How to Improve Your Classical Ballet Adage
In ballet, the word adage translates to "Slow Sustained Movement" and this tells us how we should approach improving our adage work.
The priority should be to perform adage movements without wobbling and to eliminate any shuffling when standing on one leg, and such control can only be achieved when the body is placed in perfect alignment. Starting from the feet up:
Knees over toes in demi-plié
Pelvis/hips in the correct position not sticking out at the back or tucked under
Ribcage positioned correctly over hips and not protruding forward or sitting down on the waist line
Shoulders relaxed and not raised or slumped forward
Head on a long neck positioned over the body without the chin tucked in or jutting too far forward
Without strong core and back muscles, most adage movements cannot be well performed, so regular work on the core and back is very important.
Even and balanced turn out between both legs and feet is crucial. Many dancers present strong adage at the barre but fail in the centre because they can't hold and sustain the turn out equally between both legs and, in particular, on the standing leg without gripping onto the barre. Working with complete understanding of the importance of both legs working evenly and the arms held with poise and elegance is very important.
Flexibility is becoming more and more desirable as the dancers of today aim for "Six O'Clock à la seconde" and high arabesques. Flexibility and strengthening exercises are crucial in any adage improvement programme. However, of far more importance is the artistry which is at the heart of a beautiful adage dancer. Expressing the feeling of the movement from the soul and projecting this to the audience is vital, otherwise adage, even with high extensions, can look quite boring.
Musicality and the ability to express the music is very important and every musical nuance should colour the movements and feeling expressed by the dancer.
Here are several good exercises to improve your adage. Please warm up well first and do some preliminary core and back exercises.
Standing in 5th position croisé with one hand on the barre, développé your leg devant onto the barre (to the front). Check that you are perfectly aligned with your hips, shoulders and leg squarely in front. Now, retaining your pull up and alignment, lift the leg off the barre as much as you can and after 5 seconds lower your leg back down to the barre. Change sides. Repeat 5-10 times and then repeat in seconde.
Shoulder your leg to à la seconde and try to slowly let go of your foot and maintain it in the air. Hold the position for 10 seconds without losing alignment, then slowly lower and repeat 5-10 times.
Stand at the barre, arm in fifth position and feet in first position, with one hand on the barre. Tendu your outside foot derriere (to the back). Do a deep, correctly aligned back bend with no weight on your back foot, lifting and pulling up in your lower back. At the depth of your back bend, lock into the back leg with your back muscles and come up from the back bend, bringing your back leg with you into arabesque en l'air. Don't come up on inch without bringing your arabesque leg with you.
Keep raising the leg and then go into penché without unlocking the arabesque leg from your back. When you've reached the extent of your penché, come back up to arabesque retaining your leg still locked in with your back.
A Visualization Exercise
Perform a développé and as you are doing the movement, picture a hand lifting your thigh from the underneath and another hand pullin up your foot on the top of the arch where your satin ribbons cross over.