Saturday, January 25, 2020

Blog 43 A fun lesson

I could only attend the Monday evening class this week. An unexpected meeting came up on Thursday that lasted through the evening, so regretfully I had to text Lyda that I could not come. So only one class this week. Is the glass then half empty or half full? Half-full I would say. Moreover, we had a fun and relaxed class on Monday.

We practiced the regular barre exercises plié, tendu, jeté, ronde jambe, developpé, fondu, and frappé, of course, accompanied by that beautiful piano music. I'm still surprised by the many possible variations in these movements. As Lyda puts it: "I can think up of an endless variety of movements, I'll be able to surprise you until you're 100 years old."

The fondu is an intriguing kind of exercise. To achieve the quality of "melting," both legs need to stretch and bend at the same rate. The right foot moves from the 5th position to sur le cou de pied, and the left foot simultaneously does a demi plié, its knee turned out. Then the right knee opens forward (en avant) with the toes pointed on the floor, the left one straightens out and extends in the knee joint simultaneously with the right one. The right foot returns to sur le cou de pied, and the movement is repeated à la seconde, en derrière. A very controlled movement, très lentement, where the working leg successively and smoothly unfolds as the supporting leg straightens. As if you move when standing in a swimming pool. The resistance of the water makes you move slower.

Yes, I've learned that a swimming pool provides a perfect playground for a ballet dancer. Mind you, when you want to practice the developpé the water helps you to maintain your balance and lift your leg. But it also provides the extra resistance if you want to train on strengthening your muscles.

One of the students, Marion, lent me the book "Winter seasons, a dancer's journal," written by Toni Bentley. Toni wrote this book at the age of 22, as a young ballerina and member of the corps de ballet of New York's City Ballet, during the time Balanchine was the choreographer. She did not perceive herself as a successful dancer. She knew she would never become a principal or soloist. That feeling that her career had stagnated led her to take a long, personal look within, and she began writing a journal covering the City Ballet's winter season between November 1980 and February 1981. She left the City Ballet, but returned later. This experience taught her that the dancer's life is ingrained in her character; it was impossible for her to leave. Though still in the corps she rediscovers the joy in her role. Her life is simpler now, her energy directed toward her dancing. It touches me that though she didn't accomplish the top, she knew to reconcile with herself and find joy in ballet again. Ballet can be very competitive if you want to become a professional dancer. There is a downside to ballet when you look at it from this perspective. But this doesn't interfere with my love for this beautiful art.

This week Lyda added a link on the Facebook site of La Bayadère to a story of an older woman, Michelle Herman, who started ballet at the age of 62. It's an inspiring story. As a kid, she took modern dance classes for five or six years. She discovered classical ballet now, she is older and is in love with it. I can wholeheartedly recommend you to read the testimony of her new passion. 

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