It should be like clockwork, the knowing of the body positions/facings/orientations… but when you are just starting out, they are confusing, hard to remember, and seem impossible to master. It definitely takes some maturity on the students’ side to understand and start the process of mastering these positions. Usually these positions are taught at center, and usually happen in ballet 2 (ish), depending on the curriculum you use. These body positions vary on port de bras, can be done within a step, and be combined with other fundamentals like plié. Usually they are done tendu for beginners and accelerates and progresses on techniques through the level. These body positions are really there to help a dancer know the facing or orientation of the hips in relationship to the stage/room. There are only nine, but some people like to use épaulé and épualé derrière in the mix. Here are some illustrations to help in the process of learning these positions. For all of the detailed notes you will need to buy my book. Thanks.
Croisé Devant / Croisé
One of the most used positions in ballet. It slims the waist and lengthens the leg line. Have you ever seen one of those optical illusions with two lines, one diagonal and one straight? Same concept. All of the body positions in ballet are built to lengthen the line, with the exception of en face and just plain old derriere.
THE THREE TO THE FRONT…
À la Quatrième Devant / En Face
Basically, straight on, hips facing front with the working leg to the front. Most teachers just say “en face”… and you can assume like 95% of the time that it just means face front. Don’t over complicate things. Now, the working leg can be directly in front you, slightly over crossed, or open (meaning toe in line with supporting heel), all of this varies on the weight placement specified by pedagogy of the supporting leg. This does not imply traveling. See bonus number two…
There is a whole blog post on effacé. Click here to read.
THE THREE TO THE SIDE…
Écarté, and the écartés in general are the most difficult positions and orientations because it requires the maximum amount of strength, standing on a diagonal line, and presenting the heel fully. It is also the most unflattering position ever because it widens the body and shortens the leg and slightly creates an off-putting disproportion on a dancer.
À la Seconde / side
Basically to the side without traveling… meaning a static position.
Écarté Derrière / Devil Position
Écarté Derrière is the devil position. It is so much harder to master than any other position, in my opnion. It is the most unflattering, and requires the most focus. The goal is to stay fully rotated in second on the diagonal, but the working leg going up the back diagonal. It is awful and terrible. I once had a teacher give a combination that required us to promenade in ecarté back in plié. Awful. Awful. Awful.
THE THREE TO THE BACK…
Click here to read the notes on effacé
À la Quatrième Derrière / Back
To the back… standing… not traveling to the back…
Love this position because it is the easiest position to cheat.
Épaulment / Épaulé / Épualé Derriere
Confusion with these terms… Okay Épaulment basically takes the idea square and shifts the upper body to a more linear, longer, in my opinion prettier position. The use of Épaulment basically makes everything in ballet look prettier. Épaulé is usually used when in effacé derrière (the body facing downstage) and the upper body twists in second arabesque allowing the audience to see your upper back, and the head inclined towards the audience.
Épaulé derrière is usually reffered to when the dancer is facing upstage and exposing the upper back. In performances I think this is the most flattering line on a dancer, and shows off a dancer’s physique at its best position… and makes the booty look good. If you bring the leg in to standing, you see a lot of celebrities pose in this position on the red carpet because it is so flattering to the waist, backside and neckline. Plus, getting into the position usually involves some flower, long, expressive moment.
BONUS 2: Correction to all of those using “De Côté” as a facing…
It is technically wrong… but I through my travels lately, I have seen a lot of teachers using de cote as a position of the body to face side… It actually means traveling sideways versus A la seconde being to the side. De côté would be either traveling stage right or left, or if you are using the fixed russian numbers 3 and 7. For the action of moving front and back you should be using en avant and en arrière. You are welcome.