Notes On: Getting Extension… to the side…

Extensions in ballet are everything… Well extensions are also everything on social media, but social media is a whole different post. But extensions in ballet… truly are everything… It is the difference between getting a contract and not getting a contract, it is the difference between being cast as Odette … or not. You get the idea, or at least I hope you do. My original post about tilting your hips has kind of come under a lot of fire, which is totally cool… Everyone is entitled to their own pedagogy and ballet ideals. But a lot of you have asked some questions, so I am here to answer some of them. In ballet… a la seconde or side or perfect side or whatever your natural turnout decides what side is… well it is really confusing and quite difficult. And truth be told, I had no clue what any of it really meant until I became a teacher…

Developpe Poster 1

Side Action… first we have to determine what is side. For some schools- it is about the natural turnout and you draw a line from the second toe outwards (i)… Other schools teach that side is in line or slightly in front of your shoulder (ii) and some schools teach that side is behind your hip line (which only works if you are freakishly hypermobile or flexible, iii). This is all determined by turnout.

what is a la seconde a ballet eduation

 

Okay, okay… Now onto the good stuff… Getting your leg up. You can just hoist your leg up, you have to use the back of your legs. If your teacher is one of those sticklers for being square, which I totally don’t disagree with, you only have to follow a and b.

a-b. From passé, you rotate slight forward to an attitude position and lift your knee as high as it can go while your hips stay square. You have to seperate your femoral head while rotating it to get to this position. then you just have to extend the heel forward till your leg is fully extended. Yes, you use your heel as the guide of your extension, not your knee. If you are focusing on your knee… you get massive quads and can grip. You have to really use opposition to achieve the back of your legs. The oposition comes from really pressing your psoas and core downwards.

square extension what is a la seconde

c-e. I teach my students to start shifting their weight into their standing leg, and aligning the opposing hip. I tell them to use the full power of the backs of their leg to rotate forward, bring the leg even more slightly infront of their body allow the look of maximum turnout. Then bring the knee into the front of your armpit using your psoas, and pressing down through the student’s core to get the maximum stability and correct tension saving the hips. Then guiding through the heel, like the later part of a ron de jambe en l’iar. So instead of thinking of extension as a line, you have to think of it as a circular motion… like turnout… like everything in ballet. Use your hamstring to supply the support needed. But the higher your leg gets, the easier it should feel. It is simply physics, as the weight is now all shifted into your standing leg, freeing up your working leg.

f. Then, for those students who are hypermobile, and have mastered the ability to rotate the extension upwards, I let my students shift their weight even more into their standing leg, and then like a teetertotter shift their hips even more to get those last six inches of extension. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the lower back, so you have to be strong and pretty advanced to achieve it.

more notes: Tilting your hips on the plane of turnout is not the same as lifting your hip. Lifting your hip usually reffers to your booty and pelvis tipping forward. You have to understand your hip anatomy in order to really understand turnout and a la seconde. You never want to lift from your quads. Again work from the back of your legs! If you don’t know how, read my notes on how to work from the backs of your legs. Your hips have to be really warmed up and stretched out before your attempt this… Don’t be one of those kids sitting in their room reading this and then just go try it… It is why barre is structured.

Diagram of hip for ballet


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Notes on Dégagés…

how to degage

In the beginning there was pliés, followed by tendus, and then came dégagés. It is the way the universe designed it… or the French. Because of this, there are two types of techniques out there… Good technique and bad technique. Unfortunately, there is a lot more bad technique out there than good technique. (Seriously… I’ve seen the instas… and the youtubes.) Now, in the world of good technique there are two types of dégagés – long dégagés and short ones. Both are technically correct and both show refinement, but they are two different approaches in building technique.

Things dégagés are used for:
1. To warm up the feet and establish the workings of how the foot leaves and contacts the floor. (both short and long)
2. To establish the range of motion of turnout while leaving the floor and establishing length and connection. (long)
3. To have the control to stop kinetic energy of the working leg in time with music. (short)

Now, the two concepts can always be combined… But sometimes teachers forget the most important thing about this step… That if a tendu is based on the spiral rotation (turnout), and that is what causes the foot to point and reach… Then the dégagé is really just the continuation of that. Which means… The only way for a dégagé to actually leave floor is if it is rotated off the floor… you can’t just lift it. That would be quad gripping.

Sooo, here we go…
tendu degage

a. Standing in fifth is hard, and you have to to be fully rotated… The most important thing is making sure the weight is pressing down through the heels. It is really hard… But here we go…

b. Like in tendu, the heel presses forward and rotates forward- but now we have to really focus on the standing leg. Some schools teach the weight to be even through the heels an down the center of the body, some pedagogies teach you to start shifting the weight into towards front of your foot. I personally prefer the second. So everything is rotating just like in tendu…

c. Same as tendu, and pressing through the floor, keeping your toes spread…

d. The arch presses up, the heel rotates forward… just like tendu, the foot is rotating and spiraling… This time you are pushing harder than before, because you know your working leg has to “pop” off the ground versus and tendu you are only working on the floor.As you hop the arch- you shouldn’t be popping up, you should be popping forward…

e. Everything is happening… just like tendu… except now the point becomes a reality for the leg… The rotation extends and causes the leg to create even more tension and you start to rotate even more…

degage stuff

e. part 2… so there are two thoughts of how to rotate off the floor. This is tricky because different bodies respond in different ways. Some teachers say lift the foot off the floor 2 inches off the floor and rotate hard. Sometimes this causes quad gripping. The second is to rotate slightly forward in front of the shoulder and just rotate more…

f. Short Tendu- is that as soon as the energy disconnects from the floor, you stop it- freeze it- and slight the turnout back into fifth… or whatever position you are working in.

g. Long Tendu- The leg keeps reaching out and spirals pushing the circumference of an imaginary circle. You have to resist the force and not just let it fly up to 90 degrees by pressing down and outwards against the working hamstring… without gripping your quads. (Probably why I don’t teach long tendus till kids are like 15ish)

The most important part is rotating constantly and that all movement is started and finished by turnout. You have to turnout… turnout some more and when you think you have turned out as much as you could… You turnout even more. So, the leg has to spiral so hard that it pulls out of the socket and your abductors spiral the opposing way holding the leg in the socket… If you achieve this correct tension… You won’t have wonky hips.

Since my book isn’t due to come out for a while… and I still have to keep up the blog… I have started releasing posters… and the plus side is that since I have found a cheaper printer, the posters are cheaper. The attitude poster is now available by clicking here.For the month of April it is only $24.99 (May it will be $49.99)

Some of you have written to me asking what it costs for me to come teach at your studio, or work with your teachers. I am pretty flexible with time at the moment- and all I do is ask that you cover all travel expenses and my regular teaching fees. If you are interested please don’t hesitate to reach out and email me.

This week’s insta theme is Modern Classic’s starting with SUNDAY: PETITE MORT (@aballeteducation)

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Notes on the Basics… my basics

Apparently, once again I have to go in depth to defend my blog… and truthfully… At this point I don’t really care, with the exception of  recent negative comments and emails from other ballet bloggers and ballet teachers… Let’s talk about the basics of ballet and not the fact that other blogs rarely quote their sources, link the photos to the actual photographers so their readers can, at the least, have access to the photographer, and be bland… *shade* Blogs aren’t newspapers or literary journals… They are opinions… and if you don’t have anything nice to say… Just don’t say anything at all… Or post it on your blog… Seriously… *side eye* Another plus side… is my ability to doodle… so now I can just doodle everything I am talking about.

HOW I TEACH THE BASICS

The basic principal of ballet technique is turnout. (click here to read post on turnout)
Turnout as a concept is easy to understand, but to actually turn out… That is like the lifetime commitment you are making to ballet.

Then as we progress through the ballet vocabulary, I break down ballet technique based on four basics:

Plié (build): the literal translation of plié is to bend.
Tendu (stretch): the translation is to stretch.
Relevé (press): to raise/ to rise
Coupé (rotation): to cut

Side note… the translations of the vocabulary aren’t the definitions or even a guide on how to properly execute the techniques. These words are translated as verbs, so they portray an action or movement, but they aren’t just as simple as bending… I think a lot of times teachers get caught up in the idea of ballet vocabulary versus the actual use of the vocabulary.

Okay, so if you take a glissade… and really break it down it goes from a plié, to a tendu, to a relevé, and then in the reverse. If you look at a jump, it starts in a plié and moves through relevé, and into a tendu in the air… If you look at a pirouette, it goes from a plié, to a relevé, and moves through coupé and rotates higher to passé. These are why I only use the four instead of the classic French 7 by Raoul Auger Feuillet and Jean-Goerges Noverre. (plier, étendre, glisser, relever, sauter, tourner and élancer)


To talk about elancer, glisser, sauter, and tourner; these ideas still have to be broken down… sooo I use the four I said above. These four terms, or the idea of turning and the idea of jumping are directional concepts. Even then a turn, for me and how I teach, can be broken down to axial turns or spatial turns. A pique turn and a pirouette… both would be categorized as tourné, but let’s be real… The approach to the two are completely different. Even jumps… an entrechat and grand jete would be both categorized as sautés…. buuuuuut ummm completely different in aesthetic and technique… Which is why, I refer to and defend my four principals.

PliéWhy do I say build instead of bend? Well if all you do in a plié is bend… you probably have thunder thighs, wobbly knees and have a jerky jump and fugly pirouettes. (No offense…) But, even starting with 5 and 6-year-olds… We talk about how pliés build kinetic energy, how a plié never ends, and is constantly growing. Even before “bending” there is a slight lift in our hips and cores… I call it our high hips, or the breath before you jump in the pool. Either way… at barre we start talking about how our plié fuels our bodies (rocketships) and you have to have a full tank of gas if you want to get to Mars…

Tendu, again a verb… doesn’t have an end point, unless…. we are preparing for the SAB and other Balanchine schools and work on placing/stopping our tendus.You can click here to read my notes on tendu. But, basically, I use Tendu as stretch, to get the most length and extension through the legs and toes.
TENDU BANNER

Tendu

releveTo press versus to rise… Relevé as much as it is your heels rising off the floor… there is a huge downward action, so we press our energy into the floor through the balls of our feet causing us to rise.

Coupé…ROTATION I use coupé and the variations of coupé a lot… I use this position for students to feel the rotation of the working leg. If you were to take the coupe position and raise it straight up you end up in passé. If you open the coupé to the front… you are in attitude front… And so on… Coupés definition: to cut, is basically about cutting the line of the leg.

So… these are the reasons I use these four basics to teach ballet opposed to the classical 7.

Coupé

 

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