top of page

Clarity in Ballet Technique--Frappé, part 1

a foot beginning the brush of a frappé

Unless you are the only ballet teacher in your school, clear communication about how vocabulary will be taught, at what level, and how it will progress over time is critical. Today is the first in a series of posts about vocabulary that can be taught more than one way. There are pros and cons to each approach. What matters most is that all the teachers in your program are teaching and progressing ballet technique in the same way.

Frappé means "struck." Some schools will call it battement frappé, which means struck battement. Including the word "battement" gives important clarification about how the step is supposed to be done. A battement, which means "beating," always shows the beat. Musicality is a key component of all battements. So, in order for frappé to be correct, there must be a strong extension of the working leg in time with the musical beat.

Requiring this musical precision benefits students in multiple ways. First of all, it helps them develop control and coordination. They decide when to start and when to stop the movement, no mushy "whenever it happens" nonsense. Second, it helps them develop their sensitivity to musicality. They must learn to hear the beat in order to choose to match it. Third, the energy required to be precise will help strengthen the muscles students will need for their allegro work.

But there is sometimes confusion about the "struck" part. Not all schools teach frappé brushing on the ground; some teach it beginning in a cou-de-pied, traveling straight out, and arriving in a dégagé. I was not trained this way, so I don't know what the explanation is for why the step would be called "struck." From my point of view, if the toes do not brush along the ground then there is no strike.

However. Excellent professional dancers have been trained using the no-strike method. This is not a hill to die on, but you do need to make sure all the ballet faculty in your school are on the same hill.

Frappé is often considered the basis of jeté. I'm not here to argue that point, especially since Gail Grant includes it in her work and no one argues with her. But I will point out that jeté is not consistently brushed on the ground by advanced and professional dancers. When you slow down video of gorgeous performances, you often see the step performed with a non-brushing frappé initiating the movement. So you could make a strong argument that teaching it "no brush" is a better preparation for jeté in the long run.

Those who are big fans of the "strike the ground" school are quick to point out that the brushing method develops excellent mobility and control in the dancer's instep and toes. They are correct. It takes a lot of strength and mobility to transition from sur le cou-de-pied to a demi-point to a full point so quickly.

(This is a great place to mention that you really, really must teach brushing the bottom of the toes in frappé. Allowing students to brush the tops of the toes creates a movement habit that sets them up for potential injury later. If you are about to jeté, are brushing the bottom of your toes, and something happens in front of you that requires you to suddenly stop you have the bottom of your foot on the ground. If you are brushing the tops of your toes and must suddenly stop, your weight lands on the top of your toes/foot and you risk breaking it. I've seen it happen. I've been the understudy that got tossed in because someone broke their foot this way during Snow Scene. Brush the bottom of the toes, always.)

How are you going to decide which style of frappé to teach? I suggest you look at the priorities in your pointe curriculum. If you mostly use the spring up, spring down approach then the non-brush frappé will work well for you. But if you use a lot of rolling down, your students need the strength built in the instep by the brush-the-floor frappé.

Whichever method you choose, it is important that everyone is teaching the same thing and everyone understands the reason why. Students cannot have clear technique if teachers are not following a clear plan.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page