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Epaulement


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#1 su-lian

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Posted 16 April 2003 - 01:14 PM

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.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 16 April 2003 - 01:54 PM

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.

#3 balletowoman

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 12:40 AM

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...

#4 su-lian

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 02:09 AM

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.
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#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 02:27 AM

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.

#6 psavola

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 03:57 AM

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

#7 su-lian

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 01:24 PM

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.

#8 Andrei

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 07:22 PM

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.

#9 vrsfanatic

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 02:54 AM

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.

#10 psavola

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 03:04 AM

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

#11 su-lian

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 06:58 AM

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)?

#12 Andrei

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 04:17 PM

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.

#13 Hans

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 07:55 PM

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."

#14 carbro

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 10:09 PM

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.

#15 psavola

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 01:38 AM

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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