The Almost-Isometric plié – Part One

If you are going to pirouette, you usually begin from a plié in fourth or fifth position. If you are going to relevé to a pose, you begin with plié on one leg, or fondu. If you are going to jump, there’s a plié before and after. We can’t dance without the plié.

The demi-plié initiates and completes almost every movement we make. Consequently, the plié is the most important and the most difficult movement to execute properly. The plié is ballet.

My first serious ballet teacher, Willam F. Christensen (affectionately called Mr. C.) often said, “You know, your legs bend, and they straighten. They bend, and they straighten. That’s it.”

How right he was. Adding on to Mr. C.’s straight talk, I teach pliés emphasizing how the legs bend and straighten. It is important for students to grasp the mechanics of the plié so that they will strengthen their feet, legs, and bodies as they work.

When you dance, you

  1. bend your knees so that you can
  2. push the floor with your feet, which will
  3. cause you to either stand with a straight leg on a flat foot, on relevé, or leave the floor and spring up into the air as you
  4. execute a balance, turn, or jump.

We all want to have a plié that will power us strongly and safely as we begin and end our movements. With correctly executed pliés, we can dance with ease and avoid injuries to the feet, ankles, and knees. – To be continued. Excerpt from “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students”

EARS BACK!

An upright posture indicates good health and strength. Keep your ears up and back above your shoulders. Stretch up the back of your neck. Keep your eyes and ears as far from the floor as possible. Keep your head centered above a high chest. Feel the light on your cheekbones and chest. Lead with your hips. Walk proudly. Look good for the rest of your life.

Changing Directions: Use Your Arms

15_UYAUse Your Arms

Whenever you change directions, use your arms. For instance, if you are facing corner 8 with your arms open in second position and must turn to face corner 2, swing your right arm back to corner 4 and reach your left arm to corner 8. Keep your head on your left shoulder. And, vice versa. http://finisjhung.com/shop/use-your-arms-and-dance/

PIROUETTE FORMULA

  1. Ears back
  2. Hips forward over the supporting foot
  3. Twist your spine in opposition
  4. Show the “end of the plie” with supporting knee past the supporting toes and arms stretched open
  5. Make a downward spiral driving all your weight down into the supporting toes
  6. Spot sharply
  7. Close your arms without pulling your weight off your supporting foot

Best White Knuckle Barre Exercise of 2015

Grand battement à la seconde.

Grip the barre until your knuckles are white! Pull on the barre! Lift your shoulder! Crunch your body! Kick that leg! Bend that supporting knee! Roll in that supporting foot! And, above all, do not point that free foot!

BATTEMENT TENDU/DÉGAGÉ

Taught my adult absolute beginners tonight at the Ailey Extension to work their feet correctly and strongly: Sliding your foot out: heel, ball, toes press down and push the floor away to the pointe. Sliding your foot in: toes, ball, heel press down and drag the floor to the supporting foot. Your feet like to think and feel the floor

Pirouette Problems Again

In class today people fell off their pirouettes because they chose to close their arms and turn their bodies instead of using their arms to reach “The End of the Plie”, push down with the supporting knee past the toes, and spot. They kept forgetting they could not turn faster than they could fall.

YOUR FEET HAVE BRAINS

Your feet are never passive. They either stand, slide, roll to half-toe, or push off the floor. The supporting foot takes your weight and tells you when to move. The free foot leads the free leg to its position. Your feet have brains. Use them

PIROUETTE EN DEHORS – Your Shoulders

More about practicing the pirouette en dehors in promenade –

Remember that you always have a “back shoulder.” You can’t have both shoulders moving in the same direction at the same time, because this puts too much weight on one side of your body. It will make you lose your balance. Even though you will be bringing your left arm to first position as you promenade and turn, you must not move your left shoulder forward. You must keep your left shoulder “back” and over your left toes.

Sometimes I describe this as “the rule of one”—when turning, you should only move one shoulder or arm at a time. In this case, first you move your left shoulder and arm back as you lower into plié and then you move your right shoulder and arm back as you turn the plié.

Think of it this way: first you move this shoulder, and then you move the other. Only move one shoulder at a time.

Excerpted from my book “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students”

http://finisjhung.com/shop/guidebook/

Pictured: Belle McDonagh of The Elancé Adult Ballet School, Victoria, AU at the FJ Teacher Workshop 2015 (photo by Stephen von der Launitz)

“The End of the Plié”

GuidebookPractice the pirouette en dehors slowly with a promenade:

It requires a great deal of patience to teach students to go to “the end of the plié,” but in the end, it’ll be worth it. As I tell my students, “You either know how to turn, or you don’t—it’s not the weather, it’s not the music, it’s not what you’re wearing or how you feel today: it’s you. You must learn to do your preparation correctly!”

I want to point out that although you begin this preparation facing the mirror in a fourth position, when you turn to “the end of the plié,” you will arrive in a second position on the diagonal (écarté) with your weight over your front foot—with your left arm and knee pointing to corner 8 and your right arm and knee pointing to corner 4.

Your feet have changed from fourth to second; therefore, your arms must also change from fourth to second. Having your arms reaching out in second helps you to balance the final moments of the plié.

Turning your right shoulder and arm to the back while keeping your left arm and shoulder in place marks the crucial moment. Will you see and make “the end of the plié” with both arms stretched open? Your arms must allow your feet and legs to get to “the end of the plié.” Pulling your arms into the finished position before you complete the plié will pull your weight up and away from your supporting toes and put you off balance. This is what makes those dancers we mentioned earlier look like they’re dancing “on top of the floor.”

In fact, this is one of the clues you look for when studying your turns in the mirror. If you are in plié, your arms can’t be closing. Your arms do what your legs do. If both legs are apart and open, so are your arms.

After you see “the end of the plié,” push the floor with both feet, bring your free foot to your knee, your arms to first position, and complete the promenade to the front.

If you make sure that you look for “the end of the plié” each time you turn, then you won’t develop the bad habit of completing your arm movements faster than you can complete your plié preparation.

(Excerpt from my book “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students.”)

31_AT2This exercise is shown and explained in my video “The Art of Teaching Turns” http://finisjhung.com/shop/the-art-of-teaching-turns/