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su-lian

Epaulement

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I have some idea of what it is, but how do you say if a dancer has good or bad épaulement? I thought it had more or less set rules and went with the steps, which implies with the choreography, so I don't understand how different dancers can have different épaulements. Sorry if it's been asked before, but I don't think so.

Su-lian.

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Good question! Sometimes there is epaulement in the choreography, and sometimes there's epaulement in the choreography that's ignored when it's rehearsed :) I've been told by dancers in two American companies that in rehearsal, there isn't time to do more than learn the steps, and all attention is paid to feet, so that's one reason.

There are some companies, though, who have epaulement as a part of their style. The Kirov still does, at least in Petipa. (Should one intrude epaulement into one's Neumeier repertory? Interesting question....) I haven't seen Paris enough to know whether epaulement is really slipping there. The more contemporary work a company does, though, the more foreign epaulement is goinig to be to the dancers' bodies.

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Epaulement is either set by the choreographer, or is 'created' and invented by the dancer... A lot of the personality of the dancer is coming through in the way they use their épaulement. That's why sometimes, even though some work is dictated by the choreographer, you hear that such or such dancer has great épaulement. It's a little flourish that is allowed to add something to the strict technique of ballet (not many flourishes are allowed, apart from this one!!)

The set épaulements are ouvert, croisé, effacé... But what is generally called 'épaulement' for a dancer (and you don't refer to those set positioning of the body in space) is how they use their upper body in their dance. Epaulement comes from 'epaule' (shoulder) so, it's ultimately the use of shoulders in various ports de bras, but it's now agreed that it's the whole upper body movements that a dancer adds to act her/his role...

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Thank you very much!

I knew about effacé, croisé etc, but I couldn't really figure out how the shoulders could move in different particular ways...And it still confuses me, but I suppose that's also a bit why it's been extended to the whole upper body.

So this means that someone who has a "stiff" upper body and doesn't use it much has bad épaulement, and someone who uses it to express something, like slightly cambré or slightly to the side or whatever has good épaulement. Is this it, or not, or is there something more?

About Paris, some people say that the dancers have a bad épaulement, but I'm not too sure about what they say (I'm thinking about one person in particular which I won't mention Alexandra ;) , because I think it's the same), and since personally, I was a bit confused by it, I couldn't have looked for it, but I think some still have (I wouldn't try to say how many or how much percentage though!), like Aurélie Dupont, for example.

Su-lian.

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I don't know if I would call any dancer "bad" if they didn't use much epaulement, but it would be an item that I would attempt to correct in class, if I were teaching them. I may be fairly lenient on this subject, but it would certainly be an item of comment. I've known, and still do know, dancers who are almost relentlessly "vertical", but I generally state it like that, or simply say that they do not make much use of epaulement, rather than say they have "poor" epaulement.

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Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've also had the impression that in addition to bends of the body, a slight twist of the shoulders in relation to hips is a very important component of having "good epaulement".

Like if a dancer was moving diagonally downstage during a step, she might rotate her spine slightly to move the downstage shoulder back in order to present the body to the audience in a more interesting way.

Päivi

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I didn't say a dancer was necessarily bad if s/he didn't use épaulement, well at least that's not what I meant even if that might seem to be what I said. I was just trying to make a caricature of "good" and "bad "épaulement (to use expressions I have seen before, but not used since I wasn't sure of what was meant by it) to check if I had correctly understood what was sometimes meant by épaulement. It's because I read some things about dancers and it sometimes said they didn't have a good épaulement, I just wondered what they meant. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

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No, Päivi, you are wrong. The dancer can't "twist" his shoulders. He can bent in his shoulderblades and turn or lean his head, but hips and shoulders shoud be in one line.

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There also are rules for the lower body (hips,legs and feet) when one uses epaulement. For example: the turn of the body to croise is a very sharp, forceful turn of the supporting heels forward toward the downstage corners of the dancer's diagram of the space. This allows the heels, hips and shoulders all to be on the same diagonal. The face or head with the eyeline may look in any choreographed direction, although there are more common usages than others. When a dancer is using epaulement efface there is a resistance to the turn of the heels, hips and shoulders so the dancer may remain turned out when seen from the audiences perspective. All systems use a differing numerical system to number the space, stage or studio, but all use the directions of the body. Without an understanding of these directions of the body there will not be epaulement. Another important aspect of epaulement is the expression of the pose. Without this, dance becomes simple exercise, mechanics. There are some very fine professionals working who do not have a good understanding of epaulement. I consider them more as athletes, not dancers. Without epaulement there is little expressive ability. Dance becomes only two dimentional.

Even when watching modern dance (I just returned from a program of the Limon Company) they use epaulement. I am not sure what they call it in modern dance but dance is dance and the angles of the body are similar in how it relates to the stage regardless of whether we are discussing modern, ballet or flaminco for that matter. I am sure what we call epaulement in ballet is also used in stage and film work for actors. They just call it something else. They body expressivity is the same in all artistic forms of movement. Perhaps it just has different names.

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Andrei, I'm afraid I do not understand what you mean when you say "He can bent in his shoulderblades". As far as I know shoulderblades are bones and cannot be bent? :confused: (I'm sorry, English is not my native language, so I really have no clue here)

Are you saying that rotation of the spine is not part of good "movement" epaulement beyond the requirements of "position" epaulement? :confused:

(Position epaulement being things like showing the back to the audience in fourth arabesque. Movement epaulement being things like using one's shoulders and upper spine in sissonne - tombe - pas de bourree on the diagonal with half first port de bras)

I'm editing this to add that vrsfanatic and I were writing at the same time, and what I wrote relates directly to the upper posts on this thread and to not to the directions of the body.

Päivi

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Thanks a lot for these detailed answers! It's very interesting, but you don't seem to agree... Is it because it is related to taste (which I don't suppose so, but one never knows), or is it because someone here is confused (which I don't really think so either, but since I don't know much about épaulement, and that's why I asked the question, I can't tell) or does it have something to so with different schools of teaching and different styles (which is probably an answer)?

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Päivi, epaulement is position, not movement

Arabesque is another position, which has nothing to do with epaulement. And , yes, the forth arabesque in Vaganova sistem allow you to twist your shoulders.

When I said, bent in your shoulderblades, I meant to draw the line in the low part of shoulderblades and bent your body over there.

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I would not necessarily consider someone a bad dancer either if they didn't use épaulement, but I would consider them to have been poorly trained. Clear, consistent use of épaulement is a sign of good training. When one speaks of an individual dancer having good or bad épaulement, one is usually speaking of how aesthetically pleasing the dancer's épaulement is, not necessarily whether or not he uses his upper body. I agree with you vrsfanatic regarding the use of épaulement in other forms of dance: Graham, for example, has the 'spiral' that, while different from the concept of traditional ballet épaulement, is nonetheless a very dynamic use of the upper body.

Don't the Cecchetti (I think they exist in Vaganova as well, but perhaps not officially) épaulé positions require one to twist the shoulders but not the hips? I tend to prefer not to think of ballet in terms of positions even though it is often described that way, but that discussion could fill another thread. Regardless, I still wouldn't say that a ballet position is "not movement." I realize it sounds like I'm splitting hairs, but I can really see the difference in my students between when I tell them something is a position and when I describe it in terms of "energy."

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I have understood epaulement to imply movement. An example would be the scene in "Turning Point," when Mme Danilova is coaching Leslie Browne in the final diagonal of Kitri's Act III variation. The shoulders do not move, but there is a rotation of the spine that gives dimension to the dancing. It is so much more satifsying than seeing two shoulders plunked statically over the hips.

There is a relation between the shoulders and the hips, but it is more of a reference point to which we return between movements -- like having the leg pass through first (reference point) while moving en cloche. If you "hit" first, you stop the continuity of the movement, but you must know where it is and how to get there, and pass through it without resting there. Same principle applies above the waist.

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I seem to either have really confused things up, or my English skills are inadequate. :) Probably the former. :( I'll have to go ask my teacher about this again, and I apologize if I confused anybody.

(I thought the word epaulement could mean two things. The first being a concrete position/direction of the body and limbs as in "pointe tendue croise devant". The second would be the consept of usage of upper body in dance as in "his great use of epaulement makes his jumps appear higher", but apparently my understanding of the second meaning is faulty somehow. :( Maybe it isn't called epaulement at all, but something else?)

Päivi

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Päivi, I think it's just a matter of a slight difference of interpretation, and perhaps also just use of certain words to describe it. While the French word épaulé does, in my understanding, mean shoulder, and épaulement would be shouldering I think, in the Russian school it seems to mean the general use of the upper body, ie, that it is always used as a normal part of movement. This exists in all methods too, however, some schools have specific positions they call épaulé, plus they use the term to mean add more upper body movement to the work. As Hans said, even in Cecchetti, there is a twisting, (or rotating of the upper spine) in certain postions. And, épaulement is used throughout even though it might not be called by that name. I don't believe anyone is indicating that the shoulders remain square to the hips at all times! I think when we see a dancer with a lovely upper body we tend to think of her/him as having wonderful épaulement, and even though this could mean a specific action in some ways, it really means that they are using the upper body well and creating movement which has a most pleasing shape and design and flow, as opposed to someone who might have great technique in many ways below the waist but does not necessarily have beautiful use of the entire body. Does this help at all?

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No psavola, I think you have made yourself very clear. The differences that we are discussing perhaps have more to do with teaching methods than the actual usage of the word epaulement. Although I like the approaches that are being discussed, the reality of what must be taught to a child from the beginning in the Vaganova program is as I have stated above. That does not mean that the teacher must actually speak to the student in those terms but the results must exist, even when one is a professional dancer. Therefore, when discussing the usage of epaulement or the existence of epaulement, it is not considered a movement of the shoulders only. As Andrei has stated so very well...

The dancer can't "twist" his shoulders. He can bent in his shoulderblades and turn or lean his head, but hips and shoulders shoud be in one line.
The elasticity of the upper back sideways, forward, backward and the usage of the head and eyes makes the line of the pose and the artistic qualities of the position speak a language of the its own. This creates the idea of movement.

I have tried very hard not to speak for Andrei, please do not misunderstand just because I like the way he made his statement. If you disagree Andrei please let me know. I am always learning! :D

carbo, in Vaganova schooling there is a movement called bends of the body. The body can twist and turn in various ways of course. However many times what non-Vaganova trained dancers may consider as twists and turns, are to a Vaganova trained dancer/teacher simply 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th port de bras being used in a pose or a position. Also the arabesques 1-4 all have their own form and requirements, mechanically and artistically. Maybe this idea could help to give a reference point for non-Vaganova trained teachers and others who may have an interest in the topic. Sometimes we just need to better understand our language and I do not mean English. Just how we find a common form of communication so we can comprehend and continue to learn from one another. :cool:

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vrsfanatic, I always agree with you and you have my "permisson" to use my name whenever you want :cool:. You definetely didn't spent in waste your time in St Petersburg!

Victoria, in Russia the word epaulement itself, used very rare, we are prefer to say criose, efface or ecarte. And epaulement has just one meaning, the body should not be facing the mirror.

Päivi, I don't know, how epaulement can help to jump higher. Lighter, with easeness, may be ...

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Thank you Ms. Leigh, your explanation did help quite a bit. (The teaching approaches part of the epaulement discussion still goes partly over my head, but that is probably only natural in a beginning student like me. :) ) I wonder how many other ballet words are similarly charged with multiple meanings in various ballet dialects. :)

Andrei, I did not mean to say that epaulement affects the real height of the jump. I meant that using the upper body in a certain way a dancer can make a jump look higher than it is. For example if a dancer looks to the floor in grand jete, the audience attention is directed downward and the line is hunched. The dancer must gaze diagonally upward to make the jump look high and flying.

Päivi

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Carbo - It is interesting that you mention the Danilova coaching scene in "Turning Point" because I have always had a question about that. Am I the only one who thinks that Leslie Browne - when she is shown dancing the Don Q variation in the peformance later in the movie - doesn't do what Madame Danilova told her? She is still moving her shoulders down rather than forward? (I apologize if this is too off the pointe but it is something that intrigues me every time I watch the film...)

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I don't think you're seeing things, Mary J. Danilova tries and tries to show her, but Browne (or Emilia) doesn't get it. This is one scene to remember when you hear, "But she doesn't do it nearly as well as Danilova did."

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As I remember in the film, Leslie did get the hang of it in the coaching sessions, Alexandra, but as Mary noted, did not do it in performance.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, take another look at the Henning Kronstam cabriole photo in Alexandra's book - the slight turn of the shoulders is epaulement in action, and contributes to the line of the head and arms.

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Yes, but most striking to me is Kronstam's complete relaxation despite the exertion required for cabriole. Stunning photo. :)

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