I feel so great after yesterday’s class. Mistakes were made, combinations were flubbed, entire segments of class were disasters. But in between all that were moments when I felt stronger than ever. If I looked in the right places, I could see clearly where I’ve improved and where I’m growing quickly. And when I saw it, nothing else mattered.
That’s what I excitedly wrote on Instagram after Wednesday’s class.
The class, however, was off to a rocky start. Barre was pretty rough. Combinations weren’t sticking in my head—especially when we would do an exercise, reverse it, and then repeat the whole thing with arms. By the third and/or fourth time, I’d get tripped up all of a sudden. Probably because of the whole “using arms and legs at the same time” thing. What do you want from me, some kind of “coordination”?! It was unfortunate because we were given some really pretty combinations. I will always be hyped for a sneaky pas de cheval in the midst of dégagés!
Taylor was on a kick all night about one-legged pliés. They’re for your jumps, she said. (*Steve Brule voice* “For your jumps!”) She incorporated them into several barre exercises and then also into our adagio.
Then later, she started showing a diagonal combination featuring no less than four pirouettes—two en dehors from fourth: one ending in fourth and one in fifth. One en dehors from fifth front, and one en dedans from fourth. In the middle of all this was a piqué arabesque then plié (the one-legged plié we’d been practicing all night). Taylor said, “That’s the whole point of all this madness, by the way. I wanted to get in this plié arabesque right here.” It was funny, but it also made us all hit a step that otherwise might have been neglected amongst all the turns.
The male dancer was in class again! He seems perfectly nice. We were in the same group a few times, and each time I think we were the only two who held it together for the entire combination. I always get a boost when I sync up with more advanced dancers. I really try not to dance while staring at another dancer’s feet, or looking at them at all (unless I’m totally lost), but it can be nice just to notice and confirm that you and someone, anyone, else are doing the same thing.
A mosquito got into the classroom during barre! Taylor was demonstrating fondues and for a second we thought she was adding some crazy modern dance move as she suddenly lunged out into the center and started clapping! She didn’t catch it, and for a while the mosquito plagued us all—the male dancer tried gallantly to go after it for a bit—until finally one of the dancers squashed it with her slipper. She proudly displayed the guts on the bottom of her foot as we all applauded and Taylor ran for a tissue.
And yes, we still have mosquitos here in late October. Welcome to the South and/or welcome to 2018 BUT ANYWAY WE’RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT BALLET
Besides the couple of combos where I synced up with Dancer Guy, and a nice adagio, the rest of the class was not so great. But like I said on Instagram, it didn’t matter! I didn’t care! Of course I’m going to mess up. The good news is that I am improving!
During class, it’s easier to see my flaws. One cursory glance in the mirror will bring up about 11 things. But if I look harder, if I look closer, I can see the improvements. The arms that come automatically. The combination that used to seem so long, that I can now remember (if not exactly execute).
In some ways I think a critical mindset is necessary in ballet. It’s not entirely a bad thing to be able to see all those things wrong with the picture when you glance in the mirror. Of course being able to identify bad technique means you know what good technique is. BUT my point is sometimes it can get overwhelming, and there is a balance to be reached between understanding what you need to work on, and celebrating your achievements, however small.