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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Kate B

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My new ballet class is great, but it is very different to other classes I have done before in many ways. One of the ways is the technique we are taught. I am not sure exactly how it is different, but I know quite a lot is based on Balanchine, and previously I have done RAD and Russian stuff.


I don't really know much about the Balanchine technique, and I was wondering how it differed from the others. Is there a book on it? Thanks for your help.

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Suki Schorer has a book on it currently available (and through amazon - just click the banner at the top of the page) - Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique.

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I've seen very little Balanchine, but our teacher likes to throw in a petit allegro every now and then based on his style. Holy cow am I winded after she throws one at us. It's tough. And to think people do it and make it look easy. Then again, they're, like, 18 years younger than me when they're doing it.;)

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Guest MountainDancer

I have Suki Schorer's book on Balanchine technique and just started really studying it this year. I've included a Balanchine tendu exercise at the barre for my class, along with a "regular" tendu exercise. I think it's good for the students to learn a variety, and because the different exercises work different muscles.


But you're right about things getting tougher as you get older, especially those fast combinations!

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Thanks Mjr Mel - I will put that book on my 'wish list' - it is £30 (but only $28 on the American site! How is that fair?)


2Left - these classes are exhilarating! I feel about 2 feet taller afterwards! The thing is I don't really know what the difference is that makes me feel like that!

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It's a terrific book and gives you a real, working understanding of how Balanchine dancers can move like lightning. There's a real emphasis on lightness (staying off your heels and constantly moving rather than posing) that I try to keep in mind when I'm in class. Some of the technique is a little weird (I'm not sure I can do the hand position she recommends without feeling absurd -- sort of rounded with the pinkie extended -- and I'd surely get corrected in class if I let my heel come up in demi-plie), but I love that she gives actual combinations that Balanchine used to give in his classes. (That sound you hear is Balanchine rolling in laughter in his grave as I in my bedroom, book on dresser, try to follow along...)

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Problem is, with the Balanchine "Technique" (I think it's really a style, not a whole separate technique - it does not have its own lexicon) is that Balanchine isn't around any more to run it. With regard to the heels not going down, he'd run workshops and say, "Here, the heels must be down." "Stop all, here - halt!" "Make hands more formal, dear." Without his modulation, his disciples can only provide educated guesses at what he'd want in any given place, and what he wanted frequently changed from year to year.

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I know that he NEVER said don't put your heels down in demi-plié after a jump. NEVER. I went up to him myself and asked him 'what's this about not putting your heels down in plié?' And he told me we do put them down."


This is an interesting interview with Jillana that you can view on



I've also read in a ballet book (sorry, can't remember wich one) that Balanchine wanted the dancers to put their heels down. Is this the way ballet students e.g. at SAB are taught? Now that must be a workout for the calve muscles if you have to do a lot of jumps without putting your heels down!


Svenia :)


P.s.: This was just a knock-knock on the Adult Ballet Student-door ;)

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Hmmm....veeeeerrrry interesting. If this is true, then how come every student I see who comes from Balanchine style training never ever put their heels down in jumps or relevés?

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well, thats what the teachers tell us. Thats what they've been telling MY class for the past 6 years anyway. but maybe the teachers who were taught themselves by Balanchine, and are now teaching at Balanchine's school the students who will go into Balanchine's company, all got together and said " lets tell the kids to put their heels down, and then go into their brains and program them so that they absolutly can't put their heels down,and then everyone will think that this is the way its supposed to be done, even though it isn't. And won't believe the students when they say otherwise. " make any sense to you? lol, it doens't make any sense to me. Maybe Balanchine wanted the heels up, but heels down is what we are being taught.

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This is another reason why I think Balanchine is more a choreographic style than an actual Technique. In many of his ballets, he has you moving so fast, particularly in terre à terre movements like glissades and such that there's no way to do things unless you've fudged into an overcrossed fifth and are sort of on quarter-point. Many teachers take this tendency and extend it into a rule, which Balanchine himself would never have done! I saw a couple of occasions where he was "faced down" by a couple of his own teachers, Tumi and Miss Stuart, and he said, "Well, dears, maybe here I am wrong to say 'all the time'.";)

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well they might say to put heels on the floor but when they do demonstrate they sure don't and I remember as a student I wanted to do exactly what my teacher was doing, it's called mimetisme.

And I have to agree with Victoria, I do teach a lot of kids that are or were there and they do not put their heels on the floor.:)

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