What teachers say & what they mean.On and on, rising above the music, the familiar instructions ring out during the ballet class: Don't sit in your plie pli·é
A ballet movement in which the knees are bent while the back is held straight.
[French, from past participle of plier, to fold, bend, from Old French; see pliant.] ! Use your inside muscles! Center your spine! Don't use your quads! Get up on your leg! Use your feet! It is hardly surprising that outsiders find this jargon incomprehensible, even slightly comical. But it is alarming that students themselves often 'do not really understand their teachers' directions. When I first started coaching dancers on a one-to-one basis, I found it difficult to believe the full extent of these misunderstandings.
Somewhere along the way, my charges had missed out on a full explanation and, instead of inquiring, had been content to draw their own conclusions. Often the problem we worked on in these private sessions was caused by nothing more or less than one of these "blind spots," and when I explained the real meaning of the instruction the matter was quickly solved.
THE CASES OF TWO YOUNG DANCERS
A case in point was the dancer who came to me with fabulous extensions, good line, and serviceable ser·vice·a·ble
1. Ready for service; usable: serviceable equipment.
2. Able to give long service; durable: a heavy, serviceable fabric. turns, who had been rejected at an audition because, she was told, her dancing "lacked fluidity." Since she had to return to her hometown within a few days, I was doubtful about my ability to help her but agreed to try.
We had been working no more than ten minutes when I said, "Well, you are sitting in your plie." Indignantly she replied, "That is what my teacher always says, but I am not." It turned out that she had always thought the correction meant that she was sticking out Adj. 1. sticking out - extending out above or beyond a surface or boundary; "the jutting limb of a tree"; "massive projected buttresses"; "his protruding ribs"; "a pile of boards sticking over the end of his truck" her tail in the plie, and she had in fact worked diligently to make sure her pelvis was correctly placed. When she realized that the instruction really meant that she was frequently hesitating at the depth of the plie instead of using it to rebound into the next movement, she was astonished a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. , relieved, and excited all at once. I could tell that she could hardly wait to get on the plane and back to her hometown studio, where she could work to banish ban·ish
tr.v. ban·ished, ban·ish·ing, ban·ish·es
1. To force to leave a country or place by official decree; exile.
2. To drive away; expel: We banished all our doubts and fears. the problem once and for all.
Then there was the young lady in despair over her pirouettes. We had to go right back to basic barre work to cure her of her tendency to dump her weight into her supporting hip, throwing her body out of alignment. She had to learn to hold her buttocks buttocks /but·tocks/ (but´oks) the two fleshy prominences formed by the gluteal muscles on the lower part of the back. high on her leg and to activate the muscles (abductors) at the side of her hip. Her teacher had given her the verbal correction "get up on your leg" often enough, but she had not really understood what the expression meant. And at her intermediate level of training, it was in pirouettes that the fault first began to inhibit her performance.
Before you ask, "How stupid can you get?" let me assure you that very few dancers are stupid, and certainly not either of these two. But there does seem to be a pervasive sense of mystery in the ballet studio - as though there are profound secrets that in time will reveal themselves. Alas, opportunity is likely to pass you by while you are waiting for the revelation. There are no secrets, only questions unasked un·asked
1. Not asked: Several unasked questions remain.
2. Not invited: Unasked guests arrived at the party.
3. and consequently unanswered.
"PULL UP": THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD INSTRUCTION
The expression "pull up" takes the prize for the most misleading, misunderstood, and misused instruction in our vocabulary. Even some teachers seem to be confused about this one. Yet there is nothing mysterious or obscure about the pull-up. It is a very simple physical principle that has long been fundamental to the technique of classical ballet Noun 1. classical ballet - a style of ballet based on precise conventional steps performed with graceful and flowing movements
ballet, concert dance - a theatrical representation of a story that is performed to music by trained dancers .
The action of the pull-up is a lengthening lengthening (lengkˑ·the·ning),
n the use of various massage or muscle energy techniques to relax and stretch muscle and connective tissue. of the spine from its top to its base. The curves of the spinal column spinal column, bony column forming the main structural support of the skeleton of humans and other vertebrates, also known as the vertebral column or backbone. It consists of segments known as vertebrae linked by intervertebral disks and held together by ligaments. , which runs deep within your body, are diminished but by no means eliminated. A back that appears quite straight from the side actually retains some essential curves, provided the pelvis is not tucked. These curves function to absorb the shock of movement and are very important to the dancer. [see diagram].
In the early stages of training, "standing tall" is an effective instruction for communicating the lengthening of the spine. You must be sure, though, that you have established and can maintain correct body alignment. There should be no upward straining of the head: "Think tall" and your nervous system will send a message to your spinal column, stretching the curves somewhat, and elevating your head. You will actually have grown taller.
At a more advanced level, you must place special emphasis on lengthening the lumbar spine Lumbar spine
The segment of the human spine above the pelvis that is involved in low back pain. There are five vertebrae, or bones, in the lumbar spine.
Mentioned in: Low Back Pain (the small of your back). Here, seemingly, is a paradox. The lumbar spine is lengthened downward, not pulled upward, as students are so often instructed. The deep muscles of the back are extensors of the spine, which means that they pull down and back, not up and forward. Trying to pull the small of the back up, as students are directed even by some eminent master teachers, is like trying to swim upstream against a powerful current.
However, the downward action in the back involuntarily engages muscles (abdominals and quadriceps quadriceps /quad·ri·ceps/ (kwod´ri-seps) having four heads.
The large four-part extensor muscle at the front of the thigh.
adj. ) that pull up the front of your pelvis and, in a chain reaction, your knees. The important muscles around your waist (also abdominals) will spring into action as well. And as your spinal curves lengthen you will have a sense of the vertebrae Vertebrae
Bones in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of the body that make up the vertebral column. Vertebrae have a central foramen (hole), and their superposition makes up the vertebral canal that encloses the spinal cord. rising upward. This sensation of upward motion is, no doubt, the reason that the expression "pull up" entered our ballet language.
Teachers have always used such shorthand commands - and they always will. After all, they are teaching you to dance, not giving you a lesson in the niceties ni·ce·ty
n. pl. ni·ce·ties
1. The quality of showing or requiring careful, precise treatment: the nicety of a diplomatic exchange.
2. of language. The class must be first and foremost a workout - it must be kept moving, with the energy level sustained and built upon. It is up to you to make sure you understand what is required of you. Make a list - now - of basic commands you hear in class, and pretend you are explaining them to a beginner. If you are even the least bit hazy about any of them, begin an investigation. Take charge of your training!
You'll learn much more about these and related subjects in Valerie Grieg's wonderful book, Inside Ballet Technique Ballet technique is the method by which ballet steps are performed or taught. The core technique of ballet is the same throughout the World, with some minor regional variations, and various training methods have been devised, which produce a different physicality of performance and : Separating Anatomical Fact from Fiction in the Ballet Class ($14.95, paper). It's published by Princeton Book Company, P.O. Box 57, Pennington, NJ 08534; (800) 220-7149.
Valerie Grieg coaches students privately in Manhattan and is a frequent guest teacher in schools around the country.