Dégagé

Dégagé (French – “disengage”; pronounced “deg-ah-jay”) is a ballet step that is much like a tendu, but instead of leaving the toes pointed on the floor, the dancer raises the pointed foot off of the floor slightly. A dégagé can begin from straight or bent legs and be done from many different positions. It can also be done in different directions, such as devant or derrière.


Example:

Begin in fifth position with straight legs and the right leg in front. Push/brush the right foot along the floor to a pointed position while keeping both legs straight. While transitioning from the flexed/standing position to the pointed position, the foot must roll (or pass) through demi pointe (the ball of the foot on the floor with the heel lifted) before reaching full pointe (on the way out) or flexed/standing position (on the way in). When the foot reaches the fully pointed position, lift the toes a few inches off of the floor, and then return to fifth position.  VIDEOS and PHOTOS coming soon.


Tips for achieving a technically correct dégagé:

  • A dégagé passes through the tendu position twice – once on the way out/up, and once on the way in/close.
  • Remember to keep the working (dégagé) leg straight the entire time as in tendu.
  • When doing a dégagé front or side, think of pushing the heel forward/up and the toes back to maintain a turned-out, none-sickled foot. The opposite is true when doing a dégagé to the back (think of pushing the heel down).


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Tendu

Tendu (French – “to stretch”; pronounced “tawn-do”) is a common ballet step that can be done at the barre and in the center. It can begin from straight legs or from plié. While professional-level choreography and variations do not usually included tendus preformed as their own separate step as one would in class, tendu is often found to be an integral part of other ballet steps and as a transition between steps.

Tendu can be done from multiple different positions and in various directions (e.g. devant or derrière).


Example:

Begin in fifth position with straight legs and the right leg in front. Push/brush the right foot along the floor to a pointed position while keeping both legs straight. While transitioning from the flexed/standing position to the pointed position, the foot must roll (or pass) through demi pointe (the ball of the foot on the floor with the heel lifted) before reaching full pointe (on the way out) or flexed/standing position (on the way in).  VIDEOS and PHOTOS coming soon.


Tips for achieving a correct tendu position:

  • Be careful not to sickle when pointing the foot. For more information about sickling, please read this page.
  • Keep the working leg (the one that is performing the tendu) straight the entire time without allowing it the knee to bend.


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Positions of the Feet

There are five main positions in ballet technique (some count parallel as the sixth position). PICTURES coming soon.

  • First position requires that the feet be turned out with the heels touching each other. If the dancer has been studying ballet for a significant amount of time and has acquired the needed muscle strength, they may be able to obtain 180 degree turnout (the toes and heels all lie on the same invisible straight line). However, all dancers have a different degree of turnout ability, so many dancers may have a first position that is more or less a “V” position rather than a completely straight line from one toe to the other.
  • Second position is similar to first, except that the heels are not touching. Rather, the heels are placed directly under the hip bones, which creates a more open position. The same turnout rules apply.
  • Third position is rarely done at an intermediate or advanced level, though it is often taught to beginners. For this position, the right foot is turned out as it would be in first position and the heel of the left foot is placed at the center of the arch of the right foot. The reverse (left/right) is the same.
  • Fourth position can be done two different ways. Both involve turned out legs with one leg placed slightly in front of the other (the weight is centered between the two legs). The difference between the two versions is that one places the heels across from each other, while the other places the right heel across from the left toes (or vice versa). Another way of saying this is that the dancer can have an open fourth (across from first) or a close fourth (across from fifth – see below).
  • Fifth position is exactly the same as third, except that the heel of the right (or left) foot is placed at the toes of the left (or right) foot, rather than at the middle of the arch. Of the two, fifth position is almost always preferred over fifth at a more advanced level (professionals generally never use third position unless directed to do so for specific choreography).

Tips for achieving correct ballet positions:

  • In general, turnout should never be forced, but rather the dancer should use the proper leg muscles to achieve the maximum turnout that their body is capable of (this degree of turnout will change and become greater as the dancer continues to strengthen the “turnout muscles”. To learn about which muscles are used for correct turnout, please read this page.
  • Some instructors may teach an “over-crossed” fifth position (the heel of the right/left foot go passed the toes of the left/right foot), and there is debate on whether this is a correct way to teach fifth position. The general rule, however, is that the feet should not be over-crossed and that to over-cross them is more of a stylization choice than a technique.

Plié

Plié (French – “to bend”; pronounced “plee-ay”) is one of the foundational movements in ballet technique. A great majority of ballet steps begin and/or end with a plié, which means that a dancer bends at the knees. Ballet classes most often begin with a plié combination to warm up the legs and stretch out the leg muscles, and jumps end in plié rather than straight legs to prevent strain on the legs, protect the knees, and maintain balance when landing.

Plié can be done in multiple different positions and on one or both legs.


Example:

Begin in first position with straight legs. Bend the legs slowly, with the knees going out over the toes and leaving the heels on the ground. Slowly straighten the legs again. This is an example of a demi (half) plié. A grand (full) plié is done exactly the same, except the dancer bends even further, allowing the heels to come up off of the ground at the lowest point. VIDEO and PHOTOS coming soon.


Tips for performing a technically correct and safe plié:
– Make sure to always keep the knees over the toes to protect the knees and prevent injury. When done correctly, you should be able to “draw” and invisible line from middle of the foot (second/third toe) straight up to the center of the kneecap.
– Be cautious not to roll in towards the inside of the foot/arch or to roll out towards the back of the foot/arch. Rolling to one side of the foot or the other can put a strain on the foot muscles, as well as cause knee pain and/or injury. The foot should always be as flat as on the floor as possible when standing and while in plié. To learn more about how to prevent rolling in/out, please read this page.
– When performing grand plié, be careful not to “sit” in your plié. This means that you have allowed yourself to relax too much into the movement rather than continuing to engage the leg muscles.
– Keep the back up and make sure that the head, hips, and heels remain in the same invisible straight line up and down. An effective way to visualize the correct positioning for a plié is to imagine two walls, both in front and back of you, which do not allow you to lean either forward or backward. The dancer should move up and down this line seamlessly as if on an elevator.

 



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