Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stand Up Straight

One of the big reasons I decided to go in to this whole ballet thing (aside from the fact that I enjoy it) was because my posture could use some serious help. It's... it's really bad. I have scoliosis and sort of a sway back, and when I think I am standing up straight I am actually sort of leaning backwards. That can't be making the joints in my legs and hips any better.
For the first two months of class I was being corrected on my posture CONSTANTLY. But as soon as we started doing all of our barre work with one hand on the barre (so I could finally see myself in the mirror from the side) I figured out what correct posture is supposed to look like. Doing it without the help of a mirror is a bit tricky, still.
I guess until I was 30 freaking years old I didn't know what correct posture felt like. It feels sort of unnatural, like I am hunching my upper back, but I'm not. Also, I have to pull my tummy in constantly, a trick I am attempting to practice more in daily life. Like sitting on the bus today. Repeating a little mantra in my head.
Tummy in, shoulders forward, tummy in, shoulders forward, tummy in, shoulders forward...

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Are Not So Bad Off

brazilian ballet school teaching the blind 

Very cool little video.

I was just thinking about how I hurt right now to the point that I want to call it stupid. Like... I stupid hurt right now. Like it's an emphasizing word*. But now that I've watched that I think I will just pretend I am not as shallow and self centered as I actually am and just say that we finally did more turning pas de bourrée and it was much less awful this time. We also did more of the crazy waltzing and hey, at least it almost made sense. Just almost, though.

*I know it has a name but I asked my husband (who has an English degree) and he was like "I dunno, yo" and if he doesn't know then what hope do I have (I have a stinkin' fashion degree)?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Goals With a Capital G.

My ankles are not allowed to go. Because, you see, I have got goals. No, make that Goals. Ya can't dance without ankles. They've been a little testy lately. Mostly I think that is because I am using them more and in new and different ways. So my tendons go a little twangy or something. That is what I am betting on. Hoping for. I lay awake some nights, and though I am a staunch atheist I sort of pray to the universe in general "not my ankles, not my ankles, not my ankles, not my ankles......"

Review? Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Okay, I am not even going to pretend this is a review. I'm not going to be objective.
A few months ago I stumbled across a snippet of this on YouTube (here is a particularly creepy and/or awesome bit, you should check it out) and immediately rushed around trying to find it on DVD. It finally came out at the end of October, and I had it pre-ordered (ostensibly for my birthday, but I was going to buy it anyway because DAMN) so it was in my hot little hands the day after it officially came out.

Yeah, that is what I was trying to get across.

It's got some serious production values. It's filmed live, but really well. I can't stand it when you see dancers on film and they are constantly showing close up shots of the face or maybe the head and upper torso. That just misses the whole freaking point of dance. Anyway. So. It's filmed well, it's danced beautifully, the costumes and sets are fun. The dancers can mostly actually act (which is not always the case). The dancer doing Alice manages to capture that sort of spunky youthfulness that most actresses can't even manage...

OH! And I forgot! I am sort of an Alice snob. Totally an Alice snob, actually. When I was a teenager (oh god, confession time) I had a photograph of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in my room like most girls would have the teen idol of the moment. Slightly earlier in life I kept my hardbound copy of Alice and Looking-glass (a gift from my Nana when I was about 6 or 7) in a special little pouch hanging from the arm of my day bed. I memorized the "Life, what is it but a dream?" poem and said it aloud EVERY NIGHT. I am pretty hard to impress Alice-wise. This doesn't use the same "framing" story as Alice, because a full length ballet without a pas de deux would just not fly, so they have to add a certain romantic element. And you know what? It doesn't drive me crazy. That is saying an awful lot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ballet For Dummies (Meaning Me)

You almost certainly heard about the incident that occurred at a local college campus recently. This is the college where my mother went to school, and where she would take us to feed the ducks or to attend festivals devoted to sustainable living and world peace. Anyhow, so this terrible thing happened. Tonight my ballet teacher appologized for being a little out of it because she had been at the campus all day protesting. I knew I liked her!

In other news, I think my chassés and glissades are getting a bit better. At least when compared to the new and confusing thing we did tonight: waltz steps. Crazy difficult! Mostly because by that point my feet were hurting so bad that trying to hit demi-pointe was tortuous. We did not do pas de bourrée en tournant tonight, which is sort of a shame. I had done really really badly at the turning part last week so I spent some time practicing in my kitchen and living room and I felt sure that I could do at least passably (or, at least better) this time. There is no way I can practice this waltzing jazz, though, because I can't even remember it! You step and you turn and you... do some painful thing with your feet... and then you brush back or maybe forward and you... I have no freaking idea. Oddly enough I really enjoy the moving steps. Pas de bourrée is probably my favorite thing that we are doing right now.

Oh! I did some of those changements tonight! About half of them, though I did a full set earlier in the class, so that has got to count for something.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Who Da Princess?

I appear to be catching a cold, which means I will probably spend most of tomorrow sitting on the couch drinking tea and watching Netflix. But you can't watch The Tudors ALL day, right? I mean, without wanting to strangle whoever put all those women in bodices without chemises under them. Or maybe that is just me. ANYWAY.

So, a while back Netflix noticed that I had watched The Red Shoes and suggested that I watch this.
Princess Tutu.
Now, is that the single worst title in existence or what? AnyWAY.

It's a magical girl anime. But... huh.
Well, it's about a duck who...
It's about a girl who takes dance lessons at some sort of boarding school in what I assume is Germany. And she is a super hero...
She's a duck who turns in to a girl who turns in to a magical ballerina super hero named Princess Tutu.
And there is a dance instructor named Mr. Cat who threatens that his delinquent students will have to marry him and....

Okay. None of this is working. Let me just say this: The last episode I watched contained almost 15 minutes of dialogue between a duck and a lamp.
It's like Dali, at his most attention-whorey, wrote a magical girl anime based around ballet dancing. There is no fighting. Just dancing. It's...
It's so strange it keeps me coming back for more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

changin' it up

I got to go back to class last night, which was pretty fabulous. I spent most of last week hobbling around with a cane and taking copious amounts of vicodin (and crying) so I wasn't able to go up to two classes a week. But I had vowed that I was going to Monday class even if I had to be rolled in to the damn studio.

With my knees all but out of commission there was no way in heck I was going to do any 32 changements at the end of class (What is the magic about the number 32 in ballet? No one should be subjected to 32 changements unless it is some kind of punishment for crimes against society) so my instructor had me do 32 relevés with pliés instead. That was interesting because it was super fast and my feet did not want to stop when I hit demi pointe, so they sort of kept going until I whammed 'em back down. It might be fascinating, feet, that you can go to full pointe in soft shoes, but it isn't doing me any favors. Also, holy crap my calves hurt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Slipper

Okay, so it is pretty widely accepted wisdom that when you buy dance shoes you should have them fit by a professional at a dance wear store unless you are buying the exact same make, style, and size of a shoe that you already know and love. OKAY. So I am lazy, and also cheap. And I decided that I didn't want to drive all the way out to my city's one and only Capezio's because it's inconvenient and the employees always give you the funny eyeball. Also, shoes are like half price online!

Well. So how many pairs of dance shoes have I ordered online recently? FIVE. And how many fit right out of the box? ZERO. My split sole canvas Grishko's were not too bad, though, just a bit snug. So I got them wet and wore them around the house for a few days and hey presto!

But then my instructor mentioned that beginners should wear full soled shoes to build up strength in their feet. Well, damn. I had gone the split-sole route specifically because when I had owned full soled slippers many moons ago I kind of hated them. The split soles didn't actually solve that problem, though. Your toes are gonna be all pinched and awkward one way or the other. So I decided that I needed some full soled shoes. I am a little obsessive about wanting to get my feet nice and strong (MORE on this later).

Long story short I ended up buying two pairs of leather slippers and neither of them fit worth a fig. One pair is MASSIVE, but one pair was just a biiiiiit too large. So I embarked on an experiment that flew in the face of everything I was ever taught about caring for leather apparel (my deepest apologies to Marie, my college instructor and seamstress extraordinaire). Are you ready for it? I SHRANK THEM!

POW! I got them soaking wet in the sink, then popped them in to a lingerie bag and stuck them in the drier until they were bone dry. And it actually WORKED! It was pretty amazing. I, myself, personally, am amazed. They won't win any beauty contests, but they fit pretty well now and I wore them to class with no problems. They aren't all stiff or weird, either.

The moral of this story is... actually things that are accepted wisdom are usually that way for a reason. Don't be a cheapy cheapskate and buy stuff online, I guess. But if you do... there are magic tricks! Huzzah!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tin Foil Ballerinas

 Did anyone else make tin foil ballerinas for the Christmas tree when they were kids? They are super cheap and easy and you can make them in any size. Big honkin' ones for little hands and teeny tiny ones for grown up hands. I have been making them to decorate the ugly faux ficus tree in my apartment building's communal foyer for the last few years. Since I can't go to class tonight (hurt too much) I am releasing my frustration by distraction, and making this year's crop a bit early.
You just take a square of aluminum foil and cut or tear it along the lines here ---------->
and then squish the foil up until it is roughly human shaped. Then you can pose them. I suppose they could be imps or fairies, but ours were always ballerinas. Arms in high fifth are perfect for hanging them on the tree. When I was little I always posed them as if they were doing pirouettes with their arms in fifth. Because that was what Ballerinas Looked Like, thank you very much! I also made little tutus for them with fabric or scraps of paper cut in to a circle with a hole in the middle to fit around their waist.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Communication and the Internet Age

Blogger has changed it's back-end stuff pretty seriously lately. I was cruising around trying to figure out how the new features and layout work when I found an analytics page. Now, I love me some ridiculous and unusable statistics so I clicked on through to check it out. One of the things that irks me about the analytics page I use to track hits to my business page is that it shows you the name of a referring site but fails utterly to make that information in to a convenient link. But this! This had links to all referring sites! So cool! So I clicked through to my top referring site.
I am unsure where the referral comes from, but ooooookkkkkaaaaayyyy.
So anyway, allow me to extend a warm welcome to new readers who are big fans of Emma's photoshopped boobies. Hi!

With this post I am pretty sure a google search for "Naked Emma Watson" will now link to my ballet blog. Oh internet, you so crazy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stupid Pain. Nobody Likes you.

I know, I know. Posty McPostalot. But I'm suffering from an excess of things to talk about. I wrote this whole post here and then realized that it was just me complaining. BUT. I think that part of the reason this blog exists is so that I can complain. I can complain about pain and I can elate about ballet. Or complain about ballet. That will happen too, sometimes. Anyway, the next two paragraphs are the uncut and pure pity party post (P!P!P!) that I started out with. The stuff at the end is BALLET TALKIN' MMKAY.

Today my world is mostly frustratingly painful. I would like a medication that works for more than two days straight. I would also like some sort of treatment plan that would actually allow me to *do* things, rather than just lay perfectly still all day for fear of aggravating some part of my body. Sometimes it is hard not to feel like something is purposefully making life miserable for me in the most evil and spiteful way. This whole rheumatism thing only really got a sort-of diagnoses when it manifested itself in my hands and wrists. And of course I work with my hands, so it was like taking away a big important part of my self worth. Years in to this and nothing has ever helped my hands much, treatment-wise. I can certainly do things that make it worse, but I can't do anything to make it better.

It's funny, though, because my hands have been so bad for so long that unless it flares up especially badly (like it did this past summer when I was working 11 hour days in the costume shop at a local theater) I hardly even think about it that much any more. It's just a pain that I have learned to internalize and live on top of, rather than under. But the F*CKING KNEES! It's a new pain, relatively. And maybe it's the newness that makes it so much harder to take right now. And the fact that all I want to do right now is dance, and this is Not Helping That. Once in a while every joint in my body will flare up really badly and I will be on my ass for weeks, but eventually it starts to fade enough that I can start doing things again. But this, this is constant. It's like the thing that is going on in my hands, only it's in another part of my body. Always. Always. It's a little maddening. When I think of how long it took me to learn to sit on the pain in my hands (years. YEARS) it frightens the hell out of me.

SO ANYWAY. I went to my first real live Ballet I class yesterday! It is technically a Ballet I/II class, but at least half of us were recent graduates from the pre-ballet class, so sorry other 4.5 people, you are stuck doing class with the slow kids for a while. I could do the stuff, mostly (my chassés and glissades are a suck-fest but that is not new information) but I get SO confused and lose my place when we are doing combinations. It's ridiculous. It's like some amusing poster you would expect to see in the kids section of the library. Where a whole class of little ballerinas is standing with their right arm in fifth and then the one little ballerina with the messy hair in the third row has her left arm in fifth. I am the tousled ballerina.

Also, someone has got to show me how to make accent gras (and the other one, the one I forget how to spell because French class was 13 years ago. Accent ay goo?) when I am typing, because cutting and pasting from wikipedia is NO GOOD. (Later... So it's spelled "egu" which is how I thought it was spelled, but it looked too stupid to be right.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dancing Around in Tutus

When I tell people I take ballet lessons, the most common question I am asked is "you really dance around in a tutu?" I suppose that the question is innocent enough.
There are a couple of misconceptions involved here, though.

First: No. No one is wearing a tutu. Tutus are costumes made to show off your fancy footwork. Even professionals take class in tights, leotards, and not much else. If it's cold I wear my little knee warmers. If I am on my period (TMI? Suck it up) I have some floaty georgette booty shorts (okay, "tap pants") that I made, but a lot of gals wear those little chiffon wrap skirts. The less you wear the better your teacher can see what you are doing and correct your mistakes. The tights are pink or black, the leotard is anything that doesn't ride up your butt too much. The leg warmers and sweaters are usually ancient and full of holes. It's part of the look (also, dancers are famously BROKE.)

Second: Ballet class, especially beginning ballet class but even top-level stuff, involves very little dancing. Mostly it's exercises that strengthen your feet, legs, back, etc. You do a whole lot of lifting parts of yourself and supporting your body weight in ways you don't in regular life. You work on your posture and on pulling up through the top of your head to keep your muscles engaged and your weight off your legs (you know how kids weigh twice as much when they are sleeping? That is because dead weight feels a whole lot heavier than active weight). You do lots of combinations of movements in time to music so that you will develop some sense of musicality and learn to do multiple things with your body at once. It's like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. You work on that sort of thing by doing some combination of steps with your feet while doing some other combination of movements with your arms. IT'S HARD. But the whole idea is that once you are strong enough and have the muscle memory in place and your coordination is good enough... then they can give you some crazy choreography and you can dance without thinking about "oh man, are my legs turned out enough? is my back straight enough? are my arms supposed to be pointing down when I do this thing or up or what?"

So, no. No pretty princesses in tutus. I will Discuss Tutus later, though, because that is at least a whole post on it's own for a clothing construction nerd like me!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

knees up!

My project for today.
I have leg warmers, but they don't really cover the needed territory. And it gets so hot in class, I don't want any extra fabric on my body if I can avoid it. Enter knee warmers! They are silly looking, but I think they will be a boon as the weather gets colder. I know that they look like I just cut the arms off an old sweater and stitched some elastic to the top, but that is because I *did* just cut the arms off an old sweater and stitch some elastic to the top!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rheumatic Princess. Take one.

It was hard to find a name for this blog. I kept wanting to make a play on the word "pneumatic" but what could I use that wouldn't just sound strange? Actuator? No. So, I gave up and used the first thing that came to mind. SO. The back story for people who don't know it:

I'm 30 years old, work in fashion and costuming, and live in central California. I have an undifferentiated (that is the fancy word for "unknown") auto-immune disorder that makes me feel pretty much like a 90 year old woman ALL THE TIME.
A few months ago my knees went, and when something decides to go it does not come back. So there I was, feeling annoyed and pained in this new and unhappy way. What was the best way to deal with it? Well, of COURSE it was to take up a new and punishing physical discipline! But seriously folks, I had sort of folded in on myself when pain became a constant in my life a few years ago, as a result I just reached a point where I realized I was WAY out of condition, my mobility was at an all-time low, and I just felt it was time to MOVE again before I collapsed. Also, looking at pictures of pretty dance shoes just about kills me.
I have been taking ballet classes for two whole months, now! I just "graduated" from the pre-beginning class and on Monday I will try my hand (er, feet) at the *actual* level I class! If I can get there before class starts without getting stuck in commute traffic, anyway.

So, there you have it. This blog is a place for me to babble about ballet and rheumatism and the exciting and horrible ways the two interact on a daily basis.
I will do some work on the horrible layout and design later. For now: