"Why are my echappes a la seconde so shallow?"
We know what a beautiful echappe is supposed to look like. It's a very classical step that virtually every ballerina performs in a petit allegro. She glides from fifth to second so smoothly, snapping up to the second en pointe and holding for a split second so effortlessly that it looks like anyone can do it. But when a new student attempts it, for some strange reason, she can't seem to get past a wide first position! What's up with that?
Most likely answer #1: You are hopping on top of your pointes instead of springing up to them, which makes the step more of a saute to second position rather than a glissade. Practice fast glissades side to side, concentrating on the demi-pointe as you degage out and pull the leg back in. Really work the foot against the floor so you feel it - and use it. Also, make sure you are using your toes to snap up to the pointe. Practice by starting in soussus, springing down to fifth and then out to the second, and once your feet hit the edges of your platforms, push past them and force the arch out with a snap.
Most likely answer #2: You may be gliding but you get stuck between first and second. In this case, you are probably not using your demi-plie. Be sure to give yourself time to go from first to second by taking a deep demi before you spring out to second. If you have a shallow demi, you simply won't have enough time to get from one position to the other and you will get stuck.
Most likely answer #3: You may glide and use your plie, but you are not using your core abdominal muscles and tops of your hips to stay lifted. If you feel "heavy" when you perform echappes, it may be because you are not engaging the muscles above your legs. Often, lax muscles result in a plopping down on top of the pointes rather than a lift that allows you to take more time to glide to the second and to balance longer en pointe. Be sure to hold your arms up higher than your waist to help you get more lift, and imagine you have a partner helping you keep your rib cage lifted out of your pelvis.
Lovely sharp echappes, especially when they are wide and long, look gorgeous on stage. That's why we see them so often! Happy dancing~