Hippy Hippy Shake

Tonight they were already at fondu by the time I got there — Marleesha had come and she wanted the class to start "on time" because she and H. are on a very tight schedule with E.

Marleesha goes way back with U.’s class. She came herself faithfully for many years; then her husband H. started coming and they were both very faithful for many years (though they stayed in the beginners’ class); then they had E. and took a few years off, visiting sporadically, and now I’ve seen Marleesh back in the advanced class four or five times since September.

Marleesha takes ballet as a fitness regime; she would probably go to aerobics or take a yoga class or whatever if there weren’t so many attractions in U.’s ballet class, namely: U. herself is beautiful and stylish and leads an exotic life — the clothes are cute and the shoes are cool — there are many interesting characters in all the classes — she and H. can come and go and take several classes in a row or not. She and H. were supporters and wing-taker-unders when U. immigrated.

Marleesha too is stylish and dynamic, and a little bit competitive: even though I don’t think she sees herself as a dancer, I think she feels keenly when she’s in the class that she’s not among the best in the class. To offset this, she’ll ask questions about what we should be doing in a given exercise that are kind of bizarre but are asked with a sincere I-am-really-trying-to-get-this tone. When an exercise gets particularly strokey, she’ll bail and mention her MS. (At the same time, she can do some amazing things, especially in demi-pointe, because, she says, she has no feeling in her feet from the MS.)

Tonight, for example, we were doing a stretch with one leg on the barre, bent, and there’s a plié and a port de bras forward and back. It’s a bit weird even for the advanced class and they have certainly not done it in the beginners’, so Marleesh is feeling unfamiliar. About halfway through, she asks earnestly, "You’re stretching your hips, right?"

I’m like: WTF?

We’re basically in this position:

except we’re at the barre, not a treadmill, and we’re croisé, not full-frontal, and we’re holding on with only one arm (and we’re pliéing and port-de-bras-ing). (And our feet are pointed.)

What I am feeling when I am in this position is not a stretch (which I equate with a nice, cat-like lengthening) but, rather, a wrenching of my hip joints, or a screaming in the muscles of the back of my upper leg, or something similarly black-out inducing. Also, from this position, I don’t feel like I have any options to do anything else — stretch? rotate? squveeze? I don’t know how I’d do them with my hips even if they were the right thing to do.

So hearing Marleesh’s question makes me howl, mentally… (and, actually, thanks, Marleesh, because this exercise is not a mood-enhancer).

U. just floated over to her, saying "yes" but actually intent on straightening her shoulders and getting her to reach forward rather than crunch, both of which corrections are way more important to Marleesh’s technique right now than anything her hips are doing.

But maybe I’m wrong to laugh. I did a Google Image search on "hip stretch" and people clearly have a notion it’s possible to "stretch" the "hips." The image above was in the first three rows of results, uncannily.

But so also were these:

So people are all over the map with their concept of "hip stretch."

The majority of the exercises above (the lunge and the I’m-a-Little-Teapot one above would be the exceptions) are mechanisms for loosening the hip joint, and they would all be good for ballet, because, once again, it all comes down to turnout (we turn out our hips in EVERY SINGLE EXERCISE we do, Marleesh!!! There is no not-turning-out!!).

Also, almost as if she had read my last entry, U. made the petit battement harder — the nice little petit battement we’d been doing for ages and which was becoming my proudest moment at the barre. We have to do it double-time now. I am of course reeling around like a dreidl, trying to increase my speed. :^/

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