During class the greatest prize and the hardest challenge you can receive is a correction. A lot of the time the teacher will call out improvements we can make while we’re dancing. Or, if it’s important, they will stop the music and explain to us exactly what they want us to fix. But a dancer’s hardest task comes when you have to take these corrections and apply them to your dancing. A lot of the time the corrections are ones we’ve already heard and have just forgotten about. In order to remind us, our teachers will come up with phrases that they’ll yell to help us remember our corrections. Each teacher has their own set of expressions that they use during class. Here is some of our favorite Cal Bal phrases and the reasons behind them:
1. “Use your skin muscles!” This famous line is one of Ms. Maxine’s favorites. She loves to yell this to us when our bodies are soggy or we’re falling out of balances. For a while we wondered what exactly was a skin muscle until one fateful day she shared her secret. We all guessed there was a set of muscles that she liked to refer to as our skin muscles but were surprised to find out that she had made it up. She told us that one day in class she yelled it at her students and their dancing became tighter and sharper so she drafted the phrase into her repertoire.
2. “Don’t kill Cheddar!” This remark is one we’ve been hearing since Ballet D. When Ms. Denise taught us when we were itty-bitty she used to tell us a story about Cheddar the mouse who lives in the mouse holes in our feet. She said that if we rolled in on our ankles we would kill Cheddar. Now that we’re older we know that the correction was not to roll in on your feet because it’s really bad for your ankles. But back then, I always felt bad for little Cheddar because a lot of people, including me, were squishing his little mouse hole.
3. “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” This phrase is heard a lot when Ms. Gail teaches our classes. While we’re dancing we have to be thinking about a million things at once. When Ms. Gail stops the music to work on a certain correction she uses this phrase to remind of the many other corrections we have to be thinking about at the same time. This concept is one of the hardest things to master because every correction can apply to every step all the time and you have to remember all of them.
4. “Vertical shin, vertical spine” Our new teacher, Trystan Merrick, says this mantra over and over during class. This correction helps with your posture, which is a major component in every part of ballet. During class, Trystan emphasizes keeping your shinbone and vertebrae completely vertical over your first two toes to help with your balance. When I think about applying this correction to my dancing I automatically feel my abs pulling up and my spine lengthening.
If you’ve ever taken one of these teacher’s classes I’m sure that you’ve heard at least one of these phrases a few times. Hopefully, the next time you hear one of these expressions knowing the goal of these corrections will help you fix your own dancing.
~ Melanie Z.