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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Petit allegro…..an "Aha" moment, but……??


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I've asked myself lately why my petit allegro isn't better? I think I've stepped up just a bit in a few other combinations, adagio, perhaps, by working on core strength, and it has...


In considering petit allegro, I think……hm, frappes and other quick allegro movements at the barre -- what do I do wrong, or don't do enough of?


My mind ran down a checklist for petit allegro of what I think the most important elements are and I came up w/:


feet, feet, feet first of all -- pointing feet better (to land and take off from jumps);

tempo and speed -- quickness and agility, let's say. Weight forward so you can move quickly;

steps, and stringing them together quickly -- focus on certain (petit allegro/terre a terre) steps and thinking about how to improve them individually;

……and so on.


Then today, I read back through a number of threads here at BT about core strength (I don't seem to ever get tired of reading more about it.) Then…………AHA!!!!


I realized that what I may have completely missed in all the focus I was putting on thinking about improving petit allegro was - CORE STRENGTH. Could that be it? Maintaining core strength, with agility, tempo, well-used feet and of course critical, turnout, throughout an ENTIRE petit allegro combination!


By comparison, at barre or during another center combination, there may be tiny moments -- if any :ermm: in which core strength is not at 100%.


Petit allegro on the other hand -- at least I think it may be the answer to my quandary -- being very fast could essentially be as core-strength-demanding as an adage……? and because it is so fast, demands core strength maintained, without any stopping whatsoever, during its 36-count or so duration….?


Is this a correct conclusion? Is core strength -- perhaps even more so than some other combinations -- the ingredient that has been missing from my attempts to improve petit allegro? (likewise frappes at the barre I think I am starting to realize…) I was thinking "Feet, feet, feet" when I should be thinking "core, core, core"…..?


Or does something else that I am missing power petit allegro - the smooth, precise and lovely combinations that advanced dancers, some in my class, do? I realize it may be an "all of the above" list of ingredients. But is core strength often missed, when talking about petit allegro, and I've not paid enough attention to it? I realize turnout is essential too because of the sideways-moving, and emphasis on what legs are doing. But I am starting to actually realize that it all does come from core strength --


Am I on the right track? :nixweiss::wallbash::dizzy::nixweiss: Thanks, in advance for comments… I hope I have posted this in a good place - If not, please move this, or let me know?

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Hi Ludmilla:

Core strength is important for everything. It needs, eventually, to go on automatic pilot...so that you don't think about it all the time (this takes YEARS...don't stress it for the moment). One of the things that I notice is that many students' upper bodies become very stiff during petite allegro, as if they are gripping every muscle they have with every ounce of their strength. This is definitey not going to serve you. I tell my students to think of lifting the upper body, rib cage and all, and separate it off the lower body. As if one could lift the rib cage off the pelvis and separate them into two separate entities. Then the lower body is free to work sharp, fast and clean while the upper body, rib cage, arms, head, shoulders remain fluid and supple. Not sure if this image would be helpful to you...but it is something to think about.

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I could be completely wrong in this, but my sense is that when many people have difficulty in doing something in ballet, their first thought is that they can't do whatever because they are weak in some muscle group. Rarely is that the case in my opinion. What they lack is skill, which is developed over time with countless repetition.


Petite allegro was never my strength, but I've learned that my ability to do anything quickly has diminished. Call me captain slow now.


Spanish dance like petite allegro requires "fast feet." I always struggled with that. I was like Willimus's students, tense because of having to move my feet so fast. I learned that the key for me was to learn to relax. Easier said than done, however. I only learned to relax by repetition, so much repetition that combinations of steps would flow from my body without thinking. Even then tension could raise its ugly head because of past experience.

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One of the biggest "aha" moments for me with petit allegro was to take smaller steps! Maybe for some of you that was obvious from the get-go, but I'd always make these HUGE assembles/sissons, fall out of sync with the music, and just screw up the combination from there on. My teacher finally gave me the correction to make these moves tighter and faster, and that's helped me a lot with quick combinations.

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My thought was that coordination is paramount in petit allegro: how the legs work, how the upper body/arms work, how they work together, what the timing is for all of this, etc. Like pirouettes, if you don't get the dynamic of a petit allegro step or sequence of steps, it's just not going to happen -- and will be really hard to fake!


Then when I read the other responses, it occurred to me that "coordination" is actually a similar answer to the others. A catch-all term, almost.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi Gav: I think you have expressed the essence of successful petit allegro quite well. The dynamics of the movement, the timing and understanding how one gets into and out of a certain movement are key to perfecting one's skills with small jumps.


I like these clips, from Insight Ballet Glossary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAsMB3eRe6g&list=RD1fSa3ESmA1s and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvrPLx3z7bY as they show all the things you mention, above.

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Hi Willimus,


I'm so glad to read your comments on petit allegro! That helps to hear, about the importance of engaging the core/core strength being on 'auto-pilot... I have had a notion about that but it really helps to hear this explained as you have.

Your description and imagery of two parts separated, in effect each having their special function, as far as lifting the upper body, allowing the legs/lower body to execute the quick, sharp movements, (and, engaging the core!) are extremely helpful! This really makes sense -- Thank you so much! I can't wait to try, and get used to this approach.


Gary - Thank you for mentioning your experience with this, too.


hlambers -- Yes…… I've sensed that something like this might help, and I'm glad to hear you confirm it. Do you have any tips on how to make, or feel that you are making, your steps lovely and visible even though small(er)? I must admit I do give in to wanting to go for a big sissone or assemble… (the temptation to enlarge these definitely does NOT help.) I better save the huge assemble for grand allegro. I realize this may seem evident but sometimes until someone really points this out specifically, it had not seemed as relevant as it actually is. Thanks!


gav -- Yes, that does put it all together, about the coordinating of each aspect and the dynamic. If these are combined in a harmonious fashion, including pairing with the music, and so on, that helps a lot to be aware of. Good point!


Pas de Quoi -- Yes, the tiny linking elements of the combination are often what trip me up unless i really pay attention to them! Thanks for weighing in and for the clips!


I appreciate all your comments, will read them several times and really think about them and how to put them into practice to work on improving! Thank you, all! :)

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Hi Ludmilla, I'm glad I could help!


Hopefully someone with more proficiency can help me with this, but some general tips I have:

  • Spend some time finding the right amount of power to get you off the floor but not enough to make you go higher than you need to. One of the first things I noticed when speeding up my assembles was that I plied way too deeply for the combination at hand. Your tiny leaps will look much more effortless this way, too, and you'll be able to move faster.
  • I also REALLY use my feet in sissone and assembles--like consciously think about brushing off the floor and pointing my feet in the direction I need to go. Everything always looks prettier when you work your feet!
  • Work on your epaulement. This is something I'm still perfecting. I really seems to be the key to the subtelty of movement that makes petit allegro so pretty.
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Hi hlambers,


Thank you for breaking down what goes into the petit allegro being - i.e. "small" :grinning: - the right proportion for various steps. And how to think of your feet figuring into the picture -- Very helpful! As you said, epaulement, and direction of the head and eyes, too should really complete a lovely picture... Thanks again.


I'm so inspired to work with these wonderful guidelines.

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Thanks all for such useful thoughts about petit allegro. For me, it's about getting the rhythm and the dynamic. I find I can "get" allegro better if I try to find the light & shade -- the pattern and flow of the rhythm. For me that's fundamental, and then the detail of feet etc comes after. This may not result in beautiful dancing, but it helps me to learn.


But I'd never thought of the core deliberately in petit allegro, and now I shall.

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Redbookish -- That is a very interesting approach, too. It's good to remember that even in very structured classical ballet, there is not only one correct way, for learning and trying different self-learning techniques, at least. I can relate to what you are saying.
Also it is the combination of all of these excellent tips and comments that can help so much -- like a gorgeous recipe -- to create something beautiful.
In class now, I'd say my particular mantra for this week is, Feet and core.I especially want to ramp up my ability -- along the lines of what has been said above to simply look better, and create better, sharper and more distinct shapes, in my petit allegro. I have some ways to go certainly, but realizing the details of what to do has helped tremendously.

Feet and core are such basics - beginner basics even. It's just that I've felt the need to go back and do inventory about some of my basics, applying them more effectively.

i don't know what happened to this post but it went rather haywire……….. Ludmilla


Thank you, Ms. Clara!

Edited by Ludmilla
Deleted strange symbols for you
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Lots of good ideas in this thread. I especially enjoyed reading what Redbookish said about pattern and flow of rhythm.

I find it useful in petit allegro to focus on landing in/ taking off from clean positions. I'd rather see a lower jump that lands in a clean position than a high one with a fuzzy finish. And a nicely placed plie generates greater power than a haphazard plie can.

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Just a couple of things--remember that in terre-à-terre and petit allegro the physical and musical accent is often on the landing rather than the highest point of the jump, so you must learn to "jump down" rather than jumping "up". Also, the upper body is not just decoration. Using your head properly helps you move in the direction you want to go. For example, if you do a jeté, your head should be turned in the direction of the ball of the supporting foot because if your weight is over the ball of that foot, it is easier both to land on it and to jump off of it again. When the teacher gives the exercise, do the arms and head full out and just mark the legs. It helps you learn what the whole body should do and makes it easier to get everything into your body's muscle memory. It won't happen perfectly the first time, but with persistent effort (as with anything in ballet) you should make some progress.

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Mr. Hans --


That makes sense! i want to mark arms and head in class and see how that goes!


Are arms for petit allegro steps standard? Maybe I "should know" that, but I'm not sure... I realize there can be some varying of them depending on choreography, but is there a standard, "vanilla" arm movement for each step? I've read about this, and I know a number of them but a few, I don't and just keep arms in 2nd or 1st or something else that "seems" appropriate.. (My teacher does not usually demonstrate arms w/ petit allegro combos, although she does explain arms for certain moves - especially if she is emphasizing certain ones…..) ... So I am wondering whether others in my class already know the correct arms for all petit allegro steps? Or have they improvised nicely...?


Thank you!

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