Ballet technique

Ballet technique

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Ballet technique'
Start a new discussion about 'Ballet technique'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The core technique of ballet has only minor regional variations globally. Various training methods have been devised, these produce a different physicality of performance and aesthetic results. Ballet (especially classical ballet
Classical ballet
Classical Ballet is the most formal of the ballet styles, it adheres to traditional ballet technique. There are variations relating to area of origin, such as Russian ballet, French ballet, British ballet and Italian ballet...

) puts great emphasis on the method and execution of movement.

Ballet technique can refer to the foundational principles and steps on which ballet steps are built. These foundational principles and steps include "pulling up" (a popular term used to describe proper posture and lifting the muscles so as to increase turnout, quantity and quality of turns, and proper alignment), posture, pointing the toe, and flexibility.

In general, referring to the execution of dance, a dancer with good technique requires good placement (or alignment), and turnout
Turnout (ballet)
In ballet, turnout is a rotation of the leg which comes from the hips, causing the knee and foot to turn outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear...

. Where alignment refers to the dancer's ability to keep the head, shoulders, and hips aligned vertically, turnout refers to the dancer's ability to complete movements with the legs rotated outward. This can be in areas such as clean footwork, graceful port de bras (carriage of the arms), and overall correct positions and lines/angles.

Training


The oldest ballet
Ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

 school was founded in 1713 by Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 as the Royal Dance Academy School (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

: École de l’Académie Royale de la Danse), now referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet School
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

 (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

: École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris).

Young dancers receive a rigorous education in their school's method of dance, which begins when they are young and ends with graduation from high school. Students are required to learn the name, meaning, and precise technique of each movement. Emphasis is put on building strength mostly in the lower body, particularly the legs, and the core (also called the center or the abdominals) as a strong core is necessary for many movements in ballet, especially turns, and on developing flexibility and strong feet and ankles for dancing en pointe.

Ballet technique is traditionally very strict because perfection in key principles and steps is considered its foundation. It is encouraged strongly at a young age to build good habits and protect the dancer's muscles, limbs, bones, and health. For example, a young dancer is taught not to sickle her foot so she will not break her ankle in the future when en pointe.

There are eight styles of training in classical ballet, the most common being that of the Paris Opera Ballet School
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

 (France), Bournonville (Danish), Vaganova
Vaganova method
The Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova . Fusing elements of traditional French technique from the romantic era, with the athleticism and virtuosity of the Italian school, the method is designed to work the body...

 (Russian), Cecchetti
Cecchetti method
The Cecchetti method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Italian ballet master and pedagogue Enrico Cecchetti . The Cecchetti method, is a strict training system with special concern for anatomy within the confines of classical ballet technique, and seeks to develop the...

 (Italian), Royal Ballet School
Royal Ballet School
The Royal Ballet School is one of the most famous classical ballet schools in the world and is the associate school of the Royal Ballet, a leading international ballet company based at the Royal Opera House in London...

 and Royal Academy of Dance
Royal Academy of Dance
The Royal Academy of Dance is an international dance education and training organization, and examination board that specialises in the teaching and technique of Ballet. The RAD was established in London, England in 1920 as the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain, and received its...

 (English), Alicia Alonso (Cuban) and Balanchine
Balanchine method
The Balanchine Method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and choreographer George Balanchine and initially used at the New York City Ballet. It requires extreme speed, very deep plie, unconventional arms and hands, and emphasis on lines, especially in decale...

 (American or neoclassical). The techniques found in classical ballet are a framework for many other styles of dance, including hip hop dance
Hip hop dance
Hip-hop dance refers to dance styles primarily performed to hip-hop music or that have evolved as part of hip-hop culture. It includes a wide range of styles notably breaking, locking, and popping which were created in the 1970s by African Americans and made popular by breaking, locking, and...

, modern ballet and contemporary ballet
Contemporary ballet
Contemporary ballet is a form of dance which incorporates elements of both classical ballet and modern dance. It takes its technique and use of pointework from classical ballet, although it permits a greater range of movement that may not adhere to the strict body lines set forth by schools of...

.

For women, the typical ballet class attire includes pink, black, or flesh colored tights
Tights
Tights are a kind of cloth leg garment, most often sheathing the body from about the waist to the feet with a more or less tight fit, hence the name....

 and a leotard
Leotard
A leotard is a skin-tight one-piece garment that covers the torso but leaves the legs free. It was made famous by the French acrobatic performer Jules Léotard ....

 (which can come in various colors and styles), with an optional short wrap-skirt
Skirt
A skirt is a tube- or cone-shaped garment that hangs from the waist and covers all or part of the legs.In the western world, skirts are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions...

. For men, the typical class attire includes black or dark tights along with a form-fitting white shirt or leotard worn under the tights. Men must also wear a dance belt
Dance belt
A dance belt is a kind of specialized undergarment commonly worn by male ballet dancers to support their genitals. Most are similar in design to thong underwear....

 for support beneath their dancewear. In many cases, students may wear a unitard
Unitard
A unitard is a skin-tight one-piece garment with long legs and sometimes long sleeves. It differs from a leotard in that a leotard does not have long legs. The garment can be considered to be a combination of a leotard and tights...

, a one-piece garment that combines tights and a leotard to be less disruptive to artistic line. Dancers wear soft technique shoes, often called flats during their classes. The female dancers usually wear pink or beige flats while the men wear black or white flats. Often, leg warmers (knitted tubes that vary in length from just long enough to cover the ankle to long enough to cover the entire leg) are worn during the early part of a class to protect the dancer's muscles until they become warm. During ballet class, it is usually required that women restrain their hair in a bun or other style which keeps the hair flat against the head and off the neck. The purpose of the customary dance class attire and hair style is to allow the dancer freedom of movement, and to allow teachers to evaluate the alignment and technique of the dancer.

Only when women's ankles and feet have been strengthened, and the majority of classical technique has been learned to a perfect standard women begin to wear pointe shoes
Pointe shoes
A pointe shoe is a type of shoe worn by ballet dancers when performing pointework. Pointe shoes developed from the desire for dancers to appear weightless and sylph-like and have evolved to enable dancers to dance on the tips of their toes for extended periods of time...

 while men continue to wear soft shoes and learn more advanced jumps and turns. The age at which dancers start pointe work varies from student to student. Strength is paramount in being able to wear pointe shoes for extended periods of time. Premature wearing of pointe shoes or insufficient training can result in serious injuries and/or disabilities in later life.

Method


Although there are some small regional variations, the 'rules' and movement vocabulary of ballet remain the same throughout the world. The different training techniques of ballet are designed to produce a different aesthetic quality from a student. This is particularly noticeable in the high extensions and dynamic turns of Russian ballet, whereas Italian ballet tends to be much more grounded, with a focus on fast intricate footwork . For example, the Tarantella
Tarantella
The term tarantella groups a number of different southern Italian couple folk dances characterized by a fast upbeat tempo, usually in 6/8 time , accompanied by tambourines. It is among the most recognized of traditional Italian music. The specific dance name varies with every region, for instance...

 is a well-known Italian folk dance, which is believed to have influenced Italian ballet.

The most notable ballet methods are named after their originator. For example, two prevailing systems from Russia are known as the Vaganova method
Vaganova method
The Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova . Fusing elements of traditional French technique from the romantic era, with the athleticism and virtuosity of the Italian school, the method is designed to work the body...

 after Agrippina Vaganova
Agrippina Vaganova
Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova was an outstanding Russian ballet teacher who developed the Vaganova method - the technique which derived from the teaching methods of the old Imperial Ballet School under the Premier Maître de Ballet Marius Petipa throughout the mid to late 19th century, though...

, and the Legat Method, after Nikolai Legat. The well-known Cecchetti method
Cecchetti method
The Cecchetti method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Italian ballet master and pedagogue Enrico Cecchetti . The Cecchetti method, is a strict training system with special concern for anatomy within the confines of classical ballet technique, and seeks to develop the...

 is based on technique developed and taught by the Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti
Enrico Cecchetti
Enrico Cecchetti was an Italian ballet dancer, mime, and founder of the Cecchetti method. The son of two dancers from Civitanova Marche, he was born in the costuming room of the Teatro Tordinona in Rome. After an illustrious career as a dancer in Europe, he went to dance for the Imperial Ballet in...

 (1850–1928). Another European system, based on the teaching methods of Frenchman Auguste Vestris
Auguste Vestris
Marie-Jean-Augustin Vestris, known as Auguste Vestris was a French dancer.Born in Paris as the illegitimate son of Gaëtan Vestris and of Marie Allard, he was dubbed "le dieu de la danse", , a popular title bestowed on the leading male dancer of each generation...

, was that developed in Copenhagen by August Bournonville
August Bournonville
August Bournonville was a Danish ballet master and choreographer. August was the son of Antoine Bournonville, a dancer and choreographer trained under the French choreographer, Jean Georges Noverre, and the nephew of Julie Alix de la Fay, née Bournonville, of the Royal Swedish Ballet.August was...

 (1805–1879). The system is taught chiefly as a tradition in Bournonville's own country of Denmark

The different methods (or school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

s) of ballet technique that represent the historical development of ballet. These methods include (from oldest to most recent):
  • French ballet
    French ballet
    The "École Française" , is characterized by an emphasis on precision, elegance, and sobriety.Mega-star dancer & choreographer Rudolf Nureyev choreographed re-worked versions of the great academic classic ballets , and directed the Paris Opera...

    • Paris Opera Ballet School
      Paris Opera Ballet
      The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

  • Danish ballet
    • Bournonville School
      Bournonville School
      The Bournonville method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Danish ballet master August Bournonville.-Overview:August Bournonville trained with his father Antoine Bournonville and other notable French ballet masters...

  • Italian ballet
    Italian ballet
    Italian ballet is a term used to describe the training methods and aesthetic qualities seen in classical ballet in Italy. Italy has a long history with ballet, and it is widely believed that the earliest predecessor of the modern dance form originated in the Italian courts of the Renaissance,...

    • Cecchetti method
      Cecchetti method
      The Cecchetti method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Italian ballet master and pedagogue Enrico Cecchetti . The Cecchetti method, is a strict training system with special concern for anatomy within the confines of classical ballet technique, and seeks to develop the...

  • Russian ballet
    Russian ballet
    Russian ballet is a form of ballet characteristic of or originating from Russia. In the early 19th century, the theaters were opened up to anyone who could afford a ticket. There was a seating section called a rayok, or 'paradise gallery', that consisted of simple wooden benches...

    • Vaganova method
      Vaganova method
      The Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova . Fusing elements of traditional French technique from the romantic era, with the athleticism and virtuosity of the Italian school, the method is designed to work the body...

    • Legat Method
  • English ballet
    • Royal Academy of Dance
      Royal Academy of Dance
      The Royal Academy of Dance is an international dance education and training organization, and examination board that specialises in the teaching and technique of Ballet. The RAD was established in London, England in 1920 as the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain, and received its...

    • Royal Ballet School
      Royal Ballet School
      The Royal Ballet School is one of the most famous classical ballet schools in the world and is the associate school of the Royal Ballet, a leading international ballet company based at the Royal Opera House in London...

  • American ballet
    American Ballet
    The American Ballet was the first professional ballet company George Balanchine created in the United States. The company was founded with the help of Lincoln Kirstein and Edward Mortimer Morris Warburg, managed by Alexander Merovitch and populated by students of Kirstein and Balanchine's School of...

    • Balanchine method
      Balanchine method
      The Balanchine Method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and choreographer George Balanchine and initially used at the New York City Ballet. It requires extreme speed, very deep plie, unconventional arms and hands, and emphasis on lines, especially in decale...

  • Cuban Ballet
    • Alicia Alonso method

Illusion of flight



To perform the more demanding routines, a ballet dancer appears to defy the laws of physics. Basic physics and understanding of human perception provide insight into this. A high level of physical fitness
Physical fitness
Physical fitness comprises two related concepts: general fitness , and specific fitness...

 is required.

For example, during the grand jeté, the dancer may appear to hover. Physically, his/her center of mass
Center of mass
In physics, the center of mass or barycenter of a system is the average location of all of its mass. In the case of a rigid body, the position of the center of mass is fixed in relation to the body...

 describes a parabola
Parabola
In mathematics, the parabola is a conic section, the intersection of a right circular conical surface and a plane parallel to a generating straight line of that surface...

, as does any projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

. Observors have limited ability to reckon center of mass when a projectile changes its configuration in flight. To do this the dancer extends their arms and legs, which camouflages the fall and leads the audience to perceive the dancer is floating.

A Pas de Chat (step of the cat) creates a similar illusion. The dancer starts from a plié, then during the ascending phase of the step, quickly lifts each knee in succession with hips turned out, so that for a moment both feet are in the air at the same time, passing each other. For a moment, the dancer appears suspended in air.

The landing must be performed carefully, the dancer bends at the knees (plies) and rolls the foot from toe to heel. For artistic as well as safety reasons this technique must be taught by a qualified instructor.

External links