Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema – The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty has all the requisite elements of a classic fairy tale. A princess, a king, a queen, suitors to the princess, good fairy, bad fairy, magic, a prince who wakes the princess up with a kiss! And in the ballet, a hand-full of characters from other fairy tales come to celebrate the wedding of the said prince and princess.

Despite all the right elements, it never really became my favourite ballet. However, in recent years I started to realise that this was probably because there have been surprisingly few performances of The Sleeping Beauty I truly enjoyed. There were, of course, a few really wonderful productions. I grew up watching the video of an amazing production by the Kirov Ballet (today’s Mariinsky Ballet) with Irina Kolpakova, Sergey Berezhnoi and Lubov Kunakova. I saw a video of Margot Fonteyn as Princess Aurora and I was also fortunate to get the chance to see the great Ludmila Semenyaka in The Sleeping Beauty on stage. In comparison to those, most productions I saw since seemed dull and colourless.

For a long time I thought it was because I had got somewhat bored of the ballet having watched it countless times on our old fashioned laser discs. But more recently I started to notice that it was due to the fact that the so well-known and loved music of the Sleeping Beauty is deceptively difficult to dance to. The third act grand pas de deux of Aurora and Prince Desire particularly so. It is not “difficult” as such in terms of time signature or change in tempo, buy there is a very clear rhythm depicted under the fluid beautiful melodies. The difficulty for the dancers is that they need to embody  both rhythm and melody in order to look at ease and brilliant at the same time.

Bolshoi Ballet’s live transmission of this ballet to cinemas around the world was a very pleasant surprise. Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin both have a brilliant musicality that makes them look as though they are creating music by their own bodies. Their technique is flawless but neither show off in any vulgar way. Smirnova was an innocent and shy Aurora who was excited at her party, a translucent and dreamy vision, and a radiant and happy bride. Chudin was noble and yet determined to save the beautiful vision he saw, and a very secure partner who in turn knows how to make his partner look at her most beautiful.

Yulia Stepanova did not really live up to expectations. She did not manage to portray the essence of the graceful yet regal Lilac Fairy. Alexei Loparevich’s Carabosse was also disappointing. He seemed a little like a comic dame. It was a complete contrast too the former Kirov (today’s Mariinsky) Ballet dancer, Vladimir Lopukhov, whose Carabosse was portrayed as a bitter old woman who had nothing left but her magical power.

Artemy Belyakov, who danced the roles of Bluebird and one of the suitors, had caught my eye a while back. He rapidly became one of my favourite Bolshoi dancers, especially after I saw his Evil Genius in Yuri Grigorovich’s Swan Lake when Bolshoi Ballet was performing in London last Summer. He was given this big role within three years of graduating from the Bolshoi Ballet School (Ilya Kuznetsov’s class) and is proving to be a well rounded dancer with a true panache. With his strong and high jumps that make him look as though he is hanging in the air for a moment every time he leaves the floor, his steady pirouettes and sense of control that makes things look so effortless, I dare say he is on his way up to the rank of a principal dancer.

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Artemy Belyakov as the Evil Genius in Yuri Grigorovich’s Swan Lake. (Photo: Bolshoi Ballet)

Yuri Grigorovich first staged this current version in 2011. He has cut a fair bit of the music to make the ballet – that usually has three acts and a prologue – into a two-act ballet. Although it is noticeable that some of the music has been shortened or omitted, the cuts do not seem to affect the flow of the story and certainly keep the audience’s fidgeting  to a minimum. To my delight, he kept the Prince’s entrance solo which the legendary former Bolshoi star Vladimir Vasiliev danced at Asaf Messerer’s 80th birthday tribute in 1982. It makes the character of the prince a lot more solid and vivid.

All in all, Smirnova, Chudin and Belyakov restored my love for fairy tales, and made me fall in love with the Sleeping Beauty all over again.

Teaching Young Children and Adult Beginners

Every time I hear someone say something along the lines of “I don’t know ballet enough to teach advanced ballet, but I can teach beginners/children” it makes me cringe so much that I can find it very difficult to conceal it.

I have been teaching a while now and I have taught from very young children to adult, from complete beginners to professionals. The classes I find most demanding and satisfying at the same time are the ones for those who are just starting ballet for the very first time, regardless of the age. The new pupils know very little about ballet. This, however, does not mean that the teacher can get away with knowing little. The teacher has to have a very sound and extensive knowledge in technique and history of ballet, of actual ballet repertoires, anatomy, injury prevention, different methods and how they differ from one another, and the ability to see and offer different advice and corrections depending on the individual pupil.

YKBG Class ©YKBG

YKBG Class
©YKBG

New pupils often have many questions about all sorts of things related to ballet. Many often come and ask what to do when they have stiff muscles or when something does not feel quite right from different physical activities they might do. It is imperative that the teacher can offer appropriate advice in order that they can work pain free and injury free, and maximise the speed of their improvements.

Many of my dancers who have been to other dance schools as adults (especially beginners and those with fairly little experience) told me that their former teachers hardly ever corrected them in adult classes and generally left them alone. They often find it astounding that I would touch their legs or arms to teach them the correct positions. I am yet to come across someone who does not improve even if they started ballet for the first time as an adult or are already fairly mature, and I simply cannot understand why some teachers do not bother teaching them properly.

I have also seen and heard so many dance schools, and not just in this country, letting young and inexperienced teachers or teaching assistants teach young children’s classes. The time when they are just starting out to learn ballet is the most important for child students and this is when they are at their most impressionable. Poor and ill-informed teaching at this stage might well be destroying the development of potential future ballet dancers. I see plenty of students who learned ballet at a young age carrying their old habits ten or twenty years later and finding it extremely difficult to break them.

It saddens me to hear stories like this.  Of course, there are many many fantastic teachers and dance schools where they teach everyone everything they can, where pupils are inspired and encouraged to continuously improve, and where very strong bonds between teachers and pupils are forged. If you are planning on starting learning ballet, or sending your children to learn ballet,  make sure you shop around and find a conscientious, knowledgeable and experienced teacher.

Review by David Bellan for Yuka Kodama Ballet Group Annual Show 2013

David Bellan, the dance critic for the Oxford Times gave his permission to publish what he wrote for the Oxford Times on our page.

This is about the Yuka Kodama Ballet Group annual show in 2013. We put on our own version of La Fille Mal Gardee and a short suite Shared Dream, which music was composed specially for the group.

 

YUKA KODAMA BALLET GROUP         WYCHWOOD SCHOOL

 

31.05.13             Review by David Bellan

 

 

This is a highly trained amateur group who put on a show that was a pleasure to watch. They’re based in Oxford, and trained by Yuka Kodama-Pomfret, a former Japanese dancer who has appeared in all the big classics, but has long been based in the UK.

The first work of the evening, “Shared Dreams” is a new piece by Kodama, set to a specially commissioned piano suite by Hiroaki Tokunaga. The music is at times percussive, at times quite light-hearted, and proved a good introduction to the varying talents of the company.

Shared Dreams Photography by Susan Taylor

Shared Dreams
Photography by Susan Taylor

Shared Dreams Photographs by Susan Taylor

Shared Dreams
Photographs by Susan Taylor

Shared Dreams Photographs by Susan Taylor

Shared Dreams
Photographs by Susan Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

“La Fille Mal Gardee”, best known in this country for the famed Ashton version with it’s popular clog dance, was a hit. Kodama tells a sunny story of love and frustration among country folk. Lison loves Colin, but her mother wants her to marry Jean, a rich miller’s son . Jade Shelton makes a lovely Lison, dancing well and putting her feelings over clearly in a performance of comedy and charm. She was partnered by Charlie Byers who last year was so unexpectedly impressive in “Le Corsaire,” after only two years of dance training. Byers had damaged his foot, but bravely came on as a warm and likeable Colin, but without his planned big solos. Kevin Stead

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

had never danced until last January, but gave a remarkably assured and amusing performance in drag as Madame Rigotte, Lison’s mother. David Hanvidge danced the dim but likeable Jean with a mixture of misplaced self-confidence and a lot of physical comedy, as he tottered about intending to show off his

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

dancing. A nice touch in Kodama’s version is that, after losing Lison to Colin, Jean gets a girl of his own. Tiny Isona Kakuchi sparkled while playing a boy, Jean’s little brother Firmin, egging Jean on to success, but also concerned that he will mess it up. Young though he is, Firmin is a cool hand at chatting up the girls, including Dona-Maria Sandu, who produced some classy solos throughout the evening.

 

 

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee Photographs by Susan Taylor

La Fille Mal Gardee
Photographs by Susan Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feet Positions in Ballet

Pierre Beauchamp

Pierre Beauchamp

The five positions of feet in classical ballet were first codified by a French choreographer and dancer Pierre Beauchamp (1631-1705) and still form the basis of the classical ballet technique.

It is very important to achieve these positions with one’s legs and body properly aligned. If they are not, the risk of injuries will increase, improvement of technique can be slowed down and muscles will develop unnecessarily in the wrong places.

There is a very good and simple exercise one can do in order to check the alignment and, at the same time, strengthen the legs. Stand with your feet in parallel* with a tennis ball between the ankles (the ball should be placed just above the ankle bones – the feet do not have to touch each other), and try to squeeze the tennis ball by standing tall and using the inner thigh muscles (particularly the gracilis). The tennis ball should be firmly held by your legs. Ask someone to try and take the ball out. If this is difficult (it is not really impossible…), you are likely to be using the correct muscles and your knees and toes are aligned. Your knees should be straight above your toes. Next, do a plié and check that the tennis ball is still firmly held. Then go up onto your tiptoes and see if the tennis ball is still strongly held. Repeat this several times. By continuing this exercise daily, you can train your legs to be aligned and strengthen the inner thigh muscles.

Make sure you do not lose the squeezing feeling while you are doing the exercise.

Make sure you do not lose the squeezing feeling while you are doing the exercise. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Using correct muscles to stand upright and straight without any twist in the legs (L), and standing with legs pushed out while the knees turning inwards and feet rolling out. This can cause injuries. (R)

Using correct muscles to stand upright and straight without any twist in the legs (L); and standing with legs pushed out while the knees are turning inwards and feet rolling out. This can cause injuries. (R) ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Once you know how to align your legs, stand with feet parallel to start with, and then lift your feet off the floor onto your heels without bending your knees at all. Pivot your legs on your heels so your toes swivel outwards to the side, without loosening your knees and keeping your body upright. Put your feet down and you are in the first position. You should always turn out your legs from the hips. Some people feel their legs are turned out when the toes are pulled to the sides, but this very often results in twists in ankles and knees, that lead to injuries and overly developed muscles in unnecessary places.

First position. Make sure the knees are aligned above the toes. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

First position. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

A very good way to check if your knees are aligned above your toes: Whatever the position you are in, curl your toes upwards as much as you can without lifting the balls of your feet. If you can do this without any strain to your feet joints, your knees are  properly aligned above your toes. You should feel three pressure points on your feet. In the middle of your heel, one between the first and second toes and one between the fourth and fifth toes.

From the first position, slide one leg out, keeping the balance on the supporting leg and gradually stretching the moving foot (if you are at the barre, the outside foot) to the side, being careful to keep the toes on the floor, then shifting the balance gradually into the middle as you lower your heel. This is the second position. The distance between the heels should be about the length of your own foot. You can achieve a beautifully positioned second position by standing with one foot in front of the other, swivelling the back foot on the heel and then putting the foot down into second position.

How to get into second position. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

How to get into second position. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

How to check the distance between heels in second position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

How to check the distance between heels in second position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Third position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Third position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Stretch the outside leg, lifting from the heel, shifting the balance back onto the inside leg, slide the foot toward the supporting leg, closing it just in front, with the heel of the outside foot in front of the arch of the other foot. This is the third position. Although some teachers encourage use of this position when a dancer finds it a little difficult to close into a tight fifth position, I find this can encourage the dancers to be a little lazy when they are supposed to be in the fifth position, and therefore I do not use this very often in my classes.

To reach the fourth position from the third or fifth position, slide and stretch out the front foot forward, pushing the heel forward rather than the toes and, after completing the stretch, bring your toes back a little (turning the leg and feet out all the time) and put the foot down on the floor in a position parallel to the supporting leg. The distance between the two feet should be a little shorter than the length of your own foot. To check this, put the front foot in 90° angle to the supporting foot, heel to heel. Pivot the front foot on the ball, pushing the heel forward, and lower the heel down.

How to check the distance between feet in fourth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

How to check the distance between feet in fourth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Fourth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Fourth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

To reach the fourth position when coming from the second position, first stretch the outside foot without lifting the toes off the floor, shifting the balance onto the other leg. Move your outside leg from your side to front, as if to draw the arc of a quarter of a circle. Make sure you keep your leg turned out. When your working leg reaches the front, put down your heel in the way described above.

From the fourth position, stretch the foot forward and then slide it back towards the supporting leg, led by the toes, making sure your leg stays turned out, until the front foot is touching the back foot, toes to heels into the fifth position.

Closing into fifth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Closing into fifth position ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

If you are coming from the second position, you could either do the same quarter circular move as into the fourth position and then close straight into the fifth position or, after stretching the outside leg, slide back straight from the side into the fifth position.

If you do not have enough turn-out in your legs and/or flexibility yet, it is difficult to achieve a 180° turn-out in the first and second positions, or parallel lines in the third, fourth or fifth positions. I usually advise my dancers to have slightly less turn-out in order to keep the knees and toes aligned and perhaps the legs very slightly less crossed, but encourage them to keep striving to go further every day.

If you search for “feet positions in ballet” online, there is one source that says Serge Lifar (1905-1986) reintroduced two positions in the 1930’s and they are limited to Lifar’s choreography. Whereas it is likely that he reintroduced them and codified them as the sixth and the seventh positions, both positions are and have been used in many examples of choreography, including classical repertoires such as that of Marius Petipa, aside from Lifar’s own.

Sixth position en pointe ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Sixth position en pointe ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

The sixth position is widely used. It is a position I discussed at the start: parallel feet. Many methods call this sixth position even if they are not down the Paris Opera line.

The seventh position is also widely used, but as far as I know, it is usually not called so. It is a position, essentially a fourth position in relevé with heels aligned. This position is usually called fourth position on (demi)pointe.

Fourth position en pointe, or the seventh position by Serge LIfar ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Fourth position en pointe, or the seventh position by Serge LIfar ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Whatever the position you stand in, do not forget to get your legs turned out from the hips, align your knees above your toes, and hold your head high; beautiful dancing is something to be proud of, after all!

How to Choose Well Fitted Pointe Shoes

When choosing pointe shoes, it is vital to choose a pair that fits you perfectly so that you can perform to your fullest capacity, stay relatively pain-free, keep your feet healthy and look great.

It has been concerning me to see that so many people end up buying a pair that is too big for them and they consequently get blisters and a whole lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Here are a few pointers to help you tell whether or not shoes fit well.

Before you go to a shop to be fitted, make sure you have your usual padding if you use any, and preferably tape your toes to save some time. Wear convertible tights or tights socks. Trim your toe nails closely so they do not cause discomfort while you are trying the shoes on. Also, before you go, take your socks off and have a good look at your own feet. Are your second toes longer than the big toes? Is there a gap between your big toes and the rest of your toes?

How much padding you have is entirely up to you, but I usually advise my dancers to have the bare minimum. I find too much padding restricts the movement of the feet, and creates unnecessary and unwanted gaps. If you think that you will then get a lot of blisters without so much padding, the shoes are not very well fitted.

Gap should be filled with toe separators. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Gap should be filled with toe separators.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Silicon tow separators. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Silicon toe separators. Courtesy of Dance Evolution (http://www.danceevolution.co.uk/)
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

If you have a gap between your big toe and the others, consider using a toe separator. They are made of silicon and are not as bothersome as you might think. Otherwise, your big toe will be pushed inward and you risk developing bunions.

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

If the second toe is longer than the big toe, you can use a cap with a little gel to cushion it, or use the same thing to pad the shorter toe a little bit. You can also cut these kinds of tubes to the desired length and use them to protect the joints.

Your pointe shoes have to be just the right size for your feet. I know this sounds a little too much like basic common sense, but surprisingly many people are sold shoes that are too large for their feet. They should be just tight enough so all the toes are fairly well packed together without overlapping each other.  The wings of the shoes should be high enough to encase the top joints of your toes. If your top joints are not properly protected, it will cause pain and present unattractive lines.

These shoes are too long and the box of the shoes are too tall for the feet. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

These shoes are too long and the box of the shoes are too tall for the feet.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

You can check if the length of the shoes are right by standing in second position and doing a demi plie. Your toes should be just touching the end of the shoes without toes being bent. Check there is no gap on the side or in the box above your toes. If you can put a finger inside any part of your shoe easily, it is likely to be too large. Drawstrings can be used, but they are just for fine tuning. You should not be able to wiggle your toes.

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

If you can insert your finger in the side of the shoe, it is either too long or too wide, if not both.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

The box is too tall for the feet.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

The next thing to check is whether the centreline of each shoe is aligned with the centre of your foot. If they are not aligned, the whole shoe is twisted on your foot.

Photo courtesy of Dance Evolution (http://www.danceevolution.co.uk/)

Put one foot across the other and push down. If the shoes fit, the sole of the uppermost shoe should run along the bottom of your feet with the sole bending to follow the shape of your instep. There should not be any gap between the sole and the foot.

The box is twisted and does not continue the lines of the foot. ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

The box is twisted and does not continue the lines of the foot.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Step up onto pointe (make sure you are holding onto something!) and check the lines. The box should look as though it is a part of your foot without any kink or change of direction in the lines. The soles of the shoes still should stay with the soles of your feet. Gently take some steps up and down and see if your feet are well supported. If the shoes are too wide and/or too long, you will feel your feet sinking each time you put weight on your feet.

It is not a good fit if the sole of the shoe is twisted away from the foot.  ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

It is not a good fit if the sole of the shoe is twisted away from the foot.
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

It is not always possible to find your dream pair, but be patient. They are out there somewhere. Also, as you get stronger, your feet will change, so make sure you keep checking that your shoes still fit well.

Sometimes you may have to compromise a little and get the best out of what is available. You can adjust slight discrepancies by using gel tubes, making a cat’s cradle (see toward the end of my another entry on  https://kodamaballet.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/how-to-sew-ribbons-on-your-pointe-shoes/ ) and there are size changers these days that can change shoe sizes by up to a quarter of a size.

Last of all, if the fitter tries to sell you a pair that you are not quite convinced about, do not be afraid to ask questions and ask to try different sizes. It is wise to try a size down from what you may think is a good fit, just to check that it the best size. Do not be pressured into buying shoes. If they do not seem to know what they are doing, just ask to be fitted by someone else, or go away and ask your teacher to come with you. Most of the fitters should have learned how to fit shoes, but it is undeniable that, unfortunately, you may still come across some who do not seem to know or care about how to fit pointe shoes perfectly. It is your feet and your health you are putting on the line. Choose well!

How to Sew Ribbons on Your Pointe Shoes

There is more than one way to do it, and many have their own personal way, but here is one very good way to prepare your pointe shoes.

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

First, fold the heel (the part of the upper that runs behind the heel) of the pointe shoe inwards, aligning the back seam and the sole. As you hold the heel down against the inner sole, take a pen and draw a line from the centre of the heel toward the side of the shoes. The best way to do this is to push the tip of the pen against the inside of the folded part and pull it outward.

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

When you buy ribbon for pointe shoes, the ribbon usually comes in one piece. Cut this into two pieces (no, not four!) and place the centre of the ribbon on the inside sole and align the ribbons with the lines you have drawn on the inside of your shoe. Make sure that the ribbon is aligned to the front of the lines, i.e. the whole width of the ribbon should be placed on the toe-side of the line drawn.

Sew the ribbon using a doubled-up thread. You cannot sew the part of the ribbon that is in the middle (as it is on the hard inner sole) and you will just have to leave it as it is. However, be careful to ensure that the middle part of the ribbon does not become shorter than the inside width of the shoe. This might seem obvious, but if the ribbon is pulling the sides of the shoes together it not only prevents the shoes from fitting against your feet closely but can also lead to them becoming twisted. It will also increase the chances of some of the stitching coming undone while dancing.  The ribbon on either side of the sole should be sewn all the way around its edges, i.e. there should be a rectangle of stitching from the top edge of the shoe to just above the inner sole.  Some people sew only the top of the ribbon by the rim, but this is not necessarily secure, and does not necessarily keep the shoes properly on your feet.

Some dancers use only elastic with their shoes, but this is not advisable. Elastic has too much give and the pointe shoes should be fitted firmly to your feet.

DSC04482

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

However, using some elastic for added security is a good idea. Sew a piece of elastic, long enough to go around your ankle, onto the shoes. The best place is just on either side of the seam that runs along the heel. An alternative is to sew a very short loop of elastic just long enough to reach from the heel seam of the shoes to the back of the ankle (behind the achilles tendon) and thread the ribbon through it as you wrap it around your ankles. The heels are pulled up by the ribbons around your ankles and you do not have to risk the discomfort of having elastic around your ankle as well as the ribbons. (Appendix: https://kodamaballet.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/how-to-sew-ribbons-on-your-pointe-shoes-appendix/)

Whether you use elastic or not, it is a good idea to either rub your heels in resin or put a little water on your heels to stop the heels of your pointe shoes slipping off.

In order to keep the pointe shoes neatly hugging your feet, you can use thick cotton thread to make a “cat’s cradle”. You do this between the sides of the U or V shape at the upper front part of your shoes. You start with one side, about half way along the arch of your foot, pick a point on the other side of the shoe close to the point of the U or V, and then pick a point on the initial side a little closer to the front of the shoe than your initial point, followed by another pick on the other side a little further back from the middle of the U/V and so on. You will end up with a slightly higher than original line on the front of your feet in a slight V shape, which provides extra support and prevents your shoes from pulling out too much. This should be done with your feet in the shoes so you know how tight you should pull the thread (be careful!).

 ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Starting point ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Pick close to the centre on the other side ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Pick a little closer to centre from the inital side ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Pick a little further away from centre on the second side ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Half way ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

It creates a slightly higher box and the thread keeps the shoes nicely snug ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group
©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Why is “Entrechat Quatre” So Called?

One of the first things you will learn when you start learning batteries is entrechat quatre.

It is a jump from fifth position, and as you jump, you change your feet twice in the air – if you start with your right foot front fifth, you will beat once, in the air, with your left foot front, and land right foot front fifth position.

The word “entrechat” comes from old French, modification of Italian (capriolaintrecciata, literally, intertwined caper.

Now where does “quatre”, a number 4 come from? This question usually get my dancers thinking hard. The answer is: one has to count how many times your legs move outward and inward. Starting from the fifth position, one opens the legs (1), and then closes, having swapped front and back (2), open again (3) and then closes in fifth position with the initial foot front (4). The initial fifth position is not counted as it is movements that should be counted rather than positions.

In this manner, the same rule applies to entrechat six, entrechat huite, entrechat dix. The odd numbers of entrechat, however, are more complicated. They mean slightly different things depending on methods.

Landing position of entrechat trois and cinq (not Paris Opera version!) ©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

©Yuka Kodama Ballet Group

Entrechat trois, for example, usually means a jump where one takes off from fifth position squeezing legs into the fifth position in the air like soubresaut, and then changing feet and finally landing on one foot with the other in coup de pied position. However, in Paris Opera Ballet School, entrechat trois is a jump in which one takes off from the fifth position, squeezing first in fifth position as in soubresaut, and then changing feet and landing in fifth with the opposite foot front. This jump is called changement battu in RAD and ISTD, and entrechat royale in many other methods including Russian.

Entrechat cinq, usually is like an entrechat quatre but landing on one foot with the other in coup de pied position. In Paris Opera Ballet, one squeezes the legs initially in fifth, as in soubresaut, and then one does an entrechat quatre. This jump is not something that can be seen very much outside Paris Opera Ballet.

So, think of the fact that there have to be four (or whatever the number it might be) movements and show off your entrechat quatre (or six, or huite, or …)!