Élancer – Swiftly Darting in Ballet + Life
“With care, and skill, and cunning art,
She parried Time’s malicious dart,
And kept the years at bay,
Till passion entered in her heart and aged her in a day!”
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Seven Basic Movements of Ballet
This week we have been exploring the theme of darting as part of my series on the 7 Basic Movements of Ballet. Hummingbirds and bees hover, then dart. When we throw a dart, we zero in on our target, take aim, and strive to send it with swift efficiency to the center of the bullseye. Darting movements are required for fencing or tennis, and many other sports.
The feeling of darting is powerful, decisive, assertive, direct, strong, even a bit risky and brave. Stabbing, slicing, bounding, pouncing, snatching–all involve the sharp quickness of darting.
The Laban Movement Analysis Effort most closely resembling darting is “Punch,” which is direct, strong, and quick. This type of movement has a specific focus or sense of directionality, and moves in that dimension very suddenly.
Although individual parts of the body may also dart in dancing – they eyes, an arm, a leg, we generally think of darting the whole body through space, as in the jumps of petit and grand allegro, especially speedy ones like glissade, jete, sissonne, and entrelacé. Which is your favorite allegro step, and which do you think best represents the quality of darting?
Don Quixote as exemplar of balletic darting
The ballet “Don Quixote” includes some of my favorite examples of darting in classical ballet with virtuosic feats of speed, amplitude, and sheer energy. It’s really such a fun, thrilling performance to participate in as well as to watch. I can’t decide if I prefer the Barishnikov/Harvey version or Acosta/Nunez. Who do you think does it best?
Eliza Gaynor Minden states in The Ballet Companion:
“In music, allegro means ‘at a brisk tempo’; in Italian it means ‘merry.’ […] allegro is ‘grand’ when it includes big, traveling jumps and turns and ‘petit’ when the steps are smaller and faster. […] those moments when dancers devour space, attain and maintain amazing elevation, change position midair, and land with effortless precision–those grand allegro moments are ballet at its most electrifying.”
New Ballet Technique Podcast & Video
This week I recorded “Élancer – Swiftly Darting,” the last in my podcast series on the seven basic movements of ballet.
Getting down to the specifics of how to dart in ballet, this week on my YouTube Channel I’m sharing the exercise of battements frappés, which is a beat of the leg, striking the ball of the foot against the floor, triggering the toes to point in a stabbing sort of kick. These movements are explosive and forceful, yet precise and controlled.
When we use this sort of force to spring into the air and then land on a new foot, it becomes petit jeté, and later we perform our largest leaps in the same way, with the leading foot brushing into grand battement and then coordinating movements through plie and with the arms, head, and entire body throwing into spectacular flying shapes in the air.
In yoga, we don’t typically dart through space, but we do practice the focus required to respond appropriately to what is whizzing all around us, to act with discernment and avoid impulsivity. We can move quickly when necessary, but also maintain control. I have been using the tools of yoga and coaching recently to maintain some equanimity in the midst of frenetic energy.
In fact, I experienced a recording malfunction while attempting to capture a full-length practice this week, and I sadly didn’t have time to re-record the whole session. Life happens! I’ll record again next week, but I did want to share a little taste of the practice, so here’s a new little 10-minute breath and meditation about the release of Autumn:
Where do you need to take quick and decisive action right now? What do you need to practice to move powerfully in the direction of your choosing? May you move with swiftness and clarity in the direction of your dreams!
Blythe Stephens, MFA
she/her or they/them
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