Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ballet Tips

I've been nursing a couple of bruised knees and a sprain toe over the last week (dance).  D said if he had known what this sport would turn me into (don't worry, I'm not going all Black Swan or anything...though I would trade places with Natalie Portman for a day or two, just for fun...), he "would have never allowed it..." (as if!).

Last fall, when I was getting set to start all my classes, I struggled with putting my hair up into a ballet bun.  You need fairly long one length hair to create a bun that is half way up the back of your head.  My hair is currently halfway down my back (enough to donate again), in longish layers still, so I can only achieve a low bun right now. 

The weekend before my first class coincided with D throwing his back out and us watching all those documentaries (remember?).  What I didn't say about that weekend was that each documentary we watched involved about 50 exasperated trials of trying to put my hair up. 

Now that I can accomplish said task in less than 5 minutes, here are a few tips:

  • Starting with damp hair really does make a difference!  I had my doubts and stubbornness prevented me from achieving success much earlier.  The day of my first class, I started working on my hair 2 hour earlier because I was in such a panic.  Almost gave myself carpal tunnel!
  • Remember I said I didn't own hair spray?  Well I do now!  I not only own hairspray but styling cream stuff (Osis Thrill fibre gum).  Use the fibre gum in the damp hair, don't blow dry and hairspray at the end.  Your hair needs to not fall out when you are doing jumps or turns.  That's the test.  And if your hair comes undone during an exam, you lose marks.
  • Even though I use a "Whirl-a-style" (don't laugh), I still need about a dozen bobby pins.  Their claim (as well as the gal who helped me out at the store) is that you would only need about 2.  Not even close for me.  Apparently the whirl gadget is much easier than using a hair net.  Not sure if I'll ever graduate to a hair net. 
  • Turns out the moisturisers I started using (completely unrelated to dance) works excellent over the course of an hour of working out -- Dermalogica's "Active Moist" and Eminence's "Rosehip Whip".  There are many different types within both lines so talk to a professional who will be able to make the appropriate recommendations.
  • After using all that artificial stuff in your hair, it gets dry.  I've been relying on my "Moroccanoil" (argan oil), even more.  It smells wonderful and works.  Apparently we can only naturally moisturise 5 - 7 inches of hair. 
  • This last recommendation is totally unrelated.  Just a line of products I first stumbled upon in Taormina -- Kiko.  I went into the store for some reprieve from the heat.  Well priced and lots of quality.  I particularly like their lipsticks.  When I found another branch in Venice last summer, I stocked up.   
D accompanied me to the dance store and it was his first time in one.  It was funny to see his reaction.  Me, I subconsciously "snapped" into character -- stood really straight, started eyeing everything fairly hard, walked deliberately etc (come to think of it, not much different from how I am at work).  It's amazing how ingrained something can be, even after decades of absence.  D quickly moved to the sides, trying not to get in any one's way. 

The young lady who helped me out was obviously a dancer.  Long, long hair, very slim, very intense.  It was the intense part that caught D off guard.  He said "you should have seen the 2 of you interact.  So serious.  No humour." 

Humour?!  In a dance shop?  I was getting fitted and a proper fit is serious business.  Thought we got along great.  She was very helpful.  Gaged my size pretty much spot on just from looking at me.  What's there to laugh at?  You should hope no one is laughing at you when you are standing there half naked!

What really caught me was the level of physical scrutiny.  I had forgotten all about that.  It can be unnerving, to put it mildly.  And I am just a recreational dancer. 

My classes are at a school that teaches the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) syllabus.  Very different approach than what I remember.  There is a strong emphasis on presentation and arms and poise and beauty right off the bat with piano music (quite nice actually).  Whereas I just remembered doing a lot of barre work, drill after drill, jump after jump, turn after turn, most of the time without music (National Ballet School Protocol). 

If you don't want to take a class but are looking for a really comprehensive core ballet workout, check out the "New York Ballet: Workout Vol 1"  DVD.  I did it for many years when I didn't have time for classes.  Back then my copy was VHS.  There is a Vol 2 but I prefer the first one.

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