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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Balancing when doing Degages


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Hi all!!


i'm having trouble trying to keep my hips square when doing degages (well and grand battements as well - as long as it's anything that involves lifting one foot off the floor)


The only way that I could prevent from falling to one side is to really pull myself towards the barre. I've tried to pull myself up as high as possible and close in my tummy, tuck in tailbones, close ribcage - all that, but i still tend to fall to the side where the foot is off the floor, unless I pull myself towards the barre with my arm....


Just wondering, should I be trying to balance with minimal force on the barre, or am I supposed to pull as hard as needed to keep my hips square?





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Dear Fish,


What needs to be done is to keep the weight from settling into the supporting hip. Also, don't think so much of "tucking tailbones", but think of making the spine as long as possible. Pulling your weight far over the supporting foot breaks the idea of a "control zone" of balance which exists on the foot, where the weight is distributed between the back of the ball of the foot and the front of the ball of the heel.

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Hello Chinafish...It sounds like you might be asking (sorry if I am reading incorrectly)... should you use the barre to help you maintain and fight for your balance? Not a good idea...You should always hold onto the barre lightly and rely on your weight placement for your balance. It sounds as though you are trying like mad to pull up on your supporting hip. Have you tried rotating the working leg in second (positioning it slightly forward but maintaining squareness in your hips) by presenting the inside of your heel forward? Hope this makes sense!

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Thanks guys for the response!


When I look at myself at the mirror, I can keep my hips perfectly still when I'm doing a tendu to the side. (Say for example my left leg is the working leg.)


Once the foot goes off the floor, my body tends to fall to the left. I could stop that by:

1. my hip has to go nearer to the barre, or

2. my whole torso go nearer to the barre, or

3. I grab at the barre like mad.


You mentioned something about weight placement - bit embarrassed here but, never heard of the term. Could you elaborate on it a bit? Thanks!!!




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Thanks for asking this, Fish. I have the same problem! Especially when my working leg is the shorter one (I have about a 1/4-1/2" difference in leg lengths).

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When you pointe one foot to the side in à la seconde, make very sure that it is in YOUR control zone for rotation, and that YOU are in YOUr control zone for balance on the standing leg. When you can balance in the tendu, then lift it very slightly off the floor. If you are still balanced, then lift it higher. My point is that you establish your balance point when you do the tendu, and then it does not change when you lift the leg, IF you are in the right place to start with. Your body weight is centered over your standing leg and you should be very lifted on the standing side of the body. If you drop to the side or collapse in the torso, nothing works. If you are lifted up out of your standing hip with your weight moved onto that leg, but NOT leaning or bending, then you should be balanced. You need the quads engaged on the standing leg, and very strong abs! Do not let the ribs on the standing side lower, and don't drop the shoulder on that side either.

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Hi Chinafish...Mel Johnson talks about weight distribution on the supporting foot. This is what I meant...I don't know if this is old-fashioned, but I think about the weight being distributed more over the ball of my supporting foot and thinking of being able to pass a thin piece of tissue under my heel. Mel's "control" zone is a great way to think about it, too. I think I misunderstood your situation...I thought you were saying that if you were in second tendu and lifted your working leg you pitched "away" from the working leg, not towards the lifted leg. Whichever way we are tending to pitch, in ballet it's all about working leg, supporting leg, and being able to free the working leg by proper placement and weight distribution. Don't forget to enjoy those degajes and good luck!


P.S. I didn't see Ms. Leigh's post as we were writing at the same time! Excellent advice...

Edited by Gina Ness
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Chinafish, how about trying very low degages a few inches off the floor, and learning to adjust your balance there. As it improves you can raise your extension. Learn to feel what happens when you take your foot off the floor.


Good luck

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This leads to my next question: Where should my centre of gravity be?


Say when I'm in first position, my centre goes from my middle of the forehead, down the middle of the nose, straight down between my legs, yeah?


Am I supposed to keep that when doing degages? or the whole body shifts a tiny bit so the weight distributes evenly on the supporting leg?




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Chinafish, the center of gravity must shift when you move from two legs to one. You do not have a leg in the center of your body, therefore you must move your body weight over the supporting leg. :grinning:

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That clears everything up!!!


Thanks so much!!!! :grinning:




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I don’t know if this will help, but you might try this little exercise.


Stand in first position and raise each arm so that you are standing in something of a Y. Don’t worry about your back or shoulders for now. Think of your arms as force vectors emanating away from your body. They are the forces that are going to keep you on balance. Then degage in second and think of the forces going upwards through the arms. Pay a little more attention to the arm on the supporting side. Put all of your attention into imagining the forces traveling from the center of your torso right through the finger tips.


Experiment by changing the height of the degage and its speed. If you fall off balance, use the force vectors of the arms to balance yourself (It will probably be the one on the supporting side).


Do this for several days and think of it as play and experimentation. Try to think of how your body feels rather than whether or not you are right. Keep you mind on those force vectors going through the arms and don’t worry about your shoulders, back, feet leg, or anything else. That will all come later.

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  • 3 months later...

I resurrected this thread because I'm having a similar problem, but not exactly the same. In my previous ballet life, I was taught like Gina Ness that the weight is mainly on the ball of the foot and you could almost pass a thin peice of paper under your heels.


My current ballet teacher has us focusing on our center line which distributes weight into Major Mel's "control zone". My problem is that when in first position and working a la seconde I feel very off balance (leaning towards the working leg). I am used to shifting my weight towards the supporting leg, but according to my teacher I'm shifting too much and need more weight towards (obviously not on) the working leg.


This pulls me toward the heel of the supporting leg and I think I'm uncomfortable putting so much weight on my heel. I'm fine in releve, so I think it's more of a mental block of putting more weight on the supporting leg's heel. I'm always working on tendus and slow, low degages (even while cooking dinner) as explained by Ms. Leigh. My teacher says it just will take time, and I am getting better at it, but I'm impatient and wondering if there is any other advice out there.

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I would think that at first, beginners shift the weight in a way that is maybe uncontrolled and -in order to keep the balance- the whole torso is very much tilted. That's fine at first (hey, you do what you got to do) but this needs to be adjusted so that the torso, gradually, is kept straighter (not as much as in first position, where the weight is 'in the middle', but almost without so much apparent shift maybe).


In order to be able to do that, it's very much a question of finding strength 'centrally': in the abs, the back and in the torso itself (in the torso, this is achieved by feeling like both sides of your body is held in a corset, and you lift both sides up, esp the weight bearing side, to make sure that you're not leaning towards it too much to conteract for the other leg in the air). When you find that you have to shift the weight towards the heel, it may mean that your torso still lacks the strength to do the job properly (so you compensate in the leg, rather than shift the torso and maintain it there with the sheer strength of it). I think your teacher is right in saying this will remedy itself with time, but my advice would be to strengthen that torso very much.

It doesn't require much complicated exercises. All you need to do is be very aware of where your weight needs to be in exercises with one leg lifted (not nec. high): for eg, at the barre, in petit battement sur le cou de pied, on demi pointes (so that you're sure your weight isn't on the heel), try and ensure you don't grab the barre so much, and yet, keep a straight torso (after a few seconds of that, you'll 'feel' what I'm talking about; the side closer to the barre will need to feel like iron strengthened!) :blushing:

Or in the centre (facing the mirror to adjust the torso), try and do degagés followed by a lift of the leg slightly off the floor, concentrating on already feeling the weight off the leg immediately on releasing the foot from the closed position (and yet, it will help to brush the floor more). Remember to lift that side (opposite the working leg) immensely, without the weight shifting towards the heel (it's hard, it's all pull/push everywhere). If your leg in the air means that to find the balance you get to tilt the torso in the opposite direction, then so be it, but instead of pushing your weight back into the heel, try and think of the torso instead (still having that feeling that you can pass a tiny piece of paper under the heel).


Hope this makes sense... I'm off on holidays now, so my explanations are on holiday mode already. :innocent:

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I would like to just add that in questions like this, a source I've found valuable in addition to this board is the book <em>Inside Ballet Technique</em>. From the point of view who has studied the basics of both anatomy and dance - but not the finer variations of either - it gave excellent explanations to what those mysterious "pull up from your supporting hip" and "open your shoulders" mean, and also explained weight placement and things like this very well. My teachers have been explaining the same things, but at least for me to have a written text to study on my own time helps a lot.

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