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Je Suis Aimee

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Okay, I am going to try to explain this as clearly as I can lol. :) Ever since starting at this new Russian school I have started to learn some slightly new positioning of the feet. In particular: frappes with the coupe de pied 'wrapped' about the ankle. Now I get this concept for the frappe to the front and to the side (for en dehors), but last class my teacher pointed out a new detail: in the coup de pied to the back, he said the working foot touches the standing leg at the ankle/heel, but the toes of the working foot are pointed outwards. This gives the position this slight winged out appearance that I have seen in pictures before and have always thought to look so beautiful. If you are unsure of what I mean, check out the pointe photos on Grishko's website.

 

This winged out positioning is completely new to me so it's taking a bit of practice. I got to thinking, it's the same positioning that the foot is when it's wrapped about the ankle, is it not? Except of course, in that back it's not wrapped around anything. Correct me if I'm wrong. (By the way, if it's called something other than 'winging' let me know - I find this term to be slightly confusing because I always thought that winging, like sickling, was a bad thing.)

 

This leads me to my main question: last week in pointe class, the teacher was working with us on the positioning of a tendu devant. She said, think of trying to touch the floor primarily with your big toe. Now, I could swear I have seen some photos exemplifying this where the platform of the shoe is completely flat against the floor in tendu devant, which looks absolutely gorgeous. Am I going crazy or is this possible? If it is possible, is this something that is achievable for everyone through practice, or is this a 'blessed with amazing feet' thing? Because I know my platform isn't totally flat against the floor, and the thought of being able to do this seems crazy difficult. Being able to do so also seems be dependent on employing this 'winging' positioning I described.

 

Thoughts? Advice?

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I struggled so much with this when it was first introduced to me, too! There is a muscle on the outside of your leg near the ankle (peloneus brevis, I think it's called) that helps in pulling the foot out to the side like that. Mine isn't terribly strengthened but when I'm sitting at my desk at work, for example, I will do a few reps focusing on using that muscle to pull the foot out and I have noticed improvement due to these little at work exercises. Maybe that would help a bit???

 

As far as this position en pointe goes, I have little experience there and am interested to hear the response of others on this.

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Oh yes, I feel that little muscle working and struggling, hehe! Come to think of it... I believe there are some theraband exercises for that muscle that ironically I used to do. Time to take them back up again! :rolleyes:

 

Let us await the others' wisdom :)

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...I got to thinking, it's the same positioning that the foot is when it's wrapped about the ankle, is it not? Except of course, in that back it's not wrapped around anything.

 

That's pretty much how my teachers have explained it to me.

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I thought initially you were waiting for the teacher-mods, but now I'm not sure? My answers would be yes - sur le coup de pied is sur le coup de pied. (Note the 'sur la' coup de pied is 'neck of the foot', 'sur la' - around the neck of the foot). What I mean is that the foot is always in the same shape, whether it is placed in front or back. In back, the foot obviously can't wrap, but it can if you beat front back, if that makes sense. You should be able to do the beat without changing the shape of your foot.

 

That said, your heel should always be forward. In an 'unwrapped' coup de pied in the front (regular coup de pied), your heel should not be resting on your leg in the front. It's the same shape. It's the same to the back, but depending on what you're doing (especially what your teacher is asking for choreographically), your heel or your toe might touch your leg, but they should still be shaped. So, your heel and your toe should never touch your leg at the same time - this would be sickled.

 

And yes, you should think of that image for tendu devant to prevent sickling. It is possible for some to get their entire platform on the ground. Due to my leg structure, etc, it will never be possible for me although I have been dancing for decades. So it is possible (there's a lovely picture of Isabella Boylston (sp?) doing this somewhere, whilst she was still a student. She now dances with ABT). But, it's not possible for everyone. However, the idea is important. Most teachers, in my experience, express this idea as 'heel forward'.

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And yes, you should think of that image for tendu devant to prevent sickling. It is possible for some to get their entire platform on the ground.

 

My teacher has expressed before that in order to "wing" the foot in this manner the foot cannot be fully pointed; would this, then, be a misguided image for tendu devant as the foot should be fully pointed? I would imagine with the way some feet are structured it would be possible to be both "winged" and fully pointed, but would it not be less accurate than just striving to get the heel forward in general?

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Moreilly,

 

That's an excellent point. Thank you for reminding me to always err on the side of more detail instead of less! I mean that it's a good *mental* image to use. There's a difference between articulating your foot so the heel is forward and reducing the point to improve the line via winging. Both can result in the platform flat on the floor. The reality for me is that neither would result in the platform on the floor! I've seen some professional dancers who can do this without reducing the point into a wing -- but this is by no means ubiquitous. I really do think it works well as a mental image, especially with the idea of 'corkscrewing' I wrote about on the other thread. I'm a very visual person though, so these types of imagery help me a lot. I hope that clarifies my own thoughts on this!

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Okay, now here is the thing about all of this. A "winged" foot is NOT a pointed foot. It is not a correct position. A pointed foot is a pointed foot no matter where it is located in space. It is either correctly pointed or it isn't. A correctly pointed foot is in the exact same shape whether it is in tendu, cou de pied, sur le cou de pied (wrapped), retiré, or extended somewhere. A major factor in making the foot look like the ones you all describe in photos of professionals is the rotation of the leg. Assuming at least a good, if not wonderful foot, the better the rotation the better the foot can look in all positions. The devant tendu position in pointe shoes that you talk about is possible IF both the foot and the rotation are very good.

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My teacher says that if foot isn't winged, it's sickled... (or maybe this me, b/c I have a tendency to do this, lol) she uses the sur la coupe de pied position to teach that the position that the foot should be in whenever it's pointed, with the heel forward... so I think even if your foot is behind or in front of the ankle, the position of the foot should be the same? Maybe?

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Read above, sunshineinmay :dry: But, it's not "winged". When you wing the foot you take away some of the point. It CAN work, for some people sometimes, in arabesque, but has to be carefully coached. It is not a correct position.

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So, is the tendu devant position with a platform completely on the floor and the heel completely forward not completely physically possible for some folks? It's just not working for me yet!!! Haha I'm not sure if it ever will, but I've heard conflicting opinions about that.

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Yes, it is not physically possible for some people. Sorry. :dry:

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LaFilleSylphide, I would not stress about that--there are plenty of professional ballet dancers out there who cannot achieve such a position! If your leg is fully rotated and your foot is properly pointed in pointe tendue devant, with the heel well lifted and the leg and foot lengthening out from the hip, that is really all one can reasonably ask, and it creates a very nice, correct line.

 

Speaking more generally, I think there is a lot to be said for a simple, very clean line without a lot of distortions and mannerisms. It is beautiful and restful for the eyes. If you have that, you really don't need to worry about all this platform-on-the-floor, winging, etc., which is really just a lot of distraction. When I see all that, it just makes me wonder what flaws the dancer is trying to cover up with such smoke-and-mirrors effects!

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It's one of those aesthetics and evolutions of ballet - and sure, I love the way it looks but maybe because I've been over exposed to it. I mean, even in the 1600's there was contention about what was awesome versus what was not. Acrobatic was considered not noble enough, simple grecian robes was intimate and sensual to some, and base to others. Whereas hoopskirts & jewels were aristocratic and regal to one party and decadent and gaudy to others. Movements were defined by class - the danseur noble, caractere, comique, etc. I'm starting to wonder: are our extensions the acrobatics of Noverre's and Beauchamps time? (Though admittedly, I love-love extreme extension). Maybe our hooped tutu are the decadent while the bare legged, flesh colored leotard & pointe shoe clad dancer is the sensual innovation. Perhaps the distorted line is the danseur noble! If foot position (beyond just beautiful pointing) and line distortion can be defined as trend, let's hope that like the 17th century, the trends evolve towards the less fortunate masses (or the less winged populace like me)! Hahaha!

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There is certainly a more extreme, un-classical look in fashion in ballet right now, and it does work in ballets that have a more athletic aesthetic.

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