The almost-isometric plié – Part Two

I think every plié should be done in such a way that it builds strength and balance. The only way that will happen is to make the muscles in the feet, legs, and body work.

In order to do this, you must eliminate the idea of assuming static positions and become more involved with the movement process.

How is it possible to move with maximum muscular involvement from a standing position with both knees straight to a plié position with both knees bent? How do you move with maximum muscular involvement from that plié to stand straight?

The answer is to use opposition. You will resist, or oppose, the movement. You will make your plié almost isometric. By definition, isometric means there is no movement. However, you are going to move into and out from a plié but in extremely slow motion, which is why I describe it as “almost-isometric.” You want to move so slowly and with such intensity that you don’t appear to be moving at all. But, you will certainly feel it happening with your muscles.

What makes the almost-isometric plié distinct is that there is no intentional or deliberate bending of the knees and lowering of the body into a static position. I tell my students, “Don’t make pictures when you dance. Don’t suddenly assume a position. Give me the movement. I want to see how you work into and out from the plié in slow motion. Give me the action. I want you to feel your muscles working.”

With an almost-isometric plié, you don’t want your body to go down; you don’t want your knees to bend. You don’t want to relax into a position.

(To be continued – Excerpted from my book – The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students)

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) (Excerpted from The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students)

Teacher Reminder: Change Legs When You Teach

If you teach frequently and demonstrate full out, make sure you change your supporting leg. If you don’t, you will pay for it as you age. Repetitive muscle usage is the curse of the dance teacher. Try not to keep using the same muscles the same way. Find ways to alternate muscle usage and make sure you stretch out those overworked muscles daily so you keep your joints greased and usable and you can continue to do what you love and need to do.

Pirouette Reminder

11_PC2Pirouette 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.”

Pirouette Class 2

Piqué en Arabesque #3

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.

FJ_DVD_WALLET #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.)

Piqué en Arabesque #2

Piqué en Arabesque #2

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/

Piqué en Arabesque

Piqué en Arabesque

 

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/

Positions are Functional

Positions are Functional

 

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.”

Basic Ballet Movement Skills: Lesson 1