Ballet Training

Follow These Step-by-Step Instructions to Master Piqué Turn en Dehors

Torija coaches BalletMet Dance Academy summer intensive student Polina Myers. Photos by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

It's the complex transfer of weight that makes piqué turns en dehors—commonly called "step-overs"—so tricky. Maria Torija, director of the BalletMet Dance Academy, shares her ideas on how to successfully navigate these inevitable variation-ending turns.

What's in a name: " 'Step-over' is the American way," Maria Torija explains. But the turn has many names. "Vaganova calls it 'tour dégagé.' 'Lame-duck'—that's the English! Maybe we should go to the French. The Paris Opéra calls it 'tour piqué en dehors.' "

Walk the line: Whether you tombé front or side, Torija stresses the importance of precision in consecutive piqués en dehors. "Hold the passé until you finish the turn, and then tombé right in the path you're going, like on a tightrope." The leg doesn't extend to the front or side. That's a different step. "Tombé means you fall into it. It's a very quick motion."


Step 1


Think fifth: A common mistake Torija sees dancers make is a rond de jambe instead of dégagé à la seconde, which causes them to piqué almost through fourth position. "Go towards fifth, the legs very tight together, and immediately replace one for the other." It's the tombé that travels, she clarifies, not the piqué.

"The arms are a prolongation of your back": As you dégagé, the leading arm—the right arm, if you are turning to the right—opens in a curving motion to a little allongé before closing to first with the piqué. "You need that impulse, coordinated with the legs, to turn the torso." But beware of opening the arm too wide, Torija warns: "It looks like you're fighting with the turn."

Find your axis: As you go up into the turn, Torija instructs, "feel that you're going in towards your own center." This will help you feel compact for the speed of the turn. "Be as flat as a sheet of paper in the passé, with your back and sides engaged so your arms are aligned in the middle of your body."

Additional Tips:

  1. There are two correct ways to execute a piqué en dehors. Torija teaches both, beginning with "the academic way"—taking the tombé forward on a diagonal, spotting the corner. "Once you have the dynamic and coordination of the turn, then you can go the more sophisticated Balanchine way: tombé side, and spot front. It's important to know both."
  2. Keep the dégagé low and rotated. "In the book they say 45 degrees, but I think it looks nicer a bit lower. Ballet always has to look elegant." Torija notes that lifting that dégagé too high also risks destabilizing the hips, which throws off the turn. "Keep the turnout of that leg. The movement is so exposed there; you want that beautiful flatness of the seconde."
News
The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

Keep reading... Show less