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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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2 things have encouraged me to start this topic.


1. I've been reading the back posts on this board, and came across a 2002 comment Ms. Leigh posted in response to someone else who was having achilles tenderness in which she cautioned against "over-pointing." I've always just pointed to my fullest plantar flexion with maximal effort without thinking about it and now wonder if that is over-pointing and what kind of gentler approaches there are and how to work the foot properly if you are holding back?


2. I watched my ballet class rather than take it myself last night and was struck with how some students were able to work with a kind of lightness that was still quick and accurate, and yet seemed so gentle and delicate, as if they weren't working at all, and I wondered whether I have been carrying tension where I needn't and whether I was "over-working."


Some students movements were very legato, others staccato. Around the frappé point of class, we sometimes do piqués, in which we lightly tap the floor en croise first 8 times, then 4, then 2, then 1. In this exercise, some people's legs looked like slowly bouncing ######, constantly moving, never really stopping fully at either the up or down position, others were very sharp, tapping definitively on the floor and pausing briefly at the up point at each end of the movement. I'm wondering whether the legato approach is safer or more correct.


Can people talk about "over-working"?

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Overworking comes in many forms. One that is most common is tensing muscles to feel them rather than using coordination and logic to move. Engaging a muscle does not mean feeling tense. Breathe. Seriously, make sure you are not holding yur breath while working! :blushing:

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The energy to pointe the foot must come from your center and down and out through the whole leg. If you grip your foot, or push just the foot without the leg being involved, then you can "overpoint" it. Generally, overpointing also causes the foot to sickle.

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I think I 'overwork' my posture sometimes when I attend beginners classes. Because the exercises are so easy stepswise I use the class to concentrate on the basics of technique, like how I hold myself. But doing that I sometimes tense my shoulders and neck. Both of the times I've had to go to the chiropractor with emergency shoulder and neck pain have been caused by beginners' ballet class!


Pirou, I know what you're saying but I think in piques there should always be a staccato feel, like the leg is springing upwards rather than tapping the ground mechanically. Is that right, Ms Leigh?

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In a battement piqué the leg should rebound from the floor, sharply, like it hit a hot coal! It is a very staccato action.

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I totally understand where you're coming from. It's been a constant correction and reminder from my teacher for the past three months to start releasing tension--from everywhere. I am constantly overworking. I have a solid technique, and as I'm learning to relax, everything is becoming so much easier! Even something so slight as lessening tension in my neck and chest makes balancing so much easier. I was amazed at how much harder I was making everything for myself! And now that I've released the tension, I'm progressing at a much faster rate.


I, too, had a problem with over-pointing. The problem stems from taking the phrase "point your toes" too literally. To get the same effect, think of it as stretching your foot from the ankle. That is where your arch comes from--not from clamping your toes. There are some good stretches for the foot that will help you gain flexibility in that area which will translate into a more pointed foot.


And about the legato and staccato movements. While one will come more naturally than the other to most people (I am a more staccato person), the goal is to be able to do both successfully. Ballets would be very boring if they were constantly working with staccato! There must be dynamics, just like in music, to bring depth to the performance.


Hope this helps!

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