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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What is the easiest to deal with?


pointe2perfection

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I know many AD's who are more forgiving with height for smaller dancers than taller dancers. With gentlemen, I would have to say feet may not be as developed as the ladies. Also extention for the men, the requirements are not as "high" as with the ladies. Men need a good basic 90 degree height in the legs but for the ladies that just will not do.

 

Pirouettes on the other hand, for ladies, still a good double on pointe, while for the men three and more. Of course they love it when dancers can spin like tops, mainly because the audience loves it, but for good solid corps work, I cannot think of a ballet that requires more than a good double in unison! :gossip: Please jump in if you think of one!

 

In conversation with many AD's I have heard it said that they wished they could find more American dancers who are well trained in the area of port de bras and epaulement. They bend the standards in this area quite frequently in the hopes that once they get a good dancer they will be able to "clean up" the port de bras and epaulement.

 

Bottomline, I have found that if a dancer has that "something" an AD is looking for they will get noticed, regardless of having perfect this or that.

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  • Victoria Leigh

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I have questions about this Royal Danish Ballet School. Ballet Author, you state that they select children at the age of 5 or 6, and provide both academic and ballet training as well as BOARDING. Who in their right mind would send a child of this age to boarding school? Is all tuition and housing paid by the state? I'm trying to determine how this would differ from NBS and RWBS that we have here in Canada. These schools also select based on potential, but not until the age of about 10 or 11, (and that would be about the earliest most people would even consider a boarding school). Of course, thare are many other options for good training in Canada as well.

 

VRS, I thank you for a concise answer to a question that seemed to me to be somewhat unanswerable. :gossip:

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In conversation with many AD's I have heard it said that they wished they could find more American dancers who are well trained in the area of port de bras and epaulement. They bend the standards in this area quite frequently in the hopes that once they get a good dancer they will be able to "clean up" the port de bras and epaulement.

What exactly is “port de bras and epaulement”?

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Port de bras literally means carriage of the arms. Épaulement is shouldering, however it also involves the use of the head and the whole upper body. Both épaulement and port de bras are sadly neglected areas in many schools today. :gossip:

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dancindaughters,

While not a part of the US culture, in many European countries, it is not uncommon for children to go to boarding schools as young as 1st grade. This is a practice not only of those who are receiving specialized training, such as ballet, but also for many in the upper class. We find it hard to fathom here, but it is viewed very differently in other parts of the world. :jump:

 

As to the question of costs, there are a number of state-sponsored schools in Europe where the students pay little or nothing for their training. My daughter attended the Royal Ballet's summer school and I was shocked at the minimal cost of the program, for all meals, boarding and superior training! While NBS and RWBS subsidize the costs for Canadian students, some of the older, European programs are almost totally subsidized by the government. Ah, for something like that here in the US! :gossip: (Actually, there are a few state-sponsored summer programs like this. Here in Oklahoma the OK Summer Arts Institute costs $200 for 2 weeks - full room and board at a beautiful resort and dancing 7 days a week for 20 ballet students. NY has the NYSSSA program, but I am not sure it is as fully subsidized. There are probably others that are similar.)

 

One of my daughter's teachers was trained at the Royal Danish from a very young age, as is being discussed here and he graduated from the school. He still believes it is among the finest training in the world for a young dancer! He is an excellent teacher, with extremely high standards and a very sharp eye for the details that make the difference.

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Ms Leigh and Ms Schneider, Thank You for the information on port de bras and epaulement. Why do you think this is a problem with students trained in the US? Is this problem a reflection on the students, the training or a combination of both?

 

To be honest my DD seems more fixated on her FEET, TURNS, LEG LIFTS, and LEAPS (I don't know the correct terms) than her upper body. Are you able to determine port de bras and epaulement from the audition photos? :gossip:

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To piggyback on thedriver's post, what school of ballet-vaganova, Cecchetti, Balachine, RAD...which one would stress the port de bras, etc and why is American training lacking this?

My daughter actually gets complimented on her upper body presence which she doesn't feel is as important as feet,etc. It seems so many dancers are fixated on beautiful feet and long hyper extended legs!!!

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It's the training, and there is no answer in terms of what method, since I firmly believe it is a matter of the teacher, not the method. Vaganova does stress épaulement, and I am not Vaganova trained, however both port de bras and épaulement are extremely important factors in my teaching.

 

The influence of the Balanchine training has not helped, as port de bras and épaulement are not stressed there nearly as much as legs, feet, and speed. Cecchetti and RAD can be lovely or very stiff, depending on how they are taught.

 

As to why these things are not taught, or emphasized enough, in a lot of the training in this country, I don't know. I find it most upsetting.

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As Ms. Leigh has already confirmed, it is not a matter of which school of thought or program of teaching. I do not believe my post specified in American schooling in particular (I do not really know what that is to tell you the truth).Rather I said...

...wished they could find more American dancers who are well trained in the area of port de bras and epaulement...

 

 

From observation and my own experience as a teacher I believe that time is a very large obstacle, no matter what school of ballet one is studying in the US. Even under ideal circumstances, a program with students who study 6 days a week from about the age of 10-18, there is little comparison to the schools in Europe where students study ballet and ballet related courses for 6-8 hours a day.

 

In order to develop port de bras and epaulement, students must study with teachers and in schools, that make it a priority. There is a logic to it, just as there is with the legs and feet, but for some reason in the US, this logic can sometimes play second fiddle to things such as turnout, height of legs, hip placement, and how many turns! Unfortunate, but true. I know this was my case as a student and yes, even as a new teacher. It was not until I was 19 that anyone actually was able to begin to open my mind and eyes to beautiful arms and the usage of the head in movement. I was not permitted to use my head and eyes in barre work as a student. It was considered "old fashioned" to tell you the truth.

 

Fortunately for me I did find Directors and teachers who knew about the importance of such matters as a professional, so I did learn, eventually. But believe me, I did it all backwards. Maybe this is one reason I am so port de bras obsessed when I am middle aged! :o:D

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After reading this thread and the posts regarding epaulement and port de bras, I re-checked my son's in-house exam marks and there is a section "Port de Bras". I do know that epaulement is stressed and taught in both technique (Vaganova based) and character class. So some schools are still teaching both. :D

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Thank you all for your comments. I also believe that if a dancer has the "magic", it is that magic that draws the audience in. I always find myself zeroing in on one or two dancers because they obviously adore what they are doing - they are passionate and it shows through their movement on stage. On the other hand, I have watched dancers that are incredible in technique, have the perfect dancers body, feet to die for, etc. but are lackluster when it comes to espression and feeling. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I feel that goes for dancing too - everyone is drawn to different attributes of a dancer.

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Like DancemomCA, my ds's training also stressed epaulement and port de bras so at least I know he and his classmates were taught and evaluated on these things.

 

However, I am puzzled by the fact that there is often something which happens with a lot of boys even when they have attended programs where this clearly has been taught and I cannot quite put my finger on why this happens.

 

A LOT of boys and men seem to act like "deer in the headlights" staring ahead, eyes, head, upper body FROZEN. I've seen guys do this in some really fine ballet schools and in some not so fine companies (I would venture a guess that in companies with a lot of choices with regard to men, they select for dancers who are not in rigor mortis from the chest up!)

 

Entire ballet companies apparently have gentlemen with this affliction! A well-schooled young man I know had done a company audition a few years ago and had been offered a contract, although the AD noted that he found this man's epaulment "feminine" [it wasn't] When considering this contract offer he went to the company to watch/take class. Ultimately, he did not accept the offer. Among the reasons he noted were that the men in the company had NO epaulement whatsoever, they were all as stiff as boards. His comment at the time was that perhaps the AD (a man with beautiful training himself) had been watching this utter disengagement of the upper body for so long that he had "forgotten" what it was supposed to look like and now assumed that this was "normal" and that in this man's eyes, any epaulement was viewed as "girly" :D ...but we all got the point!

 

Do any of you know why although this is often a problem with training in the US generally, it seems at least (IMHO) that the problem is more pronounced with the boys?

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This is ironic as one of my DD's ADs and I were talking about this just today. Sorry, I can't answer specifically to why boys can have bad Port de Bras and Epaulement, but the AD said that it seems that the arms are the last thing to come where young students are concerned. She felt that it was natural for the DK's to take care of what their feet and legs are doing first, for if they don't, they might fall on their face. The arms come after the feet are comfortable with what they are doing and something beautiful begins to happen when everything begins to move together. Of course, it is up to the teacher to remind them that they do have arms, and a head, too.

 

From observation and my own experience as a teacher I believe that time is a very large obstacle, no matter what school of ballet one is studying in the US. Even under ideal circumstances, a program with students who study 6 days a week from about the age of 10-18, there is little comparison to the schools in Europe where students study ballet and ballet related courses for 6-8 hours a day.

This is exactly why my DD feels that dancing at least 3 hours a day, 6 days a week is necessary, but yet some people disagree and some big name programs to not have dance schedules that nearly match the European or Canadian schedules. Why is that? Sorry, that question might be :D

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mylildancer, I've just bumped up an old thread with some schedules of dancers in the intermediate to advanced levels which you may or may not have seen before: Dancers' Schedules.

 

I believe you'll find that what your daughter considers normal and important is - and that at the larger programs that have the space and the finances there are indeed at least this many hours spent in class once they have reached a certain level.

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I feel that very young dancers, even in the first year, can be taught to move with very natural and fluid port de bras, however it must be incorporated into the movement when it is taught, and not considered an "add on later". There are exercises for port de bras, which are good, however, very few teachers connect the movement of the arms to the use of the upper body and head, and also to moving at least the knees at the same time. The way the port de bras is taught, as separate movement, and also in a manner which is more like "put your arms here" and then "put them out here" does not generate natural and fluid motion. It must connect to the music and be generated from the torso, and yes, I do believe that beginners can understand this if it is presented right. They can learn right from the outset that ballet is circular, and the arms create various forms of circular movement which connect to the steps. They can understand a circle being a non stop motion, as opposed to straight lines and angles, and can understand overcircles, undercircles, semi circles, and even figure eights.

 

If they are shown how to move through the first position (Cecchetti 5th en avant) of the arms, using it as a gateway to everywhere else, then they will do this. If it is ignored, which it seems to be with great regularity, it takes me a couple of years at the upper Int. level when I get them to coordinate their movements. In general I find that most students come in with no idea that their arms are a major portion of their body and integral to the steps. They look more like something attached at the shoulder that moves once in a while in a jerky motion, or sometimes like someone doing karate! :D They have often been taught to "hold" their hands or fingers, creating a stiffness in the wrist and a total lack of fluidity of motion. I even have a teenage MALE dancer whose biggest problem since he came to the school is NOT holding his middle finger and thumb together. :wink:

 

So, as with everything else, it comes back to the teaching. Way too many teachers seem to have no clue as to HOW to teach port de bras and épaulement.

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