Monday, November 30, 2015

What is a rond de jambe en l'air?

First of all, what is it NOT?

It's not this:

Georges Seurat 1888
No, it's not the can-can, where the women (and men originally!) do high kicks circling the legs in the air at the knees. Oh how terrible for their joints!

Many students think of rond de jambe en l'air as a leg circle in the air (again, NOT the can-can) since "rond" translates as "circle" - for dancers, at least. But the shape you are drawing in the air is not exactly a circle. It's more like a flattened oval.

The path of the rond de jambe en'lair en dehors
The proper way to perform a rond de jambe en l'air en dehors begins with a battement a la seconde, then the toes draw a path straight in to the knee, as if coming to retire, and then circles slightly in front of the knee of the support leg and returns to the a la seconde position.

Conversely, the proper way to perform a rond de jambe en l'air en dedans begins with a battement a la seconde, then the toes draw a half-circle or oval to the front of the knee of the standing leg and then go straight back out to a la seconde.

2 very important things to remember for this step:
1. ALWAYS fully straighten the knee on the recovery to a la seconde, even if you are going to do more than one rond.
2. Maintain a strong straight support leg and avoid sinking back into the hip of the support leg.

One more tip!
NEVER look at your leg while you do this step. The mere act of turning your upper body to let yourself watch the leg twists the hips. If you can't see yourself in a mirror, then use your peripheral vision. Better yet, just feel it working properly.

Hope this tip helps you! Happy dancing~

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday catch-up!

Happy Friday to all!

A few notes for students in LA and for readers everywhere:

1. Next week is Thanksgiving (what?!) but ALL of my classes, except actual Thanksgiving Day, will be happening. That means, Wednesday night too, for your last minute exercise before the big meal. And of course, come to class on Saturday morning if you need a respite from family and turkey. (Check my schedule below for the locations and times of all of my classes.)

2. A. 2 last workshops being held in 2015: Adagio #2 on December 3rd and Grand Allegro combinations on December 17th. Both at Dance Arts Academy from 8-9PM. Sign up at my website.

2. B. (or not 2B - ha!) Requests being taken NOW for January workshops at Dance Arts as well as a new series of workshops on Saturdays at Vonder Haar in La Canada. Yes, that's right: more workshops at another location and day! Contact me for more info and to get on the mailing list.

3. Looking for a good dance read? Check out my review of Lee Wilson's memoir, Rebel on Pointe, over at Dance Advantage. I also conducted a terrific interview with Lee herself, who happens to live in Los Angeles. Read it now and then get your own copy.

Happy dancing, everyone~

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Turn tip Tuesday!

Okay, okay, it's not Tuesday but I didn't want to wait til next week.

When I do workshops and teach in class, I talk a lot about arms: how to engage the back muscles, avoid lifting with the shoulders, keep a shape to them, etc.

But placement is critical. If they are too low (i.e. at your waist), they drag you down and make you collapse in on yourself. If they move and if you can't maintain their placement as you turn, you lose the aerodynamics that comes from the centrifugal force of your body moving around a pivot point.

Typically, an unsuccessful turn looks like this: a dancer does a lovely demi-plie in 4th position, arms are stretched out and to the sides, and then when she goes to releve, they drop down. In other words, as she rises, the arms lower.

No. Don't do that.

Instead, bring your body up to meet your arms.

1. Find the placement of the arms opposite the center of your breastbone (usually this is the ideal position but yours may vary slightly higher or lower) and hold them in a round 1st position or slightly crossed if you are doing Balanchine style turns.

2. Take your 4th position demi-plie or long lunge (again, if you are studying Balanchine or are doing an en dedans pirouette) and stretch your arms as usual.

3. When you go en releve, you bring your leg to its position (retire, attitude, etc.) and rise up to meet your arms. Do not drop the arms as you go up.

Easy-peasy, yes? Ha! Never. Turns are never easy but this small change in your arms will make a BIG difference in your turns. You will not collapse the abdomen or hips; you will not drag down your body, weighing it down so the turn won't be completed; and you will keep a long straight spine which aids tremendously in multiple turns.

Hope this helps! Happy dancing~

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pirouette Tip: Using Imagery

In my lifetime, I have heard a million metaphors from instructors about pirouettes:

"Imagine you have a long pole from the top of your head through your spine."

"Imagine you are lifting your arms through marshmallow."

"Imagine you are a spinning top and your waist is the pull string."

One of these may work for you; who can say until you try? Those of you who take my classes or read my blog know that I approach just about all dance moves in a very practical fashion. I want to know the muscles that are needed to move the leg to retire. I want to find the bone to adjust to properly align the torso for balance.

But every once in a while an image works for me - or a student - and I want to share it, in case it turns out to be the elusive element that flips the switch on your pirouettes.

Photo: Coastal Dance Company
Be the balloon.

Imagine that your lungs are filled with helium, not oxygen. They don't lift your shoulders; they lift your ribs up and out and away from the center of your body. Unlike a normal balloon that deflates because it's just air, a helium balloon stays buoyant for a very long time.

That is YOU. That is your torso. That is your abdominal muscles pulled up and your rib cage and back wide. You don't sink on your demi-plie. You don't collapse as you releve. Because you are a helium balloon that rises, rises, rises.

Try it.

Happy dancing~

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Looking for a good ballet read? Check this out...

I'm a BIG fan of dance stories, especially those that take place in the ballet world.

Here is a review I wrote for the amazing website, Dance Advantage, of a novel called "84 Ribbons" by Paddy Eger.

Enjoy the review and the book!