Grand Battement to Side and Back
by David Arce
To obtain a higher extension in grand battement à la seconde, students often rock the weight back into the heel of the standing foot. Because they’re off balance, this quickly snowballs into gripping the barre too hard, even hanging onto it—which causes the torso to contort and the working elbow to sink.
An easy way to fix this mistake is to remove the ballet barre from the equation. Have students attempt the same grand battement standing a foot away from the barre, without touching it. To stay upright, dancers will have to be centered over the standing leg and the ball of the foot. Remind students to push into the floor with the sole of the working foot as they begin the battement. This helps them transfer the weight correctly in the standing leg, and prevents them from lifting the working leg in a turned-in position.
Most students love the sensation of a grand battement derrière into arabesque. This common step needs constant maintenance, as students can form bad habits quickly. For example, they may rock back on the supporting heel and sit into the supporting hip, which disengages all turnout and causes extreme strain in the standing knee.
Here’s a simple way to prevent this: have students slightly lift the supporting heel at the battement’s highest point. Say, “I should be able to slide a credit card under your heel.”
Remind dancers, as they lift the heel, to increase their turnout (and maintain that increased turnout as they close in fifth); engage the supporting inner thigh; and pull up the torso, rather than tipping forward. Once your students can feel all of these sensations, they will be back on track to performing the picture-perfect grand battement derrière into arabesque.
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.