Known for the impressive pirouette diagonal, this variation is a favorite among young dancers at competition. This variation comes the ballet Le Corsaire, and from the Odalisque Pas de Trois. The actual pas de trois’ music comes from Adolphe Adams but the variations come Cesare Pugni. So, lets start breaking down this variation.
Some call it the “turning girl” variation, but this variation opens up with extremely hard grand assemblés in ecarté. The combination is glissade, grand assemblé ecarté, relevé to attitude front, allonge, tombé relevé attitude, roll down. This combination might even be harder than the prirouette diagonal simply because of the rotation/ turnout, timing and control factors.
Okay… so glissade for me is always done as flat as possible… relaxing into the plié is really going to help the take off of the grand assemblé. Meaning the first leg that brushes, keep directly side, as you close stay en face as much as you can, but over cross it because you are going to need it to travel.
Remember, you should always bring the supporting leg to the working leg in assemblé, and hold fifth in the air as long as you can, or the music tells you. If you choose to beat it, great, but for me… I just like seeing a nice, high, clean fifth position in the air. Did I mention you have to jump… you can’t do these weenie assemblés that don’t higher than 3 inches off the ground.
From here, YOU HAVE to land in a solid fifth position to get into the attitude front. Don’t do some random assemblé into attitude front… that’s not a thing. Be super turned out! While perfectly balanced, you need to allongé first, then cleanly roll down from pointe before transfering to the attitude back. Make sure when you tombé that heel is super far forward, or flatten it to the audience, and then over cross the attitude back. Ideally, your working foot should be seen on the other side your tutu, and ideally above the shoulder. You get three sets of this horrible, but super beautiful combination.
Some waltzes happen… then the famous diagonal… chassé to relevé arabesque, stepping through to fourth, and pirouettes… The hard part about this combination is obviously the turn… but it is really rolling down cleanly and closing into that fifth front to get into the chassé that kills everyone. (Check out notes on pirouettes) It is okay to do doubles, but really… after the age of thirteen… you really need to be doing triples. We can all thank Gillian Murphy for setting this standard. Make sure the last one closes fifth back so you can get into a beautiful sous-sus/sus-sous. Or you could be a baller like Natalisa Osipova and just do double tours.
As you open the back leg, cleanly roll down, heel forward. A big traveling chassé and a good grand jeté throws you as far over stage right as possible, followed by a jeté… turn it out, point your feet. The bourrés, keep your legs crossed.. at all times.. the back leg has to do the traveling.
Finally, the last diagonal of step-overs, lame ducks comes into the play. For me… I prefer lame ducks to come cleanly from fifth, meaning travel on the first step and cross tightly over with the second, and quickly replace the legs. Add the doubles, change the port de bras. Do whatever artstically makes you happy, as long as you are clean.
Character Notes: By defintion, an odalisque is a female slave or concubine in a harem. Which is wonderful that we are giving these roles to young girls. There is a lot of sex appeal to this variation, which at thirteen is mighy questionable if you ask me. But, I am not your parent, or your coach… But I wouldn’t be putting a thirteen year old in a crop top, and ask them to pretend sell their body out. You could take the sad approach, that you are sad you are being sold into slavery. Gillian Murphy did that, I think.
What does a young person en pointe look like in this variation? The problem with this variation, as I have seen in competition… and online is that most everyone… even primaries and pre-comp on flat still look terrible. But, there are many exceptions to that rule that I have seen in the glassroom and in real life… But this young girl looked pretty decent, and showed a lot of potential within this variation. I think in this video she is 13…
But even for prix de lausanne she took a different variation… Maybe because the stage is raked? Or maybe she was tired of that variation… who knows. But the difference and growth shows a lot.
And again, Odalisque… just not a variation you should be taking to competition unless you trunly are ready for that. Just because you can do some wonky turns doesn’t mean you should be taking a turning variation. Remember, these competitions are to showcase your potential, not messy technique. At the end of the day, classical ballet is about constraint, control and finessed technique.