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Mel Johnson

Step of the Week 6a

33 posts in this topic

Right, Victoria! :blushing: Thanks!

And since écarté has been mentioned, let's go to work on them!

Écarté means "thrown wide apart", and the poses, when extended, can look very much like that. But for now, let's assume that our pose is taken pointe tendue, with the foot simply pointed on the floor. Facing the Down Left corner, the dancer points the right foot to his/her side, as if to an à la seconde position, with the foot pointing toward the Down Right corner. The right arm goes up over the head as if in 5th en haut (Cecchetti) or 3rd (Vaganova/Legat), while the left arm takes a sort of demi-seconde. Like second position of the arms, but slightly lower. The chest is held up and the entire upper torso takes a very slight cant to the left. The head is turned toward the raised arm, and the gaze directed past the middle of the forearm, as in effacé. The head should be lifted enough to allow the line of sight to center on the mid-forearm, but not so high as to look into the palm of the hand. The palm should be in the peripheral vision, but you're not looking right at it. This is écarté devant.

Transfer the weight from the left foot to the right, and you have the beginnings of écarté derrière. Change the arms so that the left arm is up, and the right in demi-seconde, and keep the head turned to the right, but drop it slightly down and direct the gaze along the downstage arm. The chest is still lifted, but the cant to the left now becomes a cant to the right.

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Some additional words on the body positions. Croisé and effacé are done with the feet pointed directly in front or in back of the dancer as if they were taking a quatrième devant or derrière. Écarté is just as to the side as a la seconde, it's just on a diagonal. I've said these things before, but I want to reiterate them because I was looking through a wonderful old standard ballet technique book yesterday, and found that the illustrations were showing a sort of "quarter to second" or "half past fourth position" for these diagonals and looking at photos of Pavlova, I could see where this idea came from!

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Mel,

I am reading too. Work took me away for a few weeks. Please continue this thread.

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Will do!

On to the épaulés.

Facing the DL corner on the left leg, the right leg points backward toward the UR corner. The downstage arm reaches forward, as in a 2nd arabesque, with the head turned to fix the line of sight across the raised arm, tilted slightly to the right, and the upstage arm reaching as far as practicable in the same direction as the pointed leg. This is épaulé devant. (Cecchetti ends here. He just called this plain épaulé)

The French School has an épaulé derrière, too! It's the same pose, except that the dancer faces the UL corner, and the head is turned even more across the arm.

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There are some inherent problems with the naming of the positions of the body in all of the methods. For instance, Mr. Cecchetti seems to have totally forgotten écarté derrière. The position épaulé ( in Cecchetti) and épaulé devant (French and Russian) are the same position of the body in space, but they just have different arms and upper body emphasis. I have a problem with a position which has the leg in arabesque being called a devant position. It's facing a front corner, but the leg is back. In écarté derrière the body is also facing a front corner, but the working leg is pointing to a back corner, so, it is a derrière position. Calling the effacé derrière or épaulé position épaulé devant doesn't really make any sense to me. And then of course there are positions facing upstage which are not even named except the one in the French and Russian school called épaulé derrière. Very confusing. I vote for a whole new system with the same names for all schools, which would include every possible direction of the body! :pinch::unsure:

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You're on! Let's the two of us sit down and write the New Universal Lexicon and Curriculum of Ballet! Should take us only fifty or sixty years, and then another fifty to convince somebody to use it! :unsure:

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Well, I guess too many decades have passed since I had the 8 drilled into me, after all... seeing as I blanked on Quatrième ... perhaps because the only time I ever heard it used was during the 8 position drill... whereas one encounters the others (with the exception of epaule) quite regularly... it's been so long that got me to thinking...

What is the translation of "Quatrième"? Fourth? I'd always assumed it referred to the front & back "corner" but that obviously doesn't make any sense... the corners aren't in front and back, normally, are they? at least not in a room, if one is facing

the mirror in the Quatrième positions... unless one is considering the en crois positions to define corners of a square?

Mel, have you spent much time studying fencing? I swear I'd read that many ballet positions have their roots in fencing positions, but I've not seen that ever laid out neatly.

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Yes, quatrième is fourth. It's as much fourth position extended as à la seconde is a second position extended.

Now as to the fencing, back in the days of the ballet de cour, which just might have a stylised battle or two in it, the dancing steps supplemented and improved upon the Spanish/Italian style of fencing with smallsword, as the heavier weapons had gone out of fashion. Kendo wouldn't even prepare a dancer for medieval two-handed sword combat!

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