Last Class of Fall 2018

Hello Spartan dancers! Thank you so much to everyone who came out for our final class of fall semester 2018 – I can’t believe how fast this semester went by! It’s been such fun dancing with all of you and watching everyone’s progress throughout the past weeks.

The bad news is that this semester is at a close – no more ballet until January 2019. 😦 For those looking to keep in shape, this follow-along ballet barre routine is easy to do with a chair. You can even try it in a dorm room!

The good news? Ballet will be on the schedule for spring semester 2019! 🙂 It looks like there may be two classes available (Basics and Intermediate/Advanced), taught back-to-back in the evening at either IM Circle or IM East. We’re still working out the details of the schedule, but once I have it confirmed, I will post the class list on this blog.

In the meantime – keep warm, keep fit, and have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!

~ Kitty

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Reminder: No class today!

Hello Spartan dancers! Just a reminder, IM East is a polling location and is closed to regular users today, so there is NO Ballet Basics class this evening. (All other classes at IM East are cancelled for the day as well).

We’ll have our last class next Tuesday, November 13th.

Remember to vote (and remind your friends and family to vote) today! See you next week!

achievement-america-american-flag-1550340

~ Kitty 🙂

A Day in the Life…

I found this fun video featuring ABT Principal Dancer Isabella Boylston, which helps to show what a day in the life of a professional dancer is like. I love this quote about her morning class:

A Day in the Life of a Professional Ballerina

boylston

Class is basically a warm-up and a workout, and a time for you to work on your technique… it’s almost like a meditation, for me. It’s where you get your mind and body in tune.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

If you’re looking for something a bit fun on a rainy day, watch Ms. Boylston try to teach Lucie Fink of Refinery29 to dance… some great tips in this one!

(Ms. Boylston has also been featured in Marie Claire magazine… she’s everywhere at the moment!)

Enjoy! 🙂

Class Notes: 2 October 2018

Hello, Spartan dancers! Many thanks to everyone who braved the chilly, rainy weather (and the wasp in the studio) last night! As promised, below are the instructions to our first full-centre exercise. The exercise combines three distinct elements that we have already studied at the barre: tendu par terre, demi plié, and relevé, as well as the Pas de Bourrée, which we learned one week before. (If you need a review of Pas de Bourrée, please check out the blog post that focuses on this step technique.)

The exercise is a moderate allegro, performed in ¾ time, so it’s a bright, slightly bouncy waltz. The music is from Gladys Celeste’s recording, Music for Ballet Class, Series 8 (track #13 – Drigo allegro). This CD is available on Amazon.com and is very affordable, but unfortunately the recording is quite old, so the tracks themselves are not available online.

The motto for this exercise is the curved arm follows the working foot. For example, the arm that is held in the high position (up above the head) always follows the foot that is active in movement. So since the exercise starts out working the right foot in tendu par terre from P3 (or P5, dancer’s choice) the right arm is thus held over the head, and the left arm is held outward (port de bras position 4 ouvert, or PdB4).

Let’s begin!

  1. Standing in P3 or P5 with the right foot in front, hold your arms in PdB4 with your right arm above your head and your left arm extended out from the body.
  2. Tendu par terre two (2) times to the front.
  3. On the third (3) tendu par terre, step through in a plié to P4 ouvert (legs will be open), and open your arms to PdB2 (fully extended away from the body). Close the position by stepping flat onto your right foot, extending your left foot behind you in another tendu par terre, and closing it into P3 (or P5). Raise your left arm above your head to transition to PdB4 again on the opposite side. You will now be working the left leg, and supporting your body on your right leg.
  4. Tendu par terre two (2) times to the back.
  5. On the third (3) tendu moving backward, step back through plié in P4 (again, ouvert – legs nice and open), and close with your right foot meeting your left in P3 (or P5). Bring the arms to PdB2 (fully extended) as you move through the demi plie, and prepare for your Pas de Bourré
  6. Pas de Bourrée to the right, stepping on your left foot (which should be tucked behind your right foot in cou-de-pieds), and move your left arm in front of your body (PdB3, again – working arm follows working foot!)
  7. Pas de Bourrée again to the left, swaying your right arm in front of your body and holding your left arm outwards. Close in P3 (or P5).
  8. Tendu par terre starting with your left leg à la seconde (out to the side, “as in second position”). Follow with your right, then again with your left, so that you are completing three (3) walking tendus forward. Upon finished the third tendu, bring your arm left arm from second position up above your head. You should now be standing in P3 or P5, with your left leg in front, your left arm above your head, and your right arm extended from your body.
  9. Here, the exercise repeats itself, but mirrored – you tendu par terre to the front with your left leg, step back and do the same behind you with your right leg, and Pas de Bourrée twice starting off by moving to the left.
  10. After the second Pas de Bourrée, opens arms to PdB2 (extended away from the body), and do two tendus à la seconde walking backwards.
  11. On your third step, stop in P3 (or P5), and rise from demi plié into full releve with your hands scooping upwards into high 5th position (PdB5 en haut). Hold it for as long as you can reliably balance, then come back down through demi plié and close with your arms lowered in low 5th position (PdB5 en bas).

And that’s the end! If you feel like you are getting mixed up in your practice, start by focusing on your feet, and then gradually add the arms. Adding the port de bras (arm positions) to the tendu sections at the beginning of each phase of the exercise first, and really mastering those transitions before moving on to arms and feet for your Pas de Bourrée will help you to complete the whole exercise properly in time. It just takes a bit of practice!

If you don’t have the chance to practice at home, or don’t have enough space to work, no worries! We’ll be working on this centre exercise for at least another two weeks, as well as starting our entry into toe lifts and the beginnings of turns.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or stop me after class. I wish you happy, healthy dancing – see you next Tuesday!

~ Kitty 🙂

PS: I’ve been asked about adding video tutorials to the blog – and I’m working out how to do that. (I’m good at ballet – less so with technology…) I hope to have short videos of the exercises available by the end of this semester. Stay tuned!

 

Happy #WorldBalletDay!

Hello Spartan dancers! I hope you are staying well and warm despite this chilly rainy weather. And I hope that you’re having a fabulous World Ballet Day thus far!

WorldBalletDay

World Ballet Day started out in 2014 as a way to showcase the lives and art of ballet all around the world. Companies from the USA, UK, Europe, Russia, Asia and Australia are all posting live videos today of various activities, from classes and technique sessions, to works in rehearsal and special features. My favourite clips are from company classes, especially seeing work that I do every day performed by ballet dancers at their own barres, in their own studios, in their home countries. It’s really inspiring to me, and helps to connect what I do at home or in the IM to the wider world of ballet.

So if you need a break from studying, or are looking for some inspiration for tonight’s Ballet Basics class (7 PM, IM East!), just plug #worldballetday into Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter… and see what pops up!

Happy watching – and happy dancing! Hope to see you all at IM East later tonight.

~ Kitty

Ballet Warm-Up – At Home (with images!)

Hello, Spartan dancers! The internet is a wonderful place – and of late, it’s been full of great stuff for the dancer–at–home! I stumbled over this article, “A Ballet Warm-Up You Can Do Everyday” in Coveteur online (some kind of fashion magazine…) and just had to share. Movements #1 and #4 look awfully familiar to me… 😉

Happy, healthy dancing!

~ Kitty

Ballet Basics: New Video Tutorials!

Happy Wednesday, Spartan dancers!

As many of you are aware, I took last year off for maternity leave. I’ll fully admit to spending a lot of my leave time cuddling my son on the sofa – and cruising YouTube during the wee hours of the morning when he decided not to sleep. Though I chided myself on my post-partum television binge, I was able to find a couple of very neat things to share with you!

Last October, the Royal Ballet in London published three videos as part of a new series entitled “Royal Ballet Fit.” The videos are hosted by ROH First Artist Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, and are perfect for working out some of the key fundamentals that we’ve been discussing in class. Best of all – they’re FREE! I’m often asked for resources for at-home practice, so please take a look at these videos and give them a try!

Remember to follow the same rules in your practice at home that we observe in the studio: warm up fully before moving towards more strenuous exercises, cool down appropriately after your workout, stop if anything starts to hurt or feel truly uncomfortable, and keep your body well hydrated and nourished.

Happy, healthy dancing! See you in class next week.

~ Kitty 🙂

Technique Spotlight: The Battement Family

When poor posture and ungraceful movement strike in Gotham City, who do you call?

Batman! Err, no… Battement!

Ballet-I-am-Battement

Though battement might not help you fight crime, it will help you build long, lean muscles and improve as a dancer. Battement is actually a group of movements all consisting of a strike (that’s literally what the word battement means – to strike out or beat) of the leg. There are lots – and LOTS! – of different kind of battements, from tiny little motion (petit battements) to the biggest leg movement of them all, the grand battement. Battements can be found throughout the classical ballet barre program, with three or four different types performed during a standard barre workout.

With so much variety, the battement family makes up a huge fundamental element of ballet. It is also one of the best ways to grow in ballet as a dancer. All dancers (no matter their age) start out by learning the battement tendu par terre, the simple strike-out extension of the leg with the toe kept on the floor. Once that is mastered, it’s time to start lifting that foot! At 45 degrees, there’s the battement dégagé (the disengaged foot, sometimes also called the battement tendu jété or just battement jété, the “jumping-up” foot), and ask the foot moves upwards so that it is more parallel to the floor or beyond, that’s grand battement territory. Battement also start getting faster as the levels of ballet training progress – petit battement, wherein the working foot is moved quickly back and forth around the supporting leg, is one of the most challenging and quickest motions to learn.

So how to learn all this beating – without beating yourself up in the process? Here are a few tips for getting the best out of your battement:

  • Start slowly. Make sure that you’ve taken the time to stretch, warm your muscles, and prepare your legs and feet for exercise.
  • Work on the floor first. A great way to prepare for grand battement is to lay on your back, and then extend your leg outwards in front of you (à la devant) and out to the side (à la seconde) maintaining proper turn-out as you move. The floor helps to support your upper body, so that you can focus on making a strong strike with your legs.
  • Focus on control. The supporting leg in any battement needs to be strong and straight to maintain the posture necessary to lift the working leg. As such, it’s extremely important not to go for height – and cause your supporting leg to buckle under in the process! Instead of worrying about how high your leg might be, or how fast you can move your foot, focus first on maintaining a strong supporting leg that is absolutely perpendicular to the floor. You want to be able to perform a consistent battement every time – not a Rockette kick (or worse – a leg flail…)
  • Work up to speed. There’s a reason why every barre method from preschool to the professionals is arranged in the exact same way, and why grand battement is always at the end – it allows your body the time and exercise necessary to ready itself for those more strenuous movements. So be patient, and take care to work your entire barre routine – from pliés all the way up to the grand battement, before moving out to centre or into choreography.
  • Stay hydrated. Battement really works your muscles, and muscles need water to work properly. Take a break between barre and centre to get a drink, or if you’re working at home, set a timer to remind yourself to hydrate for every 30 minutes of workout. After exercising, a light snack and more water can help keep tired legs from cramping up. I like to make up a quick muscle recovery smoothie at the end of my barre sessions at home – it’s a tasty treat after a job well done! I’ll post my recipe in a separate article in case you want to try it out.

Since battement is so important, we’ll be spending a lot of time throughout the semester introducing and improving the various types. If you don’t quite get it the first time (or the third time, or the eighth time…) don’t give up! This fundamental is worth the time to truly master.

And you don’t need a cape and cowl to prove you’ve got it! 😉

Happy, healthy dancing!

~ Kitty

First Class Hiccups

Hello, Spartan dancers! Many thanks to everyone who came out last night to the first class of fall semester. And many, MANY thanks for your patience when the music failed! I’m still not sure what happened, but I’m taking this as a sign that it is time to invest in some new CDs (hey, they may be old fashioned technology, but I know they’ll work in the studio cart!) I’m planning to revamp the lesson plans with new musical choices this weekend. So stay tuned for new tunes!

Last night, we introduced a number of techniques, including the five standard positions of the feet and arms, the two types of knee bend (demi plié and grand plié), coming up onto our flexed toes to balance (en relevé), extensions of the leg into a simple point on the floor (tendu par terre, also sometimes written as tendu sur la terre), and the third arabesque with arms swaying in front of the body. For more information, you can check out these previous posts with more information on technique:

We’ll continue studying these techniques all semester, and adding to them as classes progress. We’ll also start working on bringing the foot and leg up off the floor (positions en l’air) and working on balancing the body, both at the barre and en centre – and up on our flexed toes (demi-pointes)! As always, if you have any questions or concerns, send me an email, post a reply to this blog, or feel free to stop by after class.

See you next Tuesday – 7:00 PM at IM East!

🙂 Kitty

 

Ballet Basics is BACK!

Hello, Spartan dancers! Long time no see!

So after a crazy year with two little ones at home (the youngest of which just celebrated his first birthday), I’m finally going to be back in the studio at MSU this fall! The first of ten Ballet Basics sessions starts next Tuesday at 7:00 PM in the dance studio at IM East. As always, this is truly a beginner class – don’t know how to point your toes? That’s OK. Never danced before? No worries. Would love to look like Natalie Portman in Black Swan, but just don’t know where to begin? I can’t promise you’ll be a Natalie look-alike, but you can definitely learn some tricks to move like her!

Not sure ballet is for you? You can try it out for just $4.00 for a drop-in pass! That’s 45-minutes of ballet for less than the price of a grande pumpkin spice latte. 😉

I hope you’ll join me at IM East this semester for a body-positive, judgment-free and FUN ballet class! The flier with more information is below.

Ballet Basics Fall 2018 Flier