Thursday, 30 June 2016

Back to the Barre #3

Here's the latest update in my ballet-learning adventure...

May 2016

This month starts well as I’ve signed up for syllabus classes commencing in June. Unfortunately however, my knee injury has returned, so I’m forced to go back to my physiotherapist-recommended strengthening exercises and avoid jumping.

After a couple of weeks, my knee feels better and I learn the last two syllabus exercises – pirouettes en dedans and révérence. The former has the challenges of double pirouttes en dedans – without the help of a handy fouetté foot motion – as well as a sequence of seven posé pirouettes at a dizzyingly brisk pace, and it’s the examiner (and not the dancer) who chooses whether they’re performed to the right or left. The latter, however, is a lovely combination of running, courus, and of course, curtseys.

My pointe work is improving, thanks to my leg press training at the gym. I’m finding the centre exercises less tiring and now have the energy to focus on the accompanying port de bras and head movements rather than just my feet and legs.

I’m rather enjoying my ballet journey so far. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much that I feel inspired to pose in arabesque in the beautiful countryside of Box Hill. I post the photo on Facebook and Daria Klimentova (former principal ballerina at English National Ballet) even jokes that it’s a better arabesque than hers. I reply with lots of ‘crying with laughter’ emojis.

June 2016

The classes I’ve signed up for are with Transform, and are for two full hours on a Saturday morning in a small group of just four students. I’m looking forward to this intensity of training and want to make the most of it, so I practise as much as I can. I also teach myself the syllabus variation, a dancey solo that is more like stage choreography than a technical exercise.

There are two choices, so I watch both on the DVD and prefer the more lyrical variation A. With floaty harp music, it feels like a Sleeping Beauty prologue fairy or Don Quixote dream sequence solo. I enjoy the challenge of learning it, but find the choreography somewhat disjointed with the more technical movements interspersed with lots of classical running. Perhaps I should try to imagine myself wearing a glorious tutu and imitating a beautiful ballet fairy in flight?!

Starting classes is nothing short of revelatory. There are a thousand things I find that I’m doing wrong, from silly syllabus mis-learning to bad technique habits that I’ve picked up during my years without training. My most frequent correction is to look up rather than at the floor – something I never had problems with in the past and which is probably representative of the fact I feel much less confident in my skills than I did as a teenager.

While I’m making gradual improvements with all the other exercises, pirouettes are still my nemesis and I’m only getting round on doubles about 10-20% of the time. My teacher offers various suggestions as to where I may be going wrong – not ‘spotting’ effectively, having the arms too low in first position, not turning out the working leg enough, not pulling up through the centre body line etc. My summer homework is definitely to practise, practise, practise!