Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I have been watching ballet video after ballet video because I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that I can reach the potential I want to reach. It may not be the level that a professional can dance, but I want it to be pretty darn close. I feel like Dance Augusta is going to do just that for me.
Grade IV is perfect for me right now. Yes, I am a little more advanced, but there are some things that I need to slow down on, jumps and adagio being two of those things. At Dance Augusta, the students do the same exercises every day and add on as time goes by, so this allows the students to work on everything…and I mean everything.
Grade IV is 2 1/2 hours long. We spent our time at the barre for an hour and some change, working on everything at the barre that you can possibly work on, which didn’t exist at my old school. At my old school, we only did the basic barre work, and, really, we only treated it like a warm-up. Barre work is so much more than that. Barre is where you develop the necessary strength and technique to be able to execute moves in the center.
I took a dance intensive at Dance Augusta almost two years ago, and I thought a long barre was really odd, and, frankly, annoying, but now that I’ve matured as a dancer and have become more serious, I see that it is probably more important than center work, because the barre is where everything begins.
I was surprised with the ease in which I was able to keep up with these exercises I had never done–mostly. I did stumble a few times. It made me realize that I’d come a long way since starting dance, even if I had ultimately become unhappy with my old school. But it was nice being able to slow down. The barre exercises themselves are more intricate, so they were by no means dull like the exercises below my level at my old school, but they still give me a chance to really concentrate on my technique and strengthen everything within me. Then there were stretches, which I love, and then some strengthening exercises for the core, back, butt, and the upper body (I hate upper body exercises, even with “girly” push-ups). We didn’t really do strengthening exercises like that at my old school. Technique class was mostly just an hour, so there really was no time. Then came the center, which lasted about thirty minutes.
Now center is where I did begin to struggle, but that’s because I didn’t know some of the exercises, and it’s not as easy to keep up with center work as it is with barre work. There were a few times I had to stop and look at where the girls were in the exercise. Luckily, with the petite allegro (tiny movements), which often consist of jumps, they are slow and meticulous, which is just perfect for me, and at the same time difficult. I’m used to doing faster jump movements, which is both harder than the slow ones at Dance Augusta, and yet easier, because the faster you go, the less you have to really roll through your feet–you just don’t have the time. But it’s nice to have these jumps slowed down because jumps have always been a little bit difficult for me. I think just about every girl in my class feels that way. But with these slower jumps, I have to actively concentrate on really rolling through my feet because at my old school, even when I first began, I never did any exercises that forced me to REALLY roll through my feet–I just had to think about making mango juice with my plie. But it’s good, and I’m SUPER hoping that after the summer intensive I’ll be a much better jumper. I’m primarily a turner, so anything with turns, I’m gold.
The adagio is also simpler, too, which is what I really need. I still struggle with balance, for whatever odd reason (because you think if you can balance in turns on pointe you could stand on one freaking foot with no problem), and having a simpler adagio will better built up my balance and clean up my technique. Adagio is slow movements, and often involves standing on one leg while your other leg is doing something else. Luckily at Dance Augusta, the other leg isn’t up for too long, even though it gets back up in the air just as fast. Then we moved to across the floor movements, which were chaines. It’s basically turning on two feet to get somewhere, usually spotting an object you want to reach. At this studio, the girls are still breaking them down, and I don’t even know how to break down a chaine anymore. So I just zipped by the girls, but now I know that’s kind of a rude thing to do. At my last studio, and I kid you not, I was taught that if you were faster than the girl in front of you, that you basically had permission to not necessarily mow her down, but get her out of your way. There was this one exercise where we were doing bourrees (tiny, quick movements on pointe), where the older girls had to chase down the less-experienced pointe students, and now that I think about it, that’s the stupidest exercise in the world, especially for girls who just started pointe.
At Dance Augusta, I’ve got to slow myself down, which is probably for the best anyway. Just cleaner technique.
Now on to pointe. These girls have been en pointe for half a year, and they haven’t even started center work yet. I’ve been en pointe for two years, and I pretty much don’t need the barre anymore. HOWEVER, I don’t mind taking it slow again, because the exercises won’t make me lose my ability to do pirouettes or anything else complicated on pointe. I was really tempted to practice some difficult moves while the girls were getting their shoes on, but I refrained from doing so because that could look very show-offish. However, I’ll probably be doing them before class starts, because I don’t know how long it’s going to be before they start doing pirouettes en pointe, when they’re still learning pirouettes in 4th on flat. There are only 6 grades at Dance Augusta, so I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be starting pirouettes in grade V (because there is some separate advance pointe class or whatever), which is what I’ll be starting in the fall. At the same time, it’s good DA is slow with the girls. Pointe work should be taken slowly, especially if you’re only doing it twice a week, that way when you come to the center, you’re not struggling as much.
At my old school, girls who have been en pointe for only a few months are already doing pirouettes. They can do them, yeah. I’m not going to deny them their ability to do them, because the pointe classes there are 50 minutes, and you can do them 3x a week. But my old school and DA have a very different mindset. At my old school, it’s mostly about fun, so being at the barre doing the same exercises and never going into the center until you’re in your second year of pointe is not that school’s idea of fun. But it’s whatever. Personally, I think pointe work should be taken slowly, because the girls at my old school are now being pressured to do more because of the roles they have been given in Roar. For example, Wind is a role that includes a lot of bourrees. One girl at my old studio struggles with them. She had to literally be pushed across the floor to do them, and yet she was given the role of Wind. That’s all I’m going to say on that point.
So, yes, pointe work is much slower than where I’m at in terms of ability, but that’s okay. I took Grade IV so I could slow down in order to be where I want to be because at my old school, you’re not given that chance unless you’re in the performing company. At DA, you will do just about every possible exercise within those 2 1/2 hours. At my old school, the teachers had to pick and choose, so you’re not always going to do jumps every single class. That isn’t what I need. I need classes where we work on all things. Otherwise, I’m not going to get to where I want to be.
What was really neat, though, is that the pointe exercises we were doing at the barre were the EXACT same exercises I did when I started their intensive a few years ago. So it was interesting to see how far I’ve progressed. I remembered how I had to stop several times during the back-to-back exercises to stretch out my calves and roll my feet because they were screaming from pain. Most of the girls had to do that, so I know how they feel, but I didn’t have to do that at all during the thirty minutes of pointe work–and you don’t really stop in between exercises. This basically means my feet are used to being en pointe, and so what was once painful isn’t painful anymore.
As you have read, I had a great first day there, and I look forward to making this place my new dance home. I’ve warmed up to the girls pretty fast, but it’s probably because I’m much more outgoing now than I was when I first took the intensive. I mean, you have to be outgoing as a marketing trainee at Southern Siding!
By the way, I was almost physically dying at the end of class. But so was everyone else. I haven’t felt that way in a ballet class in a LONG while. And, yes, I am sore as I am typing this.