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Good Class



Class on Wednesday night was a success! :)

Alexandra Danilova wrote that in her opinion, a good class is one the student does not want to end, and judging by the eager response when I asked the students if they would mind doing the grand allegro combination again, I think it was a good class in the Danilova sense.

I've noticed lately that I seem to be improving as a teacher in two ways:

1. Building a class around 1-3 basic, important ideas.

2. Creating combinations that meet the students' needs for that day and that flow nicely with the music.

I started with a very simple battement tendu combination facing the barre and asked the students to visualize the working foot as a spring that is compressed when the foot is flat on the floor and extended when the foot is pointed. When pointing or flexing the foot, there is a pressure against the floor as the foot struggles to attain/remain in the pointed position. What keeps the foot from "popping" to a point is the control of the leg.

This achieved beautiful results. I have never seen an entire class before or since use their feet so well, and I was surprised at how dramatic and immediate the transformation was. It did not continue throughout the entire class as the combinations got more complicated, but the beginning is there, and it was very exciting to watch. I plan to build on it in this week's lesson.

Another thing I was glad about is that I was able to keep barre down to about 35-40 minutes. Some teachers see it as a point of pride that they spend an hour or more at the barre, but in a 90-minute class, that leaves very little time to work on pirouettes and allegro, and I notice that when I work with students who are kept at the barre too long, they have difficulty connecting movements in the center. I always do a complete barre, of course, and sometimes it is necessary to challenge them or fix basics, thus taking more time at the barre, but what's the point of even doing barre if you can't move in the center?

In the next class, I'd like to focus on how the arms work during pirouettes, specifically that the arms move down during the plié to strongly engage the back muscles.

Following are some of the combinations I used in this class that I'd like to keep a record of for future use:

1. Battements tendus and pirouettes. 16 measures 4/4 time. 5th position croisé, R leg front.

Measure 1: On the first two beats, two battements tendus devant in one count each, accent in.

On the third beat, one more battement tendu devant finishing with a brush through 1st position to pointe tendue derrière in demi-plié.

On the fourth beat, pas de bourrée dessous.

Measure 2: On the first two beats, two relevés to retiré position (aka sissonne simple dessous sur demi-pointe) traveling backward and alternating legs.

On the last two beats, pirouette en dehors in retiré from 5th position on the left leg, close 5th, R leg back.

Measures 3-4: Repeat the first two measures with the other leg.

Measure 5: On the first two beats, two battements tendus to the side traveling backward and alternating legs.

On the last two beats, sous-su, degagé à la seconde at 45º, demi-plié in 2nd position.

Measure 6: On the first two beats, pirouette en dehors in retiré terminé à la seconde (or ecarté derrière) in demi-plié.

On the third beat, pas de bourrée dessous.

On the fourth beat, glissade devant changée.

Measures 7-8: Repeat measures 5-6 with the other leg.

Measures 9-16: Reverse the entire combination

2. Pas jeté. 8 measures 4/4 time. 5th position en face, L leg front.

Measure 1: Pas jeté dessus and temps levé. Repeat with the other leg.

Measure 2: From cou-de-pied, jump to 2nd position, and from 2nd, sissonne with a half turn en dedans to the right landing on the R leg (L leg in cou-de-pied derrière). Again, jump to 2nd position and sissonne with a half turn en dehors to the right landing on the L leg (R leg cou-de-pied devant).

Measure 3: Pas jeté dessous, pas jeté en avant (landing on the L leg, R leg raised to attitude derrière croisé), assemblé derrière, entrechat-cinq (landing on the L leg, R leg sur le cou de pied derrière).

Measure 4: Pas jeté dessus, assemblé croisé derrière, entrechat-quatre, entrechat-cinq (landing on the R leg, L leg sur le cou de pied derrière).

Measures 5-8: Repeat to the other side.

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Hans -

I've been meaning to tell you for a while now how much I enjoy reading your blog. As you know well, I've had crazy training experiences, and you seem to emcompass the best traits in a teacher, in terms of really thinking about the class, about explanations, achievements, etc. I appreciate and respect the consideration you have for your job!

I've had fun this morning dancing under the desk and around the kitchen, trying the exercises you wrote above. I need to get into a proper space and try them for real. What I like most is that you encompassed different directions, in terms of body placement, in your pas jete. Too often a lot of petite allegro exercises take place simply en face, with an occassional croise thrown in. I find, as a student, I benefit much more from things that require changing body directions, in terms of accuracy, being able to 'feel' a position, and fine tune the muscles I want to use to get to a position, instead of just 'going' to it, if that makes sense... love it.


Hope you are well, and keep entertaining us!


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