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Arms in piqué turns

Striving for Grace

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I've always had trouble with these turns, even when not en pointe. My teacher says my preparations and placement look great, but when it come to turning and maintaining that, I just can't seem to do it. One thing my teacher suggested was that I was making my steps in between turns too "big"- she said this may be pulling me off balance.


I have attended a few ballets recently and notice that when most of the dancers pique turn their arms aren't really rounded, but instead sometimes overlap to form a little square such that each hand is close to the elbow of the opposite arm. I've noticed that the students who've been dancing for a long time in my class do this as well. When I was taught these turns, I was told to keep the arms round. My teacher hasn't yet commented on anyones arms during pique combinations. How should the arms be positioned and why the variation?



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They should be in a rounded first position. Some pro dancers overcross the arms in certain 20C ballets for stylistic reasons, but it would not be appropriate in a 19C classic.

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Interesting - my teacher is quite traditional and she always tell us to cross our arms a bit. It has to do with not knocking the man over. In turns without a man, if you have your arms way out in front of you it can throw you off balance. When I was a kid my teacher told us the same, in pirouettes you bring your arms in close.


Some people might disagree with me but I find it to make sense. Not that I can turn. :thumbsup:

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It depends on whether you're using your back muscles properly. If you are, and your posture is correct, your arms will not be "way out in front of you." During pas de deux, some overcrossing is necessary, but to be picky, overcrossing at any other time is a stylization.

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At my last class my teacher pulled me up and said that as i go into my pique turn i am dropping my left arm and scooping it instead of bringing it in to a clean first. This is whats throwing me off balance. (right arm if im turning to the left) - I think to me it felt prettier to do it that way but i didnt realise how something so little could have such an impact on the whole turn.

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I am a beginner, but my turns got much better when the instructor made me do them without arms. She had me hold cross my arms and hold my shoulders so that my arms were flat against my body. WIthout arms, I had to really concentrate and feel where my center was, and leg placement, and viola, they got much better very quickly. After I got that down, then I found I could add the arms in a variety of positions and it didn't cause too many problems.

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The arms should be rounded (in what our studio calls 1st position). Some dancers do overlap the arms when they turn, either just a little bit (e.g. the fingers just crossing) or somet do pull them in a lot (like you described). However, I'm a firm believer that the arms should be as "proper" as possible. Obviously, if you are dancing with a guy, you might have to pull in the arms a bit to avoid hitting him. However, most of the time, it's because the dancer wants to get in more turns. When I taught the adult class this summer, I allowed 1 girl to overlap her hands because a) her arms were too far out (they were almost straight out in front of her, in an oval shape) and :yes: she had difficulty "assembling" the pirouette quickly. I thought it might help her if she thought about crossing her hands - but it didn't really do anything to help.


But for dancers who have good turning ability, I think the arms in pirouettes (pique turns included) should be the way it is supposed to be. I used to sometimes cross my hands in turns (I am one of those who have a pretty good sense for turns) and my teacher would tell me not to. However, most of the time, I don't hear other teacers correcting students on this, but I wish they would. If you always practice pirouettes with correct arms, then if you did need to cross them (for whatever reason), I think it would be easier to do - than to always do them with crossed arms and then have to do them correctly one day.


But that's just my opinion...

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And it's a very good opinion, GretchenStar :lol: I do not understand the lack of attention to the arms in pirouettes these days, nor the lack of attention to port de bras in general! B) In diagonal pirouettes of all sorts almost all I see in the last decade looks like some sort of karate to me! It is not classical ballet at all. I spend a LOT of time on this, but it is such a losing battle, because no one else seems to care. :)

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I care, if it makes a difference. :D As a watcher who also dances, I have to fight the urge to run up on the stage and fix port de bras ( and secondbesque, and too high extensions for the piece, etc.) on dancers that are well known and considered to be very good. Gillian Murphy was talking about how she deliberately pulls her arms in to turn more ( I think this was either in a book about physics and ballet or in Minden's Ballet Companion). I don't get it. I never got as far as I wanted in the pro world, but my arms are rounded as I do 32 fouettes and anywhere from 3-6 piroettes!

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And it's a very good opinion, GretchenStar :) I do not understand the lack of attention to the arms in pirouettes these days, nor the lack of attention to port de bras in general! :angry: In diagonal pirouettes of all sorts almost all I see in the last decade looks like some sort of karate to me! It is not classical ballet at all. I spend a LOT of time on this, but it is such a losing battle, because no one else seems to care. :wink:

OK, sorry to sidetrack the discussion a bit but this really got my attention - it's a question I've been struggling with recently. With three years of study, I'm really a beginner looking for any input I can get. Pirouettes are still problematic - I usually have a few decent ones, often while marking the combination, but then they're gone for the rest of the class. :wink: Made some progress this summer, but it's still a work in progress... :blushing:


Anyhow - I was taught, and I try hard, to start with the leading arm in first, bringing the trailing arm from second to first at the start. But I recently got the "Video Dictionary of Ballet" on DVD, which has wonderful demonstrations and explanations, usually repeated in slow motion so one can analyze the details. What I see there is at the start, the leading arm goes from first to second, then both arms come to first as the actual turn begins. Like the dancer needs to "grab some air" to make the turn. I tried it, and certainly can get a lot more momentum going that way. (All the turns in the video are doubles, if that matters.)


So ... is that a subtle modification I have missed before, or is it (strictly speaking) incorrect or at least non-traditional, non-classical??


I'll ask about frappe's in a different thread, another day :wub:

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Opening the arm to 2nd is fine; however what Ms. Leigh warns against is moving the arms from the elbows and not from the back. If you open the arm, you must open the entire arm from the back, not merely extend your elbow so it looks as if your arm is going to 2nd when really it is not. :speechless:

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Also, I'm talking about the practice of opening the arm to a place they think is second, but they turn the hands to flatten the palms down to the floor, creating a straight line, THEN bend from the elbows, making karate! :speechless: Even when they start in first, they open that leading arm from the correct position to this ugly flatline position instead of a classical à la seconde.


The leading arm SHOULD open to second, olddude, but it needs to remain in the classical second, with the palm forward, not downward! Once it opens, as with any pirouettes done using this port de bras, it really does not return to first, but it looks like it does because the other side comes around and catches up to it and creates the first! :D Magic!


If you walk a turn, doing it slowly, starting from first with the leading arm and opening it as you initiate the turning movement, as you continue around the corner, bringing the opposite side of the body around, including the arm, you will end up in a fist position. Try it!


The only time the leading arm does NOT go out to the side at all is when doing regular pirouettes en dehors from the straight front arm preparation. The palm is down in that preparation. It's a different theory of turning, and the action is that that arm comes straight in to first, not going outward to side at all. This works, and is fine if executed correctly, but I find it often unattractive because if they bend from the elbows it creates an angular position instead of a rounded position. Then the big problem comes when they start using this preparation AND going to side...that is where the flatline comes in, and they get in a habit of it and carry it into the diagonal turns or turns en manège, and it becomes really bad.


Sorry, I get on a real soapbox about this, because I see it ALL the time from almost everyone these days. I think the only good port de bras in turns that I have seen in recent years was the Royal Ballet. Houston used to maintain the classical position too, but have not seen them in a while. Hope they still do!

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I have one teacher who teaches the preparation to an en dehors pirouette with the palm facing down, but the arm still opening to second. (I find this very difficult, I can do either or but not both. She has so far not corrected me for starting arm in first, which is how I just do it all the time... :speechless:)


Is this a very rare style, or even considered wrong by many? If it matters, this teacher was trained in UK and has danced professionally in some countries in Europe (I am afraid I forget which... :D).


And as always, it is very possible I have just misunderstood instruction!

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Jaana, in my opinion, anyone using the straight front arm preparation, palm down, should not be going to second. They are misunderstanding the theory of that turn. It works by pulling inward, not by going out and around like the one from first. But, this is what I'm talking about, the misuse of that turning theory, creating what are, in my opinion, very unattractive arms in turns, especially on the diagonal where the turns are faster and the arms become acutely angular instead of gently rounded.

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Now that I have thought of it a bit, I am actually not sure if she teaches that for piqué turns on diagonal (I have not done those with her much), I accidentaly extrapolated from the regular en dehors pirouette... my first teachers taught those from rounded arm with the arm opening, but piqué turns from the straight arm without opening, so it's all a mess in my head right now it seems... I was about to pull back my post until it comes up in class so I can make sure, in fact, but saw the answer first.


:D:shrug: I think I am completely overanalyzing turns anyway, since I am not a natural turner at all and have developed a kind of fear... since we have been asked to do doubles my singles are actually getting worse because of nerves... :speechless: but that's another topic completely.

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