Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Ballet Steps: Attitude

Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta in Don Quixote
Photo: ROH / Johan Persson

In the latest edition of my ballet steps series, I consider attitudes. An attitude position is formed by lifting a bent leg to the front, back or – much less frequently – side of the body. The height of the leg is highly variable but the hips should appear level and the foot should be pointed. The supporting leg is straight and may be either flat on the floor or on demi or full pointe.
The lifted leg is turned-out, such that when it is at hip height to the front or back, the knee and foot are level. The degree of bend at the knee depends on the style of ballet being performed and varies from a ‘short’ attitude with an angle of 90o or less to a ‘long’ attitude where the angle is much greater. In the famous Rose Adage from Sleeping Beauty, where Aurora is paraded by four suitors in turn, it is the former ‘short’ attitude position that is used.
Lauren Cuthbertson in Romeo and Juliet
Photo: Bill Cooper
There are virtually unlimited possibilities for arm positions in attitude. Often the arm on the same side as the lifted leg is curved overhead and the other arm is curved to the side, as shown in the picture to the right.  
When I am teaching attitudes, I start with the front first. I encourage students to point the leg forward on the floor and then lift it off the ground and bend it to a 90o angle. The most common faults include lifting the working hip and not maintaining turn-out. To counter the latter, there should be a feeling of the heel being lifted in attitude devant (front) and of the knee being lifted in attitude derrière (back).
Just like arabesques, attitudes are performed in many ballets, both as a held pose and during a variety of movements, such as in jumps and pirouettes. Two roles in which attitudes are very common are Odette in Swan Lake and Kitri in Don Quixote (pictured above).

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