Balanchine Pointe Paper Essay, Research Paper
George Balanchine, like many dance teachers, had a good idea of what he thought the ideal dancer should look like. Balanchine also felt that there should be a greater concentration on the female dancers pointe work. He had very high expectations for his dancers to be very precise, crisp, and quick in their movements on and off of pointe. He started by teaching each dancer the correct way to pointe their feet in their pointe shoes and how to stand in releve. Next the dancer inquires the strength and ability to rise to pointe with control which then leads to the ability to execute an echappe or sissonne. Another step that Balanchine put great emphasis on were bourrees, ?bourrees were of extreme importance to Balanchine.?
During my first few years in pointe classes I had many problems with the strength of my feet. For a long time I was unable to perform many of the steps given in class. During this time I was getting very frustrated at the fact that everyone else in my class was able to do bourees across the floor with out any help, and I was still holding on to the barre. My dance teacher knew that I was getting frustrated with my work so one day she pulled me aside and told me that the reason that I was having such a hard time was ?due to the fact that the arches in your feet are so high. You need to build more strength in your feet and work more on using and rolling through your whole foot.? This is one of the same ideas that Balanchine taught in his classes.
When I first started reading Balanchine Pointework by Suki Schorer, I did not think that there would be very many concepts about Balanchine?s technique of pointe work that would relate to the training that I have received through my training with Royal Academy of Dancing?s technique, but as I finished reading to book I realized that there were many concepts that were very similar. The steps that I feel were the most prominent in the book and in my personal training were the pointing of the foot, articulating the foot while rising and lowering from pointe, the quick action of echappe and sissonne, and the idea of fast and furious bourrees.
As I read the section on pointing the foot in the pointe shoe I was pleased to see that I was trained and continue to do so in the manner that George Balanchine trained his dancers. He wanted the toes not to be straight in the shoe but slightly curled under so as to work against the leather sole of the shoe. One aspect that I did find to be different was the ?winging? of the foot. In my training with my teacher at home, she liked the idea of a winged foot. She thought, ?The winged foot gave a more curved line to the leg. It gives the leg more of an upward look and makes the leg seem to be longer and even higher.? I always liked the look of a winged foot, but I soon realized that I was training in the wrong way. Why would you want to train with a winged foot half the time while dancing on pointe with a straight foot? I realized that I was just holding myself back.
In terms of rising to pointe, I was taught in the same idea as Balanchine. He preferred the roll up as opposed to the spring up because a roll up demanded more strength and control on the part of the dancer. My Royal Academy of Dancing teacher, Margo Kons, also agreed, and taught the idea of using the feet more to gain more control of the feet and increase the turnout. This idea changed though when we moved on to performing steps like echappes and sissonnes. She, as did Balanchine wanted more attack in these steps. She would often yell out words on the exact counts that we were to be in each position. As like Balanchine?s dancers I use the method of a sharp slide to second position, where both feet move equal distances from the center to a wide second. The only reason that the side of the step would decrease would be if the music were too swift to make the echappe so wide.
I feel that overall my pointe training in the past has had many similarities to the training of Balanchine. I feel that I have received an even better understanding of Balanchine?s technique of training since I have been at Mercyhurst College. Suzanne Farrell felt that ?this man knew exactly what he was doing.? And if this were true then I would like to continue training with his technique; because he has taught some of the most beautiful dancers ever.
Ferrell, Suzanne. Holding on Air. Summit Books. NY,NY c.1990 p.111
Conversation with Margo Kons. Ballet Teacher. 3-15-99.
Conversation with Pamela McCray. Ballet Teacher. 3-15-99.
Schorer, Suki. Balanchine Pointwork. Society of Dance History Scholars. NY, NY. C.1995