By Arpitha Bhat, Neerja Chandan & Maya Haridas, from En Avant Nov-Dec 2022
When you started ballet, did you ever wonder how the little hops and skips you did would turn into the grand, spectacular movements that you watched the “big girls” do? In this article, you’ll get to see how four simple steps progress, grow and transform through the grades.
The Progression of the Arabesque
Primary – 3 walks and 1 clap ↑
This is the start of an arabesque’s journey. Primary students get their first taste of this position in a set exercise called three walks and one clap. The foot of the working leg remains on the floor. The teacher will use this position to get the foundation- hips, weight over the front foot and pointed back toes.
Grade 1 – Pose set exercise ↑
Now students learn to keep their balance while raising their working leg slightly off the floor. The arms are in demi bras which reminds the students to keep their weight forward.
Grade 2 – Set adage ↑
The leg here is raised to a minimum of forty five degree angle. The arms are in the first arabesque armline, with squared shoulders and front arm at eye level. Students work very hard to achieve this arm line in this grade with correct positioning of the back shoulder.
Grade 3 – Pose set exercise ↑
The arms are in the same position as in grade 1 while the legs graduate to demi pointe.
Grade 4 – Pose temps leve in arabesque ↑
The arabesque finally takes off, keeping the first arabesque armline and focusing on a pointed underneath foot.
Grade 6 – Arabesque on demi-pointe ↑
Finally, we’ve reached the position that the word ballet brings to most of our minds
In Grade 6, the students have to have their arabesques up with ninety degrees as the lower limit. They must get their legs up higher without losing the squareness of the hips.
The Progression of a Jump
Pri-Primary – Sauté in parallel ↑
This little jump has a long way to go. It forms the basis of all the jumps you learn throughout the years. With the feet in parallel and pointing when in the air, students in pre primary learn the pattern: bend, stretch, bend.
Primary – Saute in 1st ↑
This simple jump starts from a plié in first position. The teacher ensures that the students learn the action of pulling their knees up fast and keeping their toes pointed in the air.
Grade 1 – Changement ↑
The jump gets slightly trickier from here. You jump from with your feet in third position and change them in the air. Arms are kept in bras bas.
Grade 2 – Soubresaut ↑
Here the students jump from third position, with the knees pulled up and feet pointing down to the floor. This jump is landed in third without changing feet.
Grade 2 – Échappe Sauté ↑
In Grade 2, the students learn to jump from a turned out third and land in second position. Thighs must keep pushing back. Then they push off from second position and land back in third.
Progression of Attitude Devant
Pre-Primary – Skipping position ↑
Skipping position is the foundation for the attitude devant. The leg is lifted slightly off the floor, the feet point downwards and students must hold their skirts.
Pre-Primary – Skipping ↑
Skipping is a travelling step and a favourite of many young students. They must maintain the skipping position while jumping up and moving forward.
Grade 1 Posé temps-levé in attitude devant ↑
With the skipping position in place, the arms are now added to the step. The student steps de côté into first position and lifts the leg into a low attitude devant, and performs a temps-levé by sweeping the leg through first and then up.
Grade 5 – Attitude devant on a flat foot ↑
The leg is lifted higher. The focus is kept on lifting the leg from underneath. The arms are either in opposition or ordinaire.
Progression of Reverence
Primary – Curtsey holding skirt ↑
The students hold their skirts and keep their feet at the back, pointed. Knees face sideways.
Grade 1 – Curtsey with arms to second ↑
Instead of holding the skirt, the student now keeps their arms in à la second whilst doing the same curtsey.
Grade 2 – Reverence with arms to demi bras ↑
While stepping into a reverence the arms are taken into demi bras and the foot is in degage devant.
Pointe work – Reverence with arms through attitude into demi-seconde ↑
In this reverence,, the student takes the arms into attitude in opposition. The foot is then taken to the back and into cou de pied, bringing the arms down to demi seconde.
Advanced – Full reverence ↑
And finally, the most elaborate reverence. After stepping through to second and attitude devant a terre, the arm is extended at the back while the other is bent towards the chest as the leg comes around into the cou de pied position derrière. As the dancer straightens out the supporting leg, the arms open into an open arabesque.