Mastering New Dance Tricks
Before attempting any new difficult step, it is wise to ask the following questions:
Is this appropriate for me at this stage in my training?
Really consider carefully whether you are going to put too much stress on growing bones and joints and a perhaps immature and weak body for the type of feat you wish to accomplish. It is often best to wait until your body is ready to go without fear of stress fractures or long-term injury. Consult your teacher for experienced advise.
Do I have the necessary strength, muscles, control and flexibility for this step/trick?
To get all these vital elements in place may take weeks or even months of work. Decide which exercises will help best to target the missing elements and then work out a daily routine to strengthen, gain control and stretch where needed. Wait until you have fully achieved what is needed for the tricky step before trying to tackle it.
Once you feel ready to attempt the new feat it is time to break it into segments if possible. Some steps/tricks are vastly different in approach however let us take an ‘Entrelace’ (Scissor jump often called Grand Jeté en Tournant) as example.
First of all, you need a good 90-degree high devant and 90-degree high arabesque position with even rotation in both legs, good foot strength to jump off one foot into the air - scissor the legs and complete a half rotation before landing. Strong legs, knees, ankles and feet to land on one leg safely, a good control of turn out, core and back muscles to ensure posture does not disappear during the jump and endanger the landing. Once you have these prerequisites in place then break the step down into several parts and practise each part until it feels controlled, easy, coordinated and comfortable.
The Take Off can be practised without a jump but as a step into a swish through first in demi plié and grand battement devant at 90 degrees straightening legs. It should be taken towards the upstage left corner and co ordinating the arms from seconde into fifth position. Practise slightly slowly at first - always holding the position and then speed up the grand battement.
Now, after the grand battement whip around in a half turn switching the legs through first position to stand in arabesque on a plié facing the front top right corner which is the landing position. Use your head. Arms can open to seconde or 1st arabesque, but I suggest seconde. Start slowly and then add speed to the half turn. Hold the end position.
Now try the Take Off (1) with a high controlled sauté(jump) - watch out that you land remaining in the battement devant position holding your leg at 90 degrees and maintaining a good demi plié. Remember that the greatest amount of pull up must be on the landing of a jump.
Finally, the Take Off, half turn in the air and Landing can be performed with the sauté. Take it at moderate speed, use a good push off the first leg and a strong dynamic upwards in the jump. Always land where you took off as the jump itself must not travel. Try it from various starting positions such as arabesque à terre with the arms in second or first arabesque facing the downstage right corner. Start with three long runs or with a galop. Try using different arm positions on landing and make sure your never lean forward in the landing but stay beautifully upright throughout. Never ‘circle’ the legs but aim to ‘scissor’. Once you are really proficient and have achieved high elevation you can try for a semi split position after scissoring the legs and before landing.
A good exercise to perform ‘step entrelacè’ four times travelling from the front to back corner and holding each landing for four counts of the 3/4 waltz music.
Remember the essentials when mastering any new trick:
Have the basic technical and physical requirements in place
Break the step down into as many segments as possible
Fully Warm Up before starting
Do not practise when you are overtired
Take it (if possible) very slowly, only speeding up as you gain confidence
Watch the step performed correctly as much as possible
Try filming your work and watching it in ’Slow Motion’ to identify where you might be going wrong
If it is practical, try practising your step holding onto the barre or a friend
Sit down, close your eyes and try imagining yourself performing the trick perfectly. Do this as often as possible.
Don’t forget ‘Practice makes Perfect’ so keep trying each day.