Monthly Archives: February 2014

When I dance, I am free

A simple combination during rehearsal Monday night for our school sketch rehearsal reminded me of why I love dance so much.

It’s that moment when you lose yourself in the music and feel like your soaring.

The combination was a grande allegro combination, the type I could do all night.

Pique, chasse’ tour jete, step, grande jete, step, grande jete, change direction and repeat, pas de bouree, glissade, Russian pas de chat on the left, then repeat on the right.

Physically, it felt amazing. Mentally even more so.

I have to admit the past two years of going to school along with working has been mentally taxing. It’s cut down on my dancing, I’ve gone from dancing four and five days a week to three (and this week, two).

My day seems out of sync when I’m not dancing. It’s harder to shake the “blah” kind of day that goes along with going to school all morning, and then spending eight hours in an office cubicle.

Ballet is my escape.

And as much as I love barre, the classes that free me the most are the ones where you come away from the barre and really move, and really dance.

Having not danced since Monday and waiting for Saturday’s class and rehearsal has reminded me how much I need dance mentally.

One of these things is not like the other ones …

If you are old enough, you might remember the song and game from the children’s show Sesame Street.

The game, of course, is to pick out the thing from the group that “doesn’t belong.”

In you’re a male or adult ballet dancer, there are times when you’ve probably felt that way.

As a teenager, I was the only boy in ballet and jazz classes, and for ballet and modern classes in college.

And for about three years into my adult ballet journey, I was the only man in ballet classes with women around my own age.

In those cases, it really ended up not being a big deal. And a confession, I found being the only boy in class actually kind of fun for the most part.

In the last four years or so, I’ve found myself in mixed classes with teenagers and other guys. No problem there, my perspective about classes and what I enjoy about classes has changed with it.

The notion of being one of the few adults in a class full of teenagers has been no big deal.

This year, though, has brought a different challenge thanks to a university schedule that I’ve had to dance around.

In every one of my classes the last few years, there’s either been another adult or two in class, or another guy, or two.

Except for the Monday night class I’m now taking. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m an adult male dancer in a class with 10 to 15 teenage girls. It hasn’t been that awkward in the sense that I’ve been in classes before, or performances with all of them.

But this is the only class I have that is in the school show (recital). The rest of my classes, the one with the adults and other guys, aren’t in the show.

Performing in regular ballets has never been a big deal. There are other adults in Cinderella, just as there have been in the other story ballets I’ve been in.

I am looking forward to our recital dance at the end of May, don’t get me wrong. It will be the most challenging ballet dance that I’ve ever been in. I am for that reason probably more excited about being in this dance than being in Cinderella (and I’m really excited about being in Cinderella).

But there is one memory that I will not forget. A couple of years ago, I took a hip-hop class, and was in the dance during the school show.

A friend of mine, a younger fellow male dancer, taught the class. And up until the last few weeks leading up to the show, it appeared he would be in the dance with us, but then he changed his mind.

It wasn’t that huge of a deal at the time. There was another adult in the class, his 19-year-old girlfriend who looked a little bit older than 19.

I remembered the strange looks I got when we were going over the choreography in the hallway.

I must be crazy for doing this, I thought.

I didn’t think about it on stage. The dance was a lot of fun.

But I can’t help but remember that incident as we prepare for our dance in a few months. What will people think when the see a man my age take the stage with the girls?

I’ll be honest, this dance means a lot to me.

It’s my chance to prove to myself … and maybe to others I can really dance.

But I can’t help think there will be people in the audience thinking …

“One of these things just doesn’t belong.”

Requiem of a Dream

That is the song we are doing our school show (recital) dance to.

Dawn C. revealed that to us tonight, as well as additional steps for the dance. The song is from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

For the most part. I thought I did OK.

As far as classes go as a whole, I had my best Monday night class of the year.

I’m beginning to get used to the combinations and the terminology.

And got praise twice, first with a pas de bouree, brisem brise combination during petite allegro. First time I believe I’ve ever gotten praise for any combination involving a brise.

Also got praise during a pique turn-chaine turn combination.

It was a fun class. The combinations were a bit simple for Monday night, but I am not complaining.

We concluded it with a fun chasse’ tour tour jete, pas de bouree turn, repeat chasse tour jete from the other side combination that I figured out early.

And this week appears to be a light one on the Cinderella rehearsal front. Act 2 scenes are taking priority, and so far, I’m only in Act 1.

With the work and school load this week, I’m cool with the lighter load.

Just ballet class today

Sometimes you get the ballet class you really need.

That was the case for me today.

I hadn’t danced since Monday, so I was looking forward to a kick in the pants type of class.

It turned out to be a little different.

Mrs. O gives you really two types of classes. Some days she really pushes you. On others, she really teaches you.

Today was more of a teaching class, and the theme was her specialty, body alignment.

She was a more hands on today than I’ve seen in a while. I think everyone of us got some form of individual correction, and there were about 20 of us today.

She gave us a killer barre stretch today to reinforce what she was teaching.

Her combinations were a bit simple today. I was a little sloppy and my turns weren’t there (I blame the layoff on that), but I could do every step and combination thrown at us today. Of all the teachers I have, she is the one who shows and explains steps the clearest. It is why I think her class is my favorite … and unlike today … she doesn’t really give us easy combinations.

And more often than not, she is the one who gives us the funnest grande allegro combinations. Today’s was fairly easy: Saute (fi-e) glissade, assemble, pique, chasse,  tour jete, saute (fi-e), glissade, saute chat, step, saute chat, step, saute chat.

Even on a relaxed day like today, she always pushes us to go a little higher on our jumps.

Today was a no-pressure day. There were no rehearsals to follow class. Mr. O doesn’t get back from Texas until tomorrow.

I’m sure the rehearsals and the intensity will return this week, but the schedule hasn’t been posted yet.

While I love to be pushed, today was just a really enjoy ballet kind of day.

An unexpected snow break

A snowfall in Alabama is like an unexpected holiday.

People around here go a little crazy when it happens … well … because sometimes we go years without seeing more than flurries (unless you count ballerinas at the end of Act I of Nutcracker).

We had an a threat earlier this year that ended up canceling classes, but it never came.

That wasn’t the case this week.

I was already expecting a lighter dance week. Mr. O is in San Antonio helping a professional company with their production of The Firebird. I skipped Saturday morning’s class because of a cold, but went to Cinderella rehearsal later in the day.

That was our last one with Mr. O out of town.

Still, I expected to at least get three or four classes in this week.

Turns out Monday night’s class was the only one until at least tomorrow or Saturday.

I’m still finding my way in that class. We went steps for the variation we’re going to perform in the school show at the end of the year. Oh boy, are they a challenge.

I still struggled with other combinations we did in class, but got praise for how I did during the adagio combination, which is not that easy (we’re on one foot it seems through about 90 percent of the combination).

And I finally figured out a challenging step that has been driving me crazy most of the school year … after we finished the combination.

I’ll admit, I’ve gone through a depressed “am I really going to achieve my goals?” period the last few days leading up to the class, and was looking forward to today’s class.

Then, the snow came.

It has snowed off and one between Tuesday morning and early this morning.

We ended up with about 7 inches of snow, which for the South is like getting a foot. Everything shuts down, except for my job. We could have had a little more, but the temperature went above freezing for a few hours yesterday, and snow turned to rain right in the middle before changing back into heavier snowfall.

At least with college classes canceled, I’ve gotten to sleep in before work.

But with the snow, there has been ballet, and I really miss class.

I could go to the open class tomorrow that is really slow and only adults (I’m actually in the middle age-wise).

Or, I can sleep in and go full force in the Saturday morning class with the company crew, which is my favorite class.Image



Ballet catching on with boys

Glad to see a breakthrough. And I think attitudes are changing. But still a long way to go in the U.S.

Following the dress code

One of the perks of being an adult dancer is that ballet schools and studios don’t require a dress code.

My school isn’t any different.

You’re allowed to dance in the clothes you feel the most comfortable in.

I’ve always worn dancer attire for the most part. The times when I haven’t worn tights, I’ve had teachers who have voiced some displeasure or joked with me about not being able to see the line.

I’ve always worn a variety of sports-related long, loose fitting shirts to go along with the tights (and a dance belt), and the last few years, a pair of warmup pants that usually come off toward the latter part of barre.

The only time I was required to follow a dress code was in a college ballet class. The two places I danced as a teenager were so happy to have a boy in class, they didn’t enforce a dress code on me.

The non-adult students at our school are required to follow a dress code (leotard colors are different for girls depending on the level, but company its black with pink tights, for boys, it’s white T-shirt (or leo under tights) and black tights.

Evidently, some of the kids had gotten a little lax about following the code. Mrs. O sent out a letter last week informing students they must follow the dress code in all non-open classes with the exception of the Saturday morning company class I’m in.

How does this involve me? If you follow my blog, you know I’m in two company classes in addition to the open classes I take. The Saturday class, I guess, is our version of casual Fridays, so it’s pretty much dress as usual.

Monday night’s class? Dress code is in place with the company girls I’m in class with.

As the only adult and the only male dancer in class, I felt an obligation to comply with the dress code even though it’s not required for me to do so.

So I brought out the white T-shirt to go along with the black tights, the first time I’ve done so since my college days.

For some reason, it seemed a good fit for the class. My Monday class is the most formal I take.

Oh yeah, and the rule requires no warmup pants in class. I (along with a few of the girls) wore them when I came into the room. But they came off when class began.

If you follow my blog, you also know this is the class that is my most challenging. But tonight was probably my best in the class all year.

One of the challenges for me is that Dawn C. uses different terminology for steps and combinations than my other teachers. But I’m beginning to pick that up. She uses a different phrase for tour jete that I can’t possibly spell. And I found out that the double A (or double assemble’) turns were actually chaines.

Hence a better class.

My en buate (I know that’s spelled wrong), saute basque turns and brises are beginning to come around.

And we had a really cool grande allegro combination (Pique, chasse, tour jete, chasse, fouette, chasse (in other direction), assemble’, prepare, three saute basque turns, step grande jete. It was fun. Just wished I could have jumped a little higher, but I was too busy analyzing the combination, making sure I was turning the right way.

It was a good way to end a stressful day. And it was finally good to see some progress in the class.