Special bonus dance class recap: MODERN DANCE!!
My sister takes modern dance classes with her friend, a dancer and choreographer named Alyona Almato. I think I mentioned last time that one of Alyona’s sons went to my sister’s in-home preschool and that’s how they met—it was so fortuitous for them to meet and my sister to discover a love of dance!!! I said this on Instagram, but growing up, my sister took gymnastics, and I took ballet (only once a week, for a few years). My sister was a lot more serious about gymnastics than I was about ballet, but eventually quit and played volleyball, and was on the swim team in high school. Long story short, she’s always been very sporty, and not very dance-y. In fact, we took one ballet class together when I started taking classes as a teenage beginner, and to say she hated it would be an understatement.
However. I must mention that when we were in high school and going to parties and clubs and what not, she and her friends all listened to rap and hip hop, and she tried many many times to show me the dances they were doing—for example, body rolls. I could not do it (and still cannot when we have to do body rolls in my hip hop class, and it’s always embarrassing!). So I mean can we really say that there was NO dance in her bones, if she could do a body roll?
On to the recap!
My first modern dance class with Alyona was before I started this blog. That was months ago now, but my main takeaway was how difficult it had been to pick up and remember the steps. In that first class, she took us through a short piece of choreography and not once did I nail it, or even come close. I was especially tripped up by how fully we moved in space—sure, in ballet you might face any of the four corners of a room but at no point are your hands going to the floor! Or your butt! I mean in a typical ballet class center/diagonal exercise, of course in actual classical ballets you might lay down or whatever. But I mean it’s one thing to end your pirouette facing a different corner than you started. It’s entirely another thing to drop to your hands and knees and roll around on the floor in a certain, stylistic way, landing *just so.*
After that first class I kept saying “My ballet training was NOT HELPFUL.” Still—I immediately wanted more. I actually wanted to try to take a few modern classes back home, but there are never any that fit my schedule. So I kept on with ballet and hip hop.
Fast forward to this past weekend, when my sister and I booked another private (just the two of us) class with Alyona.
I was tired from the 6-hour drive, and the time change made our 7:30pm start time feel like midnight, but once we got started I forgot about all of that. During our warm up, we did basically chair pose from yoga, while practicing moving our shoulders, arms, hips, heads around all in harmony (like extending our arms to the side and sort of swaying/snaking around). She kept telling me to get lower and lower, so it really burned. It was also hard to sway my hips like she was instructing us to do—because you don’t want to move your hips around in ballet OR in yoga. It felt kind of like a guilty pleasure! Really—MOVE them? Move the hips?! Okay….!
I also got a talking-to about my “ballet arms” (to be expected) but also about using my head! Meaning, yes, use it, don’t leave it in the same place while your body dances. She demonstrated how in ballet they head is usually upright, posture is always straight, but “the head wants to dance too!”
After the warm up we started right in on learning some choreography. The snippet we learned came from “It’s All About Me,” a piece she had choreographed for the dance part of a film festival that takes place in Wilmington every year, Cucalorus– the dance night is called Dance-a-lorus. I think she said we did about half of this particular section.
So here is one of our final run-throughs! I don’t know a better way to share it than to just take it from Instagram so here.
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Our private modern dance class was so much fun!! I can’t wait to write more about it on the blog. I LOVED this routine we (mostly) learned. 👯♀️ . . . We’re going to try to do a class every time I come visit and keep improving – but I was pretty proud of us for how far we got in an hour class! 👯♀️ . . . 👯♀️ PS it makes me so happy my sister found modern dance. She did gymnastics growing up and was generally more sporty. Absolutely not interested in dance classes. If you told me a few years ago we’d be dancing together like this I would have laughed at you! :’) 👯♀️ . . . #moderndance #moderndanceroutine #adultbeginnerdance #beginnermoderndance #adultbeginnermoderndance #nevertoolate #nevertolatetostart #adultmoderndance #sistersdance #👯♀️ #adultdancer #adultdanceclasses #floorwork
Just FYI I don’t think we were supposed to do a developpe at the very start. Apparently I was feeling ~*extra*~
PS when I’m smiling that’s when I’m messing up steps 🙂 🙂 🙂
If you watch, there is a part where we do a sort of backward somersault—okay that was SO HARD. I do NOT like turning upside down. I’ve had this issue when practicing yoga over the years as well—I can not do a handstand or a headstand, despite DECADES of yoga. My body hates it. My body says STOP! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! THIS IS NOT OK! I even had the same issue later in the dance, when have our palms to the ground and we kick one of our legs up and around—you can see my version of that is pretty sad. My upside-down head was like DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID NOW! WOULDN’T WANT TO DIE! And thus only allowed me to lift my leg like 2 feet without a panic.
I was also getting sort of concerned when I felt some bruises coming in fast on the top of my foot and on my knees. I was like “Is this ok???” Alyona explained that you have to build up from doing things with slow, controlled movement. Then you can do it faster, smoothly, and you won’t get hurt. That really clicked when she explained it—and helped me to get over the somersault, because if I just went slowly and with control, nothing scary happened. But if I hesitated (during that step or any other where we were on/near the ground), it’s like my limbs fell to the ground like groceries out of a wet paper bag. CLUNKCLUNKCLUNK.
But ultimately, yes, Alyona confirmed, it’s normal to get bruises and it happens even to professionals when trying out new things.
Another point of contention was that slide we did after the rolls across the floor. There is no explanation for this, but I just COULDN’T get it. Was just plain uncoordinated and dense about it. Alyona was very patient about explaining, demonstrating, and then watching me try and forget everything. I finally got it, but just barely.
Another thing clicked as we chatted a little after class—so I have definitely taken modern dance before. Not recently, but a good handful of classes here and there. Only, none of what we did with Alyona seemed familiar. She said that Americans can tend to be afraid of floorwork—afraid of falling, afraid of the bruises (I’m sure this is not true for all studios, but I could see how especially adult students may not want to go for stuff like that and studios might accommodate). Maybe that’s why I don’t remember being in such contact with the floor in previous classes, maybe we never were. Kind of like how I mentioned earlier, that it’s rare to find a good, strict ballet teacher who is not afraid to be brutally honest with adults. But how I secretly love those teachers the most…
When I am able to add more classes to my schedule, I am definitely adding modern. I really like it. I like tumbling around and like, emoting (“Stop EMOTING all over the floor!” The Turning Point, anyone?) We also decided to take a class with Alyona every time I go visit my family! So maybe I will very slowly learn modern dance that way.
And if YOU are ever in Wilmington, NC, take a class with Alyona! She offers adult beginner and intermediate modern and beginner ballet for adults.