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Fixing the Fouetté

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These are the notes from an class I taught on the subject at the Dance Teacher Summit in 2011.  For clarification, these skills are meant to be cumulative, over years of training and not progressions to be drilled one class after the other in short term training.  If you have been working on fouetté turns with dancers and having a problem with execution, a suggestion is to go through the list of movement components individually and find the one(s) that is/are problematic and start by correcting those first and then re-evaluate.

Foundational Components

1 - Plié and relevé on the supporting leg 

Observing the foot barefoot (if possible) and correct any issues you find

- Maintain weight distribution in a tripod (pad of the big toe, little toe and center of the heel) through the movement of plié and straightening

- Maintain an even weight distribution across the metatarsal shelf in relevé.

- Control the foot alignment and weight distribution through the transition from plié to relevé and back into plié.

Observing the ankle alignment and correct any issues you find

- Maintain a neutral ankle alignment - as related to the position of the lower leg and foot

     * In plié, watch for gripping of the anterior tibialis.  The front of the ankle should remain soft on the descent.

     *  In plié, maintain the weight balance as described above.  Watch for rolling in or out in the arch.

     * In relevé, watch for rolling in and out.

     * Press the ball of the foot into the floor to create the relevé action as opposed to popping up.

Observing the knee alignment and correct any issues you find

- Maintain a neutral alignment as related to the hip and lower leg / ankle.

- Watch for changes in the knee alignment, especially through the plié and relevé transitions

- Correct hyperextension, encourage dancers to find straight instead.

- Remind dancers to fully straighten their knee (without going into hyperextension).

Observing the hip / pelvis alignment and correct any issues you find

- Maintain a neutral pelvic position

     * Watch for anterior tilt of the pelvis, often seen in dancers with short or tight hip flexors and sometimes compensating for a shallow plié

     *  Watch for posterior tilt of the pelvis, often seen in dancers with short or tight hamstrings anend dancers who don't understand the difference between dropping their tailbone and tucking under.

- Maintain turnout at the top of the thigh in the hip socket

- Consistency in the amount of turnout throughout the plié and relevé.

2 - Movement of the Gesture Leg

Turnout

- Maintain turnout at the top of the thigh in the hip socket.

- The gesture leg does not turn out from losing turnout on the supporting leg.

- The dancer's side alignment is dependent on his/her turnout.

Battement Devant

- Pelvis remains neutral

     * Avoid tucking the pelvis under to try to increase the height of the gesture leg instead of working at the height allowed by the hamstring mobility.

     * Work on hip / thigh dissociation to avoid hip hike.

- Maintain a consistent height to the gesture leg through the plié and relevé

Rond de jambe front to side

- Maintain the turnout of both legs.

- Open the leg to the dancer's natural side position.

- Maintain the height of the leg throughout the movement.

- Maintain the pelvis over the supporting leg.

- Work on the timing of the gesture leg to coordinate with the supporting leg plié and relevé.

Beat

- Maintain the position of the thigh during the back / front beat

- Control the movement to avoid snapping.

- Watch for torque at the knee.

3 - Rotation of the Body

Posture

- Maintain neutral alignment throughout the overall body

     * Watch for forward / backward hinging of the torso on the pelvis

     *  Maintain alignment throughout the transition between plié and relevé

Shoulder Girdle 

- Arm placement is such that torso / ribcage position is neutral

- Arm height is regulated to avoid lifting shoulders or extending spine

- The 2nd position arms are not opened too far side (watch the upper arm at the shoulder socket)

- The distance of the hands from the torso allows for the upper body to remain stacked over the hips

- There is enough strength and endurance in the deltoid muscles to maintain a supported arm position.

- The shoulder blades remain flat against the ribcage - avoid protracting /retracting / winging.

Timing

- Time the descent into plié to avoid sitting in the plié and losing the potential energy created during the plié.

- Control the descent to avoid dropping into the plié.

- Work on the timing to transition between the plié and the relevé smoothly.

- Coordinate the timing of the gesture and supporting leg movements.

- Coordinate the timing of the arms with the legs.

Spotting

Balance

Preparatory Exercises / Progressions

Single Leg Plié and Relevé

  • Coupé  
    • parallel barre
    • parallel center
    • turned out barre
    • turned out center
  • Retiré 
    • turned out barre
    • turned out center
  • Leg held devant 
    • 45 degrees barre
    • 90 degrees barre
    • 45 degrees center
    • 90 degrees center
  • Leg held à la seconde
    • 45 degrees barre
    • 90 degrees barre
    • 45 degrees center
    • 90 degrees center

Rond de Jambe en l’air

  • Grand rond de jambe en l’air flat
    • 45 degrees barre
    • 90 degrees barre
    • 45 degrees center
    • 90 degrees center
  • Grand rond de jambe en l’air relevé
    • 45 degrees barre
    • 90 degrees barre
  • Rond de jambe en l’air en dehors flat
    • barre
    • center
  • Rond de jambe en l’air en dehors relevé
    • barre

Putting it all together

  • Preparation exercises at the barre
    • Plié 5th, brush the leg front, open side
    • Plié 5th, brush the leg front, AST relevé on supporting leg, open side
    • Plié 5th, brush the leg front, AST relevé on supporting leg, open side, beat back /front
    • Plié 5th, brush the leg front, AST relevé on supporting leg, open side, beat back / front w/ turn
  • Preparation exercise in the center
    • Pirouette from 5th 
    • Pirouette from 5th with balance ending retiré
    • Pirouette from 4th back 
    • Pirouette from 4th back with balance ending retiré
    • Pirouette from 4th  or 5th ending developpé front in plié
    • Pirouette from 4th or 5th ending developpé front in plié, relevé open leg to 2nd
    • Pirouette from 4th or 5th and 1 fouetté
  • Building up repetitions
    • continue to add additional fouetté

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Dance - Teaching Beyond the Steps

The reason behind the title of the abc for dance curriculum series

Teaching dance is more than have a student copy steps that you dance.  It is about teaching a solid foundation that can be built upon.  Encouraging students to look at the qualities that make up a movement.  Including expression in class and performance and kindling a passion for learning the art and sharing it with others. 
  
There is a certain spark, that elusive something, that makes you want to watch one dancer a little bit more than another.  This can't always be taught, but it should always be given a nuturing and supportive environment to show itself. 
 
Our goal as teachers should be to create well rounded dancers who learn how to think, create and react as well as they dance.  This background will give them the self confidance they need to trust themselves and share more than just their steps with the audience.
Too often students are precluded from following their dreams into a professional career due to gaps in training, injuries (often from over use or poor bio-mechanics) or burn out.  While a very small percentage of students will become professional dancers, we should train every student to their full potential.  The skills that are taught during a well rounded and presented dance education carry into every aspect of a student's life and help to shape them into the people that they will become.
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