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
Pirouette Reminder: When you pirouette from fourth position, and you stop and hold the plié, make sure you “double the plié”—release it a bit and give that supporting knee a second push PAST the supporting toes. This will make sure you don’t pull up and fall away from your supporting toes and, instead, enable you to drive your weight down into the floor for a well-balanced pirouette. Check out all the component parts in my instructional video “Pirouette Class 2.”
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.)
Many students have trouble finding their balance when they piqué in first arabesque. This is the second blog in a series of excerpts from my Guidebook on how to make this all-important step look better.
#2. Walking down the stairs
When you piqué, imagine that you are going down the stairs. On your way down, you don’t lean forward because you will fall. You keep your ears up and your shoulders back. You reach downward for each step with your foot forward and leg extended. After you have placed your foot on the step, you rest momentarily. Use the same principles when you piqué. You may look like you are stepping “up” on your leg when you piqué, but actually you are always stepping down. (Excerpted from “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students. Page 274.) http://finisjhung.com/shop/guidebook/
Many students have trouble finding their balance when they piqué in first arabesque. In the next few blogs, I will present different ideas on how to make this all-important step look better.
1. Reach out, step over, and push down
Whenever you piqué, whether it’s to a simple pose or a turning pose, always reach your piqué foot and step as far from your back leg as possible. Good dancers, especially those working on pointe, always “show their leg” before they piqué arabesque. You should see your long straight leg with a strongly pointed foot reaching out before you stand on it. Some dancers make a “scooping” movement when they piqué arabesque. As they fondu, they lean forward and let their hips drop back. Instead of reaching out and over and pushing down, they lean forward and piqué with a bent knee. Then they jerk their arms and arabesque legs upward and hold their breath while they try to balance. It looks like they are struggling. That is because they are. I tell my students, “You look like what you do.” If you work correctly, your balance is automatic and effortless. If you work incorrectly, you fight for your balance or miss it completely, and we notice it. For fun and learning, ask your students to bring their dance bags to the center floor. Have them practice their piqué arabesque by stepping over their own bag. This will teach them to keep their ears and shoulders back and not lean forward. It will teach them how to “show their legs” and find an easy balance. (Excerpted from “The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students. Page 274.) http://finisjhung.com/shop/guidebook/
The classical ballet body positions are based on logic and are functional. When we use them as we dance across the floor, we are able to maintain our balance and move with control and grace. For instance, when making a tombé pas de bourrée forward from corner 6 to corner 2, we usually begin stepping out on the right foot. Most beginning students have trouble with this step. Instead of beginning with a pose in effacé devant (the head placed over the left shoulder and eyes focused in line with that shoulder) they tilt their head to the right, look straight ahead, and lean over the right foot. As a result, they have all their weight moving in the same direction at the same time which makes them stumble and get behind the music. If they would start out in a proper effacé devant pose—and look away from where they are going—they will then be able to balance the forward movements of their feet and legs and move with control and grace. NYCB Soloist Antonio Carmena demonstrates this beautifully in my instructional video “Basic Ballet Movement Skills Lesson 1.”
Go beyond the position. What are you going to do with that demi-plié in fifth position? What is it for? If you are making the plié as a preparation for a pirouette, pose, or jump, make sure you place your weight over what will be your supporting toe. This will make it much easier for you to rise perfectly balanced on one foot. Form follows function. More details on this idea are in my instructional video “Use Your Head & Turn!”
This is one of the most useful videos Finis has created because it not only teaches you how to jump, it also teaches you how to dance BIG. Learn how to execute connecting movements such as the glissade and pas de bourrée so that they become preparations for little jumps such as the jeté and assemblé. Finis shows each exercise, step-by-step, count-by-count, and then it is expertly demonstrated. Finis analyzes and corrects each exercise and then it is repeated with noticeable improvement. And that is because Finis shows you how to use opposition through your torso and arms in order to facilitate the movements of the feet and legs. Wouldn’t you like to look in the mirror and see yourself standing in the air? You can, and will, when you learn what Finis teaches in this video. Get the streaming version so you can coach yourself before each class. Transform yourself from earth-borne to airborne.
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.
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.