Dave Tries Something New!

Today was one of “those” days.

It had all been so promising. I survived my Masters defense talk on Thursday (thus finishing my Masters), celebrated with friends that night, spent Friday morning recovering from the hangover then the rest of the day exploring the Delaware Water Gap.

Tried to celebrate with an outdoor arabesque at the Delaware Water Gap. Learnt two things: arabesqueing in tight jeans without warming up is hard, and trying to take a picture of it by yourself is also pretty hard!

So I was looking to continue my celebrations today with a trip to NYC, my usual Ballet classes at the Joffrey School followed by a night at the Theater. Perfect!

Well it would have been, if it had all panned out that way. First off I got up at 7, got the bus at 7:45, arrived at the Stephen Sondheim Theater at 8:50 and waited in the torrential rain (thank god for umbrellas and marquees!) until the box office opened at 10 for a rush ticket to Anything Goes. Except that at 9:30 a guy comes out to tell us that because the show is sold out today, there wouldn’t be any rush tickets. Great.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll just run and grab the pair of Ballet slippers I need for Coppelia at Capezio then head down to the Village for a bit. Except Capezio didn’t open until 10. So after my fourth Starbucks of the day (seriously) I arrived at Capezio to grab my slippers. Heading to the subway in the rain, I made my way down to West 4th.

I was still way too early for my class so headed to a pen shop to buy my professor a thank you present, and then sat in another coffee shop to wait until it was time for class. Eventually it was not so early as to be embarrassing and so I headed to class.

Except.

The school was closed for Easter! I felt like such an idiot for not checking before heading in, but seeing as adult classes had still run over the spring break holiday I just assumed they would still be on today.

I was annoyed at myself. I was frustrated. I was disappointed. And I seriously contemplated heading straight home and back to bed.

But then I stopped and realised that I could use this as a chance to try somewhere new! I’ve always avoided taking classes at other places as I never know what their class difficulties equate to, but I thought to hell with it. I’ll just try somewhere and see what happens. After all, the day couldn’t get much worse!

So I head up to Steps on Broadway. I hear so many people talk about Steps that I’ve been a little intimidated in the past, scared I’ll go and just be surrounded by pro’s and broadway performers. Turns out I had nothing to worry about – sure there is the ridiculously good dancers there (I had a peek through the door of a adv/pro ballet class – wow!) but then there are also people like me who just want to learn dance and take class for their own enjoyment and satisfaction.

The inimitable Steps on Broadway

The inimitable Steps on Broadway

Approaching the reception desk I found out that I had just missed an Advanced Beginner Ballet class but there was a Beginner Ballet later this afternoon, so I signed myself straight up. I had three hours to kill until then though, so with a little encouragement from the guy at reception, decided to try something different. Hell, I’ll try anything once!

So we looked for what beginner classes there were that afternoon, and an hour later (with a quick run to buy some yoga pants to use instead of tights) I found myself in a beginner theatre jazz class. I was more than a little nervous, but had been assured that with my Ballet knowledge I should be fine.

It was a small class with four guys and six or seven girls, ranging from one of the guys and a couple of the girls being really good, to me and a few others who were pretty much novices.

Well I wanted something different to a regular ballet class, and I certainly got it! First thing our teacher does: tell us the only thing he wants us to think about is “nose over toes” and launches into our warm up to some classic broadway numbers (I’m a bit of a theatre-geek so I approved). The next hour and a half was pretty nonstop but both intense and fun. I had to use my body in ways I’ve never done in Ballet that I had to really concentrate, but at the same time the ethos of the class was to relax, not care and just have fun.

This made for a great atmosphere where I didn’t feel afraid to just go for it, which was a good thing as I felt completely out of my depth! Between turning in, isolation of body parts, the occasional ‘jazz hands’ and a really fast pace, there were times I didn’t really have a clue what was happening. But the cool thing was my body managed better than my brain did! Most of the steps derive from Ballet, just with a different execution. For example, a grapevine? Just like a travelling pas de bouree! It makes a lot more sense to me now that there is such a crossover between Ballet and Broadway, with choreographers like Robbins, Balanchine and, more recently, Stroman being successful in both.

So all in all, it was a great class – throwing me out of my comfort zone in such a good way. Sure, I’m not going to be dropping Ballet to switch to Theater, but I think I might invest in some jazz shoes and I’ll certainly take a few beginner classes in the future. It is kinda cool that my 101st ever dance class was my first ever non-Ballet one, and I’m going to try to take some more jazz and theatre jazz before leaving for the UK.

As I was leaving I thanked the teacher, and told him I had never taken a jazz class before and throughly enjoyed it. He said I had done really well and asked about what I danced. Telling him I had only done Ballet before he revealed that the really good guy in class was actually one of his friends and a NYCB soloist! No wonder he was way better and much more flexible than me!

So after that change of pace I headed upstairs to stretch before the Beginner Ballet class. What I found really cool about Steps was that so much was going on that you could watch – in one studio there was the adv/pro Ballet (wowza, those guys were good!), in the next one some tap (would love to try that one day), in the next one some flamenco and then in the next a jazz class. There was such an energy it just made you want to dance and dance and dance!

We were following the jazz class, and as they were finishing I watched them doing a cool combination to Lady Gaga’s latest offering, Born This Way. The dancers put so much energy into the performance I felt like applauding as I got warmed up at the Barre. Our teacher then entered with even more energy – chatting away both to us and herself! The pianist then graced us with a lovely classical arrangement of Born This Way while we warmed our feet up, followed later by an arrangement of Cee-Lo’s Forget You (or rather *Expletive* You) and other current hits. It was really cool to have stuff like mixed in with bits of Coppelia, Tchaikovsky and the usuals.

The next 90 minutes were a really fun and surprisingly intense class with a few changes to what I’m used to. Like frappes from a pointed coupé (weird!) to travelling grand battement relevés (hard!) to a closed-eye port de bras exercise (enlightening!). One of the teachers main comments to me during our adagio was to think of having a “heavy pelvis” which seemed to help and she said that my “body has a lot of good training in there, now we just need to make it easier for it to use it.” I guess that means more stretching!

Class zoomed by and with our final set of pique and chaîne turns (narrowly avoiding a collision with the mirror) time was up and I was headed back to New Jersey.

Overall, today was so completely different to my usual classes that it is hard to compare. I still prefer a very classical Ballet class, but I enjoyed letting go a little today too. I think in the future I might try to mix up both the regular Ballet classes with some jazz or theatre jazz although I guess it’ll depend on when/where I can take class.

Well this Dave tried something different today, and now this Dave is headed for a good nights sleep!

Until next time, keep dancing!

A Thank You and a Wordle!

First off, sorry for not posting in a while! I’ve been pretty busy finishing off my Masters requirements so I can graduate in May. That being said, I’ve still managed to fit in Ballet (I don’t think I would still have my sanity otherwise!) and I’ll be writing a post about Coppelia rehearsals really soon.

I wanted to write a quick post to say a huge thank you to all of my readers. Last week my hit counter reached the 50,000 hits mark, and I still can’t quite believe it. It registers a ‘hit’ for every unique visitor every 24 hours, so I don’t know if the hits are mainly new readers or loyal ones coming back, but either way I am so grateful for your support! I’m just a guy who thought about giving Ballet class a shot, and I’m so glad I’m able to share my journey with you all. It’s also kinda cool that the 50K mark coincided with my 100th Ballet class this past weekend (well, technically it was a Ballet rehearsal for Coppelia…). I guess I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to take lots of regular classes and I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single class so far that I’ve regretted going to. I’ve loved every single one!

Oh, and if you haven’t checked it out already, take a look at my Tumblr – this is where I’ve been posting interesting photos, quotes, videos and music that I find. It’s a bit of a random collection, but you may find something new and cool if you check it out.

Finally, I was inspired by the wonderful The Ballet Bag Ladies (congrats on your two year anniversary!) to create a Wordle – this is a cool little snapshot of a website based on its text. Here’s mine; I think it gives a nice glimpse into my blog:

My Wordle! Click on it to make it larger.

Thank you once again, and until next time keep on dancing!