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Step of the Week 6abody positions


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 08:49 PM

The 2nd arabesque one is épaulé. I'll be getting to that. And yes, there is a canting of the shoulders in these positions, which now that I know you're interested, I'll explain a bit about. It becomes very important in the tomorrow's installment - effacé!

And yes, I've been noticing a shortchanging of epaulement just generally, not just in one school! I think you have to find us older teachers or those who think of the old line as important, rather than the stark verticality we see too much of these days! :D

#17 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 08:50 PM

Amy, Cecchetti use "épaulé" for the position that is like a second arabesque, or arabesque effacé with epaulement. However, he seriously goofed when he left out one of the positions of the body......there are 9! (He forgot écarté derrière!)

However, generally speaking, it is the Vaganova school which uses much more épaulement. Cecchetti and RAD are pretty "square" in terms of the positions.

Speaking of croisé, the "here it comes and there it was" is dead on, as that is the position where everyone will look better most of the time. The word is, "when in doubt, go to croisé"! :D

#18 Amy Reusch

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:22 PM

Amy, Cecchetti use "épaulé" for the position that is like a second arabesque, or arabesque effacé with epaulement. However, he seriously goofed when he left out one of the positions of the body......there are 9! (He forgot écarté derrière!)


Thanks... "élongé" kept popping up in my mind and bocking the memory!...

I always wondered what happen to écarté derrière as well as éffacé derrière... but I figured the 8 were just because it fit evenly into the music as a tendu combination... By the way, I'm eternally grateful to your old friend Joe C., Victoria, for drilling those into us. 3 decades later and they're still riveted into my memory. Actually, come to think of it, as the class advanced, he had us putting the combination forward and inverted together back to back (ie: tendu croise devant, croise derriere; en face devant, enface derriere)... alas, my memory grays out on what how the inversion of the ecarte and epaule was handled.

And of course you're right about the Vaganova school... my vaganova teachers seem excessive about all those head positions and cambré positions at the barre... but yet they don't spiral the epaulment in croise, etc... could just be the local vaganova variant.

Mel, I'd love you to go on about use of the back. I'm sick of hearing modern dance people claim they never learned to use their backs in ballet. It's true ballet doesn't do contractions, but if it's done properly there is a tremendous amount going on in the back... it's not just stiff and upright as if in a corset (even if it once was)... it's just that most teachers these days seem to ignore the torso and concentrate on the extremities... and I'm not even going to get in to the breathing...

#19 djb

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 12:13 AM

Someone asked what people think of the emotional qualities of croise and efface. Croise always seemed very forceful to me, and efface seemed yielding. I liked efface better (don't analyze my character from this fact), mainly because I thought I looked better in efface, especially efface devant. But I also liked efface devant because of the feeling in the upper body -- the lifted, expansive chest combined with the feeling of reclining, almost. It gave me the feeling of stretching out on a large boulder warmed by the sun...maybe at Lake Tahoe! I still think the elongated S curve of the arms in efface devant (as I learned it) is one of the most beautiful lines in ballet.

#20 diane

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 01:35 AM

Thank you for all the thoughts on croise and efface and such. I also remember being taught to use a lot of epaulement. I do not see much of it nowadays, though.

Just a note on stage directions:

Here in Germany, it has taken me ages to accept that "stage right" and "stage left" are generally ALWAYS given as the _director's_ stage right and left!

Having worked mainly in ballet companies populated nearly exclusively by non-Germans (no strange thing), this never really was an issue until I started working with actors, who are almost all German or continental European.
Now I must - at my advancing age - relearn.

What are the directions in other countries, does anyone know?

-d-

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 03:49 AM

Thank you for telling us that, Diane. I did not know that, and would explain a lot about the blocking of German plays which had puzzled me. I suspect that this difference in Stage Right/Left among nations is part of the reason for all the different numbering systems for directions. Before I'm done, I'll visit those, too! :D

#22 pleiades

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Posted 02 December 2003 - 05:01 PM

This thread is wonderful! Amy, thank you so much for raising the issue of epaulment -- it's something that I constantly wonder about in the context of body position and presentation.

One of the more frustrating things as an one who came to ballet as an adult is that we don't seem to have those body positions 'drilled' into us to the same extent as children do. Consequently I struggle to remember which arms go with efface for example, rather than feeling able to create the movement and a feeling as an organic whole.

Hope that makes sense.

#23 Mel Johnson

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 04:22 AM

A bit late, but here's some word on effacé!

In effacé, the dancer is seen very open and exposed to the audience. In fifth position effacé, the right foot is front, and the dancer faces Down Right. The head is turned and inclined slightly to the left. This is a very important character of effacé! For, when the foot points in tendu devant, the left arm goes up above the head, and the right arm is held at the side, but with a distinctive curve peculiar to this position, so that from the front there is a broad "ƒ" or "s" curve to the whole pectoral girdle. (Calligraphers love this position!) The eyes are cast slightly upward and to the left, gazing past the middle of the forearm and out into space. Part of what effacé means is "shaded", and the upper hand suggests that it "shades" the face. The upper back tilts very slightly back. The turn and tilt of the head becomes very important here, as Mme. Tumkovsky used to say at SAB, and apparently still says, "cheek is so Mr. Balanchine can come along and give you kiss." Well, maybe nowadays, his spirit.

Transfer the weight from the left foot to the right, keep the arms where they are, tilt the head the other direction, put the back just a shade forward, and you have a Franco-Russian effacé derrière.

Effacé is a very beautiful position, but it is tricky to do correctly. Even while standing still, it suggests a movement from that position through space. The lines seem to continue into infinity, here more than in any other position, in my opinion.

#24 Michael

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 06:00 AM

O.K., picking up on this a little sporadically, as I am travelling, I have a really basic and stupid sounding question, Mel.

When you say the dancer's feet are to the front, or down the stage, while the dancer "faces" this way or that way, what do you mean? If the feet are squarely down stage, is it the dancer's hips, the dancer's shoulders, or the dancer's face which (literally) "faces" down right or down left? Or is it all three that are rearranged (hips, shoulders and face). In short, what do you mean by "faces?"

#25 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 06:33 AM

Michael, when we use the word "faces", it just means the direction in space where something is placed, such as the body "faces" DR. This would mean that the entire body is toward that direction, but it does not necessarily mean the face at all. In fact the head is not facing in the same direction of the body except in à la seconde and à la quatrieme devant and derrière. When the body is facing one's corner, the head will be turned, or turned and inclined towards the audience.

For instance, while the body is facing the corner in écarté positions, in écarté devant the head is turned and lifted towards the downstage arm, which is in 5th en haut. In écarté derrière the head is turned and inclined very slightly downward, but also toward the downstage arm, which is in à la seconde, usually a slightly lowered seconde.

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 07:31 PM

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.

#27 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 04:19 AM

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!

#28 Mark D

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 05:13 PM

Mel,

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

#29 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 05:44 PM

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.

#30 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 06:56 PM

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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