If jumps and turns are generally favoured by bravura dancers who have a “need for speed” showing off their technical abilities, then adagio dancing, with its slow, lengthened and connected movements is where highly lyrical dancers make their mark. It is typically in the adagio, rather than in complicated combinations of double-quadruple fouettÃ©s, where the audience can sit back and contemplate the poetry and emotion ballerinas convey through their bodies.
Here we highlight some of the steps which might appear in adagio sequences in ballet. Note that steps which are typical of allegro work might also appear here (pirouettes, ronds de jambe) and vice versa, so none of them are exclusive to one form or another.
(in French: adage) in Italian means â€˜At easeâ€™, â€˜leisurelyâ€™; a movement in slow tempo. In ballet Adagio refers to a series of slow and refined movements performed as a single phrase, in a fluid manner, each preparatory step seamlessly linking to the next. The adagio is typically the opening section in a grand pas de deux (followed by the variations and the coda), the part where the ballerina performs slow movements with the assistance of her partner.
A ballet pose which originated from a statue by Giovanni de Bologna (Giambologna, see figure). One leg is lifted behind in a well turned-out manner,Â with the knee forming a 90 degree angle.
The term derives from a type of Moorish decoration. One leg supports the body while the other is extended behind, with the shoulders and hips kept square to the line of the body.
Developing movement (originally, temps dÃ©veloppÃ©). Starting from fifth position, the working leg is raised following the supporting leg up to the knee (in retirÃ©). It is then slowly extended to an open position en l’air and held there. The body is kept square to the direction the dancer is facing, with the hips aligned. DÃ©veloppÃ©s can be performed in any direction (devant, Ã la seconde, derriÃ¨re, etc.).
Tour de Promenade or Tour Lent
Refers to a slow turn done on one foot. The dancer moves her/his heel while keeping a specific pose such as arabesque orÂ attitude.Â The turn can be executedÂ en dehors (outwards) orÂ en dedans (inwards).
PenchÃ© or PenchÃ©e
To lean or incline. For example, as in anÂ arabesque penchÃ©.
At the 0:16 mark Alina Cojocaru (as Giselle) does aÂ dÃ©veloppÃ© Ã la seconde, following with a tour de promenade en attitude; and at 0:56 a beautifulÂ arabesque which lowers into aÂ penchÃ©.
To melt, to sink. The term is used to describe the lowering or “melting” of the body towards the floorthrough the bending of the supporting leg.
Darcey Bussell (as Gamzatti) does an arabesque en fondu ending on a penchÃ© at the beginning of her variation and a detournÃ© twenty seconds later.
You can also see plenty ofÂ detournÃ©s in theÂ Sugar Plum Fairy variation.
Disengaged. The working leg is lifted or tossed lightly into the air in an open position, the foot pointed. It is generally used as a connecting step, for instance, to transfer the body’s weight.
DÃ©gagÃ© Ã l’arabesque en tournant
Starting in croisÃ© devant en l‘air (with the front leg extended and raised), the dancer slowly turns outwards on the flat of the foot, passing the working leg through the second position while turning the body from the waist so that theÂ working leg is extended in arabesque croisÃ© derriÃ¨re. See Tatiana Terekhova video below for example.
The reverse, starting from arabesque croisÃ© and ending croisÃ© devant is referred toas DÃ©tournÃ© en l’air.
Rond de Jambe
It literally means round of the leg or, in other words, a circular movement of the leg. They can be done outwards (en dehors) or inwards (en dedans). Though usually a barre step, it can also be done par terre (on the floor) as a connecting step. The Prelude in Les Sylphides includesÂ ronds de jambe par terre.
Rond de Jambe en l’air
Here the circle is drawn by the toe. Both legs are turned out. The working leg moves from the knee down so that the thigh is as steady, high and as horizontal as possible.Â The toe creates the circle from the supporting leg’s knee into second position en l’air. The movement is accentuated when the working leg reaches the extended position Ã la seconde.
At the 1:00 mark, Kirov ballerina Tatiana Terekhova does a series of ronds de jambe en l’air while hopping on pointe. This Don Q. variation starts with an arabesque fondu, followed by attitude. Watch out also for a DÃ©gagÃ© Ã l’arabesque en tournant (starting from attitude croisÃ© devant)at 0.21.
Grand Rond de Jambe
This movement is usually preceded by a dÃ©veloppÃ© devant from which the leg extends from the hip and draws a semi-circle from the frontÂ passing through second position en l’air to end upÂ in fourth derriÃ¨re en l’air. It can also be done in reverse, starting with a dÃ©veloppÃ© derriÃ¨re and drawing the semi-circle towards the front.
Myriam Ould Braham (as Aurora) does some Grand Ronds de Jambe en l’air at the beginning of The Sleeping Beauty’s Act II variation.
Pas de BourrÃ©e Couru
A series of “running” (couru) steps on pointe or demi-pointe with the feet close together. If done in fifth position the steps are said to be en cinquiÃ¨me or a pas suivi. If done in first position, legs are kept turned in and they are said to be en premiÃ¨re or simply, pas couru.
At 0:27 Marianela NuÃ±ez (as Myrtha) enters the stage in a series of gliding bourrÃ©es. She also does an arabesque which turns into a tour de promenade (1:29), followed by a penchÃ© (1:46 ). Lookout for attitudes at 3:05.
Sources and Further Information:
- Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant. BN Publishing. ISBN 1607960311.
- The Borzoi Book of Ballets by Grace Robert. Kessinger Publishing Co. ISBN 1419122010.
Note: Whilst we have used widely known names, note that terminology might vary slightly from school to school.