I am writing this article to try to impress the importance of the clarity of the different alignments in ballet and specifically how to achieve correct ballet alignments. All too often, and by this, I mean on a regular basis, I need to correct alignment. Personally, croisé is generally not crossed enough, effacé or ouvert is generally not open enough, and both écarté positions don’t utilise the slightly elongated side, either extending down toward the arm carried to the side or upward toward the lifted arm. I have researched the literal meanings of these alignments in the hope that we can all clarify and teach our young dancers the importance of the differentiating factors.
Écarté means ‘separated’ or ‘thrown wide apart’. The dancer faces either one of the two front corners. Écarté devant is where the downstage leg must be in an à la seconde position either en lair or à terre with the downstage arm raised in 5th and the upstage arm in à la seconde, the head is positioned upward toward the elbow of the raised arm. Very importantly, the body position should be elongated looking upward toward the lifted arm. In schools that recognise Écarté derrière, it differs by having the upstage leg in à la seconde either en lair or à terre with the upstage arm in 5th and the downstage arm in à la seconde, the head is positioned downward toward the arm in à la seconde. The body position should also be elongated downward toward the arm in à la seconde.
Effacé literally means ‘shadowed’ or ‘obscured’. One of the directions of épaulement in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view. This direction is termed ouvert in the French ballet vocabulary.
Croisé – meaning ‘crossed’. One of the directions of épaulement in which the dancer stands facing one of the front corners of the stage with his/her body placed at an oblique angle to the audience. A croisé position is when the legs appear crossed from the audience.
Generally speaking, the croisé alignment does not appear to be crossed. There are a number of ways to improve and correct this ballet alignment;
- Be sure that the heels, hips and shoulders are all facing the corner of the room.
- Ensure the pointe tendu whether it be devant or derrière is positioned either directly in front of the heel of the supporting leg or in the case of derrière directly behind the heel of the supporting leg.
- The head is positioned directly to the centre front but most importantly, the shoulders remain facing the corner enabling the crossed appearance of the body.
Usually the effacé or ouvert alignment is not square enough to ensure the necessary shadowed appearance. This can be easily corrected;
- Similar to the croisé alignment, in effacé the heels, hips and shoulders all face the corner of the room but in the open alignment.
- Again the tendu positioned directly in front or behind the heel of the supporting leg.
- Particularly important for effacé devant is the shortening of the hip of the working leg. This will ensure the position is absolutely square without the look of elongation.
- Once again the shoulders should remain square to the corner, with only the head turned to the front.
Often dancers confuse the écarté devant position by looking into the mirror instead of toward the elbow of the raised arm, or similarly derrière by looking into the mirror instead of toward the downstage arm.
All of the above points need to be considered when correcting ballet alignments, the confusion of them is what aids lack of clarity. Clarification will bring a cleanliness to your dancing which will aid the aesthetic of your work, and let’s face it, aesthetics is the key to our technique and worth every moment of scrutiny.
Written by; Vicki Attard