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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Controling arms in jumps


Chronus24

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Howdy! One of my recurring corrections since I began ballet, and something to work on and fix for good (at least to some degree) now and over the summer, is to better control my arms in allegros and not let them "fly away" behind me or look like I have Tourette's. As I said, I have gotten this correction many times in the past, however my progress to fix it has been a bit slow. Recently, I took a "step back" and analyzed myself to find why I keep doing this. I've come to the conclusion that there are two primary reasons for my lack of control:

 

First, on big jumps such as sote de chat, it seems I rely on my arms to get that extra "umph" of momentum to help the jump get a bit higher and/or hang a bit longer. Unfortunately, at the climax of this "umph", the energy is released out my arms so that they fly off to an incorrect position, albeit at least passing through the correct position. My question here is how can I achieve the extra power I get from my arms' momentum while keeping them under control and able to be placed in a correct position rather than being a victim of the momentum? Will I have to accept a reduction in the power of my jump until I build enough strength in my legs to compensate for the loss of help from the arms?

 

Problem number two manifests itself on jumps that involve some sort of turn while in the air such as tour enl'air, tour jete, and sote de basque. Though there is some evidence of the first problem in these jumps as well, my main issue with these is overcoming a "crash-landing" reflex. What I mean by that is when I am turning in the air, I, for all practical purposes, get "spooked" and reflexively brace myself for the landing, much like how a cat reacts if it topples off of something. While I end up landing on my feet, the reflex ruins the jump since "catching myself as if I had tripped" isn't exactly a classical ballet position. Obviously, just gritting my teeth and forcing myself to resist the reflex over and over I assume will solve this, however I wanted to see if anyone else has dealt with this or if the collective wisdom of the board can offer some other advice?

 

Thanks and sorry for being such a mental case, lol...

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You are discovering the reason why we practice classical port de bras to carry the arms along the tracks that we do. Classical carriage also requires that the torso not buck and heave in order to support large steps of elevation. You will find that after you get that under control, the jumps will be bigger and better. Likewise, there is an overcoming of the flinch mechanism that's built into our nervous systems which keeps normal human beings from losing balance when an unexpected input is made to the "controls". Yes, practice will eventually work these problems out, and you can sacrifice turn for quality.

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Number one: you are not a "mental case", nor do you have Tourette's Syndrome> Indeed, habitual movements are not unusual: it only requires being methodical in untraining your mind and retraining it with new good habits.

 

I'm not sure that you were, but, I was a late starter and "thrown" into mid level classes in ballet as a teen-aged beginner, just as is true for many boys and men in dance education in the US. I think it an epidemic problem, but I'm not sure there is one specific answer. I do think focusing upon curriculum that can accommodate those students who begin at an older age, within schools is the answer, regardless of method. However, this is not your question...

 

Number two: before you take to heart any advice myself or anyone else gives, is to work with your teacher(s) on. When working with yourself practicing, or applying others' ideas (such as from these forums) remember your teachers' voice: "WWBTS" "What Would Ballet Teacher Say?" They are the ultimate authority in your training and upbringing as a dancer. Use any advice you get here as secondary and supplemental at best. We come from a variety of levels of knowledge and experience. So, if I were you, I'd take anything we say with "a grain of salt".

 

Arms: I think one very good method with training arms in petite allegro, is to first train (or review) the fundamentals: positions first, movements second. Practice each position that you will do spearately with the arms in place. Then, slowly move through each position. Feel and watch how your arms move, help or hinder your movement. Slowly pick up speed as you do it. If you slip back into habitual patterns of your arms, slow down and/or start from scratch. Once you gain speed, think that your arms are moving softly (though with support from the back and abdomen - which further helps with regulating your arms to remain in front of your body) as your legs and movement may be quick and aggressive. It may help to think of your arms as speech. As you execute the steps with your legs, remember that your arms are "speaking" to the audience. I call this a part of "kinetic syntax", but you might simply think of it as "speaking with your arms". Remember to be calm and patient with yourself - something that is very difficult to do for young "want it all now" dancers.

 

Tour en l'air and other jumping turns: -a- Remember that the arms come with you, assisting in the turn. -b- Think of the turns in the air as a rhythm. "plie-jump, spot, spot, land" or "and,one-two-and-three". -c- Lastly, RELAX: you can't gain rhythm. This seems to be the biggest difficulties assessed by your description: tension often happens because you don't trust yourself, or you haven't practiced it enough. So, relax, say to yourself "I can do this right" and then 'just do it.' (Sorry, Nike!). This is true for most Grande Allegro, including Saut de Chat (also known as Grande Pas de Chat in the Vaganova school.) The fear reflex is hard wired into our brains as a survival mechanism. Gaining mastery through practice will calm you down and help you with more supple landings to all allegro.

 

I hope other folks contribute some other ideas or detail this one for further help to you.

 

Let us know how it goes.

 

Philip.

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@mel: Thanks! and yeah, the arms are at least "decent" in stuff like barre and adagio, so it'll just take some connecting between arms there and arms in jumps...

 

@phillip: whoa, good calls! late-started indeed, 18 *ack*, and definitely the "MUST IMPROVE MASSIVELY NOW" type, though I'm much less of that type than I used to be, and, ironically, I've improved more from being less so. I've started doing the "mark the arms first" method while waiting for my turn, and that's helping. I really like the rhythm idea, and kinda have done it before, but will now be more conscious of it, thanks! Calmness will be key with me...

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