Archive for the ‘ballet combinations’ Category
There are many things that can be considered in order to make barre exercises more interesting and beneficial to your students. In my last post, Anatomy of a Ballet Combination, I did mention that using épaulement (shouldering, meaning arm and head movements) is important to include in combinations at the barre so the dancers don’t look uncomfortable dancing in the center. Since I wrote that post I’ve thought of more things to add that can make your barre combinations really dance!
Change feet. It’s easy to get caught in the en croix crutch. One tendu en croix, one degagé en croix, etc. But en croix gets boring, and the pattern doesn’t make the dancer use their minds as well as their bodies. I love combinations that shift weight and change feet. For example, you could do a tendu combination and have the pattern be front, side, (change leg) – inside leg front, (change leg again) – back. Or you could do front, inside leg back, outside leg side, and inside leg side, and then reverse.
Along these same lines, you can work the outside leg and turn the body ¼ away from the barre to work in éffacé devant, or ¼ into the barre for croisé devant. The same is true for working to the back. You can also change directions entirely, moving the body to face the barre at one point in the combination, perhaps moving through promenade in attitude or arabesque, and finishing on the second side where you’re ready to begin everything on that side.
One of my favorites was always pirouettes at the barre. At first this is tricky because you’re afraid you’re going to hit your knee on the barre, so it may be helpful to begin with the foot on the ankle or calf rather than at the knee at first. Becoming comfortable doing pirouettes at the barre makes doing them in the center infinitely easier. It’s like having a permanent partner right there; one that you know will be there when you come around at the end of the turn. You can add pirouettes to practically any barre exercise, but I think it makes more sense to do this toward the middle to end of barre rather than at the very beginning.
Fouetté turns are commonly done at the barre during rond de jambe en l’air exercises. You can also do pirouettes en dehors or en dedans during degagés, rond de jambe, frappé, or grand battement. Flic flacs are great for adding turns during frappé. And in pointe class, doing turns at the barre really helps build a dancer’s confidence before moving into the center.
One last thought and I’ll close this post. If you’re short on time and want to move from one side of the barre to the next without stopping in between sides, there are tons of ways to make the transition to the other side more fun. You can do tombé pas de bourrée to 5th position away from the barre and still facing the side you were working on, then detourné ½ turn toward the back leg, and tombé pas de bourrée to 5th position on the other side to finish at the barre, ready to begin the second side.
And another plug for my new book! Classical Ballet: Combinations for Ten Complete Advanced Classes.
Did you ever have to diagram sentences when you were in school? I remember doing that, and realizing that every sentence has certain parts that are required and some that just add variety and interest. The same is true of combinations for ballet class. Every class needs to progress through pliés, tendus, degagés, rond de jambe, grand battement, and every combination has parts that should be included or can be added to make it more interesting. We shouldn’t only work on our artistry during rehearsal and performance. Artistry begins in the classroom, and by adding dimension to your combinations you allow your students to experiment and grow. A good rule of thumb for most combinations is to keep it at an even number of phrases, so you’d have two sets of eight, four sets of eight, or eight sets of eight, for example. This simply makes sure you finish a combination at the end of a phrase rather than in the middle.
Just as the progression of exercises at the barre generally alternate between slow and fast tempos to give the muscles a chance to stretch before contracting quickly again, it’s possible to design your combinations in this way, too. I loved taking classes from teachers who knew how to add stretching to a fast degagé combination, or who added some double time rond de jambes in a rond de jambe à terre combination. One simple way of incorporating this into your combinations is to take the steps at a slower pace the first time through, and without changing the tempo of the music, move the steps into double time so they are twice as fast. You can do this also by turning a slower tendu combination into a faster degagé combination, or a faster degagé combination into a slower grand battement combination.
Another thing to remember when constructing your combinations is to use épaulement, or shouldering (head and arms). It’s important to use the arms at the barre so that when dancers move into the center they don’t look stiff and uncomfortable using their arms and head. Each combination can have a goal that contributes to the overall goal of that class. You may decide to devote a whole class on attitude. You can balance in attitude at the barre, practice embôité turns or attitude turns in the center, practice renversé, grand allegro with bent back leg. In a class like this you may do balançoire at the barre in attitude. A good teacher can take a specific movement and make a whole class out of it. Adding a balance to the end of a barre combination is always a good way to finish, because it allows the dancer time to stop and pull everything together for a moment before moving on to the next step or combination.
1st position preparation arm 1st port de bras to 2nd
1st position: 1-2 Demi plié, arm lowers to 5th en bas, lift to 2nd
3-4 Demi plié, arm to 5th en haut, lower to 5th en avant
5-6 Demi plié, arm to 5th en bas, lift to 2nd
7-8 Elevé in 1st and balance arms in 2nd
1-4 Cambré port de bras forward on demi pointe, recover through flat back arm 5th en haut
5-7 Cambré port de bras back on demi pointe, recover arm to 2nd
8 Lower heels, tendu side to 2nd position, arms 2nd
2nd position: 1-4 Grand plié, 1st port de bras
5-8 Grand plié, inverted 5th port de bras (5th en haut, en avant, en bas, 2nd)
1-4 Cambré port de bras toward barre, recover arm to 2nd
5-7 Cambré port de bras away from barre
8 Lift to point tendu side, close 5th position front
5th position: 1-16 Repeat as in 1st position