Last night after class Ari practiced her outside pirouettes to the right. She was able to do at least two or three but then fell off. I pointed to my left knee and said “One” and then to my eyes and said “Two.” (All turns have 2 counts: plié on the 1, spot on the 2) She smiled, followed my instructions, and performed 5 beautifully placed controlled pirouettes finishing on half-toe. On-looking students were amazed. (So was she, as she was jet-lagged, having just returned from 10 days in Japan). ONWARD—WITHOUT A DOUBT!
Every movement you make should be powered by the action of your feet (or foot). In terms of preparing for the pirouette en dehors from the fourth position, keep the following in mind:
- Your supporting foot grips the floor in order to bring the body and legs into place for the preparatory pose and the plié.
- Your supporting foot grips the floor in opposition to the upward stretch of your head. This engages and connects all of the muscles in your supporting leg from the toes to the hip. How can you expect to line up your leg bones properly unless you engage the muscles that move them?
- Your supporting foot grips the floor in order to bring all of the weight of your body into it.
- Your supporting foot grips the floor and determines the placement of your back foot.
- Your supporting foot pushes down on the floor so that you relevé and turn on a straight leg.
- When your back toe leaves the floor that is when you turn your head and spot.
Excerpted from my book The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students
Many students have trouble finding their balance when they piqué in first arabesque. This is the third blog in a series of excerpts from my Guidebook on how to make this all-important step look better.
#3 Ears back!
This is an abbreviated command. Since you are moving forward, you must have opposition of weight and movement in order to balance your piqué in first arabesque. Therefore, keep your ears and shoulders back. Most importantly, find your balance by sending energy down through your standing leg and out through your back shoulder and arm. Remember that only your toes and hips move forward. The succession of movement is this: toes, hips, chest, shoulders, arms, and head. Your ears stay back until the last moment. (Excerpted from “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students. Page 274.)
The more you practice incorrectly the better you get at doing it wrong. It does not matter how many classes you take—wrong will never be right. Open your mind to the possibilities of new ways to do old things.Try doing things differently and surprise yourself.
As you dance forward across the center floor with a battement fondu developpé relevé, it’s a good idea to remember how Gail Grant defines it in “The Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet”: “As the supporting leg straightens, the dancer rises to the demi-pointe and performs a developpé at 45 or 90 degrees.” Sadly, many ballet students execute this step backwards: First they lift and kick the developpé and then use that momentum to lift the supporting heel and pull the supporting leg straight. This pulls your weight away from the supporting toe, looks jerky, and makes you look clumsy.
Here’s how to look better: Reach forward as far as possible with what will be your supporting leg. Point that foot strongly. Correctly align that foot so that it will be under your body on half-toe. Press down firmly on the floor with the ball and toes of your supporting foot. This will make you rise to the half-toe on a straight leg. As you push down and rise, the back foot will automatically be brought forward—it will follow your supporting foot—and then you will complete the developpé. Always time your movements with the transfer of weight to the supporting foot and leg.
Skies are grey today. Temperature has dropped. Hurricane is brewing. Rainy chilly days are coming. But above it all the sun continues to shine. Just because you can’t see it or feel it does not mean it’s not there. Don’t be fooled. Think big. Life goes in cycles. You will see the sun again. Your pirouettes will return.
A star has five points. So do you: your head, your fingertips, and your toes. Energy radiates from the center of your body up through your head and out of your eyes; down both legs and out of your toes; up through your chest and out through your arms and hands. Turn out, stretch out, look out, breathe out, move out. Keep pushing in all directions all the time. Never stop and you will dance better than ever.
Try to dance more with your feet rather than your legs. Do less dancing with your thighs and knees and more with your feet. Your feet should never be passive. Your supporting foot should never wobble if you are working from it, and it should push the floor to move your body. Your free foot or gesture foot should point the free leg where you want it to be. When you make a battement tendu or dégagé, even a developpé, think of where that free foot goes and let it bring the free leg to the position. Try it.