Friday, 28 August 2015

A Pint for Josh

For Josh when I next see him in the pub
Author Silk Tork
Source:  Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

"Ballet is a very hard taskmaster" said one of my ballet teachers. "If you are not careful it will break you." I have had a very short and not at all glorious career in ballet but I know from personal experience just how right my teacher was.  I nearly abandoned ballet when I fell flat on my back trying to do posé pirouettes (see Class 27 Nov 2014). Another occasion was the Sunday before last week when I panicked over the Swan Lake summer intensive (KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015). The problem is pirouettes. Try as I might I just can't do them. Whenever we do them in class I shudder inwardly until we move on to jumps.

I hate to be defeated by anything so at the Swan Lake intensive I asked Karen whether she could arrange some private lessons for me to diagnose what I have been doing wrong and what (if anything) I can do to get pirouettes right.  On Tuesday Karen wrote:
"hey Jane, have you had Josh before? I can see if he's available on Thursday 8:30pm if that suits you."
Of course I knew Josh. I had taken one of his classes and had got on with him like a house on fire.

Just before class I posted the following to my Facebook page:
"Looking forward to my hour's private lesson with Josh Moss at KNT in Manchester to learn pirouettes which have defeated me for so long as I have attempted to learn ballet. Josh is a great teacher and if anybody can get me rotating it is he. Josh, if I can do at least a 360 degree turn with my other leg in retire by the end of this evening I will buy you a pint. In fact, I think we will both be in need of the amber nectar after this evening's effort regardless of the outcome. I am going to give it all I've got."
That post attracted a few comments including this one from Simon who is one of the regulars in my class:
"Remember if they can put a man on the moon, you can turn on one leg!!!"
Now Simon does know how to pirouette as well as a lot of other things in ballet but he did not know the enormity of the challenge. I replied:
"Simon, you have seen me dance. Getting a man on the moon is a decidedly easier proposition. :-)"
Josh was more realistic:
"We shall try our best to crack the pirouette! One thing I can promise is that you will be a lot more confident with them after our class. :-)"
I turned up yesterday just after 18:30 for Ailsa's beginners' class.  Always a pleasure because she is so jolly. Especially when she is getting us to do stretches or other difficult things. She has a great sense of humour. "Think of a pas de deux" she said "when you are about to be turned by Prince Charming."  "In tights" she added in a deadpan voice prompting mirth all round the studio. It was a great class: a thorough barre, a delightful port de bras, jumps and temps levés, runs and sautés. There were a lot of chattering happy faces at the end of class.

As I was leaving the class a lady asked me whether I was the blogger of "Terpsichore".  I admitted that I was she.
"Oh you've inspired me to come back to ballet after a gap of two years" she said.
"And are you enjoying it?" I asked 
"Immensely" she replied.
 That's a lovely thing to hear. Even if she is the only one it makes me feel useful.

While Ailsa was taking the beginners Josh was teaching the advanced class which one of my Yorkshire friends was attending. His class started at 19:00 and was due to run for 90 minutes so I did some breathing exercises while it was going on. As soon as I heard applause I entered the studio and presented myself to Josh.

Josh asked me how I wanted to use the hour. I asked him to analyse my turn and tell me where I was going wrong.  I demonstrated an exercise that I had attempted the night before: starting off in second, snapping up twice in relevé with my other leg in retiré. a plié and then a feeble, wobbly 60 degree turn.

Josh told me not to upset myself over pirouettes. "Even professionals have off days" he assured me. "You'll never get them right if you stress yourself."

He took me to the barre and asked me to rise several times in demi. He immediately saw that I was not placing any weight on my big toe of either foot and that was because my ankle was out of alignment. "Try pushing it forward" he suggested and it worked. I found I could rise up on demi so much more easily, Even on my right foot which has given me so much trouble over the last year or so. I also found it easier to balance. Josh suggested some foot strengthening exercises with resistance bands which I started this morning.

Next he brought me into the centre where we repeated the rises and balances and then some tendus.
"Now keep your weight on your supporting leg and touch the floor gently with your other foot, You get your power by pushing off with that foot."
We started with quarter turns, then half turns and finally full turns. I was getting round 300 degrees.
"Throw your right arm more" said Josh "and pull your left arm round to meet it,"
I couldn't do that properly at first but then suddenly it clicked. We tried turns on my right foot and I accomplished a few complete revolutions.

We repeated that exercise from second.  Ragged and scrappy at first but it improved slowly.  While all this was going on my friend was at the other end of the studio doing stretches and other floor exercises. Occasionally she looked up and smiled or gave me a thumbs up. Eventually, I accomplished complete revolutions from second.

Finally we attempted complete turns from a lunge and these seemed to be easier,

The hour passed far too quickly and Josh asked me how I wanted to spend the last 10 minutes. I asked him to recap all that he had taught me so we returned to the barre, then centre, then turns from each position.  Finally, Josh gave me a spotting exercise.   He made me focus on a speaker and turn until it was outside my vision and then snap round again.

I still haven't got everything right by a long chalk but I am no longer afraid of pirouettes. I will practise all the exercises over the next few week and then return to Manchester for another hour.

On Facbook Josh wrote:
"A big well done, you should be very proud! :-)"
A tad over generous perhaps but I am proud. "Josh, mate, I owe you a pint."

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