Tag Archives: open class

A mini “intensive” kind of day

I’m sure I’m going to be feeling today’s dancing for the next couple of days.

It’s been a while since I’ve done two classes in one day, and two that were as challenging as they were fun.

This morning’s open class was the final one of the summer intensive season. And capping the last day of school’s intensive was a master class taught by a former principal dancer from Pacific Northwest Ballet who danced with both Mr. and Mrs. O, and was one of Mr. O’s former partners (her husband was one of Mrs. O’s former partners, how cool is that?).

Mrs. O taught the open class, and as usual, she shared a lot of knowledge that you try to soak. Today’s theme? Using your natural turnout (and not forcing turnout). I’ve said this before, one cannot take her class and not think about proper body alignment.

The surprise for me today? She insists I have more natural turnout than I think I have.

We also worked, and worked, on pirouettes. And mine just weren’t happening very today. And she does a good job of diagnosing the problem … such as the need to use the feet as a catalyst, and using the plie, and not forcing the turn with the arms (something I do a lot), along with using too much force with my body in general because I’m trying too hard to spot (perhaps my greatest challenge).

Even though my pirouettes were a bit shoddy, she told me when it was over that she thought I had a good class — which means a lot considering I think she’s probably our toughest, most knowledgeable teacher (no offense to my other incredible teachers).

The master class was a bit different. Although it was open to “open” division students, it was overwhelmingly a company, junior company class. The only other adult taking the class was the ballet mistress of Ballet San Antonio, who led our intensive the past two weeks (also one of Mr. O’s former teachers). She’s an amazing teacher I hoped to take the intensive from who can still flat out dance.

Amazingly enough, a lot of what we were taught by our master class teacher reinforced what we learned in the open class. There were plenty of opportunities to apply using your turnout properly.

And I thought I danced pretty well for me, other than my pirouettes (didn’t help my shoes were sticking from the humidity) until the last 15 minutes of the class. I botched petite allegro pretty good (I think I was thinking too much about the combination and not dancing).

And grande allegro was comical. Coupe jete is one of those steps I have a hard time getting.

I told Mr. O after the class was over, that one of my biggest problems during the last part of class was that I was thinking about the steps I struggle with a little too much, too much to the point where I botched steps that I knew how to do.

But all in all, I had two good classes today.

I had fun.

I’m sore.

I’m exhausted (especially since I had to work tonight).

And one of the highlights of the day?

Mrs. O, the school director, approved my schedule requests for the year (two company and two open classes).

And I better get reacquainted to dancing twice a day. That’s what I’ll be doing on Mondays starting in a couple of weeks. 

An open class in the morning, and Ballet VI (company level) at night, with a college class in between.

I’ve done two ballet classes before on the same day, just not on a regular basis, although I used to have hip-hop and ballet back-to-back (followed by rehearsals during Nutcracker season).

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.

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. 

Tried out a new teacher

Two posts in one day? I know, what gives, right?

Tonight was a new experience. Since I missed three classes because of vacation, I needed to make up a class since the summer session ends in three weeks.

One of the options was taking the open beginner-intermediate class under a new teacher at the school (a new experience since I’ve had a class from every other teacher on the faculty at one point or another).

It was appealing in that it offered me a chance to actually have a class with other “adults.” Former company members in college and ex-professionals who are now teachers who continue to dance in company class don’t fit in that category.

And the class taught by Melissa B. turned into a pleasant surprise. It was basic, but taught at a pace where it wasn’t too basic. It was the kind of class that I like in a beginner class: It was a class where I knew everything to the point where my concentration was on the shape of my feet, my turnout, keeping my knee straight doing tendus, developpes, grand battements and arabesque in the back, making sure my hips and shoulders were square and concentrating on the head, arms and hands.

There were no turns besides soutenus, which was OK. Tonight was all about proper body alignment for me.

And I got a real introduction to Vaganova, Melissa B.’s style. I didn’t know you did frappes differently in Vaganova style as opposed to the Balanchine-Cecchetti styles I’m used to.

And it was nice being at the top of the class tonight as opposed to the remedial one in company class (don’t get me wrong, company classes are my favorite), and actually being at the median age in a class instead of being an ancient one  in a class overrun with 15-year-olds.

Tomorrow morning, it’ll be back to stumbling around with the few company kids not gone to intensives. So it was nice to be in a class where it looked like I knew what I was doing and was one of the leaders.

A class with my ‘original teacher’

Have to admit, I was a little bit nervous heading into the open class this morning.

I knew my “original teacher” Vicki B. would be teaching.

What I mean by original is this: She was one of my teachers when I danced as a teenager. She was my main teacher when I returned to ballet as an adult for about three years.

But it’s been more than two years since I’ve been a regular in her class. The one class I had with her this year was right after eight performances of the Nutcracker, sickness and the Christmas break layoff. It was a “beginner” class, and quite frankly I wasn’t at my best.

She’ll be teaching the Wednesday open intermediate-advanced classes during the regular summer session, and since she used to be my main teacher, I really wanted to show how much progress I’ve made under Mr. O, Mrs. O and Susan K. Pressure, pressure.

Adding even more pressure? She’s a stickler for the fundamentals (even more so than Mrs. O). Her classes are usually pretty cerebral (brain teaser combinations) and she usually teaches to the level of the majority of students in her class.

Out of about 12 us, there were about 7-8 company girls, 1 ex-company girl home from college and two teachers who also dance as a adults.

And me.

So the barre was raised (pardon the pun) quite a bit today.

Her barre routines were as a remembered: Complicated. You really, really have to use your brain. From the get-go at barre, she is not the “OK, four tendus encroix” kind of teacher.

And to my amazement, I kept up pretty well, about as well as my much more talented comrades.

Center work was pretty complicated, especially during petite allegro. But I did OK.

I got reintroduced to Cecchetti arms and head today. Ditto for saute de basque turns and a few other steps I don’t normally do for my other teachers.

And somehow, not sure how it happened, but I danced better today with company crew in an advanced class than I did back in January in a “beginner” class with her and a couple of fellow adult recreational dancers.

I would say, “go figure?,” but seriously, it’s not the first time that I’ve danced better in the advanced class than in a beginner class. I think that’s one of the quirks of ballet.

She complimented me when I was done. 

Today, I felt like a dancer in her class. Today, she got to see the progress I’ve made.

Mission accomplished.

The sad thing now is that I’m now at the beginning of a two-week break from dance. Vacation is next week, I’m traveling to see family outside of Philadelphia (and entertained dropping in on open class at the Rock School, but thoughts of getting lost in Philly at night have pretty much done away with that notion).

Have class without a teacher? Why yes, we can

The final “open class” of the regular school year took an interesting turn.

Today was supposed to be “wear something wacky” day in Mr. O’s open class, and the company kids pretty much wore some wacky things (me, I wore a Rocky t-shirt, because Mr. O is a huge Rocky fan).

Mr. O walks in and tells his daughter is sick and he has to take her to the emergency room. Mrs. O is at home with their son since school is out for the summer at his school. The usual subs are at end of school activities for their children.

He hands class CDs to one of the company kids and tells us “you’re going to have to teach yourselves today.”

At this point, since I am the only non-company dancer in a class of about 16, I’m thinking “would it be more awkward for me to stay or go at this moment?” I really hadn’t come up with an answer for that when we started plies, and I couldn’t figure out a way to bow out gracefully.

So I ended up staying. And it turned into a fun, entertaining class. It was teach by committee, and actually pretty cool. The kids ended up scrapping the CDs Mr. O gave us, and instead we had a ballet class to punk, alternative and hip-hop music (the one group I did recognize was Coldplay).

Some of the combination the company kids came up with were pretty tricky, but I think I did pretty good for an “old man” trying to keep up. My turns from second while the girls were doing fouettes left a lot to be desired, but other than that I think I acquitted myself quite well.

Let the record show I stayed until the end.

The one thing I hated? It will probably be the last class I’ll have under Mr. O until August. He’ll be busy with our intensive weeks when open classes are going on, and he’ll teaching at two summer intensives elsewhere and on vacation during the regular summer session.

I am looking forward to the last company class of the year on Saturday. Here’s hoping Mrs. O totally kicks our tails.