Dance Teacher Tips
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

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They relate to animals:

1. Ailes de pigeon, a type of cabriole, means “pigeon’s wings.”

2. Chaînés papillon is chaînés with butterfly arms.

3. Pas de cheval, meaning “horse step,” resembles a horse pawing the ground.

4. Poisson is a position like a fish, with legs together and back arched.

5. Saut de chat, or “cat’s jump,” is a grand leap.

They relate to objects:

6. Bras en couronne indicates arms in the shape of a crown above the head.

7. Chaînés means “chains” or “links” and refers to half-turns done in a straight line.

8. Cloche, or “bell,” is a series of grands battements swinging front to back repeatedly.

9. En croix is to do an exercise in the shape of a cross (front, second, back, second).

10. Pas de ciseaux, meaning “scissors step,” is a switch leap.

They could be applied to food prep:

11. Ballotté, or “tossed,” is a jump with a quick, low développé of the working leg.

12. Battement is a “beating” action of the working leg.

13. Coupé, or “cut,” is a small intermediary step, usually with the working foot pointed at the supporting ankle.

14. Fouetté is the famous turn in Swan Lake that means “whipped.”

15. Frappé, meaning “struck,” is an accented extension of the working leg from the knee.

Photo: Thinkstock

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