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Ballet Talk for Dancers



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Ms Leigh gave this answer to someone who had trouble getting developpes higher. I thought it should also go here as I had trouble and know we probably ALL struggle with this. Today, I used the first of the two advice paragraphs (forgot about the second one) on one leg - remembered the advice mid-exercise, actually. The leg I used it on went SIGNIFICANTLY higher without sacrificing turnout. I was quite shocked, actually! So I hope I'm forgiven for copying it as it was written exactly (copied and pasted here). I'm going to try the second version as well, tomorrow and see what happens. We do a lot of developpes in our various combinations at the barre in my intensive class.


"You have to be gripping somewhere when you développé. My guess would be that you are holding your breath and trying to muscle the leg up, instead of releasing the breath and allowing the leg to go up freely. Try this: bring your leg to retiré, lift the knee up as high as you can without losing placement or rotation, taking a breath as you do this; at the top of the lift of the knee exhale and feel like the lower leg makes a very slightly downward movement as the leg releases out and up. It's like there is this circular energy that moves around your body and under your leg and just lifts it for you as you exhale, kind of like you are not doing it but some other force is doing it for you. I know this is hard to understand, and it's one of those things I could show you in a heartbeat, but trying to write it and make it clear is difficult.


It takes timing and coordination, which may take a bit of practice. The exhale basically just helps you to feel the circular energy pattern, but it also should prevent the gripping. It's hard to grip when you consciously exhale. Do the exhale audibly so that you know you are doing it."


"I'm going to give you one more thing to try in order to help you feel the release of the energy. Again, hard to teach it in writing, but I'll try. At the moment of the lift of the knee from the retiré, as you take the breath, also release the heel of the standing leg VERY slightly off the floor. It's NOT a relevé, it's just a tiny upward movement which makes sure your weight is not sitting back in your heel, and it helps you to feel the up that creates the down that allows the release up. This little up thing is on the intake of the breath and on the "and" of the music, and as you lower the heel and exhale the working leg should be on it's way upward. It is an "up to go down to go up" thing, which is making the développé a reaction instead of an action. Note: this is a little gimmick to help you find the action/reaction. It is not intended to be used all the time, once your body undertands how to find the right feelings and energy patterns."

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This is spot on. I never noticed but I just did a few developes and yes, I sort of hold my breath. I tried the exhale and slightly release the heel of my standing leg and it definitely helped. Ok - my leg still wasn't next my ear but it defintely felt higher and certainly lighter. I need to practice it to make more natural. I really had to make an effort to exhale because it just isn't natural for me. Thanks for sharing the tip here - I don't recall seeing it when it was first posted.

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Ever since my new teacher corrected my alignment/turn out for side developpés ( I was unconsciously cheating and bringing the leg a little forward (popping my derriere out) instead of keeping it in full 90 degrees side for allllll theeese years so it was pretty hard for me to get used to the new feeling and new pain on the turn out muscles..) I am not able to do 150-160 degrees like I used to be able do. It is a boring 120 degrees now on both sides, and even these wonderful advices don't work for me =// I should do some relevé lents because with foot-in-hand stretches my leg is just next to my ear normally (with correct turn out), I just don't have the strength to bring it that high I guess...


And I'd like to ask since this came up, in the book Conditioning For Dance, it starts with an example of a dancer who used to have tense shoulders during an arabesque, and when corrected that dancer's leg was able to go significantly higher but she felt that this position was too easy and thus, wrong. Without an expert supervising, it is really hard to get this easy-but-correct position because my full back and shoulders are rock hard during an arabesque and I'd like to correct it due to my 90 degrees arabesques... Seeing that Victoria Leigh is supernatural about teaching by writing, I wondered if there's a trick :wink:

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I read that advice over on the other board, too, and thought it was really interesting. I do exactly the same thing as the girl who posted the original question. I can get it to 120 normally, but to keep it where I can get it with jambe a la main (up at my shoulder), I usually let go of my foot, hold my breath, and then grip like crazy to try and keep it there. I'm definitely going to try this circular energy thing in class!

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