Monthly Archives: July 2013

Pardon me, did I stumble into the company girls class by mistake?

That’s how today’s open class felt when I walked in.

Basically, there were about 14 company girls and me, and they included probably the top two or three remaining girls in the company, the ones who will dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cinderella this season.

A few years ago, that scene would have seemed really awkward. But since company kids make of the majority of the classes I take during the regular year, it almost seems like the norm, minus the two or three company guys who have departed for bigger and better things. Having them in class has helped the comfort zone a bit, along with an occasional, brave older recreational soul, male or female.

Of course, being the lone non-company member means having to keep up with their level. I didn’t expect Deb W., our teacher, to teach down to my level, and she didn’t disappoint. It was tough, but I thought I kept up with them pretty except when we did tendu quises and cabrioles to the back. Those are things I understand in theory, but can’t quite get my body to cooperate.

It least when it comes to cabrioles to the back, my timing and range of motion seem to be a little bit off. As for tendu quises, I understand the concept, but they were a mess in a combination that also included sissones.

But still, overall, I felt I had a good class. My pirouettes were cleaner today. And my second attempt on turns from second (the sort of male variation of fouettes, which the girls did) were the cleanest I’ve done in ages.

And the most important thing about class is that I felt so much better physically and mentally after we were done. I’m loving this week of class and look forward to closing it out with a class from Mrs. O. on Friday.

Given the makeup of the classes this week, I am wondering about the number of guys who will be dancing with the company this year now that the regulars I’ve danced with have departed. I’ve had a camaraderie with them, especially two of the young professional guys.

We’d occasionally go out and get a drink after rehearsals, classes or performances. They made it a whole easier for an old guy who has found himself in classes with amazingly talented girls who are about the age of his daughters.

To the girls credit, my presence has never seemed to bother them. They’ve always been nice and encouraging. And in classes like the one we had today, they seem to push me, too.

After the Rain

This is really cool!

Back to the barre

It’s been weeks since I looked forward to going to class like I did this morning.

I’ll be honest, the summer session didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. I went to only one class each of the last two weeks. The changing of teachers, the inconsistency of teaching contributed to it being a summer of blah!

Today, on the other hand, marked the unofficial beginning of the new season. It marked the beginning of getting back into a routine.

Even though the school has two weeks of intensives to close out the summer, there are open classes three days this week … and the teachers are the regular ones. And the company ones are flocking, with some taking the open class instead of the intensive.

There were about 12 of us this morning, most company kids. We were crammed into exile in studio 1, but our teacher this morning was Mr. O (my first class with him since May).

Things I appreciate about his class? No. 1, you get to move. No. 2, you don’t have to think too hard because he does things in a pattern. No. 3, he challenges the heck out of me.

It was a challenge. Because I slacked off the last couple of weeks, I had a hard time at first staying on my leg in center. And my turns to start class were a mess.

But I was able to find my balance, and my turns got better as the class wore on, especially on the left side. It helped when I did pirouettes to concentrate on NOT steering with my arms. That, along with my troubles with spotting, have kept me from reaching that point of consistency that I seek.

As far as being challenged? I was one of the ones asked to demonstrate.

How fun is it to be the one by yourself demonstrating a glissade-jete combination for a simple petite allegro? That was me today doing it not only with the artistic director watching, but also the company young-ins. But I think I did OK. And I moved on time with the music. That’s a change.

And then, when it came to moving across the floor in a diagonal in twos, yes he had me going in the first pair. I’m usually one of the ones in the back, partially out of etiquette sake because guys usually go last, and partially because I like to see the combination a few times first. But I did OK.

I also spent good amount of time in the front row, which normally doesn’t happen as often.

I was sluggish, but knew most of the steps. I think it was a good step in the start of another season.

I can’t wait for the next class on Wednesday. 

A dance dream lives

Found out today that our top company girl has been accepted into Pacific Northwest Ballet’s professional division and will work with one of the top companies in the country.

She joined our school about four years ago from a “competition” studio because she wanted more formal ballet training to complement her competition skills. She ended up ditching the competition studio to focus on a professional ballet career.

She was about 14, I think, and one of the most flexible people I’ve ever known. She’s developed into one of the best dancers I’ve ever known and has danced at some of the top summer intensives in the country.

She’s following in the footsteps of our artistic director and school director, who once danced soloist and principal roles with PNB. I convinced I’ll see her one day perform for a major company, be it PNB, ABT, Ballet West, NYCB or another amazing company.

She has been one of the company kids who homeschooled, so during the regular year, she was in every one of the classes I was in during the past few years. I also got to work with her during partnering classes. She’s a super kid, not a diva. Her folks were valuable volunteers for the company.

It’s a bit bittersweet. Our company is already in transition since our top male dancer who had a professional contract with our company left in midseason last year. Nutcracker will be strange without them both.

But for her I am extremely happy. She’s worked extremely hard for this.


Little less lame, little more duck

I have to admit I’ve been in a dance rut the past two weeks.

Not having the intensive at the end of the summer rainbow, I do admit, has had something to do with it. That was my thing to shoot for. But the main reason has been stress at work, stress at home.

I know, ballet is supposed to be wonderful for stress. And it is.

But for most of my adult life, I’ve worked a second-shift kind of job, 3 p.m.-11 p.m..

Mornings have never been easy on the body clock. When there has been stress at work, there’s always been this mode of staying up a little later to de-stress, and sleeping in when I normally dance in the mornings.

I skipped last Wednesday and Monday’s classes because I wanted to sleep in. Quite frankly, I just didn’t feel good either day.

I forced myself up this morning (and trust me, now that I’m back in school, there are times I’ve had to do this during the regular school year). My mind was totally mush, especially at the barre.

And I’ve mentioned before, the teacher, Vickie B., is not the kind of teacher to have on a mind is mush day. She throws too many brain teasers in her combinations.

And since there were only five of us today, I got a little more attention. Not good when you didn’t bring your A-game. Corrections galore, yeah I got them.

I fared a little better when we moved to center, although the slick spots on the floor and the humidity didn’t really help. My shoes were sticking to the floor, which made it seem like I was moving in concrete whenever we did turns.

And since it’s been three years since I’ve really had Vickie B., I’m still seeing things I’ve haven’t done since I was a regular in her class. I mean, quick brain, remember how to do a lame duck while we’re moving in this combination (hence the title).

Somehow, I managed to make it through the class. And I felt good after it was over. As sluggish as I was, I still had fun once I started getting into things.

This summer wasn’t quite what I was hoping. I think today’s class really summed it up.

I had lofty goals. And I didn’t come close to reaching them.

But my main goal now is to just get back into a routine, to move.

I’ve decided to take class as it comes. Yeah, I want that cleaner double pirouette and move on to doing triples on a consistent basis. And yeah, I hope to be cast in company performances this year, but I’ve decided to be content with whatever I get. 

If it’s just being in Nutcracker, fine. Getting cast in Cinderella would be icing on the cake.

For now, I’ll just look forward to three open classes next week and seeing some of the company faces back from summer intensives. And taking classes from Mr. and Mrs. O again.

Maybe then I’ll get recharged.

Cinderella 4/4 – Semionova, Malakhov

A really cool version of Cinderella with Polina in it. Can’t take my eyes off her. She is my favorite dancer.



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In a Darcey Bussell mood today

Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty

That intensive week … yeah … that’s not happening.

Had the money put away. But then life happens. My son’s car needs major auto repairs.

Yeah, the joys of being a single parent.

I’ll have to be content with the open classes that week, and try not think what if?

The good thing is that the regular session is right around the corner, which means settling into a routine, being challenged by company wonders and preparing for the beast that is the Nutcracker.

Ballet stereotyping … part deux!

A boy who danced with our company who graduated this spring landed a dance and theater scholarship at a university in Florida.

His Facebook post today: The mother of his future roommate called housing because she just found out her son was going to be rooming with …. drum roll … a dancer!

Seriously? Where do these people come from?

Beginning-intermediate confidence boost

I’ll go ahead and say it, I will be glad when the company kids return from summer intensives far and wide.

They challenge me. And I miss the pace of the class when they’re all there.

But I’ve come to appreciate the open beginner-intermediate class I’ve attended the last two Tuesday nights as makeups for missing the classes I’m signed up for this summer session.

My habit of watching other people and my musicality (or the lack thereof) have been two of the things I’ve needed to work on most, along with spotting and my tendency to be a little sloppy when dancing with the young ones.

Tonight even moreso than last week, there has been no one else to look at for a reference. Despite the fact there were two teenage girls who dressed the part, the two most experience dancers in the room were me and a preteen girl who is in Ballet IV.

I was, as scary as this sounds, the leader of the class tonight. Even the preteen girl watched me at times to remember the combination and keep in time with the music … that includes a combination that included balances’, a pas de bouree and a pirouette (the preteen girl and I were the only ones who’d ever done a full pirouette before). 

The combination was relatively a simple one, yet my balances’ have always sucked (to be frank). Yet I was the one who kept on dancing when just about everyone else temporarily stopped in the middle of the combination, and restarted by the timing of my balances’. In years past, to be honest, despite knowing the combination, I would have stopped, too, without another dancer present to keep me in time with the music and to use as a reference point.

It may not sound like much to more experienced dancers out there (especially if you’re a professional dancer or young pre-pro company dancer who might be reading my blog out of sheer boredom). But the fact that I was the leader, the fact that I kept dancing when others had stopped and the fact I was actually in time with the music is as much a major breakthrough as doing triple pirouettes would be.

I’m hoping I can carry some of that confidence and musicality into the intensive week if I’m able to take it and the company classes when they get cranked up at the start of the season.

And by the way, I’ve found this class extremely helpful when it comes to cleaning up technique!