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The position of cou-de-pied in plié

Jaana Heino

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In specific, this question refers to the cou-de-pied derrière, that is, when the working foot is behind the supporting foot (did I get that one right?)


I am a bit confused. When my supporting leg is straight, I know where to put my foot in the lowest cou-de-pied position: heel touching the supporting leg, the first toe just above floor. But when doing a plie, I'm not sure what to do with the cou-de-pied leg.


I seem to remember that my first teacher taught to sort of keep the foot where it is, in relation to the floor, so that when you're lowest in the plie, your big toe touches the back of the ankle of the supporting leg.


But now, if I got it right, my current teacher seems to say keep the heel where it is, in relation to the supporting leg, so that in the lowest position too the heel stil is what touches the supporting leg.


Have I misunderstood something? Which is correct? Or are both? If both, which is correct when or are they interchangeable?

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Jaana, the position of cou de pied derrière is the same for straight supporting leg or plié. The HEEL is touching the base of the calf, definitely NOT the toe! If you bring the toe in, the foot is sickled!

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Ok, so I got it wrong in the first time (I'm pretty sure it was me, not the theacher :()


Thank you.

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Since I take classes with that teacher, I think I know what is going on, and the foot definitely is not sickled.


The cou de pied position in plie Jaana remembers probably occurred in battement fondus, where she teaches what Gretchen Ward Warren calls "alternate placement" in her book Classical Ballet Technique (page 18)


The toe touches the calf, and the heel is "outside/inside" the leg. Foot is not sickled. One can get to this position by doing a normal cou de pied and then plie while keeping the working foot in the same place in the air.


She has also introduced an exercise where the working foot is drawn all the way up to knee and above while the supporting leg is in plie before opening to "normal" extension with straight supporting foot. (I think the exercise is supposed to develop turn-out in the hip joint and strength in the muscles that lift the leg and calf.) I think that did not come to the picture until later levels, though, not during the beginner year. :)



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I think I see what's going on here!:) Yes, that method of handling a cou-de-pied derriere in demi-plié is considered all right in some applications, to wit:


Let's say you've ended a combination or phrase on a musical pause or rest in cou-de-pied derriere. The next step coming out into the next combination or phrase or period is a demi-plié and a coupé followed by an assemblé or other jumped step. In this case, many schools consider it all right to raise the knee of the working leg slightly in the demi-plié, maintaining proper rotation of both legs, so that at the deepest part of the demi-plié, the toe of the working leg is touching the back of the ankle, then proceed on to the coupé-assemblé, etc.:)


As I say, many schools consider this use all right, not all. Some would consider this a form of "cocking" (as in cocking a pistol), like taking a windup for a pirouette.

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Ah, ok. Thanks for the explanations. Probably the first teacher only wanted that for some particular excercise, and somehow I managed to interpret that exception as a rule. :)

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Both can be right!:) It's just that the way I explained it happens in petit allegro fairly often, especially with men. In adage, I don't care who you are, unless you're told differently, keep the heel where it is. In the fondu developpé instance, the teacher sounds like s/he's trying for some increased openness through the hip, a sort of active stretch without "outside interference" as from a hand, so go along with the program.;)

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Just a nitpick: technically, a "plie" on one leg is a fondue. One leg = fondue, Two legs = plie.


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However, it made no difference at all to some of those old Russian ballet teachers who were trying to get the proper "squishy" quality in a demi-plié in fifth or first, and who would repeatedly call out, "Fondez! Fondez!"

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Nor does it make any difference to many American teachers who say "plie" when you're standing on one leg. ;)

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Well, that's balletspeak for you. There's a formal, and an informal sense to the language. And it varies from nation to nation.

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