Today was the first day of our Holiday break at ballet. According to the school calendar, we have time off until January 9th, when we return to class. According to my schedule however, the next couple weeks are going to be filling with anything but relaxation – and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
A week ago, we finalized the decision to do YAGP again this year. Since then, over the last week, I’ve chosen my variations, found my music, and started the process of obtaining a costume; having done that, it is now time to start rehearsing! I actually started rehearsing my variations on Thursday, but it was not a full run-through yet – it was mostly marking, making sure I know the choreography, and familiarizing myself with the respective style of each variation.
The first variation I will be performing is a very rare Paquita variation. It is so rare, in fact, that I cannot find it on YouTube save for one version by Ekatrina Krysanova. This version, however, is from the Bolshoi’s new production of Paquita; seeing as I am dancing the Bolshoi’s older version (and it would probably be more precise to say I am dancing the Kiev version), this video is still not the exact variation I am doing. Soon enough, I will record myself performing it, though, and then YouTube will finally have a copy! This variation showcases my jumps as well as turns; this is a good aspect to a variation which will be taken to a competition, because [as much as I regret this] my standing in the competition is based largely on ‘tricks’. Like I said, I have my reservations about this, but it’s not a topic I would like to get into right now! It is what it is. For this Paquita variation, I will be wearing my old tutu. First, I need to fit into said tutu. But, I am working on that! Here is a picture of the tutu (I used it for a Le Corsaire variation last time I went to YAGP):
The second variation we have chosen is the Talisman variation. It is very nice, very playful, and I love it very much! Each time I watch it, hear the music, or practice it, I love it even more. So it’s a good pick, since I love it so much! When my teacher first suggested it I was hesitant and actually quite surprised she thought it would be a good fit for me, but the idea grew on me the more I familiarized myself with the variation, and after rehearsing it yesterday I see that [naturally] she knows exactly what she is talking about – it is the perfect variation for me! It is also a good variation to play around with my head and arms, which – thanks to my Vaganova training – are well-developed and have a certain quality to their movement. The costume is great, too. It will be a short tunic, probably violet in color, and very light and flowy. As I am getting this one made according to my specifications, and as we have not come up with a definitive design just yet, I don’t have any pictures or ways of showing the costume other than just with words – for now! Once I get my hands on some pictures of the design or on the costume itself, you can be sure I will post pictures for everyone to see!
For this variation, I am using Terekhova’s version as inspiration and slightly increasing the difficulty (ex. hops in arabesque will be en pointe) as well as modifying what must be modified in order to fit today’s standards rather than the ‘old’ way of doing things (ex. not sitting in the hips or sagging to one side as she does in sou-sous and arabesque, and placing my foot in a high passe by my toes rather than by my foot/heal, as she does – understandably so, as this was the old Vaganova method back in her time). Why, then, am I modeling my own dancing on Terekhova’s dancing if her technique is not up to date? Because her artistry, in this variation, is superior to any other dancer’s version that I can find on YouTube. Notice her stylized arms, the way she plays with her head – these artistic sparks are what transforms this variation from a string of steps, transitions, movements, and poses into a complete dance that tells part of a story. And while I know that they are looking for tricks at YAGP – and I will therefore give them tricks – I also know that I want to go into this competition with the mindset of a professional dancer. And that means bringing a quality to my dancing that is far deeper than just technical precision (although I will have that) and tricks to stand out (I’ll have that, too). I want to be remembered as the one who really danced.
And so, because I hold myself to such high expectations and standards (it is, as any ballet dancer knows, an enormous challenge to really perform, showing artistic expression without sacrificing technique and vise-versa; let alone having to do it all and leave a good impression to judges in under 2.5 minutes), I am spending the ‘break’ rehearsing, perfecting, adjusting, fixing, bettering…and this is only the beginning of the training! YAGP is all the way in March. But it doesn’t matter that it’s only the beginning – each rehearsal must be thorough and approached with the same enthusiasm as I would show at my actual stage performance.
I will admit, today was Day 1, and it did not go as planned. It could not go as planned, because I went forward without a plan. I have been so swamped this weekend with planning for other stuff, going out for my birthday, teaching my private lessons (I teach ballet/training to 3 little girls that are Irish dancers once a week for some extra source income – not much! – and not like I have a main source of income, but that’s besides the point), that I couldn’t find a single moment in the midst of it all to actually sit down and plan. I knew all along these last few days that it would bite me in the rear when it came time to put my non-existent plans to action, but there was nothing I could do about it. Until now!
So I missed a day – sort of. I still went ahead and kind of went with the flow of things for today, because I didn’t want to not do anything at all just because I wasn’t prepared and armed with a plan of action. I ended up going to the gym and then to the studio, where I did my usual warm ups and some floor barre. I had it in my head that I wanted to do a full barre as well, but I could not find it in me to do it after all. Instead I ran through my variations half-heartedly, really only marking them, and then I took a few minutes to take some pictures. After that, I headed home for the day. Besides being discouraged that I didn’t have a plan, I was tired today; it was a struggle to finish up my floor barre after I let myself take a few minutes rest by putting my head down on my soft, cozy, warm blanket. I had lost track of time, too, and only once I got home I realized why I was so hungry and lacking in energy – I was so preoccupied with errands in the morning, gym at noon, and ballet in the early afternoon, that when I got home after 4 pm I realized I hadn’t had anything to eat since 9 am! It really is no wonder I was sluggish and tired at the studio, then.
Still, it’s no excuse, blah blah blah…well, it’s not! I should have been more well-prepared. But at least now I have a moment to plan for the remainder of the break, and so that is exactly what I will do right now.
From tomorrow until December 29, I have exactly a week to myself to go rehearse and do whatever I need to do privately in the studio. After the 29, I will have some private rehearsals with my coach in addition to my own private practice. That will be about a week and a half long, until we start normal classes again on January 9. For that period of time – in which I will be working with my coach – all I know so far is that I am expected to come to the studio early on my own to warm up and give myself a barre, by which time my coach will arrive and we will both be ready for some intense rehearsal. I don’t know anything else yet – how often we’ll be rehearsing over this week and a half, what time, and so on. I will call her to find out in about a week. But until then, I still have this one week on my own. So since I cannot plan exactly my schedule/routine for the coaching period, I can plan this first week now.
The difficulty arises in the matter of what actually I need to do to put this time to good use. Originally I had intended to use this week similarly to how I used Thanksgiving week (which, by the way, my teacher said helped me immensely). That means going in to the studio and working mostly on flexibility and strengthening, and on my body shape and positions. I still feel like this would be the most beneficial, since that way I could come back with a better facility with which to work when I have regular classes. But my teacher told me yesterday, before we left for the holiday, that there are some things she wants me to work on. She would like me to spend this time in a different way – on her orders, I am to go to the studio every day, twice a day, to give myself a barre, practice the variations in full (so that I am ready to work on them in greater detail when she comes to coach me), and work on some technical details that have been holding me back in class (for example, one such thing is learning not to let my left upper arm sag or be weak – so I am supposed to practice chaines toward the mirror with the barre right next to me, in such a way that if I let my left side droop, I will run into the barre). She told me that when she comes back, she expects me to have these technical details down perfectly so that she does not need to correct me on them anymore, as well as for me to be able to dance my variations properly before she does the tweaking.
I have realized I must come to a compromise with myself. I want to do what my teacher asks – actually, I must do what she has assigned for me to do, there is no question about that. But I also really feel that this is the opportunity to work on my body so that it’s facility and ability is better developed and therefore will benefit me more in the long run when I come back. I guess, then, that I must do both! Add to that my sessions at the gym as well as my swim and sauna sessions, and I’ve got quite a busy ‘break’ ahead of me!
The main issue lies in motivation. I actually have plenty of motivation, surely enough to go around and still leave me with more than enough. But I just tend to get tired and sloppy when I am all alone in the studio. But really – I must do this. And that’s that!
So what I plan to do is to go do my floor barre, stretching, and body stuff first. Then, no matter how tired I am, I must give myself a full barre. And finally, I will work on my variations full-out. Every day. This entire break.
If I do this – I can only imagine how big a help it will be once all is said and done and we’re back in class! I will keep this thought in mind if I ever find myself slacking off and in need of a good push to get through! I know that once I start a good, difficult barre I will not want to stop. It’s the tiredness at the beginning and at the thought of being all alone with no one to yell at me that gets me! But this is the discipline I guess I must be lacking!
One thing I will also do as a goal is to make sure I get enough sleep. Quite honestly, I have not been sleeping well lately. I have no doubt that this is affecting my ability to perform well. I am putting my body through a lot, and am already denying it food because I am in a deficit (as I should be), but denying myself sleep is really the last thing I should be doing. In fact, sleep should be my priority now. if I want to get through all this, I need to sleep! So, definitely, I will make sure to get 9 hours of good sleep every night. Not only will I not have an excuse to be tired then, but I also will not need one, because I know well enough that getting enough sleep makes all the difference in the world for this kind of stuff.
Well, that’s enough of my talking for now! I still need to write up a routine for the training I want to do to get my body in perfect shape (well…on it’s way to being in perfect shape…hahaha), but I already have the beginnings of it from my floor barre routine, so I will just add to it later tonight and finish it up so it’s all ready before tomorrow.
Here are the pictures I took at the studio today!