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Ballet Talk for Dancers

A couple questions about cambres and grand port de bras


je danse dans ma tete

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je danse dans ma tete

Last week I got a correction that I have never heard before and I am now a bit confused. We were doing a typical plie-releve combination with cambres to the front side and back as well as grand port de bras to and away from the barre.

 

During the cambre forward, or maybe it was grand port de bras during the forward bend part, my teacher said to me 'reach forward with a flat back before going down'. So I did it and she said 'good! that's it!' During the same exercise to the other side she stopped me and said 'you have a good port de bras forward, how come you are not using it now?' When I reached forward before going down I just went forward and out to the side, but the way I was doing it before I used to go straight down until my nose was touching my shins because I have always been taught to do so. So what AM I supposed to be doing? If my arm is in 5th en haut, do I reach forward with the arm still in 5th en haut and then come all the way in or 'down' to touch my nose to my shins like I used to, and from THAT point move the arm from 5th through to 2nd while coming up?

 

Also, in cambre back, if you are doing it as part of grand port de bras away from the barre, when exactly does the wrist rotate? It seems like different people do slightly different things. I tend to over cross a bit as if going towards the barre, and then bend back as my arm moves through 2nd to an inverted 5th... I kind of rotate my wrist at the last moment, as my body reaches its lowest point to the back... does that make sense and does it sound correct?

 

THANKS!

 

Lauranne

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First of all, I have to make sure I understand what happened:

So, you were doing a combination where your teacher gave you a correction and you implemented it immediately, and she was happy about that, but when you turned to the other side, you changed from the way you were just corrected and she was unhappy, right?

 

Since it is unclear to me yet what exactly happened, it is difficult to be able to offer you clear advice, except to say that when given a correction, it is always meant to carry throughout from that moment forward every time you do that movement. :thumbsup:

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There are different ways of doing exercises - for example for cambre forward you can just bend over and then recover to an upright position in a natural way or you can descend with a straight back and come up the same way. Both are basically correct - it depends what the teacher wants. So if a particular teacher wants it with a straight back and corrects you in order to make you do it that way, then that's how she wants you to do it and that's how you are supposed to do it for that teacher from then on.

 

It can sometimes be puzzling, because different teachers may want different things and you have to remember how they want them! However, it's a useful thing to learn to do, because different choreographers may ask you to do a certain step in different ways and dancers have to be flexible and do the step as demanded of them, even if it's not the way they are used to doing it. You have probably noticed that the teachers here often vary in the way they do exercises and generally it's just a question of a different style rather than incorrect technique. For example some teach battements frappes with a flex, brush floor to point, while others teach it with a fully pointed foot and not through the floor. Neither is incorrect, both are perfectly acceptable, but concentrate on slightly different technical aims.

 

To sum up and to echo Clara 76 - a correction is not just for one particular rendition of a movement, but is meant to be carried out "from that moment forward every time you do that movement".

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When one does a port de bras with the body bending to the front (assuming the legs are in 5th and the arm is in 2nd allongé) the head generally watches the hand. The back should stay flat as long as possible (this involves a feeling of stretching the torso outwards on the way down and back up). The arm is taught a few different ways--I learned that it simply goes from 2nd to 3rd, reaching 3rd as the body arrives at the lowest point of the port de bras. It remains in 3rd on the way up and then opens to 2nd. If you are not going very far down, the arm can go to 1st instead of 3rd although as you come up from the port de bras, the arm would usually rise to 3rd then.

 

For a circular port de bras en dehors (for me grand port de bras is something else entirely) starting with the legs in 5th and the arm in 2nd, one simply moves the arm to 3rd position (aka 5th en haut) as the body bends to the back. The wrist turns gradually as the arm moves, arriving in its final position as the arm arrives in 3rd and the backbend reaches its deepest point.

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I was taught to always reach "up and out" on cambre movements, both forward and back. There is a separate, less traditional cambre where you roll through the spine. I would do the former when told "cambre" and only do the latter when specified by the teacher.

 

Circular cambres are the bane of my existence so no help there.

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When I do circular port de bras, I turn my entire arm, including wrist, gradually. I commence this as soon as my arm reaches second. In my Gretchen Ward Warren, it is shown this way.

 

Interesting that merely bringing the arm from second to fifth en haut with a regular port de bras, it is illustrated as bringing the arm to the "V" position before commencing the arm and wrist rotation.

 

I concentrate more on making sure my arm never gets behind me, which is one of my usual errors, so the port de bras I do is fairly simple and unadorned for training purposes. Certain errors are simply not good technique.

 

In circular port de bras, mine is a bit different from what's shown in the Warren book when I reach the point of facing the barre. When I port de bras toward the barre, I try and make it more flat...hips and shoulders square...leaned in...but absolutely no twist... My arm is not crossed over at all. It's still in an en haut position, but with the head turned in complete profile. This is what was preferred where I was dancing, so I've kept it.

 

Different teachers will want different things, so it's best to adapt. When you're performing choreography, you'll have to be *very* open to doing whatever the choreographer wants.

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I was taught to take a breath before a port de bras forward, side, or back. That gives you a feeling of lifting before you go over or down or back. And the reaching forwards is very important. I always thought -- because otherwise there's a tendency (well for me anyway!) to sit back into my heels and the backs of my knees. I was taught that the legs in first or fifth, on a port de bras forward particularly, should stay perpendicular not go backwards as your torso goes forwards. So you really have to pullout of your hips, and keep the space between your ribs and pelvis on a port de bras movement.

 

I often play around with my balance in that movement -- making sure my weight's on my toes, so I lift my heels a little to test.

 

In my contemporary classes, I had one teacher who really pushed us to find the edge of our balance in torso forward movements, so that we got a strong sense of feeling centred, and then off-centred. That's very helpful also, in thinking about not collapsing your core in, particularly on port de bras forwards or to the sides.

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In one of my classes, my teacher pushes me to shift my weight to my toes when I cambre forward...so when I see her coming towards me, I already push myself forward so she wouldn't....heeeheee. And when I cambre back, she used to tell me to ensure that my chest faces the ceiling. I do now, and no longer hears her say "................". On the grande port de bras ronde, she wants me to reach out as far as my arms will extend and to also stretch my sides when I am in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions.

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I think for me, it's about pulling up out of my hips & pelvis, and then thinking about the arc my head makes as I go forward, rather than going forward 'flat'. That's how I think about getting my weight forward.

 

Of course, thinking about it, visualising it, and actually achieving it are very different things :) .

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