Friday, 26 December 2014

Ballet Steps: Développé

Photo: Bill Cooper
In the latest instalment of my ballet steps series, I discuss développés, which involve a sustained unfolding action of the leg. Starting in a closed standing position (usually 5th), one leg is lifted upwards, with the toe maintaining contact with the supporting leg, into retiré position, before extending into the air.

Développés can be performed in all three directions (front, side and back) with a wide variety of arm positions and head alignments, but the working leg always goes through retiré position (with the toe by the side, in front of or behind the supporting knee, depending on the particular ballet style) before extending. The extended position may be either an attitude or fully stretched leg. In the latter case, développés to the back finish in arabesque position.

Développés are typically performed at the barre and in the centre as part of adage exercises. Whilst professional dancers may lift their legs above head height, young students should aim for a 45-90 degree angle, ensuring the développé action is fluid and that the leg is turned out. A typical basic développé exercise at the barre would involve développés in all three directions, each time followed by lowering the leg into tendu position and then closing back to a standing position. Royal Ballet dancer Romany Padjak demonstrates a slightly more advanced développé exercise below:

There are different schools of thought regarding the movement of the working hip during a développé. In English technique, the hip is usually kept down, as close to its starting position as possible. In other ballet styles, the working hip may be more noticeably lifted as the working leg is extended. Depending of the height of the leg, the alignment of the body may also have to adjust - either forwards or sideways depending on the développé direction - but such adjustment should be kept to a minimum.

Développés are performed in numerous ballets. In the grand pas de deux of The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy steps onto pointe, takes the Prince's hand and performs a développé to the front. Développés are also used in other dance styles. In Cats the musical, for example, Victoria (the white cat) has a développé to the side in her Act I solo.

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