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floss

A question

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Ms Leigh placed a link on the young dancers page about arabesques. I would like to know why incorrect technique (sometimes) seems to be promoted even by professional dancers. Is technique losing out to appearance? Do others have a problem with this aspect of dance? Is it just that the audience member's eye is drawn to something that is off kilter in a momentary lapse by the dancer or the camera just happens to click then. The teachers know it is wrong, the dancers know it is wrong so why does it seem to be on the increase?:)

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One of the reasons is that extension has become the main focus. People are not seeing the lack of alignment, placement, position of the leg, rotation, LINE, or anything else, as long as the leg is whacked up as high as it can go. Those two photos illustrate rather clearly the difference. One has LINE, the other does not. The one in the tutu has a supporting leg that is not turned out, she is not all the way over the foot, the "arabesque" leg is not even close to being behind her, so it is more of an "alabesque", and it has no line. The whole position has no line. But even the students are not seeing this. They see the hip, but they still, at the least the ones who have responded so far, are not really seeing the back leg way out, nor noticing the supporting leg, nor seeing the overall lack of line. Very depressing. If the students don't see it, how is the audience supposed to see it?

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Line is so, like, yesterday. ;)

(I hope it's clear that I agree with Victoria completely and am grateful to her for pointing this out!)

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Yes, i could see that the leg wasn't turned out and i would rather see line, placement, etc rather than toes pointing to the sky. Do you think that higher extensions without correct technique is seen as "better" by many people? I just can't understand it, my daughters' teachers insist on correct placement and technique and also dirrect their attention ( the students, I mean) to examples of incorrect technique so these students theoretically know what is right and wrong. Do some of the students just go away later and throw that away just to be able to do " tricks" and think that because they can get their leg higher (for an example) they are a better dancer than others who don't have that ability? Or, is it that they are trying to emulate dancers who do have that ability? One of my concerns is that ballet may be over- run by people who have the opinion that bigger or higher is better and that technique is being eroded. If I want to see acrobats I'll go to the circus!

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Floss, your fear is not without justification, I'm afraid. The bigger, higher, better mentality exists out there in a lot of places, and it's fostered, at least in part, and also IMO, by placing ballet in the arena of competitive events. However, there are also some styles of training which do not seem to believe that having the leg in the back, as opposed to partially out to the side, is necessary. I guess they have a totally different sense of line than most of us have been taught to recognize. :(

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Ah, different styles of teaching. Do you mean styles as in RAD, Vaganova, Checchetti etc or the teacher's personal style?

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RAD, Vaganova and Cecchetti are methods. I was talking styles. ;) There are a lot of different company styles and choreographer styles out there. Many variations on the theme of what some of us think is classical technique.

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Thanks for clearing that up:) And what do you think about not using turnout correctly and other technique issues, are companies and choreographers putting the dancers at risk physically by requesting this style of dance, and what does it mean for the rest us who don't believe that this is the best way for our children to learn ballet, or can these styles exist side by side without detrimental effects on each other. Sorry if I'm being a bit of a pain about this. I learnt ballet many many years ago when a child and teenager, my teacher was very strict and demanded correct technique. Maybe I'm still in that world. Haha;)

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The styles are existing side by side. Whether they are putting the dancers at higher risk or not has not been proven, although there is a lot of speculation that the very acrobatic work of some of the choreographers could be causing more injuries. I don't believe any data exists on this however, and I would like to hope that at least most of the schools are still teaching essentially correct technique.

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Originally posted by Victoria Leigh

[there is a lot of speculation that the very acrobatic work of some of the choreographers could be causing more injuries.  

It certainly is causing injuries to the art form.

This is a most intriguing thread, even to one who has a hard time putting names to steps. Victoria Leigh gives a very clear description of the lack of line and, most importantly to this reader, exactly why there is no discernable line in the arabesque. One phrase that jumped off the page is "The one in the tutu has a supporting leg that is not turned out". Turnout is so basic--it is like saying that a singer can't sing a diatonic scale.

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I couldn't sing to save my life but I can hear a bad note. I can see bad positions in dance but that's probably because I was taught ballet. What about people who haven't had dance training can they see how awkward the dancer is or does that come with watching and comparing various dancers over the years? Another thought. Do many young dancers get "rewarded" ( by being placed or winning in competitions for example) for incorrect line, technique, little or no turnout or losing their turnout when they do a particular step. For this I mean older students, adolescents. I'm interested because it seems that those high extensions are what many people are aiming for and I feel that there is more to ballet than how high you can lift your leg. I also recognise that many art forms are evolving but that doesn't mean that the old way has to be discarded or that the new way is some new fangled thing that old fogeys are afraid of. I just feel that technique is the base to work from. I suppose that technique means different things to different people.

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Sometimes they do, floss. It depends on the judges and their values. If they are looking for schooling and artistry, those who just get their legs up and pull off the tricks don't win, but it seems to me that it is usually the "whiz bangs" who win. I find this especially troubling in the younger teens, as it promotes the development of very young dancers ripping through classical variations which are intended for principal dancers, or soloists at the very least. The difficulty of these variations, which were not intended for children, forces them to focus on things which, IMO, are not the important things at that stage of their development. It can push them into too much too soon, and, with those who do have the physical facility to do it, develops prodigies. I find this potentially dangerous, and just not the best way to develop a dancer/artist. (I'm not talking about 17-18-19 year olds here, but the younger teens and pre-teens who are involved in competitive dance. The older teens should be working on these variations, and if the competitions can help them to get jobs, then I can accept that, as of course dancers getting jobs in companies is kind of important ;) However, I still would prefer to think that dancers get jobs through auditions rather than winning competitions. I may be old-fashioned in this thinking, but I still prefer to see dancers develop through the ranks. Sometimes they become "stars" before they become dancers, or at least well before they become young artists.

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I hope I'm not dragging out this thread, forgive me if I am, i'm still new here. But, what you say about young teens attempting variations beyond there physical, emotional and technical development touches a chord with me. i have seen a number of young dancers in competitions here who try very hard to dance variations that IMO are beyond those capabilities so it comes down to tricks. Then other dancers who perform something less taxing and sometimes beautifully are not recognised.

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If any other people have opinions on this subjects I would be interested in hearing/reading them

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I agree with all that has been written here. I'd also like to point out that many people state that ballet is becoming more "technical," which in my opinion is not true. A high extension is not a display of technique; it is a display of natural (sometimes unnatural) flexibility. Dancers now seem to focus less on good technique (ie moving properly) and more on extreme physical features, such as very arched or pronated feet or high extensions or hyperextended knees. The sooner people realize that dancing on their knuckles and kicking themselves in the head is not technique of any sort--except "bad"--the better.

It is very interesting to read through "Basic Principles of Classical Ballet" and note that when Vaganova was writing it, a low arch was considered far more suitable for pointe work than a high arch, as the low-arched foot tends to be stronger. The focus wasn't so much on the aesthetic properties of the foot as it was on the strength and suitability of the foot for dancing. Same with extensions. While 90-degree extensions were common, 135 degrees was considered high. "A la seconde" was a position; "battement developpé" was a movement.

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hey... I'm new here and all, but I agree with floss. technique IS important, but some people are so focused on extension and flexibility that they're willing to throw line, alignment, and turn out out the window. this is upsetting to me too, and I wanna know why we can't have both? :confused:

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Hello dancerscheese, welcome to Ballet Alert! Online :)

Actually, we can have both, but it is a matter of teaching, coaching, and taste. Teachers and coaches who have enough taste to remain faithful to classical technique will not allow this nonsense of extension uber alles, however, there are some who seem to treat the dancers like circus performers and only work on the tricks and ignore the technique, musicality, and artistry. The competitions promote this to a great extent, which is why I don't have much use for them.

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I missed this discussion on the first go-round. I hope you don't mind if I bring it back up. I agree with all that I have read about the increase in tricks and higher-is better arabesques. When I have had the chance to observe classes in SI where there are students from other areas, I have noticed students attempting to one-up the other. I see the aggressive students being rewarded and praised for the height of their extensions. They are singled out to demonstrate to the class. Often they are the ones with the open hips, the standing leg not turned out,etc. It can be hard to reinforce the proper technique and remind my daughter to listen to her teachers at home that stress good tech and line.

I am happy to hear that many of you don't allow this to go on in your classes and that parents on this site know the right way. I am happy to say my daughter is going to a new SI where tech wins over tricks!;)

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My daughters teacher stresses technique. When my daughter was trying to get her leg up higher causing her to lose her turnout, her teacher made her stop and lower her leg until the turnout was correct. Quite a shock to my daughter who found that she was just barely at 90 degrees. But what a difference in the line. She noticed it immediately. I pat those teachers on the back for insisting on technique. Next year when my daughter attempts her first SI's, we will be researching the schools who focus on techinique and not on "tricks".

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I urge everyone - student, parent (teachers ought to have done so already) to read "Basic principles..." Always been my bible and also my daughter's (though she now studies law). But Basic principles - though it has the most awful illustrations, has a lot of wisdom and common sense. IMO, the best technique book ever.

There are other good book, though... Have a look at Anna Paskevska's technique books, two of them. Wonderful stuff!!!

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Are you referring to "Basic Principles of Classical Ballet Technique" by Agrippina Vaganova? I always thought the illustrations were very clear. What don't you like about them?

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Yes, Hans, I am referring to THAT Basic principles. My old very wellthumbed copy is from 1953, maybe they have different illustrations in newer editions.

OK, I do agree with you that they are clear, but I prefer drawings with dancers in tights and leotards, not those half long skirts. :)

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Where is the original link? I looked on young dancers and couldn't find it. Also, why is it so important for the leg to be so behind the body. Of course it can't be out to the side, but if the dancer is hyperextended, then the lower part of the leg may extend outside of the shoulder while still being in a correct alignment. I have one excellent teacher who happens to insist upon my leg being more and more and MORE behind me. It is frusterating because I can't figure out how to use the turnout on the working leg or how to balance with it that far behind me.

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