January 27, 2011

Steps Gone Into Hiding

Dance geometry.
Lately I have had this feeling that my vocabulary of steps has gotten visibly smaller. There has been a lot of focus on clean technique, on improving turn-out and forwarding heels, on long backs and elegant épaulemant. Which is all fine and as it should be and certainly what I need to do. Still, I´m really starting to miss some old friends, like big saut de basques, ballotés and ballonés, cabrioles (in all directions) and fouetteés. Even my frenemies brisé volé and those dreaded turning emboite jumps, which I just never seem to get right. Nonetheless, I would sometimes like to put our quest for perfection aside and just dance, whether I look elegant or not! Hah!

Come to think of lost steps, anyone out there know what this saut is called? It´s done basically like a changement, but you bend your knees in the air, like you would do in a pas de chat. I remember one teacher from waay back calling it "Italian changement", but I could be so very wrong. Anyway, it´s a fun jump and I would love to do it again. Also that grand saut, which starts like a pas de chat, but then you straighten the front leg in mid-air (and return to fifth pos. on landing) - I want to learn it so bad! I wonder if I could ask our teacher sometime? "Madame, I have this wish-list..." 

The video clip shows Dorothee Gilbert dancing in Raymonda. Watch out for the jump at 0:42, it´s the one I described above. We never did it quite this big though.


  1. It's wonderful the way she holds onto the top of her passe releves - and yet never gets off the music!

  2. Hi Dianne!

    Oh yes, couldn´t agree more with you :) I love that she is so confident and at ease.. You can tell that she could stay up in balance for as long as she wants to!

  3. You are correct that your saut is an Italian changement, or as we called it "changement Italianne". It may go by other names as well, I'll have to check my Gail Grant.

  4. Thank you ClassicalBalletTeacher!
    None of my current teachers is giving us this saut to do, and I´m not even sure anymore as to how high you are supposed to jump. But I suppose it can´t hurt to copy Dorothee Gilbert ;)

    Gail Grant? Something you could recommend us all?

  5. The "Italian changement" you mention is also known as the Cecchetti changement, from that method. I take ballet from a lovely older lady who studied with Celli. You're supposed to jump as high as you can.

    The other step you are talking about I have been given as a grand pas de chat, by a couple of RAD/Cecchetti teachers.

    Hi. Another adult recreational pointe person here. Started at 27. (almost 30 now, eek.) i'm much better at jumps like these than at pointe as I was a modern company dancer in my late teens.

  6. Hi Candice!

    Thanks for replying and great meeting you here!You know, it is funny..I study currently with an Italian teacher who was trained first by a former Danish Royal Ballet principal, and then continued her studies at Rosella Hightower. My other teacher is French, but danced in Berlin and Copenhagen. My first teacher was American, and trained in the Cecchetti method. But the only time I came across those Italian changements was when I took class with a Finnish teacher! :)

    I just remember that they were quick, and not "as high as you can". Now I really want to try! As for the grand pas de chat - you are talking about a "split jump", with front leg doing a developpé? Because I was refering to the saut where the back leg stays in the initial pas de chat position (leg bent under you).

    By the way, I think it is so cool that you´re doing pointe! Do you take modern class still? Our ballet teacher just told us how important it is to dance modern, because of quality of movement (bigger, more expansive) and the breathing. Madame does not like us to dance like "ballet school robots" (her words, not mine). I started with modern and ballet at the same time, and it sure has helped!

    I´ve noticed that modern dancers are not afraid of moving big and taking risks! Although in Finland the tendency is still to do either one or the other..Sometimes to the degree that professional dancers have only a very basic understanding of ballet technique and style. Personally I think that different styles can support and compliment each other very well.

  7. The grand pas de chat was as you describe here, I think, the back leg does stay bent. Looks really cool when done well. Also fun.

    I do the occasional bit of modern; a block of classes once a year or so at this point, because there's not regular modern class outside of universities where I live. It took a few years of beginner ballet in my mid-20s to learn how to 'move small' for ballet because I really didn't study it growing up. The modern makes you more brave, I think, and more able to approach unknown choreography.

    Most of my fellow modern dancers were ballet refugees, so they were all better at ballet than I was. :)

    (ps: pointe shoes - I think I have found a home in grishko maya 4x wide. have wide metatarsal but tapered toes and narrow heels. the vamp is not too high either. This is pair #4 for me and it is easier.)

  8. Candice,
    thanks for the pointe shoe description - your foot actually sounds similar to mine! :) I did try Maya in the shop, but they did not have all legths / shank strenghts. Maybe next time..

    I agree with your point about being more brave with new choreography. Though I think it is much harder to move from modern to ballet than vice versa. Obviously the training is so different. Sometimes I get the feeling that modern dancers (here anyway) do not wish to "let go" of their "modern dancer identity". Especially with regards to epaulement, head positions and arms.

    Although in the end it´s all choreography!

  9. We were just today asked for a Cecchetti changement in a basic ballet class in New York City (not exactly the home of Cechetti work -- but this teacher knows it)! The combination was very simple, to give us the mental space to not fail utterly, but strenuous: four Cecchetti changements (accented up, 1-4), followed by a little run in a tight circle (5-8), and repeat (followed by other stuff). She gave it to the music of the Chinese dance from Nutcracker -- to make sure we had something new and fun for the season. I've had many years of Cecchetti in Michigan, but had never been given this, so am glad to google it and find your blog entry. Thanks: Ellen.


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...