learn how to communicate with those who think differently than you.
  3. It's easy to get caught up in the moment. Not to the extent of wearing red shoes that try to entice you to your death, but sometimes we can get so emotionally invested in something that we fail to see reason. Working out 20 times a week may seem like a great idea, and you may love it, but are you doing more harm than good? Take a step back, take a breather, and get some perspective.

The amazing thing about reading a young adult novel is that you see they aren't so different from us - even in our thirties we have the same hang-ups, the same challenges, and the same inner struggles.....just with a much better wardrobe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gettin' Jeté With It

I had the most amazing class last night. It was one of those classes where everything falls into place - retirés are solid, pirouettes are balanced, and you just feel good. After a string of really bad classes, I desperately needed it. La Danseuse (remember her?) was teaching, and she has really been making an effort to up the ante in class for those of us who want to progress. And boy, did she ever.

I won't bore you with details, but here is the final combination we did in class, which was the culmination of about 30 minutes of across the floor exercises - my psoas and hip flexors are SOOOO tired today! Evidently I've been half-assing the rond de jambe part of my pique turns. When I took the time to actually isolate the movement along with the opening of the arms, it kills!

Across the floor, on a diagonal: Pique turn > chassé effacé > coupé jeté en tournant. Pause in tendu devant, repeat.

IT WAS AWESOME! I felt like I was really dancing, and it definitely didn't feel like a beginner class. The coupé jeté en tournant was new for me. This is a grainy video, but it demonstrates the step pretty well.

12 hours later, I'm still on the ballet high...and THAT'S what I call Gettin' Jeté With It.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Musings on Music

Dance & Music - they go together like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, and Forrest and Jenny. While not impossible, it's difficult to dance without music, and personally, I enjoy a performance more when there's music, as opposed to dance-esque miming on a stage. Which leads me to believe that classically trained dancers, and especially dance teachers, would have a good understanding of music. They don't have to know which notes are in a minor 7th chord, or the meaning of the word "hemiola," but I do expect them to know basics about tempo and time signature.

Which brings me to my rant of the day. You see, cher readers, I fancy myself a bit of a musician. Started piano at a very young age, went to school on music scholarship, and still play at the ripe old age of 32. So it kills me, KILLS ME, when my teachers refer to all music you can waltz (balancé) to as 3/4 time. IT'S NOT ALL 3/4 TIME!

For those of you who don't know how to read music, each piece has a specific meter, indicated by the time signature. The time signature indicates how many beats (think "counts") are in each measure of music, and which note in the measure is worth 1 count. See this great Wiki page for more info on meter, and this great article on time signatures. So, you can balancé to a 3/4 piece, but you can also balancé to a 12/8 piece, or even a 4/4 piece if triplets are used.

Yes, it's a minor thing, but come on - in an artform that makes such a huge deal out of terminology, wouldn't it make sense they should be just as exacting about their musical terms? Or maybe it's just me....grumble grumble grumble....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Is this really happening?

After a long day slugging it out at the office, I booted up my trusty email, to be met with this:

Dear [Black Sheep],

Thank you so much for your letter. We appreciate you sending us your thoughts and needs for additional adult classes. We had a meeting today to discuss your ideas- adding Adult Beginning Pointe and Adult Advanced Beginning Ballet class looks very promising. We will keep you updated and are seriously considering adding these classes to our Spring semester schedule, if time and studio space allows. Thank you again for taking the time to put this letter together. You dedication is much appreciated.

Most Sincerely,
Awesome Ballet Teacher
Awesome Ballet School Faculty and Curriculum Coordinator


Guys, I think this might just happen! I was so excited that I went home and spent about two hours perusing Discount Dance Supply's website, looking at tights and leos and pretty shiny things. Oh yeah - THAT's where all my disposable income has been going!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Oh, heyyyyyyy! There you are!

She's alive!!!! Before I tell you what I've been up to, let me get the apologies and mea culpas out of the way.

  • Yes, it has been an extraordinarily long time since I last posted.
  • No, I did not catch some strange foreign disease rendering me unable to type.
  • Yes, I thought about quitting the blog. This, and my long absence, makes me a pretty terrible blogger.
  • No, I did not quit ballet.
  • Yes, I am very, very sorry.
So, that said, let's get down to brass tacks. What has this Black Sheep been up to since mid-May? Here's the Cliffs Notes version: Physical Therapy, Back to Ballet....Lots of Ballet, Attempted a Double, Petition School to add Classes (more on that later). And of course the regular "life" stuff, but it's pretty much "all work and no play makes Sheep a dull girl."

My injury finally healed, thanks to the tireless efforts of my physical therapist to coax some semblance of strength out of my right ankle. Seriously, she deserves a medal for dealing with my eye-rolling, sighing, complaining, and general malaise. But, she did teach me a lot about my body and "finding neutral." It is amazing how intricately our bodies are linked. Tipped pelvis = overworked hip flexors = weak psoas = compensation in the knee and ankle = sinus tarsi syndrome and sickling. Crazy, no? I find myself being more aware of my body's placement in everyday activities, and it has really paid off!

When I first got back to class, it was extremely difficult. My right side would tire out near dégagés, and felt as though I'd never get back to where I was pre-injury. But four months later, and I'm back to three classes per week, and feeling strong.

So here's where it gets fun. There's a group of us who have been taking classes together consistently for about two years. We have really bonded as a group; brunches, post-class drinks, ballet tix...it's awesome. We all share the frustration of not really progressing beyond our class, as there is a huge gap in technique between our level and the next level up. So, we got together, and like good ballet soldiers (Ballet Corps, anyone?), we drafted up a petition to the Academy to not only add an intermediate level class, but to start a BEGINNING POINTE CLASS! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this.

We handed in our petition and signatures this past Tuesday, so hopefully we will hear something soon. Keep your fingers (and fifths) crossed!