Help with Grand Battements

Hi everybody!  Today we talk about grand battements – one of my favorite movements!  They seem really fun …all you have to do is swing and kick …but in reality it is much more than that.

I hope this post is helpful for you, so let’s get right into it.


The Battement Mindset

Obviously the overarching goal of a grand battement is to achieve leg height: that is why most dancers automatically think of “lifting” their leg when they do this movement.  However, that is the completely wrong mindset for a grand battement.  The more accurate approach would be to “release.”  This is achieved by pushing your working leg down through the floor and using the resistance to allow the leg muscles to “rebound” as it were, which releases the leg, thus propelling it up high.  In other words it’s not you making the high leg happen – it’s the force you apply to the floor that is making the high leg happen!  This was is a little bit of physics for your Friday today.

I mentioned mindset above and I want to expand on that a little bit.  Many movements or steps need to be approached with a different mindset than you would assume.  For example, a développé shouldn’t be about lifting the leg, it should be about lengthening the leg. Another example would be a single pirouette – you should think of going up rather than going around.

Ballet is a tricky art form – there is more to a movement than just the movement itself – the texture of the movement and the quality of it are both important factors influencing the outcome of the attempt.  You might be able to achieve a step without a specific mindset, but the correct quality and artistic goals of it cannot be reached without imagery and mindset.

In the diagram above, the force applied via the blue arrow equals the height of the leg via the gold arrow.

forcedia.jpg
In the diagram above, the force applied via the blue arrow equals the height of the leg via the gold arrow.

Grand Battement Precision vs. Accuracy

With any ballet step, there will be an element of precision needed to complete the step correctly.

If you have taken any advanced science classes in high school or even middle school, you have most likely learned about the concept of precision versus accuracy.  This can be applied to ballet steps as well.

The accuracy of a step would be the height of the leg or the number of turns performed, while the precision would be the maintaining of turnout, arm placement and other correct-technique factors contributing to the equation.

The best dancers display a fine balance between precision and accuracy. That is what makes them simultaneously the most interesting and the most visually appealing dancers to watch on stage.

Next we will talk about elements of precision in a grand battement:

Turnout

I see many dancers with a fine-tuned, super-flexible turnout so that they excel in basic movements at the barre.  Yet, when they get to movements with various textures such as fondus, grand battements, and pirouettes, all sense of the turnout they had is lost.

According to anatomical, proven information (by friction), it is harder to maintain an externally rotated (turned out) position of the leg without the traction of the floor.  This is, of course, assuming that the traction of the floor was used to hold turnout in the stationary position (which is cheating …but it’s pretty hard to avoid).

So, with the “release!” mindset so necessary to achieving a great battement, those turnout muscles tend to release as well.  This creates a major problem in your technique.  The accuracy is great, but the precision…. Must I say any more?

The key is to not just “release” the whole leg, but to specifically release as you lengthen the back of the working leg.  If you think of that entire side of the leg becoming long and swift, the turnout muscles will stay eccentrically engaged and the visualization occurring in your brain naturally causes an external rotation of the femur bone within the hip socket, creating an easy turnout.

So, we’ve covered the turnout struggle of the release mindset and how to avoid it, but there is also an upside as far as rotation is concerned!  When the leg is released, the hip flexors are released with it – which in turn allows for a lowered working hip.  The only way this can work is through a special process called hip disassociation.  The supporting leg must stay strong so that the working leg can release and go higher.  So amidst all this releasing and lengthening, the supporting side must be getting even more tight and controlled.  Balance, anyone?

Straight Standing Leg

While the concept of hip disassociation is referring to the hip, because the hip controls the entire leg, it is really referring to the entire supporting side.

When students don’t apply the concept above of tightening their supporting side in order to isolate the working side as it releases, the straightness of the supporting leg may be compromised as well.

The way to fix this is with strengthening and stabilization exercises of the supporting hip and side, which means the internal and external obliques (outer abdominals).  I have great exercises in my Strengthening Guide for both areas, in addition to an abdominal stabilization workout coming soon.


I hope this blog post helps you get higher grand battements, and I’ll see you on Sunday with more great advice!

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