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More technique questions!

Ballet Bunnie

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Hi, all! I thought I should post some questions here since our moderators have been soooooo helpful to me in the past! There were quite a few issues my SI teachers, but even till now, I still have problems with three of them:


1. My working knee sort of bend/"relax" when I close to 5th position from the side. I know what it should be theoretically, but when doing it myself, I still see a slight bend of the knee to close to 5th (especially in faster combinations). The teacher told me that this habbit could be hard to correct, and told me to give myself some time to work on correcting this. But a month passed, I still feel I couldn't stop my knee from relaxing while closing 5th. How can I win the battle to eliminate relaxed knees?


2. tombe -- A teacher kept telling me that a tombe (say, from a cou-de-pie position) shouldn't have too much of a "up and over" feeling, but I just felt so heavy if I don't. How can I do it without the "up and over" and not feeling heavy?


3. Breaking out of the character when making mistakes --my teacher told me that when I make mistake I am always making my mistake so noticeable instead of staying in the character and try to sneak through my mistakes... She said that I would probably be much better off getting parts if my movement don't "shrink" every time I make a mistake. I tried to correct this, but most of the time when I make a mistake, my mind would go totally blank!!! Is there a way to train oneself to "stay in the character" no matter what happens?


4. Feet become flexed Before touch the ground in jumps - I know I should keep them pointed till the last moment and roll down, but somehow my feet anticipate the flex, especially in big jumps. I am very good at rolling down while not jumping, and ok with smaller jumps. But in big jumps... I literally saw my foot flexed before landing caught in a video!!!!! How can the feet be trained to pointe until the last moment?



Thanks in advance! I am looking for more inspirational answers that I've always got from BT4D! :)

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1. Are you at all hyperextended at the knees? That may make closing fifth more problematical. If you can't close fifth without bending the knee, try closing to a very short (a matter of a couple of inches) fourth.


2. Sounds like you're in a similar bind to a post in Teachers' today. Take a look at that forum and see if that's your problem. Of course, no matter what you do, you must maintain a pulled-up state through the body.


3. "Not breaking character" is a purpose of rehearsal, not classwork, but if you choke during a combination, just continue on with the flow of dance, and don't let yourself go all to pieces. Later, when you do have a character to break, it won't be so noticeable.


4. There's nothing for this one but consciously to think of pointing the feet until you put them on the floor. Then make sure you do it!

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I will give it a try Ballet Bunnie, one at a time.


#1 Relaxing the working knee when closing the leg to 5th.


Do an experiment. Flex your working foot and close it into 5th position from the front and from the side. Does you knee bend before you are closed into 5th? I am guessing not. Sometimes students do not use their working foot correctly when closing causing the working leg to bend while closing into 5th. You may be holding your foot too stiffly rather than reaching downward with your heel and lengthening upward with the working thigh. It is similar in feeling to stamping the heel on the floor. For a while do not "work through the foot" only concentrate on lengthening both legs on the closing as you pull two legs together and upward.



#2 Pas tombe


If you are discussing pas tombe with the toes pointed to the floor, suspend your body in the air as you deepen you demi plie and transfer your weight upward and forward while gliding slightly forward with a demi plie(only an inch or so) as you transfer the weight from one foot to the other. It should feel as if you have slipped on ice (safely of course :wacko: )



#3 Loosing character


You must be lacking in confidence if you are not able to work through your mistakes. You know you would never show your mistake onstage, so why do it in class? Perhaps you do not feel there are any consequences for your actions? Onstage, you know the audience would not think you were very good if you broke your character over a mistake. Perhaps you do not feel that classroom work really matters? Place a consequence for yourself, if your teacher has not. Something simple like no phone/cell phone usage for a day (except emergencies) to see if that will help. You will have to police yourself. Honesty and facing the reality of your choices is part of learning to be a good ballet student.


#4 Unpointing feet before the landing in grand allegro


Go back to the barre and examine your grand battement jete in all directions. If you do not pointe your toes harder at the top of the jump and keep them strongly pointed as the working leg descends in grand battement at the barre, it will not happen in grand allegro. The two issues are strongly related.

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Some very good advice here from Mr. Johnson and vrsfanatic! I will just add my little extra thoughts as well, but with no disagreement from what has already been stated. :wacko:


1. Be very sure that when you close 5th from anywhere that you are busy lifting up on the supporting leg as you bring in the working leg. I agree with the teeeeeeny space if absolutely necessary for hyperextended legs, but if your legs are not hyperextended then it should not be necessary.


2. I feel strongly that a tombé should have an "up and over" feel, like a gliding glissade. While it means 'fall', it must not be taken too literally, as the fall must be controlled. However, it does need an upward movement to create the downward movement! :wub:


3. Nothing further to add to the above posts on that one!


4. Definitely work on your grand battement to be sure that you are bringing it down under control and through the tendu, even though it doesn't need to stop in the tendu. Also, try doing some very small grand jetés, like with almost no jump. It's very much like the tombé, actually. Just work it small until your body understands how to descend through the foot. Then gradually do it with a little more energy and height. It will come! :unsure:

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Wow! Such great advice! Thank you so much, Mr. Johnson, vrsfanatic, and Ms. Leigh! I will definitely experiment them next week and report back!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Reporting back to our experts here for my experiment:

1. The knee problem:

I tried closing into 5th with flexed feet… There was still some degree of relaxing the knee, so I guess it’s a combination of issues going on here. Yes, even though I don’t usually being criticized for hyper-extended knees, I am hyper-extended – that is, if I lock my knees and stand in first position, there will be a 1.5 inch ish space in between my heels. It is much easier to close to a small 4th with completely straight knees than closing into 5th. But how small are we talking about? Like ¼ of an inch?


2. Tombé:

I am always being criticized that I spend too much time “up” rather than a fast horizontal-ish movement, so I like the “safely sliding on the glass” imagery. After reading the tombé thread in the teacher’s forum, I think my problem is mainly in pas tombé, not in sissone tombé. Somehow, when I tombé, as straighten from plié and pointe my foot, it goes into a projectile motion instead of a “glide”… Hmm… How come such simple step becomes so hard for me? Am I overthinking this?


3. Breaking out of the character:

My teacher was commenting this before our fall casting audition. She said that I would get better roles if I don’t totally break down when I make mistakes in combinations during auditions.

I confess that there is some degree of lack of confidence here – I only restarted ballet since 3-4 years ago, and at the beginning I basically just told myself that I was the worse one in class, so I could ask all types of stupid questions and learn from everyone, but not feel ashamed. Now, I’ve already caught up with most of my peers, if not surpassed some of them. But there is still this psychological block in my mind that’s affecting my confidence since I have much less dancing time than my peers. I’ve also got comment from our AD last year when my teacher recommended me to fill in for an injured company dancer – “her technique is there, but she is lacking experience.” I was devastated by his comment, but when I think about it, it is true. I have some experience, but compared to those who have been dancing since they were 6, it seemed to be so limited…

Placing a consequence is working so far working. At least for the classes last week I didn’t let my lack of confidence dominate me until I am done with my group. Yay for baby steps!


4. Pointing the feet in grand allegro:

I think in soft shoes I am programmed to pointe the feet to the last moment of jeté, but for some reason, the feet relax earlier in pointe shoes… Hmm… I will definitely going to work on that later.



And one more question on arabesque en dedan turns: Somehow I just couldn’t get enough force for a double. I have very nice triple passé turns, but somehow arabesque doubles always has been a hit-or-miss. Every time before I turn, I just felt that I couldn’t get enough force to initiate the turn and very tempted to open up into an octopus (what our teacher call an open arabesque). I understand that it has the same basics mechanics with passé turns that the core has to stay as a whole block, and the side arms are like a windmill that pushes the body around. Yes, it’s working for single, and my singles have been all very slow… Am I forgetting something that would make the doubles happen?



Thank you very much, our moderators! You are always here to solve my toughest problems on my ballet journey!

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I'll take a stab here!

1. Are you completely on your supporting leg, or are you sitting in the supporting hip? Are you utilizing lift-off?


2. I'm wondering if you are completely on your supporting leg (the back one) as you tombé? (Are we sensing a theme here? :thumbsup: )


3. Have you ever done any acting? You might consider taking some classes because really what we're doing is portraying a character ALWAYS when we dance! I mean, regular people simply do not do what we do- we are different. We are also very, very lucky to be physically able to move in the manner that we do. Mistakes are allowed- "on purposes", not so much. I wager you fall into the "mistake" category rather than the latter, so give yourself a break! It's not like if you screw up a step, someone will die, or the world will end, or the sun will stop rising........ :rolleyes:


Dancers have to accept that there are no second takes in ballet, so get over it. :thumbsup:


4. Rotation, rotation, rotation. I'm wondering if you might lose some of your rotation when you are in the air, which would happen if you weren't completely on the supporting leg on take-off (here goes the theme!) causing you to not be able to sense the floor with the tips of your toes.


5. Are you spotting?

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Thank you, Clara!


On the "on your supporting leg" theme, I don't think I've heard this correction in at least a year, and we have occasional "barre without a barre" for this purpose. I know that I was definitely on my supporting leg before tombe because it is the same if I start with working leg at 45 degrees (and balance there before tombe)... But I will still double check with my teachers to see if I am having this problem in other places...


Less rotation in air -- Hmm... Good point(e). I might be. My turnout "check points" are mostly before take-off and after landing... LOL... Did I mention that I used to want to build a checklist for steps?


Spotting -- Yes, but something weird was happening as my teacher discovered today -- I wasn't spotting at eye level because I have the bad habbit of lifting my chin high in arabesque... And now this bad habit is hunting me in arabesque turns because one cannot spot fast enough if spotting somewhere above the eye-level... YAY! Now I have to work to eliminate this annoying head thing!

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