Dance Info & Basic Beginner Ballet Dance Steps
Dance is an awesome way to express yourself. Not only that, but it's had enormous influence on our culture, as well as many other cultures around the world. People use dancing for traditional rituals, story telling, and theater. There are tons of different types of dances out there. TONS. As for me, I'm currently taking tap and ballet classes, but I would LOVE to learn salsa dancing. Or hip-hop dancing.
Ballet: Getting Started
If you want to learn ballet, you have to know the basic ballet positions first. This is important, because you often have to return to these positions between dance steps, and many dances and ballet exercises begin and end with these positions. The ballet positions include:
1st position, 2nd position, 3rd position, 4th position, and 5th position
Now for the arm positions:
First position (at rest)
The most basic arm position. Your arms are in an O shape, with the fingertips close but not quite touching. Don't keep your thumbs up like in this picture. And kudos to Marisa Wright for pointing out that my hands are a little too high up. (see comments)
Remember: keep your elbows level or slightly below the level of your wrist. As correctly pointed out by Marisa Wright, in this picture my hands are a bit too high up, and "remember, in second position you must always be able to see your hands out of the corner of your eye (without moving your head)." (see comments)
Remember to keep your elbow slightly below the level of your wrist. Also, you can keep your fingers together like a mitten for a more traditional look. There are two types of third position arms that are taught differently, based on the dance teacher and the dance step you're doing at the moment. I'll show you both versions of third position:
(you can also spread your fingers very slightly like a fan, as shown in the picture. If you do, don't spread your fingers too much. It should be VERY slight.)
Now for some dance steps:
TENDU (ton-doo) - You can start in any position. I'm starting in first position. Simply sweep your foot forward, pointing your foot at the end of the sweep. When your foot is pointed, the tips of your toes should still be touching the floor. Sweep your extended leg back again and finish in the position you started with.
There's also side tendu and back tendu.
PLEI (plee-ay) - Looks simple, right? Just bending your knees? WRONG. This step has to be done without leaning forward and sticking your butt out, or it looks awful. Again, you can start in any position. Keeping your back straight and your hips facing forward, bend at the knees. Then, straighten your legs and stand in the position you started with.
Helpful trick #1 - If it helps, use the trick my dance teacher taught our class: imagine that you're being held tall and straight because someone is pulling you up by a string from the top of your head, like a puppet. This trick seriously helps, with balance and with form.
Helpful trick #2 - Also, to keep you from bending forward or having your butt stick out, imagine that you are standing between two scalding hot walls: One behind you, one in front of you. Try to plei without touching the walls.
Helpful trick #3 - To keep balance, you might want to hold onto a dance bar, a chair, etc. Feel free to do this for every dance step; after 6 1/2 years of ballet, we still do this in our dance class.
Keep your feet completely on the floor. Don't let your heels lift up. Only bend to a comfortable distance. This is a DEMI PLEI; a GRAND PLEI is a plei where you bend down further, and your heels come up a little off the floor.
CHANGEMENT (shonj-ma) - Start in 5th position.
Bend your knees in plei and jump straight up (it should be a little jump.)
As you jump, you switch feet. Whichever foot started out in front (in this picture, it's the right foot in front), switch it with your hind foot so the opposite foot is in front.
When you jump and switch feet, keep your legs as close together as possible.
Land in plei, then stand up straight.
COUPE (koo-pay) - This is a cool way to stand for a transition between different types of dance steps.
Kind of wrap your foot around the ankle of your standing leg. Your heel should be in front, the tips of your toes as much behind your ankle as possible. Keep the knee of your bent leg as turned out as possible, to the side.
These are only the basic steps in ballet, but once you know these, learning more complicated steps will be much easier. Remember: practice makes perfect!
All pictures were
taken by the
fantastical Sophie Corwin
(photos©2012 Sophie Corwin)