In the blog post on 20 January 2017, I introduced the first movement concept in ballet: body alignment. Now that we understand alignment, it’s time to think about direction. One of the main questions to consider is: is my body position open or closed?
To assess whether a position is open or closed, the best indicator is to look at a dancer’s legs. If the legs are outstretched from each other (such as a battement tendu from P1 to P2), then the direction is ouvert – open. If the legs cross over one another (a battement tendu from P5 that crosses the body), then that position is croisé, and would be considered “closed.”
Direction is the first step into making a movement. It is the facing of the body at rest, just before taking a step. As such, it is extremely important to understand direction, since it affects the movement of the body as the dancing begins.
In addition to the eight body alignments, positions may be performed either moving forward (devant) or backwards (derriere), which indicates the direction in which the working leg is moving. For lateral positions (such as a tendu from P1) wherein the leg is extended directly from the hip without crossing or opening diagonally from the body, this is often termed as a position à la seconde (quite literally, “as in second position”). Additionally, positions performed en face (directly facing the audience) are sometimes also described as à la quatrième, or “on the fourths,” as indicated in the image above.
There is a lot of French vocabulary applied to direction – more than is needed, in my opinion. For simplification in class, I will usually just indicate forward or back – à la devant or derriere – to the students.
With our alignment set and our direction understood, we can move! Next stop: momentum!