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Over and under, devant and avant


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Deciding that I should work at getting less confused in petit allegro, I thought I'd work out the possibilities over under devant avant etc, for the different steps, and work out which involve different directions and so on, and then practice at home putting them together in all possible combinations so that when we have the sequence barked out in class I immediately know what it means, rather than following the few who do.


However, my sources only illustrate one option, and then say e.g. "the step can also be taken devant, derriere, over and under"- which doesnt really help me. I really need to see all possibilities to work them out. I really need to have it spelled out which ones (or maybe its only glissade) where the over and under start off in different directions (if I remember right, or maybe I've got it quite wrong)*, and so on.


How did everyone else learn this? We have been specifically told it once or twice in class but I need it written down to learn it. Is there any logic to it, or do you have to learn each one as a special case?


I'd like a definintive source, because I dont want to start learning it wrong.


If anyone knows any source where EVERYTHING including all options are illustrated clearly I'd much appreciate it. And if anyone can tell me the logic (if there is any), I'd appreciate that too.


Many thanks for your help,




*E.g. Gretchen Ward Warren for glissade shows "over towards the front foot" and says that it can be done towards either front or back foot with or without changing feet, but this wont help me know what a particular variant is from the name it is given in class.

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Jim, I don't any sources that show all the versions, but I think if you understand the basic logic (where there is logic :shrug:) that you will be able to figure things out somewhat better.


Over and under, forward and back, en dehors and en dedans all relate to essentially the same thing, which is where the working leg is going. Think rond de jambe à terre as an example: en dehors has the working leg moving from front to back, which is the same as under, and en dedans has the working leg moving back to front, which is en dedans, or over. Take a jeté: working leg from back to front is a jeté over and front leg to the back is under. The same applies to a sissonne de coté, ballonné, and assemblé. In pirouettes en dehors moves outward or away from the supporting leg, as in under, and en dedans moves inward, or towards the supporting leg, or over. Glissades and pas de bourrées get a bit more complicated because the feet don't always change. You can do a glissade over or under, which would change the feet, or, you can do a glissade (to the side) sans changé, which can be done leading with either the front or back leg. They can also move en avant without changing the feet, or en arrière, or even en tournant. The same with pas de bourrées.


Of course sissonnes and assemblés can also be done en avant and en arrière without changing the feet. In these cases they are neither over or under. Have I confused you enough yet? :thumbsup:

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Isn't it interesting how different brains work differently? I find the less I think about 'over' 'under'etc etc, the easier it is for me. I just think about where the working leg starts, where it's going, and where it needs to end up, and then try to get the directions -- and changes of direction -- and rhythm of the combination, and then ... cross my fingers & hope for the best! :devil:

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Victoria - thank you very much for your detailed reply.


Luckily, en dehors and dedans are two things I do remember, from my teacher saying "dehors"' - rhymes with "door", and said it was like a door opening, and so I remember the direction. Now I cant think why, it must have been a lucky shot, because of course a door can open or close, and when standing as though going through a door, an en dehors movement (which opens the hip) would shut the door not open it. But it stuck (however I now worry that it completely filled up my ballet brain space).


E.g. with a jete over - you stand on the supporting leg, with the working leg behind, and bring it to the front (over) - logical. But in a glissade over the leg that moves first seems to be classed as the supporting leg, at a time when all the weight is taken on the working leg (it must be the working leg because its called over when it closes in front). So it seems you cant really predict which its going to be.


For me, the best thing I think is to try and work out all the variants, draw them out, and check with my teacher whether I have them right before trying to learn them.


To Redbookish - doesnt your teacher say a sequence with all the steps and the overs and unders and expect you to do it, just like that (and if you get it wrong, you dont change direction when you should)? Mine does, as training, but of course I'm completely lost and just follow the "good ones". That is about to change (maybe....).



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Jim, the problem with your former teacher's analogy is that she just didn't use the door image correctly. Much simpler to think en dehors - out the door! Then, en dedans becomes in the door :sweating:


Yes, with the glissade it is the closing leg determining the over and under, but actually that is the case with jeté, etc., too, because it's still about where it ends in terms of whether the movement went over or under. With jetés and ballonnés, etc., perhaps it's just easier to know whether you are moving forward or backward in terms of the direction of the landing, even if the step does not literally move anywhere, like a ballonné over or under.

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Jim, I wouldn't think of a glissade in terms of a supporting leg and working leg. It is easier (for me, at least) to just consider which direction it travels and whether it changes legs.

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Thank you very much for your replies. I appreciate that the idea of a supporting leg and a working leg is not always appropriate, but I am trying to work out the names of the directions from books where possible, and they dont always give enough information to let me do it, as far as I can tell. So in the end, I will do my best at home, then check with the teacher.


But another thing: Gretchen Ward Warren says a glissade over is called that because the second foot "cuts over" the first (I dont have it with me on my desk here so cant check the exact wording). Since that step is called after what the second foot is doing, is it telling me something about the quality of the step - that the "cutting over" has more emphasis and is not just a copy of the first step out to the side?



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I would not use the term "cuts over" for a glissade. It simply closes over. There should not be more emphasis on that leg than on the first leg. They work equally.

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Here's a little tip - think about closing into 5th between each step. The problem is often that students "close" sloppily so that they have no idea which foot is front or back. I think that's why you thought that a glissade has a supporting leg and a working leg, whereas as Victoria pointed out the legs work equally. If you think that a glissade starts and finishes in 5th you'll see that. Let me expand a little on this point. Imagine you are doing a series of glissade derriere (back leg starts and finishes behind so no change of feet) followed by a jete ordinaire over (back leg swishes out through the floor and becomes the front leg - hence over - back leg comes to front). Now then if you think that between the jete and the glissade your back foot passes through 5th it's easier to recognise that it is the back foot. Think what happens if you simply open the foot straight out to the side after the jete with the supporting leg en fondu (bent) and continue the glissade from there - you haven't a clue which foot is the front or back one and where it should be closing. The same thing applies to a series of pas de bouree. If you think that each one ends with a plie in 5th, rather than a sort of coupe, then you always know which foot needs to start and where it needs to move to. Once you've become more familiar with them all you can be freer with the closures, but if you can relate to this idea it will help you.


Basically devant means that the front foot stays in front and en avant simply means the step moves forward

derriere means that the back foot stays at the back and en arriere means the step moves backwards

over usually means that the back leg closes in the front

under that the front foot closes at the back


I said usually because in fact in pas de bouree over and under the situation is slightly more complicated. This is because over can start with either the back or the front foot and then it closes in front on demi-pointe, step to the side, close behind, whilst under can also start with the front or back foot and then closes back, step to the side, close in front. I think here you have to think where the first closure on demi-pointe is - if it's closing behind it's under, if it's closing in front it's over. Although of course in pas de bouree derriere the first foot also closes behind, but then it stays behind and doesn't change - over and under always change feet. Oy - it's complicated!


Hope all this hasn't made you more confused! Good luck! B)

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Great job of explaining it, Hammorah! Thank you B)

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Thank you for those wonderful expanations. I particularly appreciated the paragraph on devant vs en avant/derriere vs en arriere which previously had me confused.


Now I think of it, it was the comparison between glissade and pas de bouree which got me most confused in the first place, since they end up sort of the same, but have opposite names (thanks for explaining why) (if I have this right; please tell me if not!). As I said, I never felt that working and supporting leg were particularly appropriate for glissade, but was trying to see if putting in that context made sense.


So I will now go away, work it all out (I hope) and practice it all.


By the way, how do teenagers learn this? Do they go away and think about it, write it down and work it all out, or do they do so many in class, and are introduced to them so gradually over the years, that they just learn them without thinking?


Many thanks indeed for your very valuable help,



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Yes, kids usually learn it bit by bit over the years or at least they do in the system I use, but basically once you get the principle most steps fit into it nicely! Glad my explanations helped! B)

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