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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet norms on the diagonal


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Formerly a competitive runner, I just started taking ballet back in late June/early July as a new means of making use of my ectomorphic body. Entering ballet has been like entering an entirely new culture - new customs, new clothes, new language. I want to be sensitive to these norms, and I would also prefer to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment. One source of embarrassment for me is the fact that I tend to move across the diagonal much, much more quickly than those who travel across the diagonal with me. I'm guessing this is partially because of my long body. What's the ballet norm with respect to this?

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Hi, hart, and welcome to the Adult Students' Forum here at Ballet Talk on Ballet Alert! Online! :shrug:


There really is no "norm" as such. As a former runner, you probably have a mean "miler's kick" and can really step out. One of the most difficult things we have to teach to new students, whether adult or children is that it's all right to cover a lot of ground. Some students just "dance under themselves" and getting them to move is like trying to get someone to walk a tightrope! If you can travel that well, you can always cut it down once you have command of the step and not make it look cramped.

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Guest DancingBoi

I have trouble with this a lot too. I guess it is from being really tall, about 6'2, but whenever we are doing things across the floor I always tend to run out of room and the other people are just in the middle of the floor. The instructor doesn't say anything about it so should I worry about it? I have tried to make the steps "smaller" but this doesn't always work out and I usually mess up more because I'm trying harder to compress the step. What should I do?

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Well, I think you will get used to judging how much to travel on what steps the more you take class. Like I can travel lots (even though I'm short), but I also try to adjust my steps to ensure I'll still have space for the end of the combination.


I think that if you do want to travel, stand in front, so you won't have to "bowl" anyone over. It's frustrating to dance behind people who dance underneath themselves- it's like driving behind a slow car.


Other than that, there isn't really any norm, as Mel said. I did hear that for the end of a grand allegro combination (like if it's just glissade, saut de chat or something simple like that), it's perfectly acceptable to go "around" the corner (like head directly upstage) if you run out of room. Of course, make sure no one is standing there (which might be kind of difficult if you're going in a group of 4 and the other people don't know you plan on doing this). I'ver heard several teachers tell us to do that when we run out of room, but for some reason, most people don't. They just cut out the last jump... :shrug:

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Hi Hart--


Welcome to ballet-- as you can probably already tell, ballet is a fantastic test of your co-ordination, and it's amazing how many ways of making strides there are without ever putting one foot in front of another...


One question that occurs to me as I read your post is to wonder if you're impinging on other people's space as you step out. In my studio, this can be an issue for men -- rarely for women, because (I guess) they're competitive in different ways, and also because there are so many more of them than there are of us guys. I can't tell from your name which sex you are, but the women are almost NEVER as guilty of this as men are -- well, guilty is a harsh word to use, but I've committed this sin myself, to be A) so diligently hard-working trying to perfect the step that I don't notice where someone else's "bubble" begins -- that bubble of space within which they feel safe -- and without actually bumping into people, I can make them feel like they don't have room to make their efforts within, and :shrug: (this is probably not a problem for you) on my right side I have difficulty actually controlling how much I travel. I was corrected only a week ago in a crowded class in a gentle way, by a teacher who reminded me that it was within my own control how much i travelled, and that I needed to be more aware how much room there WAS for me and my efforts.


So without wanting to discourage you, I'd like to suggest that there IS a virtue in learning how to dance "underneath yourself" -- the discipline is good for you and your technique...... But as Major Mel says, it is a GIFT to be able to dance large, to move out and eat up the space -- it as a wonderful gift in a performer, for the audience loves to see someone sweeping about the stage -- it's an especially wonderful gift in a woman, where it is rarer.... the challenge is to know how much space you have, and IF you don't have room to go sideways, you can always jump HIGHER......

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And then there's my "war story" of the time I totally misjudged the size of the stage and took off like a bat out of hell - tombé, pas de bourrée, glissade, and I was out of room. I tried to turn the grand jeté that followed upstage, but upstage as it was, I was still flying straight out the wing in an épaulé derrière position! The ballet master came up to me after and asked, "What the hell was that thing you did, and how did you do it?" I just said, "That was a mistake, and I have absolutely no idea!" :shrug:

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I just wanted to say thanks for the helpful advice. Ballet Talk has been so encouraging and helpful to me (I have been sneaking around on this site for a while). In response to Mel, thank you for "giving me the permission," so to speak, to feel okay with fully making use of the space within my "personal bubble." Ballet certainly challenges me with respect to overcoming all sorts of self-consciousness.


In response to Paul, I am a woman who, admittedly, has the capacity to be as competitive as any guy. However, this is much more true for running than ballet. I have actually chosen ballet as a means of stepping away from that kind of mentality. I appreciate your comment about making sure to respect others' "bubbles." In competitive running, you learn to run "on someone's shoulder" which means that everyone has pretty small bubbles. People's bubbles in ballet are much larger. I think every once in a while, I may intentionally dance behind someone who dances underneath themselves just for the sake of making sure I am aware of others' space and for the sake of making sure that my movement is controlled and well-articulated. Thanks again.

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I have actually chosen ballet as a means of stepping away from that kind of mentality.

Oh? Good luck. :shrug:

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Carbro, you mock me??? :innocent:


Okay, okay. I feel like I have just been caught with my hands in the proverbial cookie jar. :wub: It is probably difficult to completely escape my ambitious nature; however, I will say that there is some freedom in not having to deal with the expectation of becoming "great." Starting ballet at 27, there seems to be more freedom to dance for its own sake. I have spoken with several classmates whose ballet careers ended abruptly because of some devastating injury in adolescence. They consistently talk about having to mourn the loss of unfulfilled dreams and expectations after having recently returned to ballet. It is very, very difficult for them, and having had to mourn my own losses with respect to running, I can imagine that it must take a lot of courage to return to ballet. I wonder if that is true for others as well? As for me, whenever I am able to momentarily transcend my self-consciousness, ballet has got to be one of the most powerfully meaningful things I have ever done. I just simply love it!

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There are two problems with being fast when working diagonally across the room:

1. If you're moving in someone else's wake, you can hit that person when overtaking.

2. If you're moving ahead of everyone else, you can hit the wall unless the studio is extra-big.


I usually try to start in the way back and give myself the longest diagonal possible. I try to let the other dancers dance in front of me, so I can see where they are and avoid hitting them. And I take a SHALLOWER diagonal than those in front of me, so I don't hit them at the other end of the room. That is, the path I choose does not cross the path they choose. So even if I go faster along that path, there will be no collision.

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It is good to travel, but you have to plan, especially if the studio is not large. For example, you might try doing smaller preparatory steps and then a large grand jeté. Or if you go in the first group (not an enticing proposition, I know :innocent: ) there won't be anyone in front of you. While the teacher is giving the combination, I try to think of how much space each step should take (this gets easier with experience) so as to make the best use of the studio.


Though I do remember one time when I started in the back corner of a 4-person group of girls taller than I was and finished the diagonal by the opposite wall while they were still in the center of the studio!

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Good points, Hans. It's like phrasing in music. You can't have nothing but one crescendo after another. A big leap looks that much more important because of the steps leading up to it. It takes time and experience to learn how to assess a combination before beginning it and decide the form you want it to take and how to schedule yourself accordingly.

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Carbro, you mock me??? :wub:

Oh, sorry, Hart. Misread you. I thought you meant you were seeking refuge from the competitive people with whom you had to cope.


In that case, enjoy! :innocent:

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