It has been over a year since we last added to our Bag of Steps library and we recently discovered – via survey feedback – that some readers missed this series. We now return with a post dedicated to “connecting steps”. These are employed by a dancer much in the same way as we would use prepositions to link nouns and pronouns when we form phrases. So this edition might be more useful as aide-mÃ©moire for the obsessive ballet-goer who would like to pinpoint exactly when a glissade is followed by a pas de bourrÃ©e.
Dancers may use connecting steps to propel a jump, to switch positions and to start a new choreographic phrase. The better the dancer, the less apparent how these morph into other steps:
Bent or bending. Almost every ballet step starts and ends with a pliÃ©; bending of the knees with the feet planted on the ground.
At the 0:29 mark Leonid Sarafanov shows how a good pliÃ© (from fourth position) gives him enough impulse for five pirouettes.
Fallen.Â With the working leg raised in the air the dancer falls backwards, forwards or sideways into a fondu on the working leg.
From 1:16 to 1:23, the dancers do four tombÃ©s followed by pas de bourrÃ©es.
A travelling step where one foot “chases” the other. In performance the dancer lightly jumps in fifth position andlands sliding the foot to an open position (second or fourth) in the direction where he/she is travelling.
In this video from Les Patineurs the chassÃ© is used to suggest ice skating.
A transitional step where the dancer draws one leg up to the point where the toes touch the back of the standing knee. When held as a pose the passÃ© is referred to as retirÃ©.
At the 1:20 mark, Natalia Osipova (as Kitri) does a series of passÃ©s
Pas de BourrÃ©e
A series of quick steps en pointe or demi-pointe. Starting in fifth with the right foot to front. The dancer stretches the left leg and crosses behind the right leg, taking a tiny step with the right and bringing the left leg to front.
At 1:17, Maria Alexandrova (as Myrtha) doesÂ pas de bourrÃ©es on pointe
To recap on the above watch, for example, Swan Lake‘s four little swans:
At 0:10 reaching the side of the stage, the swans do a small jetÃ© followed by pas de bourrÃ©e (0:11) and retirÃ© (0:12). This is repeated four times, but in the last sequence (where they reach stage left) the retirÃ© comes down to fifth (0:27) to prepare for an entrechat (0:28) followed by a passÃ©(0:29). At 0:48 the swans do one of a series of chassÃ©s to arabesque.After the last arabesque (0:58) they all tombÃ© onto the right leg.
Glissade (terre Ã terre)
A gliding preparatory step which is done terre Ã terre (ie. to the ground) linking into other steps. The dancer slides gently from fifth into any open position (second or fourth).
See also: Glissade in the context of a small jump.
A transitional step, sliding through first position into an open position (usually fourth). The dancer starts in fifth and jumps vertically, changing the direction of the body and landing with the front foot on pliÃ©, back leg stretched. See the actual failli in step 4 below:
As step 4 shows, after changing the body’s direction, the stretched leg slides through first position towards the front
Starting from 3:42 and again at 3:56 Laura MoreraÂ does three glissades, a pas de bourrÃ©e (4:00) and a series of passÃ©s (4:22). At the start of their variation (5:08) Kenta Kura and Bennet Gartside then do a failli-assemblÃ© combination, repeating it at 5.16.
Rocking step where the dancer alternates balance, shifting the weight from one foot to the other.
At around 3:05, Laura Morera (as Rose Fairy) does a balancÃ©.
Sources and Further Information:
Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant. BN Publishing. ISBN 1607960311.
Note: Whilst we have used widely known names for these steps, note that terminology might vary slightly from school to school.
New to Bag of Steps? Catch up with earlier editions:
@Catchip – thanks! So do I
Hi Eric. Thanks for your comment. I’ve encountered many different sources re. passÃ© vs. retirÃ© (and interesting to see the link posted by @catchip above). Here we’ve decided to call it a passÃ© only when the working leg changes its starting position. In the small swans variation, in the first three segments we’ve called it a retirÃ©, as the working leg stays in the front (+ doesn’t go down to starting position) so only in the last segment we’ve called it a passÃ©. My former teacher would usually say “retirÃ© passÃ©” when she didn’t want us to hold the pose.
The passÃ©/ retirÃ© terminology confusion is partly explained here:
My old ballet teacher used to call the step “passÃ©” and the position “passÃ© and STAY” With the “internationalizing” of ballet terms, there’s now probably no one right answer…
Thank you for this post, I too have terrible spatial imagination and need the youtube demonstrations to have any hope of following steps!
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Gail Grant’s book is what inspired me to start taking class in college. I couldn’t make sense out of any of the descriptions; I had to try doing it.
I’ve always thought of passÃ© as a step, and retirÃ© as a position, so wouldn’t you talk about the little swans doing passÃ©s, not retirÃ©s?
Thank you for this! Am now an even happier reader of yours!