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Position of the head at the barre


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As long as the working leg is the outside leg (I mean the one further away from the barre) it's rather clear to me but I have never understood what happens with the head when the inner leg is the working leg. I need some clarification and would be grateful for some help!


So just to get everthing right:


Working on devant: Head turned away from the barre

Working à la seconde: Head faces front

Working derrière: Looking away from the barre slightly inclined forward or turned towards the barre


Is that correct (speaking about the outer leg)


And now what happens to the head when the inner leg is the working leg?


A. Devant

B. à la seconde

C. Derrière



I guess there are different solutions in differenty syllabi...all of them are most welcome! Thank you in advanced for your replies!

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Hmmmm, this is what I have come up with although I know that there are exceptions...


For the working leg being the one furtherest away from the barre

devant - quarter turned and raised away from the barre with epaulment

à la seconde - head erect

derrière - quarter turned and raised away from the barre (over the arabesque arm)


For the working leg being the one closest to the barre

devant - efface position

à la seconde - head erect

derrière - quarter turned and raised away from the barre (over the arabesquearm)



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This is the bane of my existence. I have been learning Vaganova for the last 11 months and I still cannot get the head positions right. What we learn is much more complicated épaulement than what I have experienced in non-Vaganova classes. I have no answer because it is all a muddle in my head! :unsure:

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Oh yeah, muddle in my head (I like that). 11 Months? I dance since 20 years and do not know it :D so guess why I just do not ask my teachers (and instead keep cheating myself through the exercises). That's why I ask it here :unsure: . I would be too embarrassed to ask my teachers about it and recently I "asked" GWW but she did not give me an answer either.


Balletlove: So basically it would be the same as if the working leg is the one further away from the barre... I am just totally confused because once when I dared to ask (but do not ask me from what syllabus this comes) that if you are working devant with your inner leg you look towards the barre so that if you switch the whole position around to the other side you are looking away from the barre and the inner leg is now the outer... perfect confusion now!

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I have written several long and complicated responses to this question and deleted all of them before posting! So, I'm trying to think of a simpler way of expressing myself.


Whilst I was not aware of the name of the teaching style I learned as a child (1970s), it was definitely 'Russian'. Now my teacher is mainly RAD trained, though she will have presumably come across lots of styles whilst doing her dance degree (she is exactly half my age! lol)


As far as I can recall, our head positions reflect what our feet are doing, regardless of whether we are using the leg next to the barre or the outside leg ( put simply, just pretend the barre isn't there and do the required head movement to left or right as required) except for when the arms come into play - if the free arm is doing a movement that requires a combined head movement then that takes precidence. Balletlove's arabesque arm being an obvious example.


The minute I click Add Reply I shall think of 100 occasions when the above doesn't hold true!

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We'll ask vrsfanatic, but meanwhile, isn't the teacher indicating where she wants the head for each exercise?

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The minute I click Add Reply I shall think of 100 occasions when the above doesn't hold true!


I agree totally Merry, because I know that we have an exercise at the barre where we do one thing on the first repeat and something different on the second...although I am sure that I do it wrong, because I cannot even remember which exercise it is :sweating::grinning: There is not often a class when someone doesnt ask for clarity with regards to what the head should be doing.

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Thank you all for your replies. It's getting clearer now step by step.


Clara: Unfortunately not all teachers indicate it for every exercise very clear and only say something if it seems to be some special position/movement of the head. I guess on the level I am dancing now it should be clear :blushing: And after all, I had teachers from different systems and some wanted me to change things, others do not care as long at is correct in another system etc. This can be pretty confusing and just for my own curiousity it would be great to now how it works in each system (and finally being able to switch).

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(Funny how we remember things) Many years ago, I had the pleasure of taking classes with Jeremy Blanton over a whole summer, and I remember him making us always have our head indicated over the "front foot." I believe that there was exceptions made in arabesque, but that was usually indicated while demonstrating.... I also don't think (or remember) that we used the inside leg very often, so I do not have a defined answer via that experience.


I know that as a professional I maintained this concept... always indicating my head toward the front foot (and sometimes in arabesque when my arm was a la second). In a professional class environment, port de bras and epaulment are not normally indicated - it is more of a "warm-up class." I found that using this head indication at the barre was the most consistent between the different teaching styles and different environments, and gave me confidence in my port de bras/epaulment within the relaxed expectation of "warm-up" atmosphere.

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I too was taught the head inclines toward the front foot. Exceptions were in doubled frappes, for example...was where the foot would go. So frappe front, back, in your mind the foot is in the back so your front foot would be the supporting leg. However, frappe back, front...in your mind the foot is the working foot, so incline toward it.


I'm working on all this too. I try and work it in whenever I can.

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Please excuse my late response. I have been traveling.


Vaganova head positions are actually quite simple. In the early years of study, the head does not incline at all. It simple turns over the outside shoulder from the barre (generally speaking, always looking in the direction of downstage). It is as simple as says "no" to something. As I have learned over time, the head turns somewhat more than in other programs of study. The general rule is leg to direction front - head over the outside shoulder, leg to dorection side - head straight front, leg to direction back - head over the outside shoulder.

In the early years the students are taught to lift and lower their heads (eyes) according to the usage of the arms, similar to answering "yes" to a question. Inclinations of the head are introduced in later years, once the stability of the upper back has been solidified. Inclinations generally include the usage of bends of the upper body. From what I can tell, the usage of the head is quite different from other programs of study.

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Vrsfanatic: I guess it is just the way that it is taught. I realized when our teacher was reviewing the head positions the other day (with the numbers) that he/she just said it and then asked "what position is this?" and that was it. Most of us could not guess. He/she expects us to know this even for positions in center. I never had a problem learning the positions of the feet or the arms so I think it is the way that we are being taught it that is making it confusing. For me it has been hard because I studied one of the other types of ballet before and we did not use the head as much. And in center croise, efface and ecarte were taught but not as much detail or variation as I'm learning now. And trying to put something there when you've learned to dance without it, is harder than just not doing it if you've already learned it. (i.e. If I had learned this technique first it would be easier for me to just dance and do exercises without using my head).

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Perhaps your teacher has numbered the heads, however in Vaganova, the heads are not numbered. How long have you been studying the Vaganova program of study? Perhaps you just need time. :unsure:

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Thank you VRS. Obviously he/she is mixing in other techniques then. Maybe he/she thought it would help us to use these numbers. I kept looking for these head numbers in the Vaganova book and I could not find them. I have been doing this Vaganova (derivative) system for about 11 months now. The teacher studied in USA and in Russia/Eastern Europe. I take usually 2 classes a week and I never practice so I guess that explains part of it. And this is adult ballet and the 2 classes are different levels so it's not like I ever do the same thing long enough to "get" it. I'm more accustomed to using the head now than before but still not enough to get it right all the time.

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