Thursday, July 21, 2011

Une valse

Cosmin, one of the teachers at José Mateo Ballet Theatre, Cambridge, likes to do “slow waltzes” instead of adagios. A euphemism for trying to stand on one leg to measures of three. But today’s slow waltz was quite lovely because of the music the pianist chose: the pas de deux from Les Sylphides (Chopin).

When I was in middle school, I did very slow waltzes to Les Sylphides as a member of the corps de ballet, slow not just because of the music but because the corps mostly poses and changes positions only during breaks in the soloist action.

This waltz is traditionally a pas de deux between a man and a woman, but our teacher choreographed it on two girls, both of whom I admired.

The ballet Les Sylphides is accompanied by an orchestra, but pianists also play the Les Sylphides pieces as solos. It’s a piece that lends itself to rubato, speeding up and slowing down. So romantic. I found videos of dancers doing the pas de deux, but the orchestra did not seem in love with the music. This piano version is more the way I like to think of the music:
I don't know why the video does not just show up.  Sorry!  Please go to the link!

Class today was ridiculously hot, and during barre, I thought to myself, “This was a bad idea. Mom was right. So when am I going to leave?” But I stayed the whole class. I was annoyed at my progress from good singles to bad doubles. I was annoyed that I didn’t try hard enough to turn out as I stood on one leg (waltzing…). Yet after class, as I took the subway home, I had that waltz stuck in my head. I imagined how it could be sped up or slowed down. I imagined how my dancing could follow the music. I wondered if I could put my love for the music into my dancing. Such a strong feeling about that music couldn’t be ignored. I was in love with a love song. And so I went from hot and frustrated to elated. I wanted to dance more, to see if I could do more than just technique, to show that love through my arms and head. I started walking in sets of three steps: BIG small small; BIG small small. And I knew that I wanted to go to class again the next day.
Edith Piaf sings a waltz ("Une Valse," no YouTube video available) in which the she/the singer remembers her youth in Russia, relives it as she sings, then comes out of her reverie to find herself in the bar of a hotel in Pigalle. I hope I don't come out of my reverie to a hot studio and poor turnout. But the waltz lets us escape reality a bit. And maybe it will carry my dancing along, too.
Here's a link to a less moving waltz sung by Piaf, with great rrrrroooobaaaaato.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff--Easier Said Than Done

Figuratively speaking, dancers have to sweat the small stuff. Ballet is all about tiny details, and teachers will tell you that if you don’t think about certain things, like turning out, they will not happen automatically while you smile at the audience. Dance is all about paying attention to small details. Literally speaking, all of those tiny motions make me sweat. So yes, I sweat the small stuff.
I sweat “a lot,” as a younger dancer once pointed out to me, wide-eyed. There are no spots of sweat. By the time we have done three or four barre exercises, my leotard develops dark patches and my back is covered with droplets. Then drops the size of dimes start appearing on the floor next to the barre. Because some of the barres at José Mateo are rusty (they are, after all, iron pipes), some of the drops are brown, making it look as though I’m on a jungle adventure instead of in ballet class. The sweat travels from my hands to the barre to the floor. Eventually, my whole leotard changes to a darker shade.
When I asked the teacher about ways to deal with sweat, Mary suggested I wear socks under my ballet shoes “if I didn’t want to wear tights.” I had been avoiding pink tights (not because I didn’t own many pairs of them) by wearing black footless leggings. Next class, the socks got soaked, as did the pink, footed tights the following class. How about purple tights?
Another person suggested bringing two pairs of shoes to class and changing shoes between barre and center. I brought some brand new shoes to class today and put them on triumphantly after barre, thinking I had outsmarted my enemy. Yet after one combination, the baby-pink shoes were darkening to salmon, and soon after that, they were soaked, too. At that point, afraid of other dancers slipping on the spots I was leaving on the floor, not to mention slipping on my own shoes, I decided to sit out the rest of the class. I moseyed over to the corner and sat down to stretch, leaving sweat everywhere I touched down. It was a relief to no longer worry about wiping it up. I grinned thinking about how it might be a good time to pull out a yellow “Caution: wet floor” sign.
On my way home, I bought some spray-on antiperspirant, thinking that I could spray it on my feet and inside my shoes. Some online research suggested that was a good idea. Though the deodorant says “for underarms only,” I’m going to try it anyway. Now, where, besides “on my feet and under my armpits,” to apply it? I don’t know how others in a crowded dressing room would feel about me using spray deodorant. Perhaps I could do it in an empty corner of the studio or in the bathroom. There, though, I would risk leaving concentrated fumes that might offend the next user. I could spray it at home, then put on my socks and wear the same socks under my shoes. Or I could spray it on outside the dance studio. How romantic: me sitting or standing/hopping around next to the church/ballet studio, its surrounding flower beds, and the bronze statue of a dancer, spraying on deodorant. How about they erect a statue of a dancer spraying on deodorant (as it would be possible to misread that last sentence)?
Tomorrow, I will go to class (under)armed with a spray can of antiperspirant, a spice container filled with baking soda, pink tights (for good luck), two pairs of socks, two pairs of dry ballet shoes, and a towel. We’ll see how it goes.