No Eyebrows, Please!

On Friday, my summer ballet class started. It is taught by The Other Teacher – my school has a couple of basic ballet courses split between two young and pretty teachers. I have heard about The Other Teacher, but have never seen her or been to her class.

Oh boy.

The Other Teacher talks in a sweet sing-song voice, so I’m going to call her Birdie. Birdie is tall and slender and she does things differently than my usual teacher, M. Which is great for my learning, but, like so many other things, not great for my self-esteem.

There were five of us in class: two girls who usually take class with Birdie, one more from my class and one completely new girl who has never done ballet before. Like M., Birdie started by giving us the combination for pliés. It was slightly different from the one we usually do, but I was quite confident I could follow along. It was only when the music started that I realised there was no one to follow, because Birdie doesn’t do the combinations with us, opting to walk along the barre and snipe us with precisely targeted corrections. So I completely forgot the very first and simplest combination on my first try. Way to go.

The barre went on like this. My classmate and me floundered, flailed and faked our way through the unfamiliar exercises with nobody to follow (the new girl got put between us and the other two, so we were on our own both ways). All we could do was exchange dismayed glances every now and then. I fiercely hope we didn’t embarrass M. too much. In that way, the class was perfectly horrible. In all other ways, it was awesome.

Another major difference, for example, was that Birdie demands proper port-de-bras, including the head, which added an unusual but fun level of complexity to the class. As I was fully expecting and looking forward to, she gives corrections in a different style and on different points. I love that, it can allow you to understand a technique better or see it in a whole new light. Awesome.

And one more thing I love about Birdie: Sometimes, she will chatter along explaining the exercise in her sing-song voice and then suddenly drop a somewhat sarcastic or funny comment without changing her expression or tone of voice at all. This one of my all-time favourite kinds of humour, because people tend to not immediately realise a joke happened.

Birdies best correction on Friday was:

To rise up on relevé, you must use your feet and not your eyebrows.

I wonder if I can even go high enough without the Eyebrow Anti-Gravity Assist. D:

PS: The skeleton (which I wrote about last week) has departed from the studio closet. It will be missed. Its grin had made it look like it was ribbing me about my poor performance, which I found quite humerus.

7 thoughts on “No Eyebrows, Please!

  1. I nearly cracked a rib chuckling over your humerus observations 😀

    The eyebrow thing — that is so great (also: I still catch myself doing it sometimes). Birdie sounds like a really good complement to M., teaching-style wise!

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  2. HA! Humerus!
    Taking a class with a new teacher – and having no one to follow – can be so interesting… one time I thought I was following along, but since EVERYONE was doing something different, it was not working out. It was like one person was doing tendus, the next degages, the next some kind of turned in pas de cheval and I had *no idea* what I was supposed to do or whom to follow. And that was just a few months ago too, so I can’t use the brand-new beginner excuse.
    Also, I remember back when I was first going to try Intermediate class it was, ‘Wait – what do you mean she doesn’t demo the combination?!’

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  3. I decided at some point to just do the combination as best I could because everyone was doing different things, too! I wonder if I’ll get any better at it by the end of the five weeks.

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  4. Oh, my puns are not worth hurting yourself over. 😀
    She is! She gave me a grand battement correction so precise I almost cut myself! Apparently, my hip was all over the place. And there I was, so happy about how far up I could get that leg. I think I owe my trouble keeping my hip in line to karate. Procedural memory dies hard…

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  5. I think just about everyone gets that grand-battement correction, so you’re not alone! Mine still get wiggly when I’m tired sometimes.

    It’s one of the hardest things to convince the human body to do, I think — it’s like, “You want me to do what while not doing what, now?”

    Also, it grand battement uses the core in a way that few other things do, so it takes time to develop the habit of engaging the right muscles (and also the strength to engage them while still releasing the leg).

    It is definitely one of the Not Quite Natural motor patterns in ballet!

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  6. That’s good to hear! Come to think of it, she did end up explaining it to the whole class, after cracking down on me first. Maybe I was doing it wrong with more enthusiasm? 😀
    With the Not Quite Natural things, the right explanation or metaphor really determines the success of a correction, I think. At first, Birdie was like “Relax your hip!”. She even tried to actually physically correct it. But I was, as they say in German, “standing on the hose” and not getting it at all. It was only when she explained that the foot should go through the floor as long as possible that I had my revelation. I looooove those moments!

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