Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tourist at ballet class

Precisely 3 weeks ago I sat on the balcony of Finnish National Opera house with 2 friends, watching Blood Wedding. BUT: before that I took 2 classes with a teacher I've heard so much about. And I can honestly say: all the praise is true!

Because of our planned schedule I could participate in the beginners' class and the basic level after it (also we had to leave a bit early for the "show"). But what I can tell you, I was SO nervous beforehand! Most of it was unnecessary, but tiny bit helped me to stay sharp - even when the moves were very easy for me. To put it shortly, I didn't expect any corrections because of being a tourist, but was pleasantly surprised of getting some, both classes.

Yap, that beautiful building in the middle... Photo courtesy of Footlight.

Okay. So there I was, going in to the building of Footlight at Mannerheimintie (Helsinki). Love that hallway!!! Makes it even more glorious to go and have a class with a master. Went there almost super early, but it was good to have time to "catch my breath", change in to my dance gear, warm up a little. A dance-sister came quite soon, too. I was really happy that she made it to the first class, didn't feel so "orphan" anymore. So, soon we went to the studio (smaller one, number 3 I think) and took places by the barre. I was in the corner, near the pillar on the same wall as the door. Dance-sis was right next to me (well, on my left side, haha). There were only about 8-10 people in the beginners' class that time, so Madame had time to look at all of us.

I was actually in front of that black clothe :) Photo courtesy of Pointe Til You Drop.

What I was waiting for the most was actually seing Madame "in action". Despite her problems with her back, she was lovely to look at. At some point the right leg just rose by her ear (12 o'clock), nothing tight to see there! Only a relaxed and skillful person. And her arms in the port de bras... Wow. I also enjoyed very much to be taught in combination of English & French. Feels so different from the Finnish terms that I hear usually all the time. Btw, I have to say that Madame was taller than I thought! But oh so petite in other ways... Very polite, but firm. Some hands-on-correcting, even for me! :)

My corrections were mostly about my upper back, shoulders and chin a little. In tendus I heard very often this "Cross your legs!", which has been a bit of a subject this Autumn for me, since I'm taking classes with 3 (sometimes 4) different teachers. They all have their own styles. But now I know who want tendus/rond de jambes in the back (derrière) to be very much crossed, meaning the toes to be in line with the supporting leg's heel. And I admit that with the others I don't cross That much. But back to Madame. Corrections for the whole group were her "favorites" - "Strech your knee! Present yourself!" Also very often she said to tuck the lower tummy in and our bum had to be in, too, but also tailbone down. She had a fun word for the buttocks, but I don't remember it!

When we had a streching exercise by the barre and in the end of it lifted our leg from the heel to the side, Madame wanted our head to be to the other side. Also the upper body to tilt there, too. She wanted even me to tilt, though my legs won't rise much. Tried it twice. With the right leg it kinda happened, but the left, disaster... :D But otherwise I think I did well during the class. In the end we had some stuff in the middle, and I got the show small jumps as an example because Madame could not do them. Well, she didn't ask me particularly, but asked if someone could. And as no one did, I decided to hop a bit. I think my dance-sis did too? :)

I have amazingly bad memory, when it comes to the routines we did. I can remember only one of them, but that one I remember exactly right! It was this port de bra we did by the barre. First in relevé with right hand, then left. After that in the first position (no relevé) with both hands at the same time (twice I think). The hands were like this (eyes on the hand all the time): first position, second, third, then a looooovely move down = head tilts to the working side a bit, fingers/palm on the opposite cheek side. And when doing it with both arms, in the end they are of course crossed and head tilts the the side which hand is on "top". (Sounds a bit complicated, no? It was and Is easy, but explaining not so easy.) Something swan-like there, for me.

So I made it through the first class, happy and alive. The second class had twice the amount of people, even more, so Madame had only a little time per person during class. But the fun thing was that there was another dance-sis AND a former studying friend of mine! :) Too bad there was basically no time to catch up with them... (Luckily we have this thing called internet. Blogs and facebook etc.)

Many of the routines were the same as in the beginner's, so it eased my mind a bit. Well, in the first class there was more stuff facing the barre, now it was mostly with one hand on the b. I was very curious to see the other dance-sis in action, but there wasn't time/space (as there was so many people). The whole class would have been 60 minutes, but we left 15 minutes early, so no middle floor for us in basic level. One thing happened to me for the first time Ever in this class - there was a man! (I've had Jarmo Rastas substituting his wife when I was a teen, but that's not the same.)


What was in it all for me? Very basic things, but So Important.

- The knees. Strech them, baby!
- The upper back and shoulders. Relax them, but still present yourself... Don't forget the chin!
- Tummy & bum in, tailbone down.

Everything can be dancing. When we do the very basic routines, one has to breathe and listen to the music. Look at the hands as they move. It's not easy, but it sure is worth it! :)


Who is Madame?

Photo courtesy of Footlight.

Marie-Pierre Greve
Principal Dancer @ Royal Danish Ballet (retired in 2008).


More Footlight for me in the future? Yes pleeeeease! :) If only the timetable allows me... This weekend I'm having training/education (Suzuki stuff) from Friday till Sunday - and there's a Friday class that I just Might take. The teacher is going to be different, but as nicely spoken of as Madame Greve. And as I've heard also, super effective when it comes to basic elements of ballet. And that's something one needs always. I'm (of course) talking about her!

The studio will be different (this is bigger, number 1 I think) and level will be J1 (next from the basics). Photo courtesy of Pointe Til You Drop.


Yesterday I took another tourist class, but here in my hometown and with younger people... More about it later, but for now: my bum hurts!!!


  1. Hei! It was great to read your recap of those classes we did together! I was so happy you managed to get to Marie-Pierre's classes. We were lucky there weren't many people in the beginners' class, I think the basic level class is too full - but then again, I wouldn't want to deny anyone the opportunity to get her teaching. More classes is what's needed! But I'm not sure how many days work Marie-Pierre is willing to do. I still also highly, highly recommend Gabriella's classes - she has a very different style, but is very effective. She has done miracles for me in getting me to understand the roots of particular movements. You do have a lot of different teachers! It has benefits too, but it must be pretty hard work remembering what each of them require.. You have beautiful port de bras by the way - I find them far from easy!

    Hope to see you in class again soon!
    Oh yes - and the word for the bum was 'popo' - sounds very cute doesn't it. (not sure if I spelled it right!)

  2. Hi!

    The word Madame used for your derrière is "popo", which means bottom in German! I know it from living in Germany as a child, but it was fun to hear it in class :)

    I have to agree with everything Iina just said. Especially with regards to Gabriella´s classes..

    I´m glad my photos worked for your blog.

    And I´m happy that you got to experience Madame´s classes too! :)

  3. Hi Iina & Johanna!

    Thanks for commenting :D And for mental support in the classes!

    Popo is the word, yes! Shall remember it from now on. And I'm hoping to get to hear it live again. But probably I'll hear her voice in my ears as I even think about the word, haha... :D

    Johanna, one more big Thank you for the photos :)

  4. I just checked the dictionary and the word in French is 'popotin' ; D

  5. Wow, I did not know - that sounds so cute! The Germans must have borrowed it from French. I shall now foever call my butt popotin! :)

  6. Haha, thanks Iina! :D

    Popotin sounds somewhat smaller even than popo. I think I'll favor the French version ;)

  7. Saako tänne kommentoida suomeksikin?;)

    Voi, olen itsekin suunnitellut ihan samanlaista turistiretkeä samaiseen tanssikouluun! Olisi mahtavaa päästä näiden paljon kehuttujen opettajien tunnille edes kerran kokeilemaan. Itse taitaisin käväistä ainoastaan alkeistunnilla, että ei liiallista kulttuurishokkia pääsisi syntymään. Oli varmasti avartavaa käydä muunkin kuin oman open tunneilla välillä. Kiva, että teit aiheesta postauksen!

  8. Heippa Maria!

    Saa joo suomeksikin :) Tää on vähän sekakielinen blogi, hehe...

    Suosittelen oikein lämpimästi tuntiretkeä Manskulle, on ne opettajat vaan niin hyviä. Tai no, maanantai/perjantai-opea en ole päässyt "kokeilemaan" vielä, mutta aion päästä. Kutkuttelis kyllä kovasti muuttaa takaisin pääkaupunkiin - ihan vaan harrastusmahdollisuuksien takia! Mutta ehkä tää työ nyt vielä pitää mut paikoillaan jonkun aikaa :)

    Uuden/eri open tunneista saa kyllä yleensä mukavasti potkua ja intoa. Vähän niinkun leirillä kävisi :D