Thursday, October 5, 2017

Javelin your pique!

Yes, that's correct. I just used "javelin" as a verb!

Jessica Ennis, British track & field superstar
One of my biggest pet peeves as a ballet instructor is when students bend their knees as they pique to either a turn or a balance and no amount of my shouting, "Keep your knee straight!" seems to help.

Pique is a difficult concept to grasp. In our daily lives we always bend our knees when we walk or run or climb stairs, and certainly in ballet class, we are admonished to bend our knees during plies at the barre or when we jump in the center. But in order to pique properly, we need to keep our entire leg straight and to engage our hamstrings and quadriceps.

Let's use an example with pique arabesque. Here are the basics:

1. With your right leg in tendu devant (knee straight!), prepare with a fondu on the left leg.
2. Push off the left leg and arrive en releve with the right leg completely straight (toes pointed as the foot hits the floor; don't anticipate the releve by flexing the toes).
3. Pull up on the right side of the body so your torso doesn't pitch forward but remains upright.
4. Point the left foot and send the leg up into a long arabesque.
5. Finish with a failli through first position en releve and bend the right leg as the left leg swings through to tendu derriere croise.

Okay, that's simple enough. Except many, many dancers insist on bending the knee in step 2 and end up "climbing the stairs" to their balance en releve. How can we avoid this?

Let's go back to the javelin. I'm sure all of you can picture how a javelin thrower launches her javelin. She heaves it over her head and it arcs up through the air, landing with one end sticking straight into the ground.

In the example above, your right leg is the javelin and your left leg is Jessica Ennis. Launch your javelin in an arc so it goes up and out before landing in the ground. This will mean you place your toe (the sharp end of the javelin) into the ground a foot or more ahead of the rest of your body.

Think LAUNCH then ARRIVE. You launch your javelin and then the body arrives behind it.

Hope this helps! Happy dancing~

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