Search Results for: grand allegro

Grande Allegro

Jumping is a built in human ability. Jumping occurs naturally as a safety valve for excessively high character in children, as a natural expression of rhythm in most types of dancing or just as a self preservation reflex action. Jumping is so much a part of our natural lives, that as dancers this action needs to be cultivated correctly to make it presentable as choreography. It is often found that dancers who have the ability to do wonderfully high and broad leaps, often have a a highly developed sense of rhythm and this is the key to all unstrained and soaring leaps.

 I believe that not only good technique is required in a fantastic leap or jump but also temperament and joy. To leap across the floor is for a moment to defy gravity…it is a gift of emotion that lies in the dancer and cannot be taught, but can be helped by developing the muscles and teaching the dancer how to divide and use their energy. When leaping, a large number of muscles are brought into play and together these have a natural rhythm of their own which will respond to musical rhythm. For example an untrained child in ballet class when told to skip to music, will automatically try to jump higher as the tempo becomes slower. It is the responsibility of good training and technique to aid this automatic response by instructing the use of a solid plie. All the work in a jump should take place in the energetic push off of the plie before the jump and on leaving the floor. The rising of the body will pull the legs with it. Watch any animal spring and notice how grace in the air is achieved by the initial plie. Upon landing from a leap, the dancer should settle slowly like a bird landing, not hit the floor with a thump!

 The most eye catching springs are those with gaiety, the most dramatic are those with purpose. Dancers should think of their elevation as a means of creating special moods or effects rather than as individual steps. For in this way gravity can be defied more successfully. Many dancers dream they are flying or are suspended weightlessly and some dancers develop their dream in this category, to find themselves effortlessly executing tremendous jumps and leaps. Man’s natural desire is to conquer gravity, that desire has taken us to the moon. In ballet class, the grand allegro consists of combinations of large, leaping steps and jumps that extend across the floor.

 Ballet students must possess strength and endurance to properly perform grande allegro. It is the big exciting part of a ballet where all of the big fast steps are placed. In a ballet class, dancers will only do grande allegro work for a short period of time because it can be very tiring. Tour jetes, grande fouette en tournant and grande jetés are a big part of the grande allegro.

Ballet Center Floor – Petit Allegro

After Center Floor turns, the class progresses into Petit Allegro, which consists of small jumps. Combinations consisting of sautes, that is  jumps off of two feet, changements, which are jumps from two feet to two feet in fifth or third position, changing which foot is in front, and glissades combined with a connecting step. Sissones are also incorporated in Petit Allegro, which are jumps from two feet to one foot. Other jumps included are, jetes, jumps from one foot to the other, temps leves, jumps from one foot and landing on the same foot, and assembles, jumps from one foot where the legs “assemble” in the air. These are just a few types of steps included in Petit Allegro, there are many more to add to this list. All of these jumps except for sautes and temps leves may be “beaten.” This means that the legs close in one position in the air, then come apart again before closing in the proper position on the ground.

Petit Allegro combinations introductory steps, a step that initially introduces the combination such as, a chasse, glissade or just walking into one or more small quick jumps. It will also include a closing step to fifth or first position that will allow the combination to alternate to the other side. Petit Allegro differs from the Grand Allegro in that the movements are small vertical, darting or contained steps. Where as Grand Allegro movements use large vertical and horizontal traveling steps. Petit allegro combinations include directional changes. You will need to learn to control the transfer of weight between steps and during steps coupled with the change of direction.

Port de Bras

It has been found from a dancers point of view that the positioning and carriage of the arms are most often found to be the most difficult things to apply in dance and choreography. With this in mind, as dancers we should pay special attention to our arms. It is a common mistake that the only aim of a dancer is to work on what she does with her legs. Dancers concentrate so heavily on pulling up, turning out from their hips and that beautiful leg extension that all ballet dancers so wish to have, that often the dancer forgets to study her arms.

Carlo Blasis was an Italian dancer, choreographer and teacher. He was well known for his very exhausting dance classes, sometimes lasting four hours long. He was the first who published an analysis on the ballet techniques in 1820, in a manual titled “Elementary, Theoretical, and Practical Treatise on the Art of the Dance”. He is most known for the pose “Attitude” that he picked up from the famous statue Mercury. Carlo Blasis’s methods were expanded by Enrico Cecchetti. Carlos Blasis’ theory on por de bras was “When the arms accompany each movement of the body with exactitude, they may be compared to the frame that sets off a picture. But if the frame is so constructed as not to suit the painting, however well executed the latter may be, its whole effect is unquestionably destroyed So it is with the dancer; for his steps, unless his arms be lithesome and in strict harmony with his legs, his dance can have no spirit or liveliness, and he presents the same insipid appearance as a paint our out its frame or in one not at all adapted to it.” I felt that I needed to print Carlo Blasis’s quote on port de bras since he has put it all together in a nutshell.

In raising the arms from one position to an other, the fifth position en avant (Cecchetti method) is the most important. It is sometimes termed the “door“, because just as a door is the entrance into a room, or from one room to another, so the fifth position an avant is generally the pose through which the arms have to pass when raised from one position to another.

When you are concentrating on your port de bras, keep in mind that the arms should move from the shoulder and not from the elbow and the movement should be smooth and flowing. The arms should be softly rounded so that the points of the elbows are hardly noticeable and the hands should be simple, graceful and in a continuous line from the arm and never showy.

Some tips for improving port de bras

  • Always maintain proper placement throughout the entire body
  • Make sure your shoulders are naturally placed in their sockets; and your shoulder blades spread, not pinched together
  • Never start the movement of your arm from your wrist
  • Avoid tension in the shoulders
  • Your arms shouldn’t be exaggerated or weak or they will reduce what’s happening in the rest of your body
  • When doing pointe work, don’t tighten up and change your approach to the port de bras. Remember basics from demi pointe work.
  • Lengthen and free the hands as an extension of the whole arm
  • Practice combinations, especially petit and grand allegro, using only the arms

You should always strive to make your arms nicely curved that the point of the elbows are hardly noticeable. Beauty of line is one to the dancer’s greatest assets. Correct and flowing port de bras is essential!

Have You Heard This Before????


straight knees



Ballet class can get quite repetitious. You hear the teacher say the same phrases day in and day out. Why? Why do you hear these same corrections over and over again? Maybe, just maybe because you are NOT hearing them. You know, not fully paying attention in class. Is your mind is else where. When you are in class, be in class. It is just as nerve racking for your teacher to repeat the same thing over and over again as it is for you to hear it.

One correction that comes to mind, daily, or should I say, every class, is Pointe your feet! Honestly, the most beautiful of dancers looks like a sore thumb with un-pointed feet. When I see un-pointed feet I feel that the dancer is lazy. Stretch through the entire foot beginning with the ankle. Feel the stretch in your arch and reach with the toes. As soon as that foot disengages form the floor the stretch needs to be felt.

Since we are discussing the feet, the next step up the leg which gets me is the knee. To feel a full extension in your leg, your knees also need to be stretched. Pull up in the leg and straighten those knees. Achieve proper pull up in your releves by stretching the backs of your knees upon releve. When the knee is relaxed the leg appears bent.
Which brings us to, plie. This little word is so important to ballet training and performance. Without proper use of plie, no combination of steps can be executed properly. Whether it be adagio or allegro combinations, plie is there. Be sure you open the knees out over the toes to maintain correct body alignment. A simple plie is most important when dancing en pointe. The spring of a plie upon releve to full pointe essential and the coming back down to the floor is softened by a simple plie. How would you become air born in those beautiful jumps that you use in a grand allego, without a good foundation of a plie. Learn to plie correctly, remember it is the first thing you do at the barre upon the beginning of class.

Spot! Spot! …You are not Spotting! How is it you are not dizzy? Or are you dizzy? Spotting is an important technique during the execution of turns…all turns. Its’ goal is to attain a constant orientation of your head and eyes. In order to enhance your control and prevent dizzines As your body rotates at a constant speed your head rotates faster and waits for the body to catch up. Use it! Every time you turn. It also makes a cleaner looking turn….all turns

Well I know I have not exhausted my normal teaching complaints…there are many more. But I must say that these are the ones I say most often and the ones that I am sure you have heard many times. Lets get with it dancers pay attention to yourself. To the beauty that can be yours if you work at it and listen to what is taught every ballet class time.

Ballet Vocabulary

September Vocabulary 2013

Barre – (bar) -A group of exercises that are done in the beginning of ballet class, by holding a bar that is attached to the wall or free standing. These exercises are important for developing the muscles correctly, turning the legs out from the hips and gaining control and flexibility of the joints and muscles

Plie – (plee-ay) to bend

Demi – (de-mee) half

Grand – (grahn) big, large

Tendu – ( tahn-dew) stretched

Chasse – (sha-say) chased

Ronde jambe – (ron-duh-zham) round of the leg, that is a circular movement of the leg

A terre – (ah-tere) on the ground

Releve – (rel-a-vay) raised

Devant – (duh-vahn) front

A la seconde – (ah-la-seh-gawnd) to the second or side

Derriere – (deh-ree-yair) behind or back

En dehors – (ahn duh-oar) outward

En dedans – (ahn duh-dahn) inward

Croise – (krwah-zay) crossed. One of the 8 body positions.

Pas de chat – (pah-duh-sha) step of the cat

Changement – (shahnzh-maw) to change

Metatarsals – (met-uh-tahr-suhl) foot bones

Cou de pied -(koo-duh-pyay) Neck of the foot. The part of the foot between the ankle and the base of the calf.

Saute – (soh-tay) To jump. In all jumping movements the tips of the toes should be the first to reach the ground after the jump, followed by the sole of the foot then the heel

Pirouette – ( peer-wet) To whirl or spin A complete turn of the body on one foot either either en pointe or demi pointe the motive power being obtained from a combination of plie and arm movement,ts

Glissade – (glee-sahd) glide; A traveling step executed by gliding the working foot from the fifth position in the required direction, the other foot closing to it. It is used to link steps together. After a demi plie from a closed position, the working foot glides along the floor to a point a few inches from the floor. The other foot then pushes away from the floor so that both knees are straight and both feet strongly pointed for a moment; The weight is shifted to the working foot with a plie. The other foot which is pointed a few inches from the floor, slides a closed position in a demi plie

Petit – (peh-tee) Little, small

Pas de deux – (pah duh duh) Dance for two

En diagonale -(ahn dy yag ga nal) in the diagonal

Enchainment – (ahn-shay-maw) linking, a combination of two or more steps arranged to fit a phrase of music

Temps leve – (than luh-vay) time raised,that is raising movement. A hop from one foot which may be done in any position.

Efface – (eh-fa-say) Shaded. One of the directions of epaulement (one shoulder forward and the other shoulder back with the head turned over the forward shoulder) in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view. The legs are open and not in a crossed position.

Attitude -(ah-tee-tewd) A particular pose in dance derived by Carlo Blasis from the statue of Mercury. It is a position on one leg with the other lifted in back and the knee bent at an angle of 90 degrees and well turned out so that the knee is higher than the foot. The supporting foot may be a terre, sur la pointe or sur al a demi pointe. The arm on the side of the raise leg is held over the head in a curved position while the other arm is extended to the side. There are a number of attitudes according to the position of the body in relation to the audience for example attitude croise, attitude efface, attitude de face.

Bourree – (boo ray) a series of quick little steps in fifth position releve, changing weight from one foot to the other, traveling in any direction.

Allegro -(ah-lay groh) brisk, lively; this term is applied to all bright and brisk movements, all steps of elevation are included. The most important qualities in an allegro combination is lighteness, smoothness and ballon

Echappe – (ay-sha-pay) Escaping or slipping movement. An echappe is a level opening of both feet from a closed to an open position. Echappes are done to the second or fourth position, both feet traveling an equal distance from the original center.

En croix – (ahn krwah) In the shape of a cross. Indicates that an exercise is to be executed to the forth position front, to the second position and to the fourth position back, or vice versa. As for example as in battements tendus en croix.

Format Of The Ballet Class

ballet dancers at the barreThe traditional ballet class contains two parts, the barre and the center. However, I break my classes in to three parts, barre which is the most essential to learn body placement, balance and the basics themselves. Center floor, learning to bring the barre work to the center of the stage, and across the floor, learning to travel across the dance room or stage. Now, the traditional ballet class, which I follow most definitely, just considers center floor and across the floor as one, I don’t. I believe that the dancers need to learn the difference between staying in place but yet dancing, and actually traveling, gliding, leaping, and turning across the stage.

Today I want to discuss with you the importance of these class components, and the need for each of these parts in each and every ballet class taken.

The Role of the Barre
The barre is a series of exercises performed at a rail that typically surrounds 3 sides of the dance room if they are wall mounted. Portable barres are a handy tool for when wall mounting is not permissible or if the wall mounted barres are over crowded. At the barre, dancers learn and practice exercises that will be the basis for their work in the center and across the floor. The barre provides the support the beginner dancer needs to obtain. Such as proper body alignment, balance and proper technique of the working foot. All of these components will be needed for center and across the floor combinations. The intermediate and advanced dancer requires a full barre for class and performance warm-up and to improve their over all technique. The intermediate and advanced dancer truly should be at the barre daily for true improvement, whether it is in a class of their own level or below their level. Barre work is never wasted time.

While practicing at the barre, the dancer embeds into their mind, and combines that knowledge, with the body movement into a working whole. Dancers discover their attributes, develop the sense of the motion, weight, and position of the body during movement. They access their natural ability and sculpt their body to make it ready for the work in the center and across the floor.

During a dancer’s barre work time;

  • Dancers are bending and rising for stretch and balance.
  • They are using brushing or gliding movements on and of the floor for quick pointing and stretching of the feet.
  • They are rotating the legs in the hip sockets to learn or improve turn out.
  • The dancers are using quickly isolating leg and foot movements to learn to prevent the entire body from moving.
  • They are repetitiously using beating actions to obtain quickness for center floor jumps.
  • The dancer is also stretching the legs and torso, transferring weight, balancing using slow and controlled movements

Barre work is indeed all for a dancer’s preparation of their appearance in the center and across the floor travel.

The Role of the Center and Across the Floor
In the center and across the floor section of the class, barre exercises connect into steps. the steps combine into ever changing combinations that expand the dancer’s skill and memory. not only of executing steps, but also of applying principles rules and the feeling that makes the movement actual ballet. The center is especially challenging for the teacher as well as the dancers. Dancers perform here without he physical aid of the barre and have to combine the principles, rules and exercises that were taught them at the barre into steps and dance combinations. The teacher will see here if the dancer can apply what they have been taught at the barre to their actual performance.

Center floor and Across the Floor Work includes;

  • Exercises to practice classical arm positions and movements
  • Repetition of barre exercises in the center of the floor without the use of a support
  • Learning room and stage direction; upstage downstage, stage right and left, the walls and corners of a dance room or stage.
  • Classical poses such as arabesques, and body positions
  • Moving to a slow tempo, as in beautiful adagio work, keeping to maintaining your balance and improving your leg extensions
  • Executing hops, small and large jumps, alone or in combinations
  • Practicing introductory transitional and basic turning movements, learning to acquire your center
  • Learning slow and quick steps and later executing them in short combinations.

Including here, across the floor work would involve, turning, hopping and leaping, in a traveling fashion which may or not be repetitious and can be combined with small stationary steps.

All levels of center and across the floor work include center barre, adagio, petit allegro, and grande allegro. These are the components of a traditional ballet class.

What we have been discussing, describes the traditional ballet class. As performances come up, some portions of a typical class may change with rehearsal for the stage taking its place.

My next post will be discussing the relationship between the barre and center or across the floor. Dancers….be sure you practice today…..even if you are not in class…do your own barre exercises that you may have learned in class. Any classical music will do…..

ballet class 5

Assessing Dancers – Body Types

Body types vary from dancer to dancer.

In a text book written by William Herbert Shelden, called The Atlas of Men, (1954) he designates three body types. He called this body classification; somatotype, and is defined as: The structure or build of a person

Shelden’s deffinitions of body types follow:

Ectomophic is characterized by long and thin muscles and limbs and low fat storage; usually referred to as slim. Ectomorphs are not predisposed to store fat or build muscle.

Mesomorhpic  is characterized by medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist; usually referred to as muscular. Mesomorhs are predisposed to build muscle but not store fat.

Endomophic is characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure, usually referred to as fat. Endomorphs are predisposed to storing fat.

Body tissue types are Sheldon’s foundation for his theory of classification. No one completely adheres to these three body types and I personally do not like categorizing people, but in a dance classroom, this little bit of knowledge may help, not only the dancer but the teacher, to see and realize what the difficulties may be in technique and allow correction. These categories can give a dance teacher useful insight to certain tendencies, or technique problems a dancer may have.

The Ectomorph dancer, with her long, narrow, lean and slender body has an almost delicate structure. This type dancer is usually very flexible and has great mobility. Beautiful arabesques, high grand battements and flexibility are typical with this body type. When she overstretches, though, there may be a loss of control, but she can perform quick movements well. Strength and muscular endurance activities are difficult for her but strength, endurance and relaxation exercises can improve her performance.

The Mesomorph dancer, has a solid square muscular arrangement, usually athletic in appearance. This type dancer usually excels in muscular strength and endurance activities. She can perform large energetic movements over a long period of time. Jumps and grande allegro are typically her strong points. Some of the major qualities of this type of dancers body are strength endurance and power. The degree of flexibility can present a constant struggle. The dancer needs to try extremely hard to maintain her flexibility through daily work out.

The Endomorphic dancer, has a rounded body shape with an excessive amount of fatty tissue. This dancer performs petit allegro combinations well because of the body type has the inclination to move quickly. This dancer possesses, strength, flexibility and endurance and can maintains this ability. Weight control is often a problem for an individual with this body type, so endurance exercises should be part of the daily workout routine.

From the 1930s to the 1960s the Mesomorph dancer was the most common body type in ballet. From the 1970s to today the Ectomorph dancer has been the popular choice of ballet choreographers.

Regardless of the dancer’s body type, ballet teachers must take into consideration the dancer’s other physical abilities. Each dancer has something special to give to an audience. Body types should not categorize your opinion of a dancer, you never know when she may surprise you. It happens quite often…….

Barre Exercise – Why We Do What We Do…..

“Why do we have to do barre work every time we have a class?” Young ballet students ask this question all the time. The young dancers want to get right to work center floor. After all, center and across the floor is the fun part! Below is an explanation of “why” we do what we do to warm up our muscles.





Pliesto warm up the leg muscles and stretch the heel tendons (Achilles tendon)

Tenduesto warm up the muscles of the feet and ankles; for use of the foot against the floor.

Degagesto warm up the muscles of the feet and ankles; preparation of quick jumps

Grande Battementsto loosen the leg in the hip socket for leg extension in large jumps in the center

Rond de Jambe atterefor rotation of the leg in the hip socket in preparation for grande rond de jambe en l’air

Frappesfor control of the thigh; for quick stretch of the foot for jumps

Petit Battementsfor control of the thigh; preparation for beats

Rond de Jambe en l’airfor control of the thigh; for flexibility in the knee; preparation for similar allegro; rond de jambe saute and gargouliade

Fondufor bending and stretching of the knees; for strength through resistance

Developpe/Adagiofor coordination of the legs arms and head; for balance especially on one foot; for a sense of style and grace

Retirespreparation for developpe; retire releve and pirouettes

Relevespreparation for pointe work

Retire Relevespreparation for pirouettes