Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reminder: No class on Thursday, March 23

Local students of mine, this is a reminder that my Advanced Beginner ballet class this Thursday, March 23rd at Dance Arts Academy, is canceled.

This one day only! My apologies for the disruption your schedule.

NO other classes at Dance Arts or Inspire are affected. In fact, if you can, perhaps you'd like to try a different class with me. See my calendar below for days and times.

Happy dancing (just not this Thursday!)~

Friday, March 17, 2017

Retire v. Passe

What are you talking about, Leigh?

When a dancer pulls the foot of her gesture leg up to the knee of her support leg, this can alternately be called retire or passe. The two look exactly the same but are, in fact, quite different.

Huh? What's the difference?

Think of retire as a position while passe is an action. Retire means to withdraw or "draw up." Passe means passing, as if you are passing through something.

Still doesn't mean anything to me. Why do I need to know this?

It's important to understand the difference so you know when to apply each to what you're doing. For instance, in an adagio, you might think of the gesture leg moving through passe as you develop it en avant. In this case, it is an active part of the movement, rather than a static pose. However, if you were performing a pique turn, you would bring the leg up to the position of retire and think of holding it in that position as you pirouette.

Speaking of pirouette...which am I using?

Both. Kind of. Simultaneously. First, regardless of your preparation for your pirouette en dehors, you take a demi-plie and spring up to your releve on the support leg. The gesture leg draws up to retire and you think of this as the shape in which you will be rotating. BUT! During the turn, you need to keep that gesture leg active so while it is in the retire position, it is actually passe in that the knee is continuing to press back (as you "open the door") and maintaining turnout at the top of the thigh. It does indeed "pass through" just before you finish the turn and roll down to your final pose.

 Anything else you want to say on this topic?

Yes! No matter which you word you use, be sure to keep the hip down, avoid sickling the foot of the gesture leg, and pull up the quads/kneecaps/hamstrings of the support leg. And one more thing...

...happy dancing~

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Favorites: Pirouette tips!

As many of you know, I love studying pirouettes and I'm fascinated by the science of turns.

The basics: Alignment, momentum, controlled landing.

The finer details: Spotting and arms.

The necessities: Strong ankles, strong core, strong back.

I was watching a group of my students turning this week and was surprised by the number of them that were hopping on their landing.

(NB: this is different from hopping during a turn. In that case, the most likely culprit is a bent knee or lack of spotting.)

Landing a pirouette is tricky stuff. I always tell my students not to wait until the last second to think about the finish. Many students do a single or double rotation and then suddenly slam on the brakes which, like traveling in a car or plane, usually results in a bumpy landing.

courtesy Chloe Smith, Creative Commons license
There are a couple of ways to approach the end of a pirouette:

1. Anticipate the finish by rolling down at the 3/4 mark, rather than waiting until a complete turn is made.

2. Complete the turn in the "up" position; that is, finish in retire on a high releve and then roll down to your fifth or fourth position.

In either case, it's crucial that you roll down through the foot and don't simply drop the weight.

From my observations, students hop down from pirouette because they lose their turnout which is typically a result of a change in their vertical alignment (that long straight pole from top of head through spine down to center of the support leg).

You change your vertical alignment when:

A. Your core collapses. Solution: hold your abdominals up and maintain a strong connection between ribs and hips.

B. Your pelvis tilts and doesn't recover. Solution: don't let your lower back hyperextend as you reach your passe leg to the floor. Stay pulled up the front of your body.

C. Your ankles roll. Solution: maintain a high releve and roll through your entire foot. Practice ankle strengthening exercises outside of class, including springing up and rolling down from a passe releve.

D. You don't bring your arms around with you in the turn. Solution: keep the shape of the arms throughout the entire turn and only open them when you want to finish the turn.

One last thing to consider: pirouettes, especially multiple pirouettes, are not rigid shapes rotating in space. Minor adjustments must be made during a turn, whether that means pulling in or opening the arms, pulling up the abdominals or engaging the knee and heel to stay in a high releve.

Happy turning, beautiful dancers~

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How are those resolutions/goals coming?

Courtesy Jacques Kaufmann, creative commons license
Yes, it IS March. Yes, we ARE in the third month of 2017 already. How did this happen?

In my own defense, in January I was busy with forming my new ballet company, Leigh Purtill Ballet Company, a nonprofit amateur ballet company for adults which will be doing its first original production in October (more on that to come!).

In February, I was swamped with moving. After 17 years in the same apartment, my husband and dog and I had to move. We were absolutely excited to do this, but it was much easier said than done. Needless to say, shoving 17+ years of stuff into a moving truck and then emptying it out a few miles away was MUCH harder than we anticipated. We're still unpacking, still unsettled, but we are in a new place with new views and it's very exciting.

So here is March...it's a long month (thank goodness!) but it's filled with rehearsals for two shows with two casts, not to mention meetings associated with the company AND the shows - on top of my regular classes, workshops, and private lessons. I want to do everything all at once but it's definitely been a challenge.

One of the most wonderful results of the move has been discovering a new teacher(s). Last week, I was discussing my personal 2017 goal with one of them and it reminded me that I actually HAD a personal goal that I haven't had time to explore. She was very encouraging when I told her about it and that led to a discussion among her students about pirouettes and technique, etc. What a wonderful opportunity to talk shop with new people!

But...I still have to tackle my goal which is, as I mentioned 2 months ago, consistent triple pirouettes.

How about you? Have you had any success in pursuit of your 2017 goals? If not, don't give up yet! There's still nine months left in this year to meet them.

If anyone has ANY questions about how they can achieve their goals, if you need any advice, EMAIL me or POST in the comments below. I am happy to help when I can! And who knows, your questions might help someone else!

Happy dancing!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New floors at Inspire

For all my beautiful local dancers, here are some photos from the studio last night. The floors in Studios 1 and 2 (2 is where I teach) have been quadruple sprung and covered with medium gray marley.

If you're thinking about coming to take class with me, I hope these photos will encourage you!

If you're not familiar with sprung floors, construction begins with a basket weave of plywood that is layered so there is space between them and a lot of "give." The number of layers at Inspire is 4 which means it's got a nice give without too much bounce. It is this space and give that helps you jump properly and gives you enough height to roll through your feet. It also is more gentle on your joints: knees, ankles and back.

On top of the plywood is a layer of vinyl flooring called marley. It comes in different thicknesses and slicknesses. Some versions of marley are very light gray and shiny while others are close to black and more matte. The texture is slightly different for each and will result in a different amount of friction under your feet. Super slick is not very good for ballet or bare feet, for instance, but quite good for ballroom. The dark matte gray is good for bare feet, not bad for slippers. The medium gray is good for all, especially pointe.

Last night was the first night the new floors were down at Inspire. The marley will level out as it settles. Here are a few pictures from my classes:


I wish I could have gotten them in motion so you could see the difference during jumping and turning! Happy dancing~