#LetUsLessonPlanForYou: The Bournonville Jeté—and the History Behind It

The Bournonville style is marked by its use of épaulement and quick footwork. Former Royal Danish Ballet dancer and San Francisco Ballet soloist Peter Brandenhoff explains that at the peak of the grand jeté, it should look as if the torso is sitting atop the legs, unaffected, and the narrow second position of the arms should be presentational—like you're "giving a little tray of petit fours to the teacher," he says.

We've got the history behind this move and the man for whom this style of ballet is named, too: Technique To preserve August Bournonville’s technique, Hans Beck (a successor of his at the Royal Danish Ballet) assembled six daily classes—one for each day of the week, except Sundays—from Bournonville’s teaching and choreography. Each class follows a typical ballet class structure, with barre work followed by adagio, tendu, pirouette, allégro and batterie exercises devised specially by Bournonville. Beck also made sure to include pertinent excerpts from Bournonville ballets in each daily class. Until 1951, this schedule was used for training at the Royal Danish Ballet School. (Its main flaw was its lack of surprise.) Now, Bournonville’s original technique is mixed with Russian, Anglo and English styles. The Royal Danish Ballet performs Bournonville's A Folk Tale at the 2005 Bournonville Festival. Photo by Martin Mydstkov Rønne, courtesy of RDB. Style Bournonville’s choreography features virtuosic male solos, filled with strength and ballon. This was unusual for its time; male dancers were little more than support for the ballerinas. He also skillfully blended mime and dance in his work for a well-rounded theater experience. In the Bournonville method, the head and upper body always follow the working leg. Despite the brilliant, fast footwork of the feet, the upper body displays ease. The essence of this style is lightness. Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.
Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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