Sunday, May 4, 2014

Beginning Ballet Line and Rotation

Ballet moves are expressed as art. Different builds have natural strengths and limitations. The student with the body type of ectomorph is graced with long limbs, flexibility and thus able to excel in quick movements. When the body type is that of mesomorph, strength is a major ability. The jumps will soar, because of the beginning strength and stability of the demi-plié. The endomorph has qualities of both body types.

Even with these natural capabilities, body alignment and rotation must be perfected at the barre. 

To perform the well known plié (bend), the center of gravity should never fall behind the heels. The knee joint and instep should be aligned. 
In the battement tendu (beat stretch), the weight must be equally dispersed on both feet in the fifth position after the tendu.
The second position in the ronds de jambe (circle of leg) rotation should match the skill level as the tendu to second. 
Further, in the battement frappés (beat strike), the rotation should be held by the supporting leg so the hips are aligned. The weight should be on the metatarsal arch as the exercise ends in fifth position. 
The correct pursuit of the grand battement sees the center of gravity to fourth in front not retreating behind the instep. To fourth in back, the spine lifts. The pelvis realigns. The leg lowers to tendu.
For proper développés, the movement is lead with the heel in fourth to front. To second, the knee faces the correct retiré, and onto the fourth in back, the line of the knee extends from the retiré.
Échappé (escape) and relevés (lift) should be performed away from the barre. A nice line of spine and pelvis are observed in fifth position of a plié at the end of the movements.

Posture is paramount for the ballet dancer. As the student matures, the awareness of alignment will change. An imaginary line begins with the top of the head and passes the front of the ear. The line continues through shoulders and pelvis and nears the front of the knee. The line ends after passing the front of the ankle and through the instep. Weight should be evenly distributed on the big toe, the little toe and the heel. A little pressure exerted forward on the metatarsal arch is advantageous.

The beauty of movement in ballet is reflected in turnout. Training allows for the outward rotation of the thigh bone in the hip socket. Begin with natural rotation and do not force. Dedication and proper training from the first day will bring technique and lovely positions.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ballet Moves Into Advanced Positions

ballet moves image of dancer and flowers

The Arabesque (in Arabic fashion) is similar to the attitude. (See below.) Yet the knees are not bent.  The back leg may either touch the floor in tendu  (arabesque par terre), or be extended off the floor. Arabesque à demi hauteur is  a 45 degree angle arabesque.  The arabesque à la hauteur is a 90 degree angle arabesque. The arabesque penchée is a magnificent arabesque  where the body leans forward to counterbalance the back leg which is positioned  135 to 180 degrees from the supporting leg.  Beautiful variations of arm and leg positions may be executed for these ballet moves.

Assemblé -  A movement where the  working foot slides along the ground and goes into the air while the supporting foot propels from the floor.  Together they assemble in the air and land in fifth position, simultaneously. An example of such:  Start in fifth position.  Plié and slide your back foot into the air while the front foot pushes off the floor and goes behind. Maintain a nice air position with pointed toes. Land with both feet in fifth position.  Plié.

An Attitude finds the dancer posing like the statue of Mercury - the messenger god.  Stand on one leg.  The supporting foot may be en pointe, demi-pointe or flat. Lift the working leg to the back and bend  the knee to a near 90 degree angle with the knee higher than the foot  - the knee being well turned out.  Raise the arm on the working leg side over the head and curve.  Extend the other arm à la seconde.  Attitudes may be performed with the working leg  to the front, side or behind.

Changement is French for change. The elongated phrase is changement de pieds (change of feet). Begin in fifth position.  Spring into the air with toes pointed and land in fifth with the feet in opposite positions.

Chaînés (chains) - These ballet steps are quick turns along a line or circle, performed en pointe or demi-pointe.  To balance, keep your center muscles tight and spot with your eyes.

Fouetté - A French word meaning whipped or windblown describes an action where the leg is whipped around the body.  The famous  fouetté rond de jambe en tournant (whipped circle of the leg turning) begins for a moment on a flat foot  The supporting knee is bent as the working leg is whipped around to the side at hip level and is then pulled in to touch the supporting knee while the performer rises on the supporting foot.

Glissade translates to the word slide.  Glissade is a movement to venture across the floor.  Demi-plié in fifth position.  The working foot then glides along the floor with the other foot pushing away until the dancer is in the air with pointed toes.  The working foot finds the floor with a fondu - the other foot sliding into fifth position again in demi-plié.

Jeté is a leap in ballet  from one foot to the other giving the illusion of the leg being thrown - hence the French adjective. Of the various jeté jumps,  the grande jeté will be presented.  To match the magnificence of this grande jeté, one must have strength in the legs and feet.  Begin with a position such as a glissade for momentum then push off the floor extending both legs, culminating in dramatic 90 degree angles.  A pretty position is portrayed with the arms in fourth.

The Pirouette (spin or twirl) is  a turn in ballet where alignment is key.  The body must resemble a straight line in its lifted position for a balanced spin.  Pirouettes can be performed in given positions such as à la seconde.  Here the angular velocity is decreased when the leg is extended.  Thus, the dancer will spin slower.  The pirouette can be done in fourth or fifth position.  Fourth position is easier to perform.  There is less force needed because the distance betweeen the legs are farther apart.  Begin in fourth position.  Extend your arm to the front, opposite of the front leg.  Extend the other arm to the side. Plié with one or both legs.  Spring to demi-pointe or pointe on the supporting leg, and turn with the working leg in retiré position (raised to side with a bent knee and toe pointed next to supporting knee.) The arms are brought into first position. Whirl the head to finish the rotation first,  spotting its completion.  End the movement in fourth  as gracefully as begun.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ballet Moves Evolving

The beauty of ballet moves has evolved from the pageantry of the Renaissance period to a disciplined and exquisite form of art. Fancy the Waltz of the Snowflakes in The Nutcracker. Every snowflake is unique.  Liken this to natural talent. Some dancers may be gifted with a lovely line. Others still may have an excellent plié to spring to great heights. To express oneself through dance is grand.

Beginner ballet positions of the barre and ballet steps across the floor are accomplished with a beautiful turnout of the feet. This idea is attributed to Thornot  Arbeau. In his book, Orchesographie, published in 1588, he wrote about the equal distribution of weight on both feet and the turned out position. Greater extension is achieved in this ballet position, where the leg is rotated from the hip.

Following the work of Arbeau, Pierre Beauchamps (1636-1735) was given the credit of establishing the 5 positions of the feet. Beauchamps was known as a ballet master in the French court of Louis XIV. The 5 positions of the feet were formally documented by Pierre Rameau in his 1788 work called The Dancing Master. These positions are an integral part of classical ballet since they are incorporated into many movements.

Barre work is fundamental to achieve fluidity and grace in dance. A ballet barre is used for balance to master technique. Ballet classes begin with exercises at the barre.  From the plié to the grand battement, practicing at the barre will prepare the dancer for more sophisticated positions, movements, leaps, turns and center work.

ballet moves of shannon evolving with toe shoes
Proper training and dedication are essential before dancing en pointe.  In particular, muscle development and the correct alignment of the body must be accomplished before training with toe shoes. Very young dancers have to wait until the bones in the feet and ankles have hardened. Toe shoes have evolved since Marie Taglioni first danced en pointe in La Sylphide in 1832.  She danced on her toes in ballet slippers, sinched at the toes. Currently, pointe shoes are constructed with a box, vamp and shank.  The box is the platform on which the dancer balances. The vamp is the front of the box while the shank is the sturdy piece which supports the arch of the foot. Dancing en pointe showcases elegant extension and positions.

Journey on the path of artistry through movement.

Ballet Moves

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Classical Ballet Points

Classical Ballet Requires Dedication

Classical Ballet Vintage Picture of Ballerina
Classical ballet is a special dance form.  Inspired from Greek and Roman theater art, ballet began to take full form during the 16th century in Italy and France. The word "ballet" was derived from the Latin word “Ballere” which translates as dance.

Training in classical ballet requires dedication for strenuous workouts and a strong lower body. The most famous styles are Vaganova or Russian method, Balanchine or American method, Cecchetti or Italian method and the Royal Academy of Dance or English method.

Considered by many as one of the most formal styles of ballet, classical ballet uses certain techniques and features that are unique to this form of dance style alone. Classical ballet is known for putting emphasis on execution and method of how the dancer moves. A dancer can appear to defy the laws of gravity whereby creating the perception of flight as they dance. They may even give the illusion of hovering.  This creates a kind of mystique, making this art form appear magical.

Training For Classical Ballet Is Extensive

Usually, people who want to learn classical ballet, start at an early age, because younger people are more flexible.  Hence, they can easily adapt to the physical demands of the dance, and are more capable of pushing their bodies  to perform the challenging techniques and dance routines.  Students of ballet should know French as ballet incorporates French words for the movements and steps. The terminology used for the steps is universal.

When performing, dancers wear tights and a leotard. The styles and colors of the tights and leotard  vary according to the storyline. The leotard garment has been named after the French acrobat Jules Leotard who made it famous.  These garments can be worn by themselves for practice or under a costume such as a tutu - a skirt made of tulle whose effect is ethereal.

The shoes worn by dancers are critical as they will have a direct impact on the feet of the dancer.  During the course of time different kinds of shoes have been made for ballet dancers. Initially, the dancers are made to work on soft technique shoes rather known as flat shoes. Once the bones are no longer fragile and have become strong and mature, the dancers can practice on pointe shoes.  Further, pointe shoes, if not worn properly and on proper time can cause intense damage and sometimes disability to the dancer especially if high impact dancing is done. The hardness of the bones of not only ankles, but also knees, hips, arms and back should be appropriate along with muscle density. After starting their use the dancers should practice vigorously for long hours to build their strength.

The most important feature of classical ballet is that the thighs rotate in an outward direction from the hips. Performers who are interested in learning this art are expected to undergo very strenuous health workouts.   It's very important for the artist to have a strong lower body especially the legs and the abdominal muscles.  Strong legs are necessary for the en pointe position while strong abdominals are paramount for turning the body. A dancer can also create the appearance of long arm and leg extension.  If the limbs are placed near the back of the body they appear short . When they are brought forward the limbs seem to be longer.  Physics are involved in ballet. The dancer can create an illusion that she or he is opposing gravity. The dancer's body acts like a parabola or a projectile in the air and gravity works on the center of mass of the body.

Although intense dedication and training are required to achieve exquisite positions, classical ballet remains one of the most popular performing arts in the world.