Step of the Week 6bHow high?
Posted 03 December 2003 - 07:45 PM
But this isn't about how high a jump is, it's about how far off the floor the working foot goes. There are all sorts of names for the places, no matter whether it's front, side, or back.
If the whole foot is on the floor, it's à terre. If the toe is on the floor, it's pointe tendue. If it's just off the floor (15º), it's dégagé. If it's at 45º it's demi-en l'air, or demi-hauteur. If it's at 90º, it's à la hauteur, and if it's anything above that, say 120º or 135º, it's just said to be "extended".
Posted 03 December 2003 - 08:42 PM
I was never told but somehow assumed that in a 45-degree extension, the heel of the working leg is at the level of the knee of the supporting leg. Is this correct?
Posted 03 December 2003 - 08:47 PM
Posted 04 December 2003 - 03:07 AM
Posted 04 December 2003 - 04:05 AM
It is a basic skill of a ballet master to be able to coördinate dancers and extensions so that the Shades all look wonderful in their developpés to écarté, and so forth, and that the students in "Konservatoriet" do harmonious and historically accurately-placed extensions (low by today's standard).
Posted 04 December 2003 - 06:19 PM
Now, as to cou-de-pied: some schools teach this position (which means "neck of the foot") wrapped around the ankle. The difference among schools is as to whether the foot is lifted fully from the floor, or whether the toes ONLY are flexed and resting on the floor. I've seen some teacher teach the whole foot flexed, but never have seen any writings that authorize this flex. RAD authorizes an unwrapped cou-de-pied position in front called "petit retiré". In the back, almost everyone agrees that the heel only touches the supporting leg. There is no such thing as a "coupé position" - coupé is a step.
Next up the leg is calf-high, or demi-retiré. "Retiré" means "withdrawn". Some schools also refer to this as demi-raccourci - half-shortened. Sometimes this position is seen in Romantic ballets as a pirouette position, so the ballerina's legs may be seen beneath the long skirt.
After demi-retiré, what's left but a full retiré? This position touches the little toe area to the little dimple just underneath the kneecap. This is also called raccourci.
Highest up of all, and most difficult to get right is the Russian tire-bouchon position, where the point of the toe just touches the notch at the back of the perfectly-turned-out knee. Neither this position nor the preceding is called "passé"! That's an adjective, and it means that the foot keeps moving through the position no matter what else is happening.
Posted 04 December 2003 - 09:09 PM
Russian tire-bouchon position, where the point of the toe just touches the notch at the back of the perfectly-turned-out knee
My current Vaganova teacher uses tire-bouchon to refer to the sort of attitude front one might use before whipping a fouette... or one of those whipped rondes de jambe (the ones that go sort of from demi attitude front sort of through both ecartes and back down to demi attitude back -- or the reverse) (yes my technique includes mostly "sort of" positions these days! But honestly I don't know how to clearly describe the path of the leg in those high whipped rondes de jambe)... she very clearly doesn't use it to mean anything that could be confused with retire... and it's apparently something different from attitude front... she only uses the expression when the attitude is followed by some form of ronde de jambe... using "attitude" at all other times.
I remember one teacher (alas, his name escapes me... Peter something, I believe he danced with ABT around about the time Victoria was there, or else was in teh original cast of Carousel, can't quite remember) used to give retire back as a clearly wrapped position, like a very high sur le cou de pied... I've never encountered anyone else asking for this, but it did really work our muscles... Have you seen this?
But the reason I came back to this post is the "how high" question... I understand there was a time when it was thought very vulgar to raise the leg above 90 degrees... and so, it seems like a reasonable question to ask about performing works choreographed under those morays... I wonder if performing a work using old fashioned extensions would force one to focus one's interpretation differently... perhaps emphasizing upper body carriage more? Would the piece just look boring, or would it bring out a different charm?
Posted 05 December 2003 - 03:16 AM
Posted 05 December 2003 - 03:31 AM
And yes, I have seen a wrapped sort of retiré - it was given in class and used choreographically by Leonide Massine. He used to give petits battements sur le genou in class as a regular part of his barre.
And again yes, when an older work like Giselle comes along, the use of high extensions OUGHT to be forbidden, and the use of the upper body made more of, it's a part of the Romantic ethos. "Can you stick your kneecap in your ear in à la seconde? You can? Good for you, now don't, because this is "Flower Festival" pas de deux." Many ballerinas seem to be able to throw high extension into inappropriate roles either from their own innocence or ignorance, or that of the ballet master.
Posted 05 December 2003 - 05:42 AM
Posted 05 December 2003 - 08:39 PM
My current Vaganova teacher is at my estimation within 5 years of 40 (though I couldn't tell you on which side), but she was primarily trained as a character dancer... so perhaps that would account for the generational delay (is character training akin to being "off in the provinces"?)? She always calls what I would call a "saute arabesque", a "sisson"... so I'm often confused until she demonstrates... we asked her about it early on, and she swore she double checked with Alla Osipenko who was teaching there at the same time, so we just ignore and deal... but it is confusing.
My apologies for the spellings... I wish there were constantly available button that would launch your wonderful glossary in a seperate window!
Posted 05 December 2003 - 08:43 PM
Posted 06 December 2003 - 04:17 AM
As for tir bouchon, a character dancer/teacher may not not know this academic term for this movement. The usage I have described is one taught at first in the 4th year of study but as the students progress (on to other teachers, remember the upper level teachers tend to be the more celebrated teachers who have not studied methodology, therefore the term could possibly retain its usage from generations ago) the term is used interchangably with the other described movements. The placement of the toes at the side of the knee while turning is of great importance. It is used when turning from pose to pose, it is also referred to many times in various other movements which seem to be more of the attitude front at 45 and 90 degrees in the upper classes. Remember there is no such thing as attitude front in the Vaganova school. I do not want to start a debate, just to remind those who have interest. Tir bouchon is also used(this I learned in the US from a non-Russian) standing enface, developpe right leg side onto demi-pointe (or not), turning en dehors or endans, overcross the working leg front /back at the height of the knee while swiveling around in a deep demi-plie with the body inclined at first toward the knee side ways, 1/2 turn and then away from the knee sideways 1/2 turn. The turn finishes on demi pointe in a big pose. It also can be done from any pose to any pose (this I learned in Russia).
Maybe what is most important is that we all learn and accept the different terms and their usages. Students need to know them all and remain open minded to whatever changes they must make. Actually I should add that to the list of reasons why I enjoy Ballet Talk so much!
Posted 06 December 2003 - 04:42 AM
And 'way down deep, it's always bothered me that the human body can't make an exact opposite cognate of the attitude derrière in a devant. I can see Vaganova's logic, I think, in not including an attitude devant in the system. It's a developpé devant that doesn't make it to straight. Some choreography requires you to stop there, just as there are things that stop in "passé"!
And another BIG yes to students (and we are all students) keeping the mind open, and being able rapidly to adapt to unfamiliar technical, stylistic, or choreographic conditions!
Posted 06 December 2003 - 08:43 AM
It's not quite as convenient, but you can always bookmark these threads, if you think they'll be helpful. I'm glad that readers are able to use these efforts in classroom and theater.
I wish there were a constantly available button that would launch your wonderful glossary in a separate window!
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