Summer

This week I have been doing daily ten minute Aerobics from YouTube to try and get some cardio into my routine. It seems I have hurt my right shoulder so I had to skip last night’s Floor Barre class. Actually I wonder if Floor Barre caused it!

Next week is the start of The Place’s Summer School. I’m not taking part, but it is something I would be interested in next year, particularly if they do Contemporary Jazz again. £65 for the week is pretty good I think.

This year’s line up has Hofesh Schechter (week 1), Avant Garde Dance (week 2) and Rambert (week 3), with contemporary, ballet and Jazz classes. A great opportunity to learn from the professionals!

Speaking of which. I’m looking again at the Brighton Tap Festival and am thinking about getting a 2 class pass for £45. It will be a good excuse for a day off work!

Oh, and I think my Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes arrived!

Tap and Kelly

I always seem to burn myself out, so today I made the decision to focus on one thing this Autumn and stick with Rhythm Tap classes. I am working in Human Resources in London 4 days a week (1.4 hr commute door-to-door), I run my own small craft business from home, which I concentrate on on Fridays (sometimes this leeches into Saturday or Sunday), I have recently started doing some HR qualifications, self-study, which I have 18 months to complete, and then I am trying to fit in 2 dance classes a week!

I went to Rhythm Tap on this sweltering Wednesday evening and I enjoyed it so much! As I said I would, I spoke to my teacher afterwards about my dilemma of level 2 being too late for getting home at a decent hour mid-week, and asked if it was worth continuing with the daytime level 1 class for practice, to which she replied ‘definitely’ and that with that one being a much smaller class, she can adapt to my ability and give me more challenging things to do (which she does)!

I also went to the second of 5 Floor Barre summer classes last night at City Lit and I found it pretty tough going, as though I’d never done any exercise or dance in my life; as though I was completely core-less! A girl behind me summed it up perfectly “It’s too much after a day at work. I’m so shattered”.LOL. Then I remembered how shattered I was last term doing Wednesday night and Thursday lunchtime classes, so that kind of sealed it for me. I feel kind of sad not to be returning to the Barre in September, but it gives me a chance to perhaps do my Ballet DVDs (not the same, I know) and have recovery time in-between.

Another thing, I recently subscribed to Pointe Magazine and then this week the distributor contacted me to say the magazine has ceased print! Boo! I think they will continue digitally, but I don’t have an iPad. So, I got £30 back in my bank account! At least I can continue to read all their articles online, as well as Dance and Dance Spirit.

Jason Samuels Smith Tap Shoes by Bloch
Jason Samuels Smith Tap Shoes by Bloch

Anyway, the positive of these two refunds is that I have the money to purchase those AMAZING Jason Samuels Smith White Tap Shoes that I have been drooling over for months! I actually tried them on in the Bloch Covent Garden shop while I was waiting to go to my Floor Barre class, and oh wow they are so comfy! (I also saw my Interior Design idol Kelly Hoppen walking by with her team!) Anyway…the shoes were a perfect fit, so I ordered them this afternoon!

 

Kelly Hoppen

DVD Review: Sleek Barre Technique

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Seeing as I missed Floor Barre on Thursday due to illness, I decided to use Sunday morning to try out one of my new Ballet workout DVDs from the gals at Sleek Technique, Sleek Barre Technique. (Although you can see that there are 3 DVDs in the box set, I am reviewing Barre today. More to follow!)

The workout is split into sections, with an introduction and tutorial at the beginning to cover the main feet and arm positions, ballet terminology and tips, such as lifting out of your waist. After this comes a warm up of squatting and fairly quick arm swinging to get those muscles ready for the next bit.

The main workouts are Barre 1, 2 and 3, which are 20 minutes each and each have some floor work before launching into the familiar exercises we do at the barre, such as plie, tendu, pique, fondu, grand battement, arabesque, retire, attitude. I used a chair in the living room rather than my barre and I really enjoyed the practice of these exercises, especially on Barre 2, but I did find them quite fast, particularly the transitions between them.

If you are a complete beginner to ballet, I think it is best to watch the sequences through first to get an idea of what you will be doing and to gauge the speed of it. As someone who has been doing ballet classes for about 2 years on and off and having danced other styles a lot longer than that, I struggled to keep up or perform the correct technique before they had moved on to the next thing. As a dancer, I don’t want to get into bad or sloppy habits or injure myself, so that’s probably why.

The demonstration of the movements is good, the filming is good (no legs cut off at vital moments!) and I love the warehouse setting and their Bloch leotards. Barre Technique is excellent for toning, strengthening, lengthening muscles, building a strong core, posture and speed. I looked up some reviews on Amazon and lots of non dancers seemed to say it was a great workout and easy to follow, but the dancers like myself had the same issue of compromised technique!

Verdict: a good fitness supplement to regular ballet class attendance. Practice makes perfect!

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Decisions!

Okay, I finally made a decision about what to do in September! I will be returning to Ballet at the Barre on Wednesdays Sept-Dec after I emailed my teacher to ask if he would recommend it for my improvers level, seeing as I can’t do the Ballet Improvers class. He said definitely and he is aiming to direct absolute beginner students to a beginner’s ballet class as Barre won’t be for absolute beginners. So, that means the improvers can progress! I really wanted to do some centre and travelling but he did actually encourage me away from the barre for some exercises, which is a start! (Now I have an excuse to buy that Lulli ballet skirt!)

There’s the new Street Jazz course on a Friday evening in September also, which would give the opportunity for travelling, turns and jumps, but I have to think about the cost of 2 courses, plus I work at home on my own business  on Fridays so that would be quite an extra effort to head into London for an hour’s class.

But, I said I was keen to return to Rhythm Tap in September but my teacher suggested going to Improvers (like deja vu!) which is also on Wednesday evenings, and Lambeth North tube station is closing for lift replacements next week until FEBRUARY! This is the station practically opposite Morley College and will make getting home afterwards a real hassle. Faffing about at Waterloo station? No thanks! Anyway, as I’m booked onto ballet I’m going to speak to my tap teacher when I do her summer class on the 20th, explain my situation and ask if it’s worth continuing lunchtime tap on a Thursday just to keep up my practice. Besides, I still find level 1 challenging! My plan is to do hopefully level 2 next year…

Today I’m considering whether to attend the Brighton Tap Festival in August to learn from the amazing Maud Arnold!

 

 

 

Foot Flexibility 

It is good to regularly stretch the feet and toes when you dance, for health and for flexibility. I have a tendency to grip the floor with my toes (like cat claws!) and last summer I had plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the band of muscle along the sole of the foot) from repeatedly wearing a pair of unsupportive memory foam Skechers, so I got into the habit of stretching my feet to sort it out. However, as soon as it got better… I got out of the habit.

Deciding that 2016 was going to be my ‘year of dance’ (as in dance all year) I’ve been pounding my feet a lot with Tap and Ballet, so I really need to look after my them.

I have a set of 3 Pilates Stretch Bands (light, medium, heavy) and two spiky massage balls. Every evening I roll the massage balls along the bottom of my feet to loosen the muscles and improve circulation. I then use the stretch bands to pull my toes towards myself. I also do some point and flex exercises while sitting on the floor. It definitely makes a difference.

End of Term

Ballet_MemorizeBalletBarreCombos_02Yesterday I schlepped along to Covent Garden to my final class of the 12 week Ballet at the Barre course. I was so tired and a bit stressed from a lot of restructure chaos at work that I wasn’t in the mood for physical exertion, concentration or recalling stuff from last week, but I got there and REALLY ENJOYED IT. There were only 6 or 7 of us, plus our teacher and it was a great class! I decided on my way there to throw myself into it. Remember turnout, engaged core, toes pointed, use the floor, pull up….Dance!

Along with a fellow classmate, I got to perform a sequence on demi-pointe! OMG.

At the end we had time to stretch and fill out our course evaluations. I spoke to my teacher individually and he asked what I was intending to do next. He recommended Ballet Improvers, which I would love to do, but it finishes too late for my one hour journey home to the suburbs afterwards. He also asked if I’ve ever done any Jazz! A little bit, but I’d LOVE to do more. Anyway, he said I can try out the brand new Street Jazz course for free in July if I’m interested, and then that will run properly in September.

I’m really confused because I promised myself I would return to Rhythm Tap at Morley in September (and I’m obsessing over getting those Jason Samuels Smith shoes), but now I don’t want to stop Ballet, but Improvers Ballet at City Lit is too late, and then there’s a new Afro-Contemporary course starting (WOW!!!). What to do?!?!?

In the meantime I start Floor Barre in July for 5 weeks with a one-off Rhythm Tap General class in the middle! 🙂

Dance Magazines

I recently subscribed to Pointe Magazine to immerse myself in the world of ballet and dance. I used to get the Dancing Times/Dance Today a bit, but then I came across the US dance magazines and they looked more interesting and less elitist. Plus, I’m really not interested in Ballroom dance, which takes up the last part of the magazine.

I actually wanted to subscribe to Dance Magazine, one of Pointe’s sister magazines, but it doesn’t seem to be available to purchase in the UK 🙁

Pointe Dance Mag

Week 11 (of 12)

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I was back at Ballet at the Barre last week after a week away in amazing Tenerife! Anyway, missing a week really didn’t help because I felt like I was a bit behind on everything, but it was ok. This week the class was a bit smaller as quite a few people were absent, so I was on a barre…on my own! Everyone else was at the mirror or at the wall, where as I prefer to be by the window as I’m always hot in dance classes!

Anyway, my points for improvement this week are to keep my legs straight and press my feet into the floor when I bring them back from a tendu. For some reason I arch my foot, or want to stick my toes in the air! Although this is probably due to the fact I had a silent DVT some years back following a looooong coach trip home from Germany and my right foot tends to swell slightly (especially after a day at a desk, and in warm weather) and gets easily tired. Towards the end of the class, I could hardly feel my feet! I tend to wear compression socks before and after on dance day, but didn’t have a clean pair this week. (I have since added 2 new pairs to my collection!) Anyway, I think I’ll have a go at some band stretching exercises to increase my foot and toe flexibility. I realise I rely heavily on my big toes as they are my longest toes, so the big toe joint tends to suffer at times.

On a fashion note, I decided to treat myself in the sales and ordered Capezio’s LIMITED EDITION floral ballet leggings (although these weren’t on sale) and a pink ballet wrap cardigan with thumb loops from Revolution, via Dance Direct.

Alvin Ailey

AileyOMG I am SOOOO excited to have received my Alvin Ailey Dance Theater tickets through the post! I’m going to see them for the second time ever in September at Sadlers Wells in London. The last time I saw them was in 2010, and I’ve been waiting for them to return ever since! They are such an inspiration with their sheer athleticism and musicality. If you look at their website and publicity, the photographs of the dancers are stunning! They actually made me want to start to learn ballet after I realised it wasn’t just for one body type.

Point your tootsies

After missing a week of Ballet at the Barre due to being stuck at work in a boring training course, I was back to it on Wednesday, pink leotard in tow!

This week I was a little nervous about our warm up section because I KNOW I keep turning my head the wrong way and then don’t know which arm I’m supposed to be reaching up and over with. Martin stopped us last time and ran through it again, and I thought it had gone into my brain. Not sure it had! Anyway, I have since practised that bit at home.

This week’s feedback was on my hip alignment (need to keep an eye on that when working the outside leg in say, ronde de jambe) and on the need to remember to point my toes during changement. I love jumps, but I did find this one quite challenging! I think it was the speed of getting in and out of 5th position more than anything. I need to make more use of the barre to get height. Another thing to practice at home!

A helpful article from Dance Spirit Magazine: https://www.dancespirit.com/how-to/ballet/hop_to_it_/

Definition: A changement is when a dancer performs a jump from fifth position with the feet, jumping and changing the foot position in the air so they land with the opposite foot in front. (From Ballet Hub – https://ballethub.com/ballet-term/changement/ )