Sissonne To Pointe

The dynamic spring to arabesque on pointe, or grande sissonne ouverte sur la pointe, is a useful step to practice because it will help you build strength, coordination and daring. Here, former New York City Ballet soloist and current School of American Ballet faculty member Katrina Killian explains the fine points.

 

—Begin in fifth position en face, right foot forward, with equal weight on both feet.

—To get the right energy for the plié that initiates the movement, Killian suggests thinking ahead, that you will land equally on both feet. “You’re landing,” she says, “but make sure to have energy in the ball of the foot and an understanding of where your heels are going to be.”

—Dart forward into first arabesque on the right leg. As the right leg moves from the plié in fifth to pointe to execute the sissonne, think that it continues to cross in front of you. At the exact same time, battement your left leg from fifth directly to the arabesque precisely behind you. You hit the position in one count. Ideally, a grande sissonne ouverte sur la pointe is a big movement that travels forward—in this case to first arabesque. “The distance you dart becomes a progression. When you start learning the step,” says Killian, “you’re only going to go so far, but as you learn to propel both legs equally, then the dart will become yours, and you will go further.”

—The arms and head are part of the movement from the start. The head and elbows set the tempo of the plié. As you land in your plié, lift the elbows and bend the head slightly forward, then extend with energy. Use your eyes to spot to where you are going to stop in the position: Fully extended in first arabesque, with the eyes looking over and past the top of the front hand. “Find the position in your mind,” says Killian. “Move from head-to-toe and toe-to-head, including the eyes, into your best position, the cleanliness of that right spot.”

 

By Katrina Killian as told to Virginia Johnson

Ballet Training
Hortense Millet-Maurin (third from left) and her classmates perform August Bournonville's La Conservatoire. Svetlana Loboff, Courtesy POB.

As a little girl, Hortense Millet-Maurin fell in love with the wide spiral staircase that dominates the center of the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Today, as a focused 15-year-old POB student, she and her classmate Vincent Vivet navigate the school's spacious architecture on a daily basis. In a hallway strewn with foam rollers and tennis balls, their faces are laced with concentration as they prepare alongside their peers for afternoon ballet class. Color-coded uniforms reflect Vivet's and Millet-Maurin's third division; with only two advanced divisions remaining, they are increasingly close to realizing their professional aspirations: joining the Paris Opéra Ballet. Pointe spoke with these two young dancers to see what it's like studying inside the world's oldest ballet academy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

If you're feeling wobbly in adagio or wish you could hold your piqué attitude a bit longer, there are ways to assess and improve your balance. Try these four exercises, recommended by Heather Southwick, Boston Ballet's director of physical therapy.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less