Friday, September 23, 2016

Technique Tip: Lengthening the Waist

I always know when a blog topic is brewing when I've been talking about a thing for a couple of weeks, especially when it's a correction I've used in several different levels of my classes.

The first time I told my beginner students to think about lengthening their waists was during a fast battement degage combination. I noticed that they had a tendency to lift the side of the hip when they performed fast degages in first position. When they did this, it resulted in a shortening of the waist on one side, sort of a side crunch. I asked them to look in the mirror and do the exercise so they could see for themselves if they were lifting the leg instead of brushing it against the floor.

"Ohhh!" they all said when they saw they were indeed shortening their waists. But when they concentrated on brushing the foot against the floor and visualizing l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-i-n-g their waists, they began performing the degages properly.

I do love those moments of revelation.

Then I realized there were many other applications for the visualization of lengthening the waist. Here are a few of them with some handy tips!

For a helpful look, I include this photo. I have no idea where it originated but I found it on a blog called Bobby Pins and Lip Gloss:

(Cropped image from website)

1. Releve - whether you are rising en pointe or in flat slippers, on two feet or one, if you think about separating the ribs when you press down into the floor, you will find your balance easier to maintain.

2. Pirouettes - with the possible exception of turns in attitude, if you focus on keeping the shoulders down but lengthening and widening your waist, you will feel more lift in turn, as well as a more "floaty" feel.

3. Grand battements - each time you execute a big kick, especially devant and a la seconde, think about that strong core and how your sides are centered and long.

4. Adagio developpes - it's hard to hold yourself steady when you are moving slowly or when you don't have a barre to hold onto. Try to visualize your waist lengthening as you shift from two feet to one and bring the leg through passe and away from you to a full developpe. This will aid in balance.

5. Pas de chat - when we bring our legs up to meet in this jump, we often do the opposite: we bring the body down to the legs instead. If we concentrate on keeping the waist long and the ribs spaced evenly, it will be easier to stay aloft and allow for room under our hips to bring the legs up to passe.

Generally speaking, for jumps and turns, engaging your torso on the front, sides, and back will aid in ballon and suspension so if we keep the shoulders down but lengthen our waists and keep space between the ribs (no, of course you're not changing the position of the ribs in relation to each other because they are bones, but you are using this as a visualization), it will a lot easier to execute them.

Now get back to class and visualize! Maybe it will make you taller too! Happy dancing~

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Leigh's Pointe Class Barre Exercises

NOTE: Do not attempt these exercises at home until you have performed them in class so you know the proper way to do them.

1. Ankle rolls to warm up the feet and ankles
Parallel - gently roll the R ankle in small circles, keeping the toes on the floor - 4 cts en dehors, 4 cts en dedans. Repeat with L foot. 2x on each side.
1st position - repeat above turned out, all the way up to the top of the hip, keeping toes on the floor and hip joint loose - 4 cts en dehors, 4 cts en dedans. Repeat with L foot. 2x on each side.

2. Tendu/flex
1st position - tendu devant with R foot, flex at ankle, rond to side en l'air, tendu close 1st. Repeat from side to back and back to side. Demi-plie and fully stretch. Repeat with L foot. Repeat starting from back.

3. Marches
Parallel - roll through feet (toe-through ball) 8 times, then step back to parallel lunge with R leg, flexing L ankle with heel on the floor, then return to parallel and push over the R arch. Repeat with L foot.
1st position - repeat above marches turned out. Cross the R leg back to a long 4th position lunge and then push over the arch in a wide second lunge. Repeat with L foot.

4. Coupe springs
1st position - spring R foot off floor as if in saute, without lifting top of thigh. 8x R, 8x L.
5th position - repeat in 5th - 8x devant no change, 8x changing. Repeat with L. Repeat en arriere R and L.

5. Eleves (straight knee releves)
Parallel - lift heels and roll up to full pointe in 8 cts, roll down in 8 cts. Roll up in 4 and down in 4 - repeat 2x. Roll up in 2 and down in 2 - repeat 4x. Roll up in 1 and down in 1 - repeat 8x.
1st position and 2nd position - repeat turned out and in shallow 2nd position.

6.Slow roll-ups
1st position - demi-plie 2 cts, roll to demi en pointe 2 cts, straighten knees to full pointe 2 cts, roll down with straight knees 2cts. Repeat 4x. Repeat in 2nd position 4x.

7. Releves
Parallel - demi-plie with heels into floor, press up to releve, 4 x, hold balance 4 cts, roll down 4cts. Repeat 4x. Repeat in 1st and 2nd positions.

8. Sousous breakdown
5th position - demi-plie, lift heels without fully forcing the arch or rising to full pointe, then using the toes, spring to a tight souous, both legs moving evenly to center. Hold sousous for 4cts and then evenly roll down to 5th position demi-plie. Repeat 4x. Repeat with L foot front 4x.

9. One-leg balance
Parallel - rise with straight knees to full pointe, lift R foot to parallel coupe, full down slowly on L foot to demi-plie, return R foot to parallel. Repeat with L foot. Repeat 4x.
1st position - repeat with turned out feet. Rise to full pointe, shift R foot to back of ankle and roll down on L foot. Repeat with L foot 4x. May also be repeated with foot at front of ankle.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Vacation plans and Earthquake proofing!

First of all, if you are a student of mine who is not on my email list, you might not realize I'm on vacation from August 22-27. That means there are no classes during that week.

My first class back is at Inspire Dance Studio on Monday, August 29, 6:30PM Intermediate ballet.

Classes at Dance Arts Academy begin Tuesday, August 30, 6:30PM Advanced beginner ballet.

Now on to my technique advice: Earthquake proofing your body!

People who live Southern California are always aware there could be an earthquake at some point. If you own your own home, you might even do what is called "bolting" which means your house is literally bolted into its foundation so it can withstand the shakes of an earthquake.

Not like this!
San Francisco after Lomo Prieta quake (Wikipedia)
 I like to imagine I do the same thing with my hips. I think of the femur fitting into the acetabulum of the pelvis and "bolting" it in place. I can do this with the very small, deep external rotators under the meaty glutes.

These external rotators will stabilize my pelvis so my extensions are more solid, my retire is flatter, and I can balance longer.

Many dancers, when they feel the earthquake, try to stabilize themselves with their hip flexors or thighs and then they end up gripping and turning in. This is the exact opposite effect you want and works against your technique. It also contributes to lower back problems, weak battu in allegro work, and shaky promenades.

Here is an image from Wikipedia that shows the deep external (lateral) rotator muscles of the hip. If you can access these, strengthen them, and bolt yourself in place, you will find stability and confidence whenever you step away from the barre.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A weekend consumed by Zombies!

(see what I did there?)

This past weekend was the ScareLA Horror Convention in Pasadena, CA at the convention center. Two awesome days of fun and thrills and a few scares. I am so proud of my dancers who performed my zombie ballet not once but 8 times! They performed six times in what was sort of like a flash mob arena and the other 2 times on a stage.

Here are a few photos of them getting made up by the pros at EI Makeup (a school for makeup artists):






And they were minor celebrities too! I would say "major" except we have to reserve that for Elvira who was the convention's star. Wherever we walked, they were stared at, oohed and ahhed over, and sooo many people begged to have their pictures taken with them (including me!). Here are a few:








These are just a handful - there were so many! Old and young, they all wanted their pictures taken with the zombie ballerinas.

Besides the makeup, the costumes were just phenomenal. And that is due in large part to the work of Jen Marchain, who was instrumental in getting us into this convention. She's a big-time zombie addict/Walking Dead fan who even flew to San Francisco once to participate as a zombie in an episode of Mythbusters! She either instructed the dancers on how to make the costumes or she zombiefied them herself. Here are a few close-ups:





 Of course, I had to have one myself! Here I am with classical zombies and scary zombies:



Happy zombie dancing!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Performance times for Zombie Ballet at the ScareLA convention

Planning to come to the ScareLA Horror Convention? Then make sure you "carve" out some time to check out my Zombie Ballet!

And don't forget to use the discount code, scareshow, to get 10% off your ticket to the convention.

Saturday, August 6

1:45pm Slider Stage 
2:45pm Main Stage (Before Trend Setters of Horror)
4:00pm Slider Stage
5:30pm Slider Stage

Sunday, August 7

1:45pm Slider Stage
2:40pm Main Stage (Before Universal Panel)
4:00pm Slider Stage
5:30pm Slider Stage