Dance diary: Your fingers are alive

So the first class of my absolute beginner ballet workshop was fun! Very basic but still fun.

LINES Dance Center is in an old-school building in the Civic Center area of San Francisco. It’s on the edge of mid-Market sketchville, but conveniently just one block away from a BART entrance. I got there about half an hour before class and had time to change. There isn’t a specific dress code, other than general suggestions about ballet shoes and close-fitting clothing, so I wore a T-shirt, shorts, and a pair of old shoes that I had from a ballet class back in college. I do have two new pairs of shoes that I bought recently, but I figured I would wear the familiar old shoes for the first class. (Also, I’m probably just procrastinating on sewing the elastics on the new shoes.)

The previous class in our assigned studio was running long, so a bunch of us waited on the benches outside. It was neat to hear both hip-hop and classical piano coming from opposite ends of the hall. I met the teacher and we chatted a little about my jazz experience; she mentioned how ballet is much more structured and rigid than jazz, and I was like, I know! Bring it on!

Class notes

The studio was large and bright with mirrors along one wall. We all kind of lumbered in together, but if I had a moment alone, I would be trying hard not to run around singing “The Music and the Mirror” (maybe mashed up with “As If We Never Said Goodbye”). Our class has about sixteen people, all women plus me and one other guy. (Yay, not the only one.) We ran through a typical class: barre then center. Here are the steps and positions we went through in varying degrees:

  • warm-up: stretches at the barre
  • plié, relevé, tendu, degagé (and with piqué), cou de pied, frappé
  • jumps: échappé, changement
  • feet positions: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
  • arm positions: preparatory, 1st, 2nd, 5th
  • across the floor: walks in 3/4 time
  • révérence

I like our teacher. She’s very friendly and attuned to beginners. While explaining the port de bras, she talked about maintaining energy in our arms all the way to our fingertips. “Your fingers are alive!” she said. Love that. I’m going to remember that every time I extend my arms. My fingers are alive. Alive!

By the way, a couple of good resources about ballet technique: the American Ballet Theatre online ballet dictionary, which has concise definitions and videos; and Gretchen Ward Warren’s book Classical Ballet Technique, a large, comprehensive volume with tons of photos. The latter was published in 1989 so it feels kind of dated (especially since there are references throughout to “Soviet” this and that), but it’s a great reference book.

It’s going to seem like forever until the next class. I’ll continue to work out during the week as I usually do but maybe balleticize my exercises a bit. Squat jump? Pimp it out with some arms and turnout and pointed feet, and boom, plié and échappé, baby!

» Previously in the Dance Diary: Prologue.

Dance around town

Our subscription to San Francisco Ballet may have ended (and it’s already time to think about renewing for next season), but I needn’t worry about a lack of dance since there is a trickle of want-to-see performances on my calendar. I’ll try to add some occasional performance news and reviews to my dance diary entries.

Sometime this week (I still need to get tickets!) I plan to see Smuin Ballet‘s spring program, a mixed bill of three pieces: Momentum by Choo San Goh, set to Prokofiev; Mozart Requiem, a world premiere by Amy Seiwert; and To The Beatles by Michael Smuin. It runs through May 15 in San Francisco and later this month in Walnut Creek and San Mateo. Half-price tickets are available on Goldstar.

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