“Hug a cactus. Jump out of a bucket. Avoid the “dirty diaper” syndrome. What do these actions have to do with ballet? Surprisingly, these and other unballetic images help me remember ballet technique. I find that the most memorable instructions in class are those that relate to something in real life. Different teachers’ aesthetic tastes and senses of humor have led to vivid, sometimes funny but always helpful ideas for learning and correcting steps. Here are some of my favorites:
Circular porte de bras: While stretching and extending your body, think of drawing a large circle with your head.
Arms in second position: Rainwater should be able to run from your shoulders down the arms and off of the second fingers; keep your elbow up and not sagging (or the rainwater will run off of your dipped elbow).
Hands: Keep the thumb in line with the middle finger, as if you were holding a thin sandwich, like a cucumber tea sandwich at Downton Abbey. Speaking of Downton Abbey…
Ballet arms vs. Downton Abbey arms: Remember how Cora, Mary, Edith and Sybil Crawley received guests at their stately mansion? The ladies always stood with fine posture and straight arms that hung relaxed at their sides. To achieve ballet arms, think Downton Abbey arms — but then raise them up to belly button height, strong and curved yet with a soft, relaxed look.
Ballet feet vs. street feet: You have street feet when you stand in parallel; turn them out and voilà – you have ballet feet.
Arms in first position when on balance (for example, when in retire/passé): Hold your arms up in a strong circle, not drooping like you are cradling a baby or flower bouquet.
Plié: Keep both hips balanced and don’t tip them to make a “sexy” plié.
Battement en cloche: En cloche means “like a bell” think of your working leg swinging like a bell’s clapper ringing “ding dong”!
Rond de jambe en l’air: For a single rond de jambe, use your pointed working foot to draw a circle the size of an American dinner plate. For double rond de jambes, draw circles the size of European dinner plates.
Fondu: Melt like chocolate or cheese.
Frappé: Keep your frappés crisp (like a cold frappe drink) in movement. On the extension or brush out, strike the floor to make a sound as if you are trying to grab a barista’s attention.
Las Vegas: Right after a grand battement à la seconde, the dancer turns the working leg in, bends that knee and swings it across the body and under the barre in demi-plié. Then the dancer straightens the standing leg and turns out the working leg for another grand battement à la seconde. I couldn’t find any terminology to describe this common move, but once heard it described as a showgirl-like “Las Vegas”.”
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