Pliés and Tours in Men’s Class
by David Arce
To start men’s class, my male students and I do 32 push-ups to music (usually at a coda or fouetté tempo) followed by what I call “manly pliés” at the barre. These consist of two demi-pliés, a grand plié, and cambrés in each position. I add a special port de bras to the demi-pliés as follows:
Students start with the working arm in second position. As they bring the arm into first position at the bottom of a slow, deep plié, they also make a fist, squeezing as hard as they can and flexing their biceps and pectoral muscles at the same time. As students straighten the legs, they relax the fist and extend the arm, bringing it through second and then straight out with the fingers spread, thumb on top. Repeat for the second demi-plié.
This port de bras is an opportunity to increase upper body muscle tone, and it prepares male students for other technique exercises that follow.
When male students practice tours en l’air, they often need reminders to clean up their preparation port de bras. Unchecked, they may try to wind up or otherwise distort the port de bras upon takeoff in hopes of completing more rotations in the air. Here’s a way to correct a misplaced port de bras: have students do the entire tour—preparation in sous-sus, jump, and landing—with arms in high fifth, instead of the usual port de bras into first position. This forces them to use their legs and core muscles to rotate, not their arms. It’s also a good way to correct torso placement if they are pitching forward in their preparations or traveling during the jump. Once students realize they don’t need their arms to rotate, allow them to use their normal port de bras.
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.