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Clarity in Ballet Technique--Frappé, part 2



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 second 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 of the teachers in your program are teaching and progressing ballet technique in the same way.


Do you teach frappé coming from a flexed foot, a wrapped sur le cou-de-pied, or a fully pointed cou-de-pied? And do you know why?


All of these approaches are considered correct in at least one major methodology, so you can confidently choose whichever one you like. What's most important is that all of the teachers in your school teach the same way. If your students are busy trying to remember if it's their Monday teacher or their Thursday teacher that likes the wrapped foot they will never have the brain space to focus on other elements of the technique.


I begin laying the foundation for frappé in the Ballet Foundations years. We don't call it a frappé yet because we are doing shuffles like in tap class. Because I will teach frappé brushing on the ground when these dancers are a little older, shuffles are a simple way to introduce the movement. I keep the timing even so it is easy for the dancers to balance and we enjoy the chance to make whisper noises with our shoes.


In the Elementary Division I teach frappé from a flexed foot. Students connect to the idea of brushing the bottom of their toes along the ground better when we start in a shape that will naturally do that. Plus, all that flexing and pointing develops ankle mobility and strengthens the anterior tibialis muscle. The anterior tibialis is a major player in pointe work that often gets overlooked because we simply don't flex our feet in class that often.


The wrapped sur le cou-de-pied shape joins frappé in the Intermediate Division. I hold off before introducing this shape because A) I like to take the time to create solid technical habits before I add variations or complexity and B) sur le cou-de-pied can be a tricky shape for some students to master. We work on the shape in the Elementary Division so that it is ready to use in the Intermediate. It's a very natural progression. The Intermediate Division is also when students begin pointe work and if they don't have the flexibility and strength needed for sur le cou-de-pied they almost certainly don't have the flexibility and strength for pointe work either. But since we focused on creating the shape building up to these levels, students are usually good to go.


I include the pointed cou-de-pied shape pretty soon after I introduced the wrapped shape; I don't wait until the Advanced Division. I use the cou-de-pied when we do frappé en rise. The logic is that since the foot isn't going to dip down to brush against the floor anyway we'd might as well keep it pointed. Frappé from a pointed foot also challenges turnout control in a different way than frappé from a flexed foot does.


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.

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