July 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Moving Into Attitude Derrière & Développé

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Moving Into Attitude Derrière & Développé

By David Arce

Tip 1
I frequently end barre combinations with a pirouette into attitude derrière. It’s good for students to feel the passé-to-attitude transition and practice balancing out of it. Left unchecked, however, students may contort their torsos and lean toward the barre trying to get the attitude leg up high.

To correct this, try standing behind the student, who starts in passé devant relevé, one hand on the barre. Place your fingers half an inch from her ribs on the supporting leg side. Have her move very slowly through each position of the passé-to-attitude transition—retiré, closed passé derrière, and, lifting the toes and knee of the working leg, attitude derrière—making sure her torso never leans sideways into your grasp. Work up to regular speed, and then add the pirouette.

Tip 2
Another transition to watch is développé to devant or à la seconde; often dancers turn in when they try to lift their legs beyond their abilities. Novice students, in particular, often find it hard to maintain the sensation of maximum turnout from passé to full extension. I find that practicing développé through coupé helps my lower-level students.

Try this combination as a “tune-up” exercise every so often. From fifth position, coupé slowly on counts 1 and 2. “Micro-attitude” (attitude at dégagé height, the bent leg enabling maximum turnout) on count 3. Développé on counts 4, 5, and 6, but only to the height at which the student can maintain maximum turnout and square placement. (Don’t allow any turning in—the leg will be significantly lower than the student is used to, but this is her true développé height.) Tendu on count 7, and close in fifth on count 8. Repeat to à la seconde and on the other side.

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.