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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Head, arms, and so on...


Ballet Bunnie

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Hi, everyone! As I am enjoying my winter break / break from ballet, I think it is a good idea to clear up the things that I didn't understand so they would not be in the way next semester. :) So, here are my current list of questions:

 

1. My teacher told us that we were execute tondus, jetes, and degajes "broken" as she described that "the unit of our moves was one jete", and she wanted the unit to be "the phrase of music". She also said something about using our breath to creat the flow. I am just very confused as how to do moves like jetes without breaking the flow of the music? Totally confused...

 

2. Should there be variation of head in rond de jembe a terre? I was taught to tilt the head according to the direction of the working leg when I was a kid. But right now, I don't see my classmates tilting their heads (except for rond de jembe with plies), and our teacher didn't correct them... So, was I taught wrong?

 

3. What exactly is Folkine arms? I was told that we have a lot of Folkine arms in our classes. I've watched a lot of Folkine's choreographies, and sensed that there were something different. But what exactly is Folkine arms?

 

4. Speaking about port de bras, my teacher told us that Vaganova's system has really good port de bras. I don't know much about Vaganova's training system, so I am wondering how it is achieved~

 

That's it for now... Sorry that I am asking for sooooooooooooooooooooo many questions in a row~ :D

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  • Mel Johnson

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  • Victoria Leigh

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  • Clara 76

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  • Ballet Bunnie

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Without a visual example, I'm hard-pressed to come up with exactly what your teacher is driving at, and whether it is a corrective to the way you're doing things now, or a general principle.

 

Different methods and styles do different things with the head in rond de jambe. If your teacher hasn't corrected YOU, continue as you have been doing.

 

I studied with Vitale Fokine, and have little idea what "Fokine arms" would be. There are so few Fokine ballets in the standard repertoire anymore, it's hard to tell whether it means the Romantic soft arms of "Les Sylphides" and "Spectre de la Rose" or the spiky port de bras from "Firebird" or "Petrouchka".

 

The Vaganova system is a very detailed and extensive method developed by Agrippina Vaganova in Russia, and the training takes place over a course of ten years, with additional details for company-level dancers. It is too vast to even think of describing here! :)

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Some methods have very specific head movements for certain exercises, but other methods will vary the head movements, especially as the students become more advanced. Always best to just watch very carefully what the teacher does when demonstrating. :)

 

I think that what your teacher might mean in terms of executing the allegro steps with the breath and the flow of the music could be simply to feel the connection of the steps from one to another so that they become like the phrase of the music and not like individual measures that do not connect smoothly to the next measure. I like to think of a series of movements in ballet sort of like a sentence or paragraph with no punctuation. A "run-on" sentence, so to speak. You don't want steps to be like saying each word of a sentence with a period following it. :D

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Mr. Johnson:

That's it! I think we had been doing the romantic arms, while the ballets we watched mostly have the experimental spicky arms~ (Now I realized how stupid I was since we had a guest lecture about Diaghliev and Folkine with Ballet Russ, but somehow I didn't relate these two... Shame on me :thumbsup: ) Thank you, Mr. Johnson!

Emm... And I have another question: How popular is Vaganova's system in Russia? I had a Russian teacher as a kid, and was ased to do a not of exercises(mostly for strength and flexibility) which no other teachers had / has ever asked me to do. I don't know if that's just him or that's Russia though...

 

Ms. Leigh:

Ah, that's a great reminder about watching the teacher. I just realized that I had always paid a lot of attention on the legs and arms during demonstrations, but very few on the head! I will definitely pay more attension to the head in the coming semester! Thanks a lot!

Yes! That was exactly what my teacher was talking about!! And I kind of understand it conceptually. But then, the other side of my brain tells me "open, close, open, close" when doing the exercises and makes my movements "broken", especially during the barre. Do you have any recommendations on fixing the problem?

 

 

Thank you very much to Mr. Johnson and Ms.Leigh! I feel being suddenly "enlighted" after reading your posts!

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Bunnie, that's "Fokine" - no "l" in it. And I don't know if you could call Vaganova "popular" in Russia, as her method was the only one allowed to be taught under the old Soviet system under the Central Planning doctrine. It was the only game in town - any town. It has proved successful, so the post-Soviets have continued Vaganova training under the even older doctrine of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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Bunnie, it is HOW they open and close. And HOW they move through one place to another. Too often students seem to think they need to "put" their arms somewhere, when what they need to do is MOVE them somewhere. Listen to the music and move with it. :thumbsup:

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Mr. Johnson:

Opps... bad spelling... Thanks for catching me!

But seriously? No other methord in Russia at all even now? WOW! (But Russia does have very good dancers indeed~ Kinda jealous at them~ :rolleyes: )

Thank you very much, Mr. Johnson!

 

Ms. Leigh:

Thanks, Ms. Leigh! I will definitely think about the process of the movement more in the future!

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BB-

I suspect what your teacher was referring to as "Fokine arms" is simply the Romantic Period/style of ballet. Arms were softer, less angular, less 'posed' I guess. Take a look at photos of Les Sylphides. I think you will see what your teacher is referring to there. However, Fokine's Petrouchka would not be referred to as Romantic in style, so the "Fokine arms" comment I suspect ran more to his iconic Les Sylphides.

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Hi, Clara!

Emm, I think compared to the arms in Petrouchka, it is more similar to the arms in Les Sylphides. One particular arm pose I recall doing in class was two arms forming a V shape (sort of like allonge) and the music, i remember, was quite soft compared to Petrouchka's music. But I might remembered wrong... Hmm.... :grinning:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just an update since the school has already started for a week:

I am paying extra attention to the teacher's head when she is demonstrating, but a lot of the time I found her not doing the head consistently -- a lot of the times she is looking at someone or something. But I guess I can always ask since she is usually quite good about answering questions. :P

 

Oh, and, I have another question, or I should say, need some suggestions / advices:

I have a tendency to tilt my pelvis slightly backwards. My teacher told me to shorten the distance between my sternum and belly button, and bring the pelvis forward. But sometimes, even if I am contracting my abbs, they are still tilted... My teacher also suggested thinking about thinking pelvis as a bowl filled with water imagery. But the problem is, the position that I think of them being leveled is actually not... I have been corrected many times, but still couldn't find out a good way to solve this problem...And each time being corrected, I could feel thatthe entire pelvis area was always very tense and it takes my teacher a lot of strength to "untilt" my pelvis. And as soon as her hand releases, it tilts slightly again... I have no idea how or why this is happening... HELP~~~

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Bunnie, lets think about this a bit. First of all, the pelvis does not tilt by itself. It may want to, but that does not matter because it must do what YOU want it to do. When you tilt it, the hip bones are moving downward, towards the thighs. When you correct it, the hip bones are moving upwards, allowing you to engage the gluteus muscles, which will hold the pelvis where it belongs. I know it sounds simple, and it's not, because no matter how smart YOU are, the body is stupid and it takes a long time to train it to be smart. So, the first order of business is to be sure that you understand exactly where it belongs and how to get it there. Then practice it, constantly. It must become a habit to have it in the right place instead of the wrong place. Once that happens, you have broken a bad habit and created a good one in it's place. :P

 

Be sure that you have your weight placed correctly and that you are not falling back into your heels.

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Thanks, Ms. Leigh! Yes, our body always want to do the wrong thing even though our brain want to do it right.

I am just wondering if my tilted pelvis is cause by my back musle being too strong and my abs being tense but not really doing its job? I heard my teacher telling me to release a muscle that starts with an L (didn't catch what exactly it was though) It is much better this week compared to my first week back from the holidays. So that was an YAY!

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Just an update--

After speaking to my teacher about what the muscles she was referring to in class, she suggested me to read a book called "Inside Ballet Technique" to get the anatomy straight. I only finished reading the first few chapters, and I FELL IN LOVE with this book! It clears so many myths as well as educating the anatomy behind ballet techniques. Now a lot of my teacher's corrections / explantions start to make sense~ Love it, love it, love it! :wink:

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  • 1 month later...

I have another question regarding the head:

In tour jetes, I found that if I don't spot, it is easier to have that "flipping a pancake" feeling. However, when I spot, my teacher says that I am sort of rotating instead of flipping. For me, spot make me lost my momentum because keeping my head to the front limit the movement of my shoulders. I was told to use the "military turn" imagery, but it is not working. Any suggestions on how I can improve my tour jetes? Thanks!

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The head should turn at the exact same time that you turn in the air. You jump with a grand battement to the front and the moment you begin the turn to go back where you came from is the moment the head must also turn. It does not need to spot, as you are only doing a half a turn and it's not all that fast. You just want to be sure and look to where you are going the moment you start going there. Just take your head where you are and be sure it's going where you are going! And be sure that your body weight is going there too, and landing over your front leg, so that the back leg can remain in arabesque! :D

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