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The Height vs. Stability Trade-off

As I alluded to at the end of my last post, this is about my short conversation with wednesday evening ballet teacher.  There was a question that had been bugging me for a bit – in fact, I as I was having trouble sleeping on tuesday night because of the heat it kept circling my mind – so I told myself that I was going to work up the nerve to ask one of my teachers.

Some background info first: As I have mentioned many, many times thoughout this blog, my balancing (while in releve) is not that great at times.  Many other aspects of ballet – my overall coordination, flexibility, timing, –  have been steadily improving throughout my 20ish months of ballet. But my balance, in my opinion, is worse than the average beginner’s.  There is nothing that sucks more for me in class – well, I can think of a few things, but not any that have actually happened – than to be one of the first people to lose their balance on releve.  Then I looked around (using the mirror, I wasn’t obvious), and noticed that many of the other students’ heels were actually not very far off the ground at all.  And I though, “If I don’t go up all the way, I guess I do feel a bit more stable.” But when at the barre – and all those times that I actually do find my center of balance – I can go all the way up. “It’s a trade-off,” I thought, “of height vs. stability.”


I happen to enjoy looking at – and making – graphs and charts for whatever reason…

But the questions lingered in my mind : is it correct technique? Which is a bigger priority, the height (full releve) or being able to maintain stability for a sustained period of time?

This wednesday, I walked into class with my mind made up – I was going to seek an answer to my questions!

According to the teacher, if it’s not all the way  up it’s not a real releve.  Fair enough.  I’ve seen so many ballet recitals on youtube and while a high releve looks great – sometimes I almost forget they’re not en pointe – a not-so-high releve looks somewhat sloppy.

After explaining my issue ( the height vs. stability trade off), I asked if it was an ankle strength – or lack thereoff – issue.  She agreed that doing more ankle strengthening excercises would help, and  of course, more practicing. Which makes sense, because when I do my theraband excercises immediately before attempting to balance I have noticed that I’m more stable.


A half-ass releve, heels only 4 in. off the ground. 


A “real”  releve, or as real as it gets for me. This one was in first position.


Releve sous-sus. My feet are too far apart, but I thought it was cool how I literally can’t see my right foot’s heel from this angle.


And just for fun, a picture I took yesterday. Both my heel and toes are touching the floor and I was pushing up the rest of my foot off the ground far enough to fit my hand between my foot and the floor.  Just though it was a crazy thing to see my feet do, though I’m not claiming this is impressive or anything. This was taken immediately after finishing up theraband exercises.

Coupe Confusion and Pointing Feet

The way my first two ballet teachers taught us to coupe our foot was more or less the same: in front of our supporting leg’s ankle, making sure to touch it with the toes and not the heel, lest your foot be sickling. I guess sort of like this

image or if you prefer without the shoes so it can be clearer


So that’s the way I’ve been practicing it this whole time, and I’ve gotten used to bringing it up to passe from that positionimage


My new teacher however, teaches us to coupe in a slightly different way: we are to wrap our foot around our supporting ankle – so that it’s behind it? – and then when we bring it up to passe we bring it to the front to the knee.


Sort of like this.

It’s an adjustment, that’s for sure. I’m still trying to figure out how to comfortably get into that position. It might require greater hip flexibiity/ turnout than the original way I learned how to do it. Or it could just be one of those things that after you’ve been practicing for a year and a half it will make sense. Who knows?

In other news, I still can’t point my left (the one I recently sprained) foot as well as the right foot, but at least there’s no pain and it doesn’t feel sore or weird. Little things to be greatful for.

Here’s the right foot…
and here’s the left

Feels so good to be back to practicing!

Passe Releve!

Ok, I realize that this isn’t really a big deal. But due to me being so center of gravity-challenged, it’s a big deal to me. My learning curve has been so slow that any progress, however small, is encouraging because it allows me to see that I actually am making progress.

So anyway, I was messing around in front of my huge practice mirror (as in, I was not having an official practice session), just seeing how my port de bras and plies were looking, and then some releves. I’ve been practicing rising up in passe releve for almost a year now, but always holding on to a barre or the wall, whichever happens to be available. But I’d never been able to find my balance.

I didn’t expect to be able to balance today, either. But as I said, I was just messing around in front of the mirror. So I rose up, and actually was able to hold the pose for about a second or so! Not only that, I was able to come back down in a controlled manner.

I was giddy with excitement! So I grabbed my boyfriend and forced, um I mean persuaded, him to capture it on camera. Of course, attempting to do it a second time was not the same as the unexpected first time. But still, here is some photographic evidence, hopefully so I can look back on this moment in the future at a time when balancing in passe releve is no longer a big deal to me.

Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten my arms!

So then I tried to do it on the other foot (right leg as supporting leg), but predictably my left side is stronger.

Please excuse the slightly messy living room, my nontraditional ballet attire, and my mismatched socks, LOL!