Watch Galina Mezentseva (Kirov Ballet) perform the Vaganova Port de Bras 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 extracted from the video "Classical Ballet Lesson" below:
(List here is not exhaustive. Please call before you go to avoid disappointment especially for the address & opening times. Let me know if there are discrepancies in the information or other shops you know that may be added to the list. Do note that in no way am I paid for this “advertisement”. It’s purely FYI.)
Stage Image 6299-2077 / 6299-2075 (Fax)
c/o Ms Tan
763 North Bridge Rd
(Between Textile Centre & Jln Sultan Mosque)
Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm
The Costumes Shop 6292-5529
c/o Mrs Loke
Golden Landmark #03-21
Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm
Branches: Orchard Road [Orchard Central #03-06] / East Coast [Roxy Square]
Please refer to their website for more details.
Capezio Singapore 6732-0129 (by OKH Ballet Centre)
583 Orchard Road #02-17
Forum The Shopping Mall
Mon – Sun 10:30am – 8:30pm
Also sells Music for ballet class CDs, DVDs, gifts, etc.
Chacott Freed of London 6733 6036
333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery #03-21A
Daily 10am – 8pm
At the Barre
|Plie||Bend||How to execute plie correctly|
|Rond de Jambe a Terre||Circling of the Leg on the Floor|
|Petit Battement||Small Beating|
|Adagio||At ease, Leisure|
|Rond de Jambe en L’air||Circling of the Leg in the Air|
|Grand Battement||Big Beating|
|En Croix||In the Shape of a Cross|
|En Dehors||Outwards, Away from Supporting Leg|
|En Dedans||Inwards, Towards Supporting Leg|
In the Centre
|Allegro||Brisk, Lively Movement|
|Changement de pied||Change of Foot|
|Cou de Pied||Neck of the Foot, meaning Ankle|
|En Face||In Front|
|Epaulement||Shouldering, with Shoulder Forward|
|Pirouette||Twirl, Turns on One Leg|
|Port de Bras||Carriage of Arms|
There are 3 main directions out of which comes the 8 Directions of the Body.
With Right Foot Front (the same can be done with Left Foot Front)
En face [In front]
The following are the 8 Directions of the Body in the whole ballet syllabus with which ballet becomes 3-dimensional.
I have incorporated them into a somewhat logical sequence for ease of memorization:
- 3 directions with leg pointing to the front
- 2 pointing to the side
- 3 pointing to the back
With Right Leg (the same can be done with Left Leg)
Croise Devant [Crossed in Front]
a la Quatrieme Devant [4th in Front]
Efface Devant [Shaded in Front]
a la Seconde [the Second]
Ecarte (Devant) [Wide Apart (to the Front)]
Epaule [Efface Derriere with Shoulder]
a la Quatrieme Derriere [4th Behind]
Croise Derriere [Crossed Behind]
If you have the luxury of being fitted a pair by your teacher or an experienced salesperson (not one who merely wants to get rid of their stocks or push for a popular brand), then go for it. But for some others who may not be as blessed, I have made an attempt here to help alleviate your woes. As you can also find out many more articles out there in cyberspace, what I’ll attempt to do here is to single out those “tougher” issues that most students ask.
Ballet slippers should fit like a glove –> Not too loose (big) and not too tight.
Too loose, your feet will “swim” in it and difficult to maintain any position.
Too tight restricts blood circulation causing dancing in it excruciatingly painful and unbearable.
To test for tightness lengthwise, stand with feet together in parallel. Bend your knees without lifting your heels. This will cause your feet to elongate slightly. Does any of your toes feel scrunched up at the tip of the shoe? If it does, then, it’s too tight. If there’s still space, then it’s too big.
To test for tightness widthwise, the toes and feet should feel comfortably flat inside the shoe but not too comfortable enough that you can wriggle your toes. Not too tight until your arches are forced upwards.
If you are unsure of the fit, you can always bring it to your teacher for his/her opinion. (Make payment for the shoe first and let shop know you are getting your teacher’s opinion.) If it is not the correct fit, you can always bring it back to the shop from where you purchased it and ask for an exchange.
Note: Exchanges are available only if you…
- Did Not sew anything on the shoe
- Did Not dirty it (anywhere!)
- Did Not pull the drawstring until it cannot get back to original position
- Did Not write anything on the shoe which renders it personal and un-resaleable.
(As pointe shoes are very expensive compared to slippers, a rule of the thumb is if you are a beginner, seek the advice of your teacher.)
Pointe shoes are very personal and intimate for your feet. No two feet are alike. So, you’ll have to experiment some to find out the best brand, make and model for your feet. As your feet grow, it will affect all your previous decisions you made on your current shoe. Sometimes, you may even have to change the brand. As you become more experienced, you’ll know what shoe fits best.
In addition to the above pointers, too big a pointe shoe will cause blisters to form. Too tight will cause bunion to form.
There are now so many different brands and models of pointe shoes that students are now spoilt for choice. However, this poses a problem, too, for many.
The style or model of shoe should basically follow the shape of your feet. If your feet are tapered, then get a pair that has a tapered block. If it’s broad, get one with a broad block.
However, one of the most important factor to consider is what happens when you go on demi-pointe. You are not going to dance on pointe all the time, you know. You’ll have to roll-down or roll-up thru’ the pointe some time, jump by using your legs and pushing off from your toes, etc. So, does your big toe get squeezed to one side inside the block when you go on demi-pointe? If so, then the block is too narrow. Continually dancing in it will cause bunion. You must go for comfort and safety for your feet (and dancing!) and NOT by the look. Although a tapered shoe looks better, that is not the way to choose a shoe! It may shorten your dancing career.
Strength of the Shank
A strong shank will cause the feet to work harder on pointe thus strengthening the feet at the same time. This type of shoe is usually recommended for beginners on pointe. However, those who are gifted with beautiful arched feet will benefit from it. Others not so will find it difficult to get onto the box let alone work the feet. Hence, a medium shank may be a better choice. (Again, if you are a beginner, let your teacher make that decision.)
How to Break-In a Pair of Pointe Shoe
As a beginner, DO NOT perform this yourself unless you are prepared to have a “white elephant” in your possession. Again….. yes, ask your teacher.
It is best NOT to break-in a pair from the middle where it is the weakest. ‘Cos once broken-in, it is at the point of no-return.
If you have a high arch, you can start by bending the shank at the back to 3/4s of the way. If you bought a 3/4 shank shoe, then forget this section!
If you have a low arch, start by bending it from the front. Now, this is really a tough one to do. You may need a stronger brother or boyfriend to do it for you. A rough gauge would probably be where your shoe bends at demi-pointe. By doing so, it would help you get onto the box easier.
For those with strong feet, the best shank material to get is the redboard. It is strong but pliable and so last longer. Again, this may just be a personal preference. You’ll have to try it to see.
If you have a favourite pair which fits just lovely but the shank is too hard and you have strong feet, you can try to remove one of the nail at the heel area of the sole. For that, you’ll have to remove the cotton lining inside the shoe, exposing the leather or cardboard upper shank. Pull it apart from the sole until you expose the nail. Use a plier and with strong hands, you can pull that out. The shoe would now have been “converted” into a 3/4 shank. Again this is for strong feet. If your feet is not strong enough, the shoe may become too “soft”.
Basically, you have to break-in where your arch “bends”. If you break-in at the correct spot, when on pointe, you should feel lifted and supported. But as the shank wears down, you may no longer feel it. Hence, in short, you’ll still need strong feet to go on pointe.
Plie is the most important movement in all of ballet exercises. Almost all of ballet movements begin and end with it. You use it when you jump, dart, turn, glide, land from jumps, and spring up whether on demi-pointe or on pointe. Hence, it is essential that we learn to execute it in a correct manner. When executed correctly, it prepares us for jumps; cushions us from the impact of landing from jumps; prevents injury; and enable us to turn from a stable “base” and not throw us off balance.
Plie also warms up the major muscle group of the legs, namely the thigh muscle. That is why it is usually done at the earlier part of the barre exercise, if not as the 1st exercise.
When executing the plie, care must be taken to turn out from the hips, keeping tail bone down thus lengthening the lower back. (This is important to note as this cushions your lower back from the impact of landing from jumps.) Keep upper back, sternum and abdominal muscles lifted the whole time. Ensure that the knee is over the toes, preferably over the 2nd or 3rd toe.
When executing plie in the different positions of the feet, ensure your weight is in the center of both legs, especially in 2nd & 4th position. Make sure the weight on both feet are evenly distributed. We have a tendency to stand on the back leg especially in 4th position. So, to find your center in the 4th crossed position: keep legs stretched and firmly planted on the floor, move your hips forward (shoulders respond accordingly keeping a vertical line with the hips) until you can’t move anymore without going off balance. This is your center.
When executing plie in all the positions of the feet, it is most important that you “feel” the stability of this position. Because this is where all your jumps, turns, darting, gliding and landing will be coming from. So, you must get used to the “feeling” of it until it becomes 2nd nature. Do not check the mirror unless it’s for alignment correction. Remember, there are no mirrors on stage for you to check. So, you need to rely on “feeling” the position and the movement. This applies to all the other ballet exercises.
Now, the process of plie. We must understand that plie is a movement, not a position. It is constantly moving until it either reaches the bottom of the plie (demi or grand) where it rebounds up or ends with stretched legs. This is especially true when preparing for pirouettes. The use of plie in preparation for pirouette is to initiate the torque force required to turn the body. Once you “sit” in your plie and hence not move, the initial force for pirouette is gone. The downward movement of the plie and upward force to releve helps to set the momentum going smoothly and efficiently.
Also, remember, in ballet we always always always stretch our muscles. At no one time do we ever “grip” our muscles. That’s why the muscularity of ballet dancers’ legs are lean and long, not bulky and rounded. Turning out the legs is also another contributing factor. Whether it is in plie or lifting of the legs, keep them stretched.
So, in the downward movement of the plie, we should think of resisting gravity while keeping the upper body lifted. This will avoid excessive use of the thigh muscles to push it down which adds on to muscle mass. Resisting gravity also helps to move the plie smoothly.
In the upward movement, think of bringing the inner thighs together while keeping the rotation of the whole leg. At the final stretch of the legs, do not “snap” the knees to straighten. Instead, keep the knees lifted while extending the stretch upwards to not just straighten the legs but the whole body too.