2 3 Ballet Webb: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday and Ducks




Monday and Ducks
A piqué turn en dehors is often called either a “step-over” or a “lame duck” turn.  This distinguishes it from the piqué turn en dedans, and also refers to the way the turn looks when it is performed.  It does have an up-and-down appearance – like a lame duck.
Unlike the usual piqué turn en dedans, which has one step before the turn, the lame duck has two steps. It is important that these two steps are done correctly, because they guarantee a successful turn and make it easy for the dancer to do doubles or multiples.
The first step must travel, (step out and down), into a plié.  The second step, on the other foot, must step up(onto a straight leg) underneath the dancer.  This stepping underneath is one of the only times in ballet that a piqué doesn’t step out, or travel. 
So for piqué turns en dehors, or lame duck turns, remember to step out and down (plié), then under and up(piqué)! 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #14d 
 “A pique turn en dehors (lame duck) involves one step out and down, one step under and up.”

 
                Link of the Day:
 

Quote of the Day:
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
-Mark Twain

 

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Love




Sunday Love
In keeping with our theme of performance hints, today I’m going to talk about one of the best hints I ever received as a dancer.  It is something I used in every performance I did from the time I first heard it at Florida State University.  It is a short, simple saying, but it works wonders. 
It is a gentle reminder that encompasses the other things I talked about in previous weeks.  It helps put the focus where it needs to be:  on the audience, not the dancer.   So try this at your next performance, whether you are a dancer, teacher, choreographer, or director.     
Right before a performance and after warm-up, gather the dancers together and give this simple directive:  
“Do it with love”.                                                                            

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #21 
“Do it with love.”

 

                Link of the Day:

 

Quote of the Day:
“The love we give away is the only love we keep.”
Elbert Hubbard

 

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday and Hidden Steps




Saturday and Hidden Steps
There are many “hidden” steps in ballet: Secret ones that hide in plain sight in lots of everyday movements. 
For instance, think about grand battement.  Every grand battement “hides” a tendu and a dégagé.  Twice.  Once on the way up and once on the way down.  These hidden steps are essential to correct technique and must be there!
Grand battement itself is “hidden” in other movements:  a piqué that goes to arabesque should have a grand battement as part of the working leg’s path to the arabesque.  So this step has a hidden step with other hidden steps!  The foot that does the piqué must pass through tendu and degage – another set of hidden steps.  The list goes on.
The next time you can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, think about all the hidden steps in ballet and where they are “hiding”. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7p 
“There are many “hidden” steps in ballet.”

  

                Link of the Day:
               

Quote of the Day:

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
-Zora Neale Hurston

 

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Fun Friday Platypus




Fun Friday Platypus
In an effort to stretch (point) the foot fully, dancers often fail to realize that relaxing the foot is equally important. 
When the foot is on the floor, as in a plié, or simply acting as part of the supporting leg, dancers often clench the foot, tensing the ankle and preventing the supreme connection to gravity that is so essential.  Sometimes I tell my students to remember to allow the bottom of the foot to melt into the floor. 
Another image that I heard being used recently is this one:  imagine the foot on the floor as looking like a platypus bill or like platypus feet (see above photo):  flat and relaxed.   

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #16e:
“ Imagine the foot on the floor as a platypus bill or platypus feet – flat and relaxed.”
 

                Link of the Day:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8g2_2wiI-E
 

Quote of the Day:

“Always find a reason to laugh.  It may not add years to your life but will surely add life to your years.”
-Anonymous

 

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday and Carlotta Grisi




Throwback Thursday and Carlotta Grisi
Last Throwback Thursday I featured Jules Perrot and mentioned his wife Carlotta Grisi.  She is probably best known today for her role in Pas de Quatre:  her variation has all the brisés and fouettés in it!
Carlotta began touring at age fourteen, after studying dance at the famous La Scala Academy.  It was in Naples that she first met Jules Perrot who soon became her teacher – and apparently a demanding one.  Although no record seems to exist regarding their marriage, most sources say they later became husband and wife and sometimes she danced under the name Perrot.
Carlotta Grisi created the title role in Giselle, and later went on to star in a variety of ballets in many different countries.  She retired early, and died just before her eightieth birthday, having been in retirement for 46 years.  Because she had been out of the public eye for so many decades, when she died few remembered her, and her death went largely unnoticed by those who once celebrated her stage performances. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #21:  
Carlotta Grisi created the title role in Giselle.”

 

                Link of the Day:

 

Quote of the Day:

“Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.”
-          Robert Collier

 

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wild Wednesday and Crumbs




Wild Wednesday and Crumbs
When opening the arms (or arm) from fifth en avant (first) to à la seconde, there is a tendency for a student dancer to make a karate-like movement with the hand.  That is, the edge of the hand leads and the palm faces the floor.  This should not happen.
The correct shape of the hand during a first port de bras is the same as the hand in fifth en avant – the palm faces the dancer, not the floor.  The port de bra movement is initiated by the fingers, and it is the back of the hand that sweeps across the air. 
An image that can help with this is:  “The arms move as though the hands are brushing crumbs off a table”.  For anyone who has done this, you know that you usually use the edge of the hand, not the palm of the hand, for greatest efficiency at crumb removal. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #6o 
“In a first port de bras, the arms move as though the hands are brushing crumbs off a table”. 

 
                Link of the Day:


Quote of the Day:

“Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.”
-          Benjamin Franklin

 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Terrific Tuesday and A Sticky Situation




Terrific Tuesday and A Sticky Situation
There are many images to describe the way a dancer moves through space, and/ or how a dancer moves their limbs in space.  Beginning dancers move as though there is no resistance in the air, and their arms and legs appear limp or heavy.
It can be tricky to get the right balance of resistance and fluidity.  To help with this, imagine that the arms and legs always move through honey.  Honey is thick enough to create resistance, but thin enough to allow a fluid passage from one position to the next.
Another often-used idea is to imagine moving through water, but I like the honey image because of its thicker, richer quality.  Use whichever one works best for you. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7o 
“To move fluidly, imagine moving though honey.”
 

                Link of the Day: 

 

Quote of the Day:

“Art is the stored honey of the human soul…”
-Theodore Dreiser

 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Madness




Monday Madness
It is now spring and I thought it was time to talk about springing – or jumping.  There are many secrets related to jumping or petit allegro.  One of the most important is the theory of “up to go down to go up”.
We all know that a plié is what initiates a jump, but we forget that there is also something that initiates the plié itself.  Remember that there is always “a place to go before you go where you are going”.  Before the plié there is a breath in that allows a slight lengthening of the spine, and allows the heels to almost come off the floor.  This is the “up” part that precedes the plié and gives it the best launching power.
 So before beginning a series of jumps, remember the “up the go down to go up”. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #15c:
“To begin a jump, remember the “up to go down to go up”.  

                Link of the Day:

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CF-TtPTXc
 

Quote of the Day:

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”
-Leena Ahmad Almashat, Harmony Letters

 

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Gift




Sunday Gift
To continue with our Sunday theme of performance hints, comes this one:  Remember that each performance should be viewed as a gift you are giving to the audience.  Last week I talked about how the audience wants to love you, so now think about how wonderful it is to give something to someone who loves you.
In other words, the performance is less about you and more about them.  You are sharing your gifts, your talents, and all your preparation as a gift to the people sitting in the theater.  This can also help take the pressure off, and allows for a more open and relaxed presentation.
 Performing, in my opinion, is always about giving.   And it is usually easy to tell (or sense) when any performer, in any field, is doing it only for their own gratification.  

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #32:
“Think of every performance as a gift to the audience.”

 

                Link of the Day:

 

Quote of the Day:
“Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”
-Jim Rohn

 

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Super Saturday Singing




Super Saturday Singing
The most difficult part of a grand battement isn’t getting the leg up – it’s bringing the working leg down without crashing.  Gravity works.
Control of the abdominal muscles is critical here.   The stomach or core muscles must be engaged - i.e. “sucked in” as the leg descends.  Otherwise the back is left unsupported and vulnerable to the force and weight of the leg as gravity pulls it back to earth.
To help with this, sing silently with the rhythm of each battement:  “UP! Suck it in, UP! Suck it in.”, etc.  The “UP” is on the upward sweep of the grand battement, and the “Suck it in” happens as the leg comes down.  Try it! 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #12b:
“To control the descent of the working leg, sing (silently) with each battement:  “UP! Suck it in; Up! Suck it in.” 

                Link of the Day:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJxcudYYRdg

 Quote of the Day:

“Every journey begins with a single step.”
Maya Angelou

 

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Fun Friday Fouettés and Keyholes




Fun Friday Fouettés and Keyholes
No, I’m not talking about fouetté turns, as in 32.  I’m focusing on a standard fouetté.  The French term “fouetté” means “to whip” and that is a pretty accurate description of the correct movement.  There are many different variations on the fouetté, but all contain a basic whipping type of movement.
 Often taught first at the barre, the working leg is extended in the devant position, then the body turns away from the working leg, and the working leg ends up in an arabesque or derriere position.  The dancer spots a focal point at the finishing position, (remember, “If it turns, it spots”, Ballet Statute #5).  http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2013/12/wonderful-wednesday-turns-and-spots.html
A key point here (no pun intended) is that the working leg must maintain its original height (or go higher), and not drop at all.  To keep the height, imagine that the working foot extends even longer (is placed in a wide keyhole), and when the fouetté happens, turn the key (always maintaining the turn-out).
 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #20a:
“To maintain the height of the working leg in a fouetté, imagine placing the foot in a keyhole, and then turn the key.”

 

                Link of the Day:

 
Quote of the Day:

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
-Confucius

 

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday and Jules Perrot




Throwback Thursday and Jules Perrot
Jules Perrot (1810-1892) began his career in the circus as a clown and pantomime artist.  When he moved to Paris he was hailed by critics who said he was “the greatest dancer of our time.”  His partner was often Marie Taglioni whose fame soon exceeded his, causing a conflict.  Before long Perrot was no longer welcome at the Paris Opera. He then toured throughout Western Europe and the ballets he choreographed made him famous. 

He met and married ballerina Carlotta Grisi, known for her Giselle – parts of which were choreographed by Perrot, but wholly attributed to Coralli – since Perrot wasn’t welcome at the Paris Opera.  Perrot’s other ballets include:  La Esmeralda, Faust, Ondine, and Pas de Quatre.
Perrot danced and choreographed in Russia for more than a decade (1848-1858), but then returned to Paris.  The painter Edgar Degas used Perrot as his model for the ballet master in several of his paintings.
Perrot died destitute in 1892, but his spirit lives in on his ballets and in the paintings of Edgar Degas.
 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #27:
“Jules Perrot is seen in paintings by Edgar Degas as the ballet master.”
 

                Link of the Day:

 Quote of the Day:
“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
-Jessica Hische

 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wild Wednesday and Grand Canyon


 
Wild Wednesday and Grand Canyon
Earlier I talked about how traveling turns should follow a direct line established by the leading foot.  Well, a similar thing happens in basic jetés.
A basic jeté does not travel side to side, and this sideways action is a common mistake.  Jetés are often preceded by a glissade, which does travel sideways, but the jeté itself only travels forward (or backward in the reverse, or on any angle established by the "log").
So imagine that jetés are performed on a log across the Grand Canyon.  Anyone who has visited this majestic site can tell you that it is a long, long way down!  Any jetés that move side to side on the log would have catastrophic results! 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15c:  
“Imagine doing basic jetés on a log across the Grand Canyon.”

 

                Link of the Day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDBIX9erZ-w               

 

Quote of the Day:

“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.  The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features.  Language and illustration combined must fail.”
-John Wesley Powell

 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Terrific Tuesday Toenails




Terrific Tuesday Toenails
Dancers are always admonished to “point your feet”.  I usually prefer to say “stretch your feet” to encourage a longer, less tense, movement. 
Sometimes dancers stretch their ankles well, but the energy stops about mid-foot, leaving the toes dangling.  This is not only unattractive, it is ineffective.  To prevent this, I tell my students to imagine stretching all the way through their toenails.  I also tell them that if they do this effectively, their toenails will suddenly grow to such lengths that they will trip over them on their way out of the studio.
Adding humor to the classroom helps make the instructions more memorable.  So “stretch your toenails!”
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #19a 
“To prevent a half-pointed foot, imagine stretching your toenails.”

 

                Link of the Day:

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1vpB6h3ek4

Quote of the Day:

“Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Madness


Monday Madness
I’ve talked before about the alignment of the body and how the hip bones should be imagined as headlights on a car.  Today I’m going to discuss the entire torso. 
In ballet, the torso is, most of the time, relatively immobile.  With the exceptions of port de bras, cambres and instances of epaulement, the torso simply doesn’t move or twist much.  And this can be a problem.  The spine supports the back effectively, but there is no spine in the front of the body!  This allows turning, twisting, and bending movements, but also allows a dancer to do these movements when they shouldn’t – pirouettes are a prime example.
So for those times when the torso must remain still, imagine it as a big cereal box.  Pick any brand you like, and don’t allow the cereal inside to get crushed. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1z: 
“Imagine the torso as a large cereal box, and don’t let the cereal get crushed.”

 
                Link of the Day:               


 

Quote of the Day:

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”
-Jules Renard

 

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Sunday




Sunday Sunday
As we go into this spring season of many performances, I thought I’d do some blogs about performing.  This is what most dancers live for:  those fleeting moments onstage.  But it is also an area that can be problematic.  How does one do a wonderful performance when there are so many technical details to think about?  This is made more difficult because dancers in the classroom receive a constant barrage of criticism (hopefully constructive).  How can this internal editor be turned off so an effortlessly appearing performance can be given?
There are lots of hints and tips for this.  One of my favorites is this one:  The audience wants to love you.  Let them.”  In other words, don’t forget that the audience (usually) isn’t familiar with the technical details that drive dancers crazy.  They just want to be entertained.  If a dancer is worrying too much about the technique and too little about the performance, it will show on their face – or even in their body language.  And the audience will know.
So surrender to the joy of dancing.  After all, the work has been done in the weeks and months beforehand, so there’s nothing to worry about!  What will be, will be. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #19 
The audience wants to love you.  Let them.”

 

                Link of the Day:
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtBRN5BXt6o

 
Quote of the Day:

“Take your work seriously, but never yourself.”
-Margot Fonteyn

 

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Super Saturday and No Floating


 
Super Saturday and No Floating
Recently I talked about the “floating pelvis” and how it should seem to be hovering just above the legs.  Today’s subject is “floating retiré”, which sounds like it should be a dessert.
Unlike the floating pelvis, a dancer doesn’t want a floating retiré.  Instead, the working foot moves in a direct line up the tights (see earlier blog), and maintains contact with the leg until it stops, always maintaining contact with the knee – never, ever floating, or hovering,  out beside the knee.
The retiré can be placed in three possible locations:  directly side with the toe touching the side of the supporting leg; in front of the knee, with the little toe in the smiley face of the knee; or in the back, with the heel of the working foot hidden behind – touching – the back of the supporting leg (as in piqué turns).
So remember:  a floating retiré should only be a dessert! 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #16e 
“Retirés always maintain contact with the supporting leg.”

 
                Link of the Day:  


 

Quote of the Day:

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

 

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Fun Friday: No Tipping, Tucking or Tilting



Fun Friday:  No Tipping, Tucking or Tilting
For most dancers, one of the most difficult things to maintain is a level pelvis.  I’ve talked before about a floating pelvis and other images related to this large bone.  But it all comes down to keeping it level.
With the exception of derrière positions that are above about 30 – 45 degrees, the pelvis must stay in a level position, without tipping backward (seat up), tucking under (hips angled forward), or tilting sideways (one hip higher than the other). 
Despite the classic directive to students to “tuck under”, the pelvis shouldn’t actually “tuck under” and thus lose the level position of the pelvis.  If the dancer is tipping the pelvis backwards, they must return it to a level position, and to get students to do this, teachers often say “tuck under” – hence the confusion.
So remember:  There is no tipping, tucking, or tilting!

 
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1v 
“There is no tipping, tucking, or tilting of the pelvis, most of the time.”

 

                Link of the Day:

               
Quote of the Day:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
-Jim Rohn

 

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