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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Bolshoi class -- Cambre back - Technique question..........


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I was glad to find this video (link above) and see this recent Bolshoi class/London. Something I keep wondering about..... right at 2:07 and a few other times, I see nearly every student in the class do a cambre back, starting with a seeming 'preparatory wave' -- rather than going from port de bras forward smoothly into cambre back, or perhaps with just a slight pause, there is a "pulse" with a small undulation forward -- head, arm and hand reaching forward a few inches, preceeding the cambre back.


I thought at first I was imagining it perhaps, but then saw it in the video a few times, and again seemingly everyone doing this, so I have to ask: Is this a stylistic choice? A mannerism? Or a technically correct execution?


Far be it for me to question the Bolshoi. But I can say in the classes I take which emphasize classical correctness I don't see this, and I don't think it would be acceptable. I can hear my teacher saying..... "Not the waves.....this is not hip-hop!" or some such correction.... :)

In fact I would feel out of place doing a cambre that way unless it were specifically part of the choreography....


Am i ignorant of this lovely way of doing a cambre? Have I not studied enough to know that this is 'how it's done'? Or have these particular Bolshoi dancers been taught something special which perhaps I should admire rather than be skeptical about.... I have watched many class videos online -- ROH, Mariinsky, you name it, and I have never seen this before, certainly not this pronounced that I remember.... What is it and why do I find it sort of distracting and just.....odd.....


What do BT4D experts say? :nixweiss:

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I've been taught this by most teachers (not the Bolshoi by any means!) -- it's a breath -- you go forwards to go backwards. I think it's quite standard.

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Hello Redbookish --


That is really interesting and makes sense - going forwards to go backwards - and a breath. I see exactly what you mean. I had not heard it before though in relation to a cambre back, and thank you very much for explaining. This small detail was really just nagging me to ask about it.... :)

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I find the 'taking a breath' moment really useful, because I tend to let my rib cage go, and hyperflex my back in the wrong way, so taking the breath and moving slightly up and forwards -- mostly up -- reminds me to connect the rib cage and the hips through my abdominal muscles.


Well, that's the theory, anyway ... :blush:

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It can work this way, but personally I like it when the lift from the forward bend flows directly into the cambré back. It has to be seamless when it is part of a circular ports de bras anyway.

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I tend to agree with Doubleturn, and I teach it without the obvious extra "flourish" usually.

(it IS important to breathe just before going back, but one can do that without doing too much outward movement)


That said, it does depend on the choreography or the style of the class, as well as the amount of music/time which is available and what the teacher says they want.


Usually I do try to avoid all "extras" - at least in the first five years or so of training.

It is easy to add such things, but not so easy to remove them later on. :)



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I learnt it both ways. I mean, I learnt the breath to get the sense of lenghtening before going backwards, to lift the chest before doing the cambré to get space between your vertebras and really hold the abs before doing the cambré. Like a small preparation to the movement. That's what I was taught to do if the teacher does not ask something else. Usually when the music is faster, the breath-in moment is left out. That's the way was taught to do it and how I teach it too.


But I am with diane: I don't teach it to the very beginners. I do teach some lenghtening before doing the cambré but not as obivous as in the video (otherwise it becomes more of something going foward backward swining yay yay than benefiting the cambré)

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I've also been taught to pause, but in the video the dancers definitely do more exaggerated version of the "pause" than what I've been taught. I think the pause is quite standard but how you move your hands during the pause might be a stylistic difference..?

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I have been asked to do cambre back this way and the less-adorned way. One teacher in particular often specifies one way or the other -- and will mix them up within a class or even within an exercise.

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Excellent responses everyone! Thank you very much!


I like that some are familiar with, and work with, the cambre without a flourish or "floreo", too, and I am more accustomed to a simpler, (as in simple in line and expression) for this particular barre exercise. As pink_Chffon says, gav, and others too, a transition in going back but not as exaggerated a flourish perhaps as the Bolshoi students in the video are doing, is interesting to think about and be aware of....


I go back to the comments of Redbookish though, and am very glad to know about the "pulse" as a breath and going forward to go backward because this could certainly be used in class or practice, too -- thanks again for explaining why the Bolshoi students are doing the cambre this way -- I am glad to understand why -- To me it could depend on the music as well. --if I am in a class where I have can make a style choice on this that would be a factor also.


I am so pleased that all of you have mentioned your experience and views on this and provided good information to consider. It's much appreciated --

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Something else to consider -- and maybe you realized this -- is that the dancers in that video are members of the Bolshoi Ballet company. They are, of course, still students of ballet in their daily classes. But professional dancers often use class for their own purposes, and they are trusted to know what they need. So maybe they were trained with a more subtle version of what you're seeing (and would do a more subtle version if it ever came up on stage), but they like how it feels to do it in a more exaggerated way in their warm-up for the day. And that's largely their prerogative at that level.

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Hi gav - thanks for mentioning that and when i watched the video what caught my eye so much was that virtually all the students in the video do the flourish identically, all synchronized together, which (now w/ the help of responses here), tells me that this is probably their standard way of doing a cambre back....mainly because all or nearly all, were doing this in unison, uniformly. (otherwise you might see some doing the flourish and some not...) Maybe it is a "Boishoi signature move"..? -- again there could be various explanations.....


The main point for me that matters, is that this is a common method of executing a cambre back. And, that there is not necessarily only one correct way - (the world over).


I might try it every so often but I prefer as you, diane, Doubleturn and others have said, to perhaps think or feel the breath but not to so obviously "flourish" forward in a cambre back.... It feels just a bit -- "over-embellished" for the particular classes I take... I would call it sort of an "old world flair" perhaps that the flourish gives - but certainly nice, and appropriate in some instances, of course -- especially depending on the effect one is going for.


I consider exercises at the barre - even the simplest plies - as a chance to dance and work on arm, head, etc movements and expression starting at the barre, so I was prompted to ask about this..... Thanks again for your comments -- This is very helpful --

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Gav brings up an excellent point, too.


On the (unfortunately) rare occasions when I can take class myself, (I am an old, ex-pro) I do enjoy "going totally into" movements, if I feel I have them otherwise under control.

So, yeah, professionals generally will do what they feel is best for them at that particular moment, especially in a warm-up training before a performance or long day of rehearsals.


Though there are times when I think they would be better served by not "indulging" quite so much. :)

(there are many examples of this, such as wildly overcrossing the gesture-leg during ronds de jambe a'terre, for example, or taking first arabesque with the front arm almost straight up and wrists broken as a dead flower ... many choreographic adjustments are IMO not really helpful in daily training.... ;) )




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It's an identical "flourish" because it's taught that way. I was introduced to this small movement not verbally, but essentially the first time I ever learned a cambre back from a Bolshoi and a Kirov teacher, it was always shown this way. So to say that it was taught might be inexact for me, since no one said "you must do this and that at this moment during this time" but it was most definitely show in that exact way to me by every teacher I've ever had who has been a student at the Moscow State Ballet Academy or the Vaganova Academy from St. Petersburg. It's kind of nice to go around the world and see this same movement happening with a large number of dancers who have been influenced by Russian training.


You will find many Vaganova students that do this at the tops of their cambre as well - and it's not an indulgent flourish or even an artsy "feeling" type movement for them at all. It's just how we've been shown to do this movement and so we do it like that. I have been corrected for doing this in many other types of ballet classes where the teacher thought I was being artistic and indulgent and "getting into" the movement. I always kind of crack up and laugh a little when I get corrected for this, because it's really just what I've been conditioned to do and is not at all an expression of feeling.

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It is a "breath", and as you can see, it is advanced movement. When we are teaching we do need to be careful not to let students make it into an "affectation". As Redbookish said- it's physics!

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