Tag Archives: cracking joints

Cracking pigeons are harder than pirouettes Ohio State meatballs

8 Oct

I’ve been really distracted lately, and have too many things on my mind to do a full entry on a single topic because my brain keeps burning out.  So I thought I’d do an easy “search terms” day, to analyze how people are finding this blog and give my take on the topics random people are mulling.

1. Foot joints never stop cracking

Ah yes…the story of my life.  This however, is one of those things that everybody seems to have different opinions on as to whether it’s harmful or not.  I find that a lot of people who have had ankle injuries in the past tend to have some kind of permanent “click” whenever they rotate their ankles.  Both of mine do, because I had a pretty bad ankle sprain from playing tennis, reaching for a backhand volley…and maybe it was the adrenaline, but I actually kept playing the point and when I reversed direction to hit a volley on the forehand side I immediately sprained the other ankle.  There are certain talents out there in the world that need no explanation.  I don’t know why they crack now, but my guess is that there were ligaments that got stretched from the sprains and now they roll over the bones differently then they used to.  Some theorize that ligament cracking is bad, and you have to make sure to strengthen surrounding muscles to support your joints.  Some also say that forcing your joints to crack will also stretch the ligaments in the bad way, but I crack my toes and the middle of my foot all the time and I don’t have hyper mobile feet…but those are a different noise, so take from that what you will.

2. Does ballet fix pigeon toe

You know, oddly enough this seems to bring a lot of little kids to ballet, as parents are concerned about them being able to walk properly or whatnot.  It seems logical enough…if it’s turned in, turn it out, but I do wonder what the science behind it is.  I do think that the muscles can be trained in a way so that someone who is pigeon toed can learn to walk in parallel, and it becomes habitual to the body.  I once spoke with someone briefly who talked about doing physical therapy to correct the alignment of her legs/feet because her knees weren’t tracking over her toes so I would think it’s just a matter of building certain muscles and teaching them to move in new ways on a consistent basis.  She also said it was painful though.  It’s also important to note that pigeon toe can have different causes.  I was pigeon toed when I was little, but for me it wasn’t the feet, but the angle of the hips and knees that created an illusion of being pigeon toed, because when I stand with my knees in parallel my feet (the right foot more so than the left) are actually turned out.  My right knee tracks way over the inside of my right foot, and whatever the structure of my hips and knees is, it’s very difficult for me to turn out.  For those that have seen Return of the Jedi, there’s that battle scene between the Imperial army and the Ewoks, and the Ewoks roll a bunch of logs down a hill to trip an AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport), commonly known as a chicken walker, and it sort of wobbles for a moment before finally falling down.  That’s kind of how I lumber around sometimes…very Bambi-on-ice.

3. En dehors are harder than en dedans.

Well, to each his own…but for me (and I would think for most dancers) it’s the other way around.  I really struggle with pirouettes en dedans, I think because I still pick up my hip and it just pulls me off my standing leg.  Somehow, en dehors makes more sense to my body, and I can do some doubles and an occasional triple on both sides, but for en dedans I briefly had doubles only on one side but have since found myself in an “en dedans funk” and can barely manage singles.  I can only assume this must be true for many dancers because it seems like when dancers are doing 5, 6, 7+ pirouettes it’s always en dehors.  Although Vladdy-V seemed possibly more comfortable with en dedans, and everybody has things they’re better at so whoever you are, consider yourself lucky!

4. Pirouette into a stop

Now THIS I can tell you about, because I’ve done it once, in my entire life, and you can bet I remember what that felt like.  This all has to do with the strength of the standing leg (which is why when I did it, it was to the left, as my right leg is stronger) and its ability to maintain turnout while the rest of your body is supported on top.  I’ll never forget that day…ok, maybe I don’t remember the exact date but it was in the autumn of 2008, taking ballet in Jessica Zeller’s class, and we were doing enchaînements, and she asked us to do a pirouette and then place in tendu devant, robbing us of the luxury of quickly ending in a fourth position lunge, or shooting down into fifth.  This might have triggered something for me, like bringing my weight forward just a hair to really get on top of my foot, whereas a fourth position lunge makes us think “behind me” and might encourage too much force.  Whatever the reason, I remember being very careful with the plié because I do tend to use too much force, and thought for “shooting for a single, but spot for a double” and that made me do a perfect (if I do say so myself) double pirouette, where I stayed on relevé and SLOWLY lowered to tendu devant.  Jess even praised me and said “that was the most controlled pirouette I’ve ever seen you do” and when Jessica Zeller says that to you, you remember what you did.  Since then, I’ve gotten better, and have some more control, but have been unable to completely restore that moment of blazing glory.  But pirouettes have a very “square-rectangle” relationship in that yes, many people can do a good pirouette that ends in fourth/fifth and look fine, but anyone who really knows how to finish a pirouette is going to be able to finish on relevé or place in a clean fourth/fifth every single time.  So be a square…not a rectangle.  And work on your singles…they are IMO, the hardest pirouette to master (although some argue it’s a turning balance or whatever, blah blah blah.  Discush for another day!)

5. Getting into the Ohio State dance program

This is too funny.  I honestly wouldn’t know (I could make some almost-educated guesses) but I do know a lot of people who could answer this.  For undergrads I think they’re less picky and just look for a strong ability to move, particularly in modern.  For grads they also seem to take on a few ballerinas and “token dancers,” like a tapper, b-boy or the occasional traditional folk dancer (in undergrad too), and that person usually is researching their specialty and getting free reign to design a curriculum for teaching a class, while grads who are specializing in ballet and modern seem to be…”monitored” more closely.  Not that the others slack off by any means…sometimes it SEEMS as though they work a little more independently, especially if they don’t necessarily have a faculty member who specializes in their area of dance.  That’s just my impression…but how to get in?  Uh…be really good.  Good attitudes are also valued…never had a dance teacher I didn’t like, which can’t be a coincidence.  The only gripe I ever had was that jazz didn’t really seem to be on their list of priorities.

6. Best Meatballs in New York

If you find out, let me know.  Whether they’re Swedish, with spaghetti or Chinese “Lion head” (獅子頭), I loves me meatballs.

Bodies bodies bodies…

29 May

So I figure a good introductory post, before talking too much about dance would be to address the body.  I define dance as a movement of the body with an artistic intent, which is probably just vague enough to not really mean anything.  If you can take one thing away from that statement, it’s that dance obviously has its foundation in the human body (those who argue, are WAY modern…so take it outside).  Now there’s this popular stereotype that a lot of dancers, especially ballerinas have body image issues, and are starving themselves, yadda yadda yadda.  That might be true in some cases, but you can’t dance without fuel, and do you have ANY idea how embarrassing it is to have your stomach growl ridiculously loudly during an adage?  I’ve seen it heard it.  Not cute.

Dancers can give you a laundry list of bodily flaws that most people would never imagine.  I find the ballet dancers in particular to be the most entertaining.  The most common, which even the average Joe can understand would be “not enough turnout” and “not flexible enough,” but dig a little deeper and you get into all kinds of crazy.  Disappearing heels, compressible feet,  protracted shoulder girdle, anterior/posterior tilt, hyper extended joints (both a gift and curse), Greek feet, Egyptian feet, lucky rabbit’s feet, and many more genetic and muscular ailments.  The body is a science and we are all massively screwed up.

Take my feet for example, which I am pretty sure are the worst feet possible for dance.  I have Greek feet (which means my second toe is longer than my first), tapered toes (which means toes 2-5 are at a sharp angle), wide metatarsals, skinny toes with massive spaces in between them, low arches, low insteps, poor ankle flexibility (thank you, anterior tibialis), even tailor’s bunions (I’m a guy and don’t even have to do point).  They. Are. Hideous.  And my lower legs are also bowed outwards and my right foot has some tibial torque although my left is the opposite and sickles inward.  I was not built to dance at all, but I enjoy the irony.

Anywhodle, moving upward…whatever the opposite of hyper extended knees is, I have, in addition to poor turnout, a slight anterior tilt and some rounding to the shoulders.  And ridiculously tight hamstrings, hip flexors, and my joints move like rusty door hinges.  I’m quite gifted at cracking them actually…I can crack my hips in several places, my spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, my thumbs and fingers (knuckles and whatever the smaller ones are), knees, ankles, all 10 toes, some joint in the middle of my foot which I haven’t figured out what it is yet, and first thing in the morning I can pop my sternum and usually one of my collarbones (I think that’s what’s crackin…I can’t tell for sure).  I’m a walking xylophone, but I don’t crack my neck though…THAT is weird. 

Where was I…oh yes, my body is not built for ballet.  And flexibility tends to be harder to achieve for guys, so the splits?  Forget it.  Although I did have a teacher who once told me if I could get down into the splits I would turn into a prince.  She was also a teacher who swore a lot in class and beat me on occasion.  I miss Yen-Fang.

It turns out that 90% of dancers will tell you they suck, and identify things about their body that limit their abilities.  The other 10% is comprised of people who are really good and don’t worry, the people who don’t care if they’re good or not, and the whackadoodles that think they’re awesome even if they’re…well, not so hot.  So, my little ducklings, the truth is, there are two things that can help you get through the challenges your body presents.  Numero one, somebody always has it worse, and you can smile contently knowing that I for sure do, and keep chipping away at class happy as a hummingbird, and numero second, find one little thing that you ARE pretty damn good at, and linger in it for just a wee bit.  For a guy, I have a fairly mobile spine and thus, cambré derrière is practically my favorite thing in the world.  I always spend an extra second or two in it, just for me and to say “hell, I can do this!”

Meanwhile, I totally bought tickets to see the Bolshoi in Washington DC, SPECIFICALLY to see Natalia “jumps-like-a-man (in a good way)” Osipova, and sometime in between my purchase and today they changed the principal casting (jigga-what?!?).  Ekaterina Shipulina is lovely, according to the visions in the crystal ball (youtube), but will my heart flutter when she saut de chat?  Will she put the “olé!” in brisé volé?  Ask me after June 19th.