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Simple Glissade (to Fifth Position).

Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique (Fourth in a series)

SIMPLE GLISSADES were especially important to Balanchine, and we worked hard to perfect them. We had to jump, show second or fourth in the air, bring the second leg down very quickly, and place the second foot cleanly into fifth. By getting it there immediately with weight on the ball of that foot, the dancer has time to plie to collect energy.

From fifth, the dancer begins to plie, then brushes directly side. She pushes off the floor and establishes second in the air with both legs straight and feet pointed, making sure the second leg remains turned out, does not move back behind her hips, and doesn't kick out (she freezes the legs, fostering the illusion that she has stopped in midair). Both pointes are level a couple or so inches off the floor, the hips are up, the shoulders are over the hips with the torso lifted and forward, and the weight is centered. The first foot lands toes first where the pointe is; the second leg is brought rapidly to the floor. The second foot makes fifth by bringing the toes to the floor and closing immediately. If necessary, the toes slide lightly on the floor; the heel is maintained forward and the knee side. The weight does not settle back on the heels, but remains centered over the balls of both feet. If the next movement is a jump or a pointe step off both feet, the dancer will keep her weight equally on the balls of both feet. Otherwise, she will need to immediately transfer most of her weight to the second leg as she arrives in plie to collect the energy to do the next jump (e.g., assemble).

Glissade forward or back is essentially the same, except that the dancer brushes directly front or back, bringing the pointe to the center line. In glissade forward and glissade back, the foot that pushes off the floor must also come in toward the center line so both pointes are on the center line. The position is very similar to echappe to fourth on pointe, but she is a couple of inches off the floor, pointes equally off the floor. Her hips are lifted in the air; she has made a real jump. The foot that brushes out lands toes first where the pointe is, neither kicking out nor pulling in. The second foot is brought immediately to the floor, toes first, and makes a clean, precise fifth position plie with heels forward and the weight on the balls of the feet.

A simple and good combination to help the dancer work on perfecting the action of glissade closing fifth, including establishing second or fourth in the air, is glissade in a box followed by three glissades to the side, changing feet each time, and a soubresaut, finishing in a fifth position plie, ready to repeat to the other side. We practiced this combination, freezing the legs in fourth and second in the air, with such an accent in the landings in fifth that the plie would almost stop. By separating one glissade from the next and holding onto the plie in this exercise, rather than blending them together, the dancer further develops quickness. She shoots the first leg out, freezes both legs in position and rapidly brings the second leg down, and pauses in fifth position plie before starting again. This is equally important in the glissades side-to-side, when the second foot of one glissade becomes the first foot of the next glissade. Stopping sharply (abruptly), then starting quickly (suddenly) makes each movement more articulate and clear.

Following glissade with jumps that push equally and simultaneously off both feet helps ensure that the dancer brings the second foot down with the weight distributed equally. However, when glissade side is followed by a jump off one foot, such as assemble or jete, Mr. B, like other teachers, accepted a variant glissade. The dancer could bring the second foot down crossing a little over the first foot, but not passing it completely, not making a kind of "fourth." However, he accepted it only if good form was adhered to: the timing was correct (second foot immediately to the floor), the weight was transferred quickly onto the second leg, the plie was used, both feet (but especially the second, which is often a problem) were placed toes first to the floor with the heel forward, and the second position in the air was clear.

Following glissade with assemble contrasts the glissade, with the feet held in second or fourth in the air, with a jump in which they must be brought together to fifth as quickly as possible. Starting in fifth position croise right foot front, the dancer can do glissade forward and assemble front, then glissade back and assemble back. Notice that in both glissade front and assemble front, the dancer must be aware of brushing directly front; this applies equally to glissade back and assemble back. Next, she does glissade side to the right, changing feet, and an assemble right followed by an assemble left and soubresaut (or sous-sus).

When Mr. B felt that our glissades needed a thorough clean-up, he divided the class into several groups and gave glissade side changing feet straight across the floor. When we had all crossed, he sent us back the other way. Each glissade was done with a change of feet and epaulement. And we paused for a moment in each fifth position as we plied with resistance to help us practice full articulation of each movement.

Details I most often insist on:

1) open precisely to second or fourth

2) show second or fourth in the air, knees straight, toes pointed and level, hips up

3) bring the second leg very rapidly to the floor to plie on it and gather energy

4) place the toes of the second foot to the floor

5) show the plie, the jump, the contrast of levels

From the book SUKI SCHORER ON BALANCHINE TECHNIQUE by Suki Schorer. Copyright [C] 1999 by Suki Schorer. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
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Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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