Back to basics

I decided after the lengthened class of last week where I threw a bunch of new stuff at my students I’d do a 180 and return to some of the concepts we visited in week one… namely: pointed feet, turnout, and posture. Oh, and I added one other: brain.

When I announced that we were returning to basics I expected groans. Instead the teen piped up with, “Oh good!” Okay, maybe I overwhelmed them a bit in the last class.

So we sat on the floor like a bunch of toddlers and pointed and flexed our feet while I tried to explain (once again) that the foot is supposed to ar-tic-u-late. It’s not an on-off switch… more like a dimmer switch. Wave those metatarsals like you just don’t care… c’mon now! Then I told them to sickle their feet. “What? You want us to sickle?” Yes, on purpose, do it! Don’t question Miss Rori! Then told them to remember what that feels like… and remember that feeling is BAD. Don’t do it. Un-sickle… GOOOOD.

Then we turned out from the hips while lying on our backs. Yay for hip mobility. And I demonstrated the amazing benefits of turnout… wider base, greater extension. I demonstrated the base concept using Lifar’s 6th and 7th positions. My students didn’t believe me about the 6th & 7th position thing… that was kind of amusing. No, someone really did try to come up with that, it just never caught on. I demonstrated extension comparing parallel to turned out to show how much higher the leg can go in turnout. See, turnout is cool! Don’t you want to be cool?

Then did some shoulder rolls…. had them lift their shoulders high, roll back, and down. Turned around, took off my sweater (oh shush, I was wearing a leotard underneath!) and showed them my back of steel (ha!). Back muscles… good. Engage them. Port de bras comes from here. Just like a bird. From the class I hear, “Caw!” Very amusing ladies, try a different bird.

Then I talked about the most difficult, but most essential key to ballet… that fluff between one’s ears. The fluff that will sometimes tell you that you suck. In that case you tell it to kindly STFU and ignore it. But the rest of the time… use that brain to remember how a position feels when it is correct. And try to get back to that place. I may have also thrown in some gentle admonishments about the fact that the exercises we are doing are trés simple, so please, stop staring around the room at the other dancers or the mirror or me and try to remember that all we’re doing is two demi-pliés in each position. One of these days I’d like to string, say, two different steps together and not have it go to hell in a handbasket. Let’s try to get one exercise down.

Wow, I sound like a mean teacher there. Please understand… my class is made up entirely of people I know and consider friends outside of class. I can get away with telling one of my students that she managed to make rond de jambes look like a pole dance. She was quite proud of herself about that, by the way. They take what I dish and give it back. But the great part is… they listen! They have a long way to go, but man, they get better and better every week. Love my ladies.

So next week, back to full-throttle. I want to get to the good stuff!


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