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Fouettes - Discussion, Examples

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As a musician who joined this forum to gain a better understanding of ballet, can someone please help by answering a couple of questions for me? They seems connected to fouéttes, so I hope this is the best thread for my purpose.

What is this movement, that Yulia Stepanova is doing in Le Corsaire? It looks a bit like a fouétte, but it's very different from these ones, which she did in Swan Lake in London a few weeks ago. [I saw her performance (with Alexander Volchkov) in this production (St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, at the Coliseum) two days prior to when this clip was recorded.] I've heard the Swan Lake ones described as "standard fouéttes". I've also heard of "Italian fouéttes"; but none of the descriptions of them I've found are quite what YS does here.

One aesthetic point that interests me is that she times the double turns so that they immediately precede the strongest downbeat in the phrase and therefore seem to drive into that downbeat. Is that something that Petipa(?) would have written into the choreography, or is it her own ornamentation/addition or whatever.

Many Thanks.

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On 10/9/2018 at 5:29 AM, cyclingmartin said:

Is that something that Petipa(?) would have written into the choreography, or is it her own ornamentation/addition or whatever.

The choreography for the pas des eventails in this production of Le Corsaire is by Alexei Ratmansky. All interpreters of Medora perform a similar basic sequence. Stepanova above does two attitude devant pirouettes followed by a double fouetté.

In the 2012 broadcast of the ballet Sveltana Lunkina performed two attitude devant pirouettes followed by a single fouetté and then a double fouetté, and at a faster speed.

In the 2017 broadcast Ekaterina Krysanova performed three attitude devant pirouettes followed by a double fouetté, again, at a much faster speed. Judging by early footage of the production, this is Ratmansky's original version of the choreography. 

Russian-School fouettés tend to have a strong emphasis on the downbeat because of the way they are performed, whereby the whipping leg goes directly to the side and then right back to the knee. In other schools the leg goes forward first, then circles to the side, so the dancer is back up on pointe by then. They have an upward emphasis as a result.

To me it appears that Ratmansky tailored his sequence specifically to the rhythm of the Russian variety of fouettés. I generally dislike Russian-School fouettés because they feel heavy, although I can't lodge that complaint against either Lunkina or Krysanova. And a couple of nights ago I watched Katja Khaniukova perform them in a way that actually looked pretty, which is not something I say often.

Edited by volcanohunter
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Thank you for these replies. They are all very helpful. I found the clips that showed different dancers doing the same passage in the same production especially valuable. So thanks for those to volcanohunter, and to Quinten for the example of Italian fouettés.

Fraildove, your use of proper ballet terms inspires me to look for a decent online dictionary of those terms. Would you or anyone else in the forum find this one reliable? Or how about this from American Ballet Theatre?

I ask for that advice because, as a musician I find so many online discussions and definitions of compositional techniques very deficient or just wrong.



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Here is a wonderful book that gives you the definition, and if I’m not mistaken also explains what school the name is from (Vaganova, French, Danish etc). 

Gail Grant Book


And here is one that explains more in depth on the Vaganova method, written by Vaganova herself. This book explains the exercise and has many diagrams to help show the reader what is being discussed. 

Vaganova Book


hope these can help. And never dismiss the idea of going and taking some ballet classes! Also, if you aren’t comfortable taking a class, if you explain to the school director that you are a musician and are wanting to learn more about ballet, they might very well allow you to observe classes. I would.

Edited by Fraildove
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Fraildove. Thank you so much for the recommendations. I've ordered both these books.

Your suggestion about going to classes is worth thinking through. I don't know why I didn't think of this myself, because when I taught compositional techniques I several times allowed folks who were curious to sit in on my classes, which were small-group. (You can't really teach it any other way.) It would not be possible for me to take the ballet class myself, being nearly 70 and with quite bad arthritis all over the place; but I'm sure I could still learn a lot. I'll seek suggestions from a friend who works in theatre and is fairly knowledgeable about all kinds of dance.

Thanks again!

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