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Ballet Talk for Dancers

grands battements

Guest beckster

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By the way Ms. Leigh, where is the correct place to rest the hand on the barre? And how does one take the barre in the hand? I was trained as a student without any real description of that, therefore I am very interested in how this is taught. I do find it most helpful to "talk shop". Thanks so much for your input.

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vrsfanatic, the hand should be placed on top of the barre, without the thumb going under it, and the elbow on that arm relaxed but not too close to the body. It should be slightly in front of the body, not directly beside it. This helps in keeping the weight of the body to more forward. (And also allows the hand to slide easily a few inches forward or back when there is any change of weight. smile.gif )

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Sounds the same as I know it, however the wrist must also be down and it is not really the fingers which rest on the barre, It is the "pillows" of the hand, in otherwords, the fleshy parts of the palm where the fingers join into the palm. I know this sounds far fetched from grand battement back but it is all so connected. I know with my students if they do not accomplish correct alignment of the body, and how one holds the barre, we have difficulty with vocabulary constantly. Now that is an entirely load answer which perhaps belongs in a category for teachers not in the Adult Ballet Student Forum

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I agree that the wrist should be dropped, but that sort of happens when the elbow is relaxed too. smile.gif


I don't find a problem in discussing things like this here, as it does go along with the original question that was asked, or at least relates to it in terms of the answer. Of course it could also be discussed on the teachers' board, so if you wish to address it there, that would be fine.

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I am delighted to discuss this or any topic anywhere. Since I am new to this forum, much less the computer, I am unfamiliar with the protocal. By the way, what does your smiling face with sunglasses mean? I cannot find that symbol in FAQ.

Perhaps, part of this discussion should include a matter of levels since in my experience in implementing the Vaganova program personally, and watching it done in our country, there are degrees of importance as well as priorities. For example:Wrist down to a 1st through 4th year student is of great importance for many reasons, including the development of the spine. However, as one matures we hope the importance of this direction will stick, but for the most part , in my observation in this country, after that, it is basically accepted by most teachers, students and dancers alike that the wrist down, elbow softly down and forward of the waistline not to be a great priority. I have seen this work at all levels. Not to say by all students, but the better ones, with the stronger backs in the centre work do accomplish this requirement. Let's face it, there are many ways to teach everything. This is America and we teachers are doing quite an amazing job, under very difficult standards in which to accomplish. As well educated as I am in the Russian program, I am an American, confronted by many of the same issues teachers of other ideologies are confronted with in our culture. The knowledge of the Vaganova Methodology has helped me to train accomplished dancers in this country. I trained dancers prior to my "Russian" defection and am very interested to continue an open forum so I myself stay on top of my skills. I do believe all students can accomplish this standard of arabasque however to begin with grand battement is not the correct process. It begins with facing the barre and in order to be brief, proceeds to one hand on the barre. Try working it in tendus and jetes {Watch there are vocabulary differences here}, proceed to fondus, frappes, {all at 45 degrees} releve lents, developes, and then perhaps one can then approach grand battements. The training of direction is of the utmost importance in the development of the spine. Beginning this process should not only include grand battement. Beckster, I wish you the best with this but you must be patient. Corrections do not happen over night. Of course the body must move forward in all arabasques, but I have found there is a step lost in our teaching, yes and even observed in Vaganova school. We do not remain children, we do not blindly follow direction. Thank goodness we begin to think as we mature. Be logical, if the process has been adhered to relentlessly, there is logic too. Do not move the arm on the barre in Arabasques. Remember it is always more difficult to go back and repair than to just have been taught to do it according to the process. There are video tapes out there showing Russian ballet classes in Russia which will illustrate this well.

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The sunglasses smiley is sort of a beaming, content smiley, more relaxed than even the "big grin" smiley. It's a peculiarity of the present software that the heading smilies do not always graphically coincide with those found in the body of the text. There is no "sunglasses smiley" in the latter, and the "big grin smiley" ( biggrin.gif) looks cheerful enough, but maybe a little bit seasick?


All methods, systems, and schools of ballet are welcome here, whether as a contribution to a given topic, or as independent "think pieces" on appropriate forums. For example, had there not been an original post relating to grand battement here, the latter part of this thread could easily have been its own material under teachers, but since there's a tie that binds here, it's just fine!


You make many fine points here about teaching and I look forward to your contributions and discussions on the boards.


(PS. I especially like the late point about going back to repair damage:


Murphy's Law of Time Management - there's never enough time to do it right, but there's always plenty of time to do it over! wink.gif)



[This message has been edited by Mel Johnson (edited March 05, 2001).]

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I thought the sunglass smiley meant "cool" smile.gif

But I also use it just 'cause I like it!


vrs, I totally agree about the difficulty in repair as opposed to learning it right the first time. I spend an awful lot of time "undoing" and sometimes get very frustrated with that, although not with the students themselves but with their previous training. The younger they are, the easier it is to create a new habit to replace the old bad habit, but when they are teens and have done things incorrectly for years, it's really hard - for both the student and the teacher.

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Guest CygneDanois

Sorry I came so late to this topic--I love talking about technique smile.gif. My experience with moving the hand on the barre has been that it is fine in arabesque because it is necessary to shift the weight forward--as far as I know, it's not a question of keeping the back as straight as possible, which should always be done, except in arabesque penché. During extensions devant and de côté, the pelvis does not move, but derrière, it must be tilted slightly forward for any extension above 45 degrees, and this shifts the weight forward.


It seems to me that not to move the hand forward on the barre would be to stand in arabesque with the weight too far back, grasping and clutching at the barre simply to remain upright at the worst, and at best, it would be to stand in an extremely uncomfortable position with the shoulder raised and the elbow behind the body. If one has a perfect ballet body with an incredibly strong and flexible back, it may be possible to stand correctly in arabesque without moving the arm forward; however, how many of us have that!?


My Bolshoi-trained teacher is very careful about where and how the arm is placed on the barre. The arm must be relaxed, with the elbow down, approx. 6 in. from the waist (Russians get really specific about these things smile.gif), and slightly in front of the body at all times. He tells us to do what is necessary with regard to moving the arm on the barre in order not to disturb the correct alignment of the body. He also once said that Mme. Vaganova's syllabus was created a very long time ago, and that she was the type of lady who embraced sensible advancements in ballet technique.


Vrsfanatic, you do write that this rule is mainly for children, but I think that there should be different standards for teaching children vs. adults. Children are much more flexible, and their bodies are still growing, whereas adults are fully mature, and will probably not be able to gain a great deal of flexibility. This difference must be acknowledged, and as far as I know, the Vaganova syllabus was not designed for that




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Oops, Victoria, you are correct! smile.gif See, another heading/text disconnect - the text "cool smiley" is orange! Guess it goes along with the specs - suntan ya know!


And Cygnedanois, I yield to your experience of Vaganova, as I've never studied within the system, but only had occasional teachers who had. On Vaganova, as I am about a lot of schools that have produced excellent dancers, I remain an interested and sympathetic onlooker, perhaps not always agreeing with what I see or hear, but still willing to listen and learn and perhaps incorporate the knowledge into a personal synthesis of system - which is what I suspect we all do! Thanks, John Dewey (educational philosopher, founder of the Pragmatic school)!

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Yes, we should all continue to learn from each other, without this we become isolated and non-thinking people.

As for Vaganova herself, my teachers in the USA, both Bolshoi and Vaganova trained, as well as my teachers is St. Petersburg have said exactly what you have said. To quote the late Jurgen Schneider, "the syllabus is a living, breathing, body of work which must continue to change according to the demands of choreography." Read Tarasov's introduction to his great book " The Training of the Male Dancer". This a beautifully written work, the book as a whole, but most easily enjoyable, the introduction.

As for the discussion of the supporting arm on the barre, I can not say how I would handle an adult student who is starting out in ballet, for I have not taught this level unfortunately in many years. However I would like to believe I would make an attempt to teach it as I know it and of course remain open minded to individual circumstances. The Vaganova syllabus is not a dogma. My experience with teaching adults was extentive when I first began to teach and I must say as a young, idealistic, dancer making the transition, I was quite demanding of my students, perhaps naively so, but results were seen.

Keep up your interest in technique.

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Guest CygneDanois

Major, nobody ever has to yield to me. I am far from being an expert on Vaganova, and am merely stating what I have learned from one teacher at one school. Please tell me if you disagree with something I have written, as I am sure you are much more knowledgeable on the subject than I am, and I always want to learn.


Vrsfanatic, of course a teacher has to be demanding; otherwise, there will be no results; I just meant to say that one should always keep in mind the physical limitations of different types of people.





[This message has been edited by CygneDanois (edited March 06, 2001).]

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CyngeDanois, I am not yielding. On the contrary, I am interested also in other information which is out there, for I too am one person who has also interpreted what has been taught to me and let's face it, we all make mistakes at some point. I learn many things from my students on a daily basis, perhaps even things that may at times add up to, how to be ineffective.

Please understand I am immensely interested in discussions of technique. To exchange ideas. Having much of my own misinformation regarding different ballet techniques clarified so I may educate myself more, which can only lead to helping my own students. I am very aware of the discrepencies within the Vaganova Methodology, most of which I understand, have questioned myself, and remain open to revisiting at anytime.



Actually I have been quite fasinated by your knowledge and tremendous passion for the Russian program. I have read through a number of the forums with interest and have found your ideas and knowledge to be consistently intelligent and open.


As for different body types I truly must say, that was one of the most shocking things for me in Russia. The ideal body type is much more open minded in Vaganova school, than during my own training as a ballet dancer. I also made sure to observed the non-professional classes held in the school, since this a question which arises on a frequent basis regarding the program. These classes are held for young children, ages 7-10, sort of pre=ballet as well as more advanced up to about age 14. Although these children were not as physically gifted as the professional division, there were those who looked much better than many of our equally less physically gifted students.

And as far as body type goes, may I dare say, that it is a relatively know thought that the wonderful dancer, Ulanova was not as gifted physically as some. To use a living female example, wonderful Irina Kolpakova, also by Kirov standards physically was not ideal. As for the men Nureyev physically was not up to their standards, although perhaps I should not use him as an example since he went to the school at such a late date. No, a perfect example. Not such perfect material physically, and with out the highest demands placed upon him we will never know. But it is a thought. And what about Soloviev, although my teacher in Russia said he had such soft muscles, truly amazing they say.But his proportions were definely not the ideal. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to see him dance.


Well, I am thinking, but tired so hopefully we may continue this discussion at another time.


Enjoying the exchange.

Respectfully yours,


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We're running a little afield, here, folks; from the concrete (grands battements) to the abstract (theory and practice of different methodologies). We can leave this here, I think, without closing it, but further discussion of the latter topic, I think, can go to teachers.

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