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 Post subject: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2001 5:32 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
<BR>I think that most of us would agree that first position of the feet can be a very individual thing. It depends on the hyperextension or conversely, the bow of the knee. It also depends on the degree of true turnout from the hip. It is getting into first position that concerns me.<P>I had the occasion the other day of observing a very fine teacher demonstrate this to an adult class of absolute beginners – literally their first class. She did what I have seen one other teacher do who was also very knowledgeable. In all else, I agree with their methods of teaching ballet technique – except in this one instance. What she did was to demonstrate and tell the class that to get into first position they should stand first with their feet facing forward, side by side, almost touching – some call it sixth position. And, then with weight back on their heels, bring the ball and toes of the foot back into first.<P>This is directly contrary to how I was taught it and how I always taught it to my students. I always told them to stand with both feet facing forward but with space between the feet to then bring the weight forward and bring the heels forward into first. When I do this I can feel my hips open and my weight is on the forward portions of my feet – where the ballet alignment should be, even though the heels are in contact with the floor.<P>In the first method – bringing the toes back – I can’t feel a corresponding opening of the hips and it leaves my weight back on my heels. An experienced dancer would automatically bring the weight forward, but for beginners this seems to be a very contrarian thing to do. It places the beginner exactly where they shouldn’t be – back on their heels.<P>I realize that most of us with ample experience probably do neither – we place our barre foot in the first position that our bodies have learned is ours, and then pointe the outside foot in tendu, and close to first. But my concern here is with beginners.<P>What say you?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2001 7:03 pm 
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
I've never thought about this before, but what you're saying makes perfect sense Basheva. Doing it the way you described would encourage beginners to notice the back of the legs too, which often seem to get lost in the cloudy nether regions of back there somewhere. The older we are the more "front dimensional" we get, I have heard that adults have a hard time moving because they only recognize moving from the front of the body, and really only from the neck up--which is probably why they often look stiff and have a hard time changing direction.


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2001 8:52 pm 
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Location: BC , Canada
From the first example I can just picture the feet rolling forward and the pelvis coming forward.<P> I too begin in 6th (parallel). Then extend the leg ..one at a time, parllel about 45 degrees, turn out from the hip and place the foot to the floor (the foot is held flexed through out). With the use of change of weight it brings the body off of the heels. Also this method stresses that the student should not try to force the turn out past their natural capacity for it.<BR>I use this method to teach beginers to find their "natural" turn out and I also use it as part of my barre warm up for more experienced students.. it is the first exercise we do at every barre.<P>Rabbit

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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2001 4:47 am 
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Location: Australia
agree with you, basheva. and surprised that any good teacher would do as you describe, for the same reasons you mention.<P>i am inclined to avoid any torquing motions with beginners, whose knees may be vulnerable - i am talking adults here - were you? can't remember......<P>so i avoid any active 'turn out the legs/feet' motions when the weight is on the leg/foot, at this stage. i think that really is for later, when they have begun to learn about the spiralling ACTION of turning out, rather than just the position of 'being' turned out. (i imagine someone is going to tell me that this is what this exercise is for.....but i believe that the beginner student is not yet equipped to find and feel this safely.....)<P>so, for beginners, we sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of us, and shake the legs to relax them, and let them flop to the side (straight) and then look - to see what our natural unforced turnout IS (often one leg slightly more or less than the other...). then we stand up, and replicate that position. <P>over time, they learn that you can safely go for a little bit more than that amount of turnout, as long as you maintain leg alignment. however, i am surprised to notice that most of them are very cautious about this sort of thing, and never push themselves (so far, at least!). perhaps i rave on too much about physiology and safety!<P>if i ever use that action that you describe, basheva, and i do with vocational students who have learned how to ACTIVELY turn out - in 1st or 2nd, then we do it as you suggest, weight on the balls of the feet.<P>sorry for answer which became long!

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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2001 6:23 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Yes, I was speaking in this instance of adults - but I have seen it also (the wrong way) done with children. Makes me cringe when I see it. <P>Another thing I see that really upsets me is that the teachers (more than I care to think about) almost never talk about the distance that needs to be maintained between the heels in first position. In fact I hear just the opposite - that the heels <B>must</B> touch. Which of course is not only not true - it is incorrect for someone with hyperextended knees.<P>So, it is quite common to see the student with hyperextended knees putting their heels together which scrunches (sorry for the scientific word here) their knees - and therefore the knee can't be straight and supported correctly.<P>This of course affects all subsequent action. I see the grievious consequences mostly in ronde de jambe par terre, where each time the foot passes through first position the knee has to loosen to allow the passage. Or in the effort to make to keep the knee straight the student ends up touching ankles briefly in the back (assuming this is en dehor) then passing through first and then touching ankles in the front before moving on through the circle. I call it the click-click method. Click in the back, pass through first, then click in the front, and keep going. In all cases - it destroys the entire goal of the exercise, which is the smooth rotation of the hip.<P>What amazes me is that I have seen this countless times, through 3l years of classes, with otherwise terrific teachers, with splendid backgrounds, and no correction of this most basic fault.


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2001 4:21 pm 
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"the click-click method"? if it makes you feel any better, basheva, i have never seen it! Image

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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2001 5:09 pm 
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LOL - well, Grace you have probably seen it on the students of other teachers, only I am not describing in clearly. <P>Let's say that the correct position for a particular student in first position is when the heels are two inches apart. When the student brings the foot from the back pointe (in doing rond de jambe par terre en dehors) in passing through first the student must maintain that 2 inch opening all the way through the entire back to front movement.<P>When the foot first hits the back of the standing ankle - then opens two inches to pass through first, and then hits the front of the standing ankle, my shorthand for that is "click - click" - I would tell my students you don't hit (click) anything as your pass from the back through first to the front. <P>Is that any clearer? LOL - I am sure it isn't !! <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2001 7:56 pm 
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Location: Canberra, Australia
By the sound of it, I'm lucky to have had it explained responsibly to me. The way we first did it was much like what Grace described I think. We lay on the floor, face up and raised one leg (parallel) to 45 degrees and then rotated it from the hip making sure we kept our feet and ankles perfectly still - I remember a big emphasis on that. <P>Then we stood and picked the foot up, rotated the leg and put the foot back down. <P>The other 'test' was to make sure you could get your knees directly over your toes in plie. <P>Grace - it's funny you should mention that your adults are very careful not to force their turnout - I was wondering if it was just me - obviously not. For me, it isn't just a case of wanting to avoid injury (although of course that's very important to me) - it's more a case of taking my time to get this right in the purest way I possibly can - I think that sense of doing it the right way, rather than by any means possible (which I would have done as a kid) comes as you get older.<P>Danni Image<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2001 5:44 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Danni - some of us get a little more thoughtful as we get older...LOL<P>Also some additional aches and pains reminds us to be thoughtful.<P>I think the test of knees over toes is one of the best tests for the accuracy of turnout. <P>What I was describing above was not a test for turnout - but for using the individual first position correctly. If ankles hit in ronde de jambe par terre coming through first position, then the position is not being used correctly.


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2001 12:58 pm 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
Two things:<P>1. While many dancers with hyperextension remember to keep some distance between their heels in first position, they do not often remember or even recognize that a certain distance must also be kept between the feet in 5th position to also allow for completely pulling up the legs. In this respect,there is not a great deal of difference between my 4th and 5th position, except, of course, when an open 4th is called for. <P>2. Regarding my good friend, "Rhonda Jambe" (tee hee), I was taught by one teacher that after bringing the foot and leg completely through first position coming forward, to then cross just slightly before continuing the movement. This slight, almost imperceptible adjustment, she felt, would ensure that I feel my turnout and pulled up hips in a way that I might not otherwise achieve due to the rather -- how shall we say, "loose-hipped" -- feeling I might have due to my rather pronounced hyperextension. It does seem to work for me. But I think it would take a good teacher's judgment to decide if a particular student had the acumen to understand the reason for making certain small but important adjustments in order to get optimum benefit from their barre work. <P>I would not bombard beginning students with too many concepts. I was very interested in your explanation of finding the first position. I think you could give Peff Modelski a run for her money.


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2001 3:02 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Christina - I have seen the correction that you are describing - to the front. And I surely can understand the hesitancy of telling a beginner to do this because they might be prone to exaggerating it. <P>How about to the back in en dedans?


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2001 3:19 pm 
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Location: Australia
"Peff Modelski " ?!?<P>we REALLY do need a smiley with a quizzical look on it's face - i'd be using it all the time.....<P>basheva, i think i understood. one 'problem' i have, is that all my friends who are teachers are good ones! haha........ Image<P>this issue DOES come up at teachers seminars, but i find that everyone always agrees that this IS the way to do it - it's mostly not news to them, and no-one has any better suggestions, so.....end of subject....while at the same time, everyone acknowledges that it requires subtlety to get it just right with each such student. my own concern - being the opposite kind of body/legs - is helping people to understand how to get legs that won't look straight easily, TO look straight. that's jolly hard, too!

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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2001 5:03 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
You are very right, Grace - I have those kinds of legs - and I have spent 31 years working on making them LOOK straight - when they really are straight.<P>However, the slightly bowed leg (like mine) is also wonderful for jumping - and it is a sturdy construct - so there is an upside.<P>Of course I did take one class from a RAD teacher who said she would <u>MAKE</u> them straight. She actually told me to PUSH back on my knees. I never went back there and shuddered for anyone else who took classes from her. She lasted for several years and finally went bankrupt.


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 1:21 pm 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
In answer to Grace:<P>Peff Modelski writes monthly column for "Dancer," a newspaper-type publication in U.S.<P>She teaches in NYC and give workshops around the country.<P>Each column devotes an entire page to fine tuning an aspect of ballet class, such as epaulement. <P>There is a "Dancer" website where you can find out more about this publication and columnist/teacher.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Assuming First Position.............
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2001 1:58 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
That sounds very interesting to me, Christina - I would love to read and - yes - write - such items. It is the fine points of ballet that really intrigue me. That's why I love answering students questions.<P>I could discuss a tendu all day.....but who would want to spend a day with me to do that? LOL


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