B-Plus and Gut Check
by David Arce
Young dancers tend to spend a lot of onstage time standing in the B-plus position. They dance, wait in B-plus, dance again, and wait in B-plus again—sometimes for long periods. Yet when students finish a section of choreography, especially a difficult one, they often forget to enter this pose with as much attention as they give their dancing. Frequent mistakes include committing too quickly to B-plus and forgetting to use a healthy plié.
To correct this, remind students to take their time moving into B-plus, making sure to plié generously and present a fully turned-out heel before straightening the standing leg. Stepping onto a straight leg makes it hard to find maximum turnout; dancers must then readjust or stay in a subpar pose. When you set combinations to music, build in enough time for dancers to enter B-plus. This will help them develop the good habits needed for a successful B-plus position.
The circular port de bras, toward and away from the barre, is important for all students to practice, as it develops strength, flexibility, and musicality. In my classes, it usually shows up at the end of rond de jambe combinations and may find its way into center combinations as well.
Often when finding their full range of motion students do not reengage their lower core muscles before reversing the circle. To address this, remind them just before reversing to pull up their stomachs and find their lower core muscles. I call out “Gut check!” and see them all pull up instantly. It’s also helpful to give students seven counts, not eight, to complete the circle. This leaves one count for a gut check before reversing the circle.
David Arce is artistic director of Juline Regional Youth Ballet and a teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California. He trained at Ballet Yuma and San Francisco Ballet School and danced 12 seasons with SF Ballet.