Why are my bourrees either too stiff or too bent? I can't find a happy medium!
Steps that appear to be so effortless when performed by professional dancers on stage often feel and look so clunky in the classroom.
Let's break it down:
1. A bourree must have an impetus somewhere in your body. In the simplest terms, though, it is either a pique with the front leg or a pique with the back leg. It can start flat or from sousous but one foot must move in a direction. And the way that foot moves is pique, i.e. a straight-kneed step up to pointe.
2. Next, the knees must bend. They are bent softly, though. It is not a demi-plie en pointe. The biggest obstacle to a pretty bourree is the knee position. You will
need to experiment with how bent your knees are when you bourree. Go
ahead and exaggerate the plie and see how quickly you can move. Try the
opposite with very stiff knees.
3. The knees must stay together. Yes, they open a bit as you travel but they are typically kept tight together so they appear to be one leg moving swiftly across the floor. Remember: the goal of bourree is to appear to glide through the space, not run or drag.
4. The toes lift briefly off the ground, alternating from one foot to the other. The best way to get this feeling in your body is to stand facing the barre and alternate front coupe and back coupe without changing position, just up-down-up-down, first slowly then faster and faster until the foot does not lift fully to coupe but just off the floor. This will prevent you from dragging one foot behind the other when you are bourreeing across the floor.
5. Remember which foot is driving the bourree. It is the opposite leg of the direction in which you are moving. Say I am moving laterally to the right with my right leg croise; then my back leg, my left leg, is the driving force. Perhaps I am moving backwards or on a diagonal, then the leg in the front will drive. Again, this will prevent drag.
6. Keep your upper body still and move across the floor using your hips and upper legs. If you can think about your rib cage lifting up and out of your hips, you will travel more smoothly than if you have a stiff torso.
7. One final tip: do not grip your glutes! If you tighten your derriere muscles, your legs will be very stiff. Simple as that.