Part of my new dance cross-training is to do some ballet. Rather than wait for 2011 to roll in, I’ve decided to start changing or adding patterns, behaviors, whatever whenever I see fit and can afford to do so.

Monday I attend beginner ballet at an adult-only studio. I hadn’t been there in about year, due to time. It is amazing how much my body has changed in a year. Most notably is the muscle memory I’ve acquired from Bharatanatyam. If you are not familiar with Bharatanatyam, one of the basic postures is called aramundi. It is where the heels touch and the toes and knees are bent and turned out from hip rotation. The ballet first postion foot position is identical to aramundi, as well as the turn out. The only difference is that in first position in ballet, you stand up.

All last night, I ended every exercise in the deep bent aramundi, vs. the straight-legged first position. I didn’t realize why until I was thinking about it later that this is an artifact from Bharatanatyam; you are expected to end every adavu or short combination in aramundi. Students are scolded for leaving the posture at the end. I didn’t realize how much muscle memory I’ve obtained with Bharatanatyam already. I’m curious how cross-training will change my dance skills in Bharatanatyam now. While I cannot afford, time-wise, to dedicate myself to ballet the way I have with Bharatanatyam and Middle Eastern dance, I do want to gain some proficiency. However, I don’t want to lose my Bhartanatyam skills, even though the adavus are really about training your body and mind to perform complex pieces, so the dancer may leave the aramundi position for something straighter-legged.

What are other people’s experiences in cross-training?

I began ballet recently, as I mentioned. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I believe that I’ve mentioned in the past that ballet is incorporated in Middle Eastern dance in some sense; a lot of dancers are trained in ballet from their childhood or some similar time, so they often use balletic terms (releve`, for instance) to describe what we’re doing. Ballet has also been recommended as a way to increase gracefulness and carriage.

I’m not a huge ballet fance, truth be told. However, I am game for trying new things and improving my dance on a whole. That’s why I’m taking ballet. I found ballet isn’t completely foreign. Some of the exercises we’ve done (plies in difference positions) remind me of strength exercises I’ve done in Bharatanatyam and Odissi. The armwork is similar to that of the Middle Eastern classes.

I enjoyed my ballet class; as of today, this isn’t something that I’m passionate about. Since I immediately clicked with other dance forms, I don’t expect to have that happen with ballet. However, I’m going to continue. While ballet may not be a love of mine, I did like it and I can see how it’s going to be useful. My ankles are weaker than they had been, and the exercises we did will definitely strengthen them. I like that the exercises are simple enough (at least now) I can refine my arms and hands. The exercises were also relaxing but challenging, if only because I lack the strength.

Everyone has their theories on dance training. Some dancers are adamant about keeping their dance “pure”, ie. not studying other forms of dance. Others relish in cross training. I’m in the latter category.

I love Middle Eastern dance, don’t get me wrong. However, I do get bored occasionally and like to check out what’s there. Although I love Odissi and Bharatanatyam, I think I want try a “Western” classical dance. A lot of dance friends have said ballet has improved their posture, arms, and carriage. It looks like something that could fun and ultimately improve my Middle Eastern dance. I have decent posture, arms, and carriage, but I could always improve.

Going to ballet will also help familiarize me with ballet terms. A lot of dance teachers use them, even those without much ballet training. Rather than have to guess at what second position is, I hopefully will be able to understand without much thought.

I’m not convinced ballet will be something I love, but I think it can indeed be useful and enjoyable.

One of my experiments is up and running, thank goodness. I have been running it for almost a week, and we are still waiting patiently to see data. I might let it run over the weekend; there is some concern that the fluid will float to the top and not show diffusion. I’m doubtful that’ll happen (mainy because I saw how fast things float to the top before with this experiment), but we’ll see.

While I’ve been waiting, I’ve been looking this past week at different dance forms to explore. Why? I like trying new things, and I’ve been doing Middle Eastern dance solid for a while. I’ve read various people’s thoughts about cross training in different dance forms, and I tend to side with the much favored school of cross training. I think it’s a good way to balance the body, for starters.Certain dances tend to work one part of the body extensively and not the other. Because I’m interested in fusion dance, learning the dances in their “pure form” is important. I’ve learned that if I want to some sort of tribal fusion, for instance, I need to learn the original form. Without careful instruction or observation, it’s easy to miss subtle parts of a move that polish it. I’m of the learning the original school of thought, just because “you can’t break the rules until you know them.” I also am genuinely interested in moving beautifully, and learning other dances for me has been a means of learning how to move beautifully.

Since Odissi and Bharatanatyam appear to be non-existent in Chicago without car access, I decided to seek out something else. Danielle suggested that I look into Flamenco; she herself is a Flamenco fan and huge advocate of the dance. To tell you the truth, I know very little about Flamenco. By very little, I knew it is Spanish, they wear shoes, and I believe play castanets. I still know very little, but this clip sold me on learning:

I’m not sure if it’ll be my passion, but I found the dancing in this clip gorgeous. I’m not sure if it’s good Flamenco, but I liked the dancing a lot. I take it as an excellent sign that I should learn Flamenco, because the basic class is on a Wednesday, when I used to learn veil. Veil was moved to Mondays for some reason, leaving Wednesdays free to learn Flamenco. I’m excited about learning this. I start in 2 weeks.