Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Thanksgiving Advent, Day Sixteen: Hair Screws

Tonight, I am thankful for these things:

I first encountered them years ago at my ballet studio. Bought some for myself, lost them over the years, and then my mother made herself a hero of the revolution by tracking down more. These days, Goody makes their own version, which are a bit longer (though not as nicely coated) as the kind she found for me.

What are they? They are magic. I know they can be put to other hair-related uses, but to me, they are the things that hold my bun up. For those who haven’t seen me: my hair is down to my hips, and is relatively thick. When I put it in a bun (for ballet then; for karate now), I end up with a mass of hair more than half again as big as my fist. This is a lot of hair to bun, y’all, and it takes a vast number of hairpins to hold it, not very securely, in place.

I can hold my braid up with two of those, messily. Four makes it tidy. Six makes it secure enough to stay in place through two hours of karate and kobudo.

They are freaking magic.

We call them “hair screws;” I don’t remember what Goody calls them. If they might be of any use to you, go out and buy some, stat: I want Goody believing there’s enough of a market to go on manufacturing them. Otherwise, I will be back to buns falling down, and I will be sad.

an odd metric

I don’t particularly have issues with my weight. (I couldn’t even tell you what it is, with a margin of error smaller than five pounds; we don’t own a scale.) But I will admit that I have some issues with my composition, by which I mean the lean-to-squish ratio of me is skewed more toward the latter than I would like, and sometimes that also means issues with my shape.

Last night, however, I got vivid proof that my general shape has not changed all that much in the last fifteen years or so. Going through the costume closet, in a (not entirely successful) attempt to cull its contents a bit, I dug out and tried on all the old dance costumes I’ve been holding on to.

And they all fit.

They didn’t necessarily look good on me — some of them I don’t think ever looked good, on anybody — but I got them on, and without putting the spandex to much of a test. And these are things I wore when I was fifteen and dancing eight hours a week. To which I say: dude. I would not have predicted that.

Mind you, this put a crimp in my plan to chuck out lots of costumes that don’t fit me anymore, because they do fit. I’ve chucked the truly ugly ones instead, the things that only look vaguely right when put in motion, on a stage, a healthy distance from the audience, but that’s only half or so of the total. (I should get rid of more, especially now that I’m not involved in a Changeling game where random dance costumes come in handy for playing a swan maiden or water elemental or whatever — but I can’t bring myself to do it. I might need them someday.) But it was an encouraging experience, and only firmed my resolve — pardon the pun — to do more things to increase the lean percentage of me. Today I rode my bike for the first time since my ankle surgery in the spring, and in the future intend to run as many of my errands as I can that way, weather permitting. My glutes may hate me for it today, but they’ll thank me eventually.

The Littlest White Belt Is Still a Ballet Dancer at Heart

In kobudo, I have begun learning bo (staff) kata. Shihan randomly had one of the senpai teach me the second bo kata last week; I’m trying to hold onto that sequence in my head just ’cause I don’t want to forget it, but today one of the sensei mercifully retreated a step and taught me the much less complicated first kata.

But they both begin with the same preparatory movement, and this is where my ballet training reasserts itself with a vengeance. It’s a bit complicated to describe, but there’s a point at which the bo is held vertically in front of your right shoulder, with your right hand gripping it low and your left hand gripping it high, over your head. You lower the left hand in an arc, sweeping it outward rather than down the front of your body; then, when you begin the kata, you sweep it back up the same path to grasp the bo again, before moving into the first strike.

To all the ballet dancers who just said, “Oh, you mean like a port de bras” — EXACTLY.

Guess whose arm immediately defaults to a gentle curve, whose hand turns to make an elegant line? If you pointed at me, give yourself a gold star! It’s like when I try to say something in French, and my accent is so Spanish it would give your average Parisian a coronary. I’ve hunted down and trained out a lot of my ballet habits over the last two years — in shizentai-dachi, I no longer rotate my foot outward into fourth position before stepping through; I’m learning not to tuck my butt under in shiko-dachi — but wow, do I still go first to ballet assumptions when doing something new. It isn’t even a simple matter of reminding myself before I begin the motion; if I don’t keep my attention on my hand every inch of the way, it goes straight back to what it knows best.

(I’m kind of afraid of the expression on Shihan’s face if he ever catches me doing that. I suspect it will be some flavor of baffled amusement, and I will want to sink through the floor out of embarrassment.)

Ah well. I’ve only been doing bo kata for two classes; I can’t expect to lose the habit that fast. But I’ve opened up my own private betting pool for how long it will take.

The LXD!

Ballet is so the wrong icon for this, but it’s the only dance icon I have.

The LXD has FINALLY started airing! There’s material up at their site, but it’s easier to sort out what’s what at the Hulu page, where episodes are clearly numbered. So far there are two; I’m not sure how often new ones will be added.

My one gripe so far is that the episodes are short. Well, it’s a web series; what did I expect? Awesome dancing, though — especially in “Antigravity Heroes” — and I’m looking forward to them getting past the introductions of the characters and into the story itself, since after all, that’s the other half of the draw: awesome dancing in the context of a superhero story.

One thing that really struck me in both episodes is, you actually see guys dancing with each other. Not just on the same floor at the same time; they physically interact, with holds and lifts and such, and if you come out of a more classical background (as I do) that’s a really unusual thing to see. Men and women dance together in pas de deux; women join hands and such for corps de ballet numbers; you don’t really get guys partnering up. It’s just one detail of what amounts to an entirely foreign aesthetic for me. (I said after watching Stomp the Yard that it was like a foreign film with no subtitles: a character would do something, and I would know from the reactions of those around them that it carried a particular meaning, but I couldn’t translate it myself, because I don’t know that style of dancing at all.)

Anyway, I know several of you were excited about this when I linked to it before. So if you’ve been waiting for the series to actually launch: it’s here at last.

apropos of absolutely nothing

I would pay money to see somebody choreograph a contemporary ballet pas de deux to the song “Gaeta’s Lament” from Battlestar Galactica. It would be a beautiful adagio, morphing into something huge and powerful when the drums kick in. Alternatively, do it on ice, with some really athletic side-by-side and throw jumps at the end.

I never had it in me to be a professional dancer, but there is and always will be a choreographer living in a back corner of my head, drafting movement to the music I’m hearing.

HELP NEEDED: 18th century dancing

Totally the wrong kind of dance in my icon there, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Does anyone out there know, or know someone who knows, how to dance a minuet? Or any other kind of mid-eighteenth-century dance, for that matter. The Wikipedia entry on the minuet step is incomprehensible to the layperson, since it was written in 1724, and while the videos it links to show me the basic step, they don’t give me any sense of the shape of the whole dance, and how one interacts with one’s partner.

In other words, it’s time to replace my bracketed placeholder descriptions in the scene where Galen’s dancing a minuet, and I need references to go by. Movie scenes that depict it correctly would also work; unfortunately, the closest I’ve been able to get is Regency dancing, and that isn’t the same.


The Littlest Orange Belt Is Feeling Clever

Yes, I really do mean to use that icon.

When you have a (popped) blister on your left foot that extends partway under the edge of a callus and you don’t want the skin to tear because it’s going to be unpleasant when it does and besides you’ll be grinding dirt into it all karate class long which is a good way to get an infection but band-aids come flying off the moment you pivot unless you put tape over them and that leads to you STICKING TO THE FLOOR when you try to pivot . . .

. . . then sometimes, just sometimes, you get clever.

You dig out your old lyrical shoes — which only barely qualify as “shoes” — and that protects the necessary area while still leaving you 95% barefoot.

And you don’t stick to the floor.

I’m watching TV.

It’s funny, realizing just how long it’s been since I had to remember to turn the TV on at a particular time, on a particular channel, because I wanted to watch something current.

I watch a lot of TV, but 99.9% of it is on DVD, after the season is over. Commercials annoy the snot out of me; I like being able to hit pause and wander off to get a drink; I like watching the show at my own pace (which is often “marathon”). But when my mother was here a few weeks ago, we watched So You Think You Can Dance, and — gasp — I’ve continued to watch it since then.

Here’s why I like the show. (The dance thing, obviously, but there’s more to it than that.)

For starters, they’re doing a pretty good job of being open to all kinds of styles, from ballroom to ballet to street. Not only can you potentially get on the show whether you’re swing or crunk, once you’re there, they’ll make you operate outside of your safety zone. So we get hip-hop guys doing the foxtrot, and ballerinas grunging it up, and some of them adapt spectacularly. (It also, as a corollary, means that the show has a higher degree of racial diversity than I’ve seen practically anywhere on TV. I predict that once this week’s cuts are made, there won’t be any white guys left — and the only one remaining is a Hawaiian guy who looks like he has more than just Europeans in his ancestry.)

Also, until they get down to the last 10, the cuts are made by both popular and judge decision. That is, viewers vote, and then the bottom slice of contestants solo before the judges boot one guy and one girl. This guarantees that when you get to the final stages of the show, everybody left is actually good. You may have preferred someone who got cut, but the remaining dancers are at least worthy.

Which means that the later stages of the show are really friendly instead of vicious and cut-throat, at least as seen on TV. Tonight’s episode was one big love-in, with the judges raving about what beautiful dancers all of them are; even when they criticize, they often do it apologetically, with references to all the other wonderful things the dancer is capable of, even if they failed at the current routine. And since the contestants have to dance in pairs, whatever sniping may go on backstage, you don’t see it out front; trying to undercut your partner is about the stupidest move you could make. The best way to look good is to make the person you’re with look good. There’s no Donald Trump being an asshole at the contestants, no fake conflict generated to boost ratings.

So what you’re left with is a lot of friendly people creating beautiful and diverse art.

For that, I remind myself to turn on the TV every Wednesday at 8 p.m. It’s worth the effort.