Home Technique You know you trained Balanchine if…

You know you trained Balanchine if…

by David King


Have you ever gone to an audition, and you are sizing up the competition before the class begins? It doesn’t even have to be an audition, it can just be an open class. As you look around, you start to size dancers up by “look”. Instantly, you can spot those dancers. Balanchine trained dancers. Even before barre starts, even before the first piano chord is played and you take your first plié, you can tell… You can spot Balanchine boys pretty easily: the white socks and white ballet shoes on black tights with a white shirt. You can usually spot Balanchine girls by their high buns, or the Balanchine bun (it is like a hybrid bun/ french twist). Once the music starts, then you can really tell who trained Balanchine, here are some of the “giveaways”…  and if you trained Balanchine, you might get a giggle…

So, you know you trained Balanchine if… 


1. Your hands are remotely “claw” shaped. This could be the modified CPYB hand, or the hands that come from Ballet Austin (kind of a more contemporary relaxed version). You know you came from SAB if you are really all about the “claw” and broken wrist. Yup, just by the hands you can tell.

2. Your tendus are over crossed and you automatically assume the accent is in or down.

3. You don’t use elaborate port de bras during barre combinations.  During port de bras and cambré you roll through your spine instead of a straight back.

4. Your developpés happen in one count, or less, but this idea can be applied to grand pliés, or anything for that matter.

5. When coming out of a relevé you emphasize the pressing of  the heels down.

So, that was just barre… Center (Centre)

You know you trained Balanchine if…


1. The obvious… Pirouette off of a straight back leg, and for fun you try to turn from a ridiculously large, deep, exaggerated fourth.

2. You are awesome at petite allegro.

3. In assemblé you bring the supporting leg to the working leg, and in jetés your coupe happens instantly- and you might bend a little for show…

4. In your saut de chat.. your back leg is probably higher than your front. During grand allegro you probably travel the furthest…

5. You over cross everything… including port de bras.

6. You know you came from SAB if you have Suki Schorer’s voice in your head saying, “no, AND one.”


(And as a side comment: Balanchine dancers are my favorite to watch, and I think the Balanchine Aesthetic… since that is what it is now being called instead of technique… is gorgeous. Insert European remarks here…)



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Christine Ashworth August 2, 2014 - 9:37 pm

I am right there with you! Except I was trained Balanchine by way of a dancer he trained so not first hand. But yes! Broken wrist and all, lol!

tony rizzi August 14, 2014 - 11:05 am

love this. makes it all so simple and clear. i trained in that style and then through working with forsythe for so long was able to approach it with more ease and less stress on the body. as well as pushing things really far. when you say ridiculously large. ( why is it ridiculous) there is a wonderful line in suzanne far ells autobiography . where she said Balanchine said to her. make the forth bigger , and bigger and bigger till she said. I was almost in a split. and i went up and did three pirouettes and they were not the most beautiful but was then that she realized her and Mr B would EXPERIMENT with what ballet could do. AND IT ALL TOOK OFF FROM THERE. i am sad to see that new york city ballet has stayed stuck though in not developing anything new.

No Blog Intended September 17, 2014 - 2:20 am

I don’t know a whole lot about the Balanchine Aesthetic, though I’m trying to figure it out. Balanchine dancers get trained to dance faster, right? There is something to say about that. But the claw hands, what is the excuse for the claw hands?

aballeteducation September 17, 2014 - 2:33 am

to show all of the fingers, modeled after the renaissance hands.

No Blog Intended September 17, 2014 - 2:39 am

Do you thinkit’s beautiful? I understand the idea, but for me it breaks the line of the arm, and I find that a bit unfortunate.

aballeteducation September 17, 2014 - 2:45 am

I think it is very beautiful. It isn’t for everyone, and I think everyone has a different standard of beauty, shape and the perception of the human body and it’s movement.

I personally like broken wrists on ballet dancers. I think it makes them look more feminine, elegant and less robotic. Just my opinion.

No Blog Intended September 17, 2014 - 2:48 am

It’s just a case of taste in the end – it’s a good thing that there are those who use the broken wrists and others who don’t, so we all can find what we like I guess 🙂

Gemma Mariano November 11, 2014 - 10:23 pm

Oh my god…every single one!

This is perfect!

slydancecat December 9, 2014 - 2:57 pm

My teacher, Catherine Tully (4dancers) has the lovely hands and when done right, do NOT look claw like and are very beautiful!

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