Muscle memory is no joke

Took an Intermediate Swim Class one semester in college to fill my physical education requirement.
Wanted to take Ballet 101, but the class was always full before underclassmen were allowed to register, and by the time I was an upperclassman I’d transferred to a school where the ballet teachers didn’t waste their time on non-majors.
But anyway,
When you take Intermediate Swim you are beyond acquiring the technique, you are perfecting it.
So you learn all these metaphors.
In backstroke, for example, your hands are scalpels and oars. You slice into the water leading with the pinky side as the blade, without any splash you sever the water, then flip your hand as it passes below your body to turn it into the oar that propels you, then as your arm comes around toward the surface the thumb-side is the blade-side of your hand-knife, slipping out of the water. Finally as your hand passes above your body you flip it to be ready to slice the water with your pinky blade again.
It’s all about using the water resistance when you need it, and minimizing the drag when you don’t.
Same with ballet!
Well, minus the blades and oars.
In Russian style ballet, your arm in second position floats on the surface of the water. As you bring your arm down to preparatory position your hand is caught by the drag of the water and trails behind, water resistance catches your hand, flows between your fingers, pushes your pinky, giving a feeling of relaxation and gentleness, as opposed to the speed and machinery of a swimming sprint.
I think having a swimming background is one of the few advantages I have as an adult beginner.
But sometimes it turns around and bites me in the butt.
Like when we do passé relevés, with our hands going from low in front to above our heads then down to second.
Muscle memory kicks in and I start doing the backstroke.
And then Smirnoff tells me never to turn my palm up or someone will put a pancake on it.
Talk about your mixed metaphors.


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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12 Responses to Muscle memory is no joke

  1. Alli says:

    HA HA! Palm up = panckae please. I like that one…

    Have you done ponche yet? My childhood ballet teacher had a great visual metaphor for that one… are you ready?

    Banana on a stick.

    That’s right, visualize your torso + extended leg and arm as the banana and the stick as your supporting leg. As you tilt forward, your back leg raises at the same rate as you arm tips toward the floor.

    I still think of banana on a stick every time I do a ponche and every time my current teacher compliments me. Thanks for the awesome metaphor, Mrs. G!

  2. Pingback: Muscle memory is no joke | Adult Beginner |

  3. Nichelle says:

    Imagery is how I roll, yo. I’m sure that my students think I’m a complete nutter 99% of the time but if some weird metaphor makes it click or stick, then it’s worth it.

    I like the banana on a stick for penché, I’ll be stealing that one :) And I’m always talking pancakes with my dancers but it’s usually during turns across the floor…

    • The weirder the better!
      My teacher gave one a while back about developé:
      Your working leg is the elephant’s trunk, and your knee is the elephant’s mouth, and if you don’t bring the foot all the way back up to passé at the knee the poor elephant will be hungry.
      Really glad he doesn’t worry about using metaphors that might be too childish for his adult class, they make me laugh and they work, so win/win.

  4. I’ve come across one I love from talking to another teacher – it’s boo-tay = suitcase. As in: Take your suitcase with you when you travel, or Zip up your suitcase before your junk falls out!

  5. Hi there! I just loved you blog and discover it!!! I´m from Brazil and strated to dance at 25, now I´m 36 and an adult ballet teatcher. I came from twitter, i´m at @balletadulto. Kisses!!!

  6. Pingback: Attitude: it’s in your hands. | Adult Beginner

  7. Pingback: Attitude: it's in your hands. | Adult Beginner | Studio News

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