Teaching your students the syllabus terminology is important for their ballet development. Starting this at an early age will be very beneficial to them.
Girls are required to hold their skirts throughout the exercises unless otherwise stated. Boys are required to have their hands on the hips, executing a strong finger belt action.
The skirt should be held between the middle finger and thumb, and the skirt lifted from the front. The arms want to be in a demi second position with the shoulders down.
Holding the skirt can prove to be quite tricky. Ensure correct posture is maintained throughout.
BALLETIC WARM UP A 6/8
The run into a straight line faces the examiner for the ending. Students must end up in their original positions. The exercise below is executed 3 times through before the run.
This is the first time a forward gallop has been attempted, which needs to be achieved before attempting any other part of the exercise. This should be practiced coming across the studio, traveling from corner to corner.
The back leg should stay behind the front leg, feet are joined tightly in the air with both feet pointed. It is important that the toe on the leading foot touches the floor first. Good elevation is essential to achieve this action.
- Skipping should be refreshed, reminding students of all the teaching points from Preparatory grade, making sure that students work towards getting a good elevation. Elevation is so important even at this young age as it will start to build up the much needed strength in the legs and will make the step easier to execute.
- Concentrate more on the elevation when skipping than moving forward, the forward movement will naturally happen with the placement of the foot.
- Common faults to be aware of with the forward gallop is:-
1) the heel is placed down first.
2) the back foot doesn’t point.
3) the back leg will pass in front of the leading leg.
4) the legs don’t join in the air.
5) lack of elevation.
6) upper body will rock forward and back.
7) hips will twist and not face the line of dance.
8) heels don’t have contact with the floor and the gallop is on the toes through out.
- Changing of the legs in the gallops can be quite a challenge, have fun with this. Start with galloping in a circle doing 6 gallops with the right leg in front when the teacher says “change” the students change legs. Gradually work this down to 4 gallops and then 2 gallops.
- Now add the skips and gallops together. Some students may get this almost straight away but others will struggle with the transition between the skip and gallop. Keep working on the exercise emphasising the change between the 2 steps, it is one of those sequences that will suddenly click. Be patient as this could take a few weeks to accomplish.
- It is very tempting to step into the first skip for this exercise. The leg needs to lift straight away when the elevation happens. This is counted as the first skip.
BALLETIC WARM UP B 3/4 into 6/8
This exercise has a time signature change from a 3/4 into a 6/8.
The 3/4 wants to be smooth, flowing and continuous with the 6/8 being bouncy and upbeat.
The build-up to demi pliés is:
Big jumps and Little Jumps in Preparatory
The demi plié has already been accomplished in the pointe and close exercise in Preparatory. It would be beneficial to recap over this action.
- The exercise should be taught in the 2 time signatures, before adding them together. Explain to students the difference between the time signatures.
- Work on the circular arm action without any foot movement. Ribbons or scarves can be used to help get the weighty movement that is required. Encourage a good curved arm position with a fluid movement and height at the top of the arm swing, the arm should pass through 5th position.
- The arm action should feel lifted at the top of the action.
- Look for weight behind the arm swing. Remember that the most accented beat in a 3/4 is count 1, this should be apparent in the action.
- The body needs to stay facing the front with no twist in the alignment. The arm should swing across in front of the body and not drop behind the body line.
- There is a big tendency to twist the body as the arm swings across, this takes a lot of control and core to maintain the good posture required.
- The extended leg should be in a turn out position. The leg will have a tendency to turn in if the body is twisting.
- Both feet should remain on the floor during the sways with an adequate knee bend – refer back to Preparatory Sway and Gallops exercise. There is a slightly bigger knee bend in the middle of the action but apart from that everything else is the same.
- Get a good transference of weight into the supporting leg allowing the working leg to stretch fully. To achieve this action the legs should be hip width apart. If this is a struggle to achieve, floor mats can be used to help students understand their hip-width positioning. Place their feet on the mats so that the correct width is achieved.
- Once you have achieved the arm and leg movements, join the two together. You may find that the students get muddled to start with as they will be going to the right but using the left arm. This doesn’t come naturally, especially when adding in the leg action. Make sure that the feet and the arms are working in harmony with each other, also start and finish at the same time.
- The 3/4 section should be secure before attempting to teach the 6/8 steps.
- Make sure that the finger belt position is strong. The hands should be well held with a continuous line running from the elbow down to the middle finger.
- The knee bends are soft and bouncy with no locking of the knees, making sure that knees are over toes in the turned out position (which should still be a natural turnout) and also when in the parallel position.
- Be careful there is no upper body movement. Posture needs to be held firm and upright.
- Common faults with the 6/8 section are students don’t hold the knee bend position during the snap (out) or snip (in) of the feet. They have a tendency to do the 4 bounces and straighten their legs as they are moving their feet.
- Encourage a good knee bend which needs to be held whilst the feet are moving into position. This position has already been practised before in little jumps and big jumps. The legs need to build in strength and this is a good way for encouraging this.
TRANSFERENCE OF WEIGHT 6/8
The build-up to the transference of weight is:
Sways and gallops in Preparatory.
Warm-up A in Primary.
- The whole exercise could be practised at the barre which will help with balance and core stability.
- The points should have good pressure through the floor, this will also help with building up core strength.
- By encouraging turnout in the working and supporting leg it will improve balance and stability in the movement.
- The upper body should be held in a good postural position with no sideways movement during the points.
- Make sure that the supporting leg is straight during the points and the body weight is over the leg. No weight should be in the working foot.
- When placing the foot down into 2nd position, assure a good progression through the foot is made – toe lead with the heel being placed down last.
- In the transference of weight, a well-executed plié to second should be performed, avoid letting students pass through the position like a sway. Practise the 2nd position plié at the barre to guarantee satisfactory technique.
- The weight should be central in the demi plié with no pelvis tilting or lowering of the upper body. The body weight should not be dropped in the centre of the action and should be smooth and continuous. This requires core strength and leg strength which will begin to develop as the students start to appreciate the technique required.
- If the heels rise during the demi plié this could be due to too short Achilles. In this situation ask the student not to take the plié so low.
- The demi plié in 1st position is now 3 consecutive pliés, this is the first time they have done more than 1 in a row. Remind students of all the teaching points from Pointe and close and warm-up B. The knees should be going out over the toes and this is a good visual for students to understand where the leg placement should be.
- Your students may find the balance in the rise, hard to achieve, especially as it follows a moving action.
Take to the barre to encourage core strength and a good instep stretch which is needed to achieve a strong rise. All toes should be placed on the floor to maintain a strong base, no rolling in the ankle and a feeling of weightlessness.
STEP AND POINT WITH BALANCE 6/8
- This is the first time a fondu has been performed. Take to the barre and start in a demi plié in 1st position, extend one leg to devant. The turnout could drop inwards on the supporting leg. It is hard to maintain turnout on the extended leg. Encourage the heel of the extended leg upwards without dropping onto the side of the foot. Weight should be lifted with no heaviness in the extended leg.
- The hips stay central and level, no sitting in the supporting hip nor should the working leg pullback thus throwing the hips off alignment.
- The lift of the extended leg comes from the straightening of the supporting leg, and the lowering of the extended leg comes from the fondu in the supporting leg. This takes control and may not come naturally. The pelvis needs to stay tilted under, without this the lower back will have a tendency to move.
- There is no need to add any extra height to the extended leg. It should only be 45 degrees.
- The above part of the exercise can be practiced at the barre until secure enough to bring into the center.
- In the step close, step, and pointe section, both legs need to be straight, with a good transference of weight. Both feet are stretched, on the leading and closing foot. A common fault is that the second foot doesn’t stretch nor does it close into 1st position.
Always encourage a point of the foot on every step, 4 points in total for 1 step close step and pointe.
- The foot must pass through the 1st position before pointing to the front. The point to the front works in sync with the fondu.
- This whole exercise does require good core strength and good coordination of the legs working together.
PREP FOR PORT DE BRAS 3/4 OR 4/4
This exercise has a teachers choice of ending.
1st and 2nd position is the most used arm positions.
1st position is the gateway to all other arm positions.
This is the first time that the arms are working in set positions. Make sure that students know the names of each arm position.
Children do find it hard to get a pleasing arm line and tend to hold them in an angled position.
Port de bras means position of the arms
First position of the arms is the most common position to begin an exercise at the barre or combination across the floor. The arms are in a relaxed, oval shape. The elbows are slightly bent, with the fingers curved below the navel.
Second position the arms should be slightly in front of your shoulders; not directly to the sides and definitely never behind the shoulders. The elbows should never droop towards the hips. Keep the arms lifted and stable.
Fifth position both arms are softly rounded above the head, with fingertips face-width apart. Fingertips should never touch.
- There is a choice of a 3/4 or 4/4, this is the teachers choice. It would be advised that the 3/4 is used for girls and the 4/4 for boys as there is a stronger quality to the 4/4 making it more suitable for boys.
- A port de bras should be smooth and continuos. At this level no other body movement should occur.
- This is the first time students have executed specific positions of the arms and they will find it hard to keep the curvature of the arms especially when they are continuously moving.
- When moving the arm move from the shoulder as one unit, keeping the rest of the arm in place.
- You are looking for a smooth arm line. The arm position should be at its highest point at the shoulder followed by the elbow which is lifted followed by the wrist with the hands running smoothly downwards.
- The hands shouldn’t be angled but held as a continuation of the arm.
- With the use of mirrors this is a great way for students to start understanding where their arm positioning should be.
- Explain that the hands should be face width apart in bras bas, 1st, and 5th position.
- Bras bas should not touch the legs, elbows out to the side and no dropping backwards. This position should be elongated.
- The 1st position should be opposite the belly button.
- In 2nd position students should be able to see their fingers tips in their peripheral vision.
- 5th position should be slightly in front of the body line and hands face width apart. Failure to keep hands in front of body line will result in the bodyweight being taken backwards and the lower back arching.
- Even though this is an arm exercise the rest of the body should be in good alignment with feet in a pleasing 1st position, legs pulled upwards, weight out of the heels and upper body erect.
SAUTÉ AND ECHAPPÉS 4/4
Echappés are introduced in this grade.
The build-up to echappés is:
Sways and gallops in Preparatory.
Balletic warm-up B & Transference of weight in Primary.
- Students have achieved big jumps and little jumps in Preparatory and these should be revisited before teaching echappés. Refer back to Preparatory teaching notes for extra guidance.
- The exercise can be taught at the barre to assist with stability and control.
- When teaching the echappés an up and out action of the legs is necessary. It is crucial that the legs pull upwards in a strong line on the elevation, then separate and land into an acceptable 2nd position.
- When landing, the heels must be down with knees over the toes.
- Upper body maintaining good posture avoiding any dropping forward from the waist.
- A way of stopping students going too wide on the landing would be to place circular mats on the floor, hip-width apart so that, when they land, their feet land on the mats. This will give them the comprehension of how far apart they should be.
- A common fault is to lose the turnout on the landing. Encourage the knees over the toes as mentioned above.
- Encourage progression through the feet to help with good elevation and a padded landing.
- Remind your students that the height comes from the demi plié and power through the legs.
SPRING POINTS WITH PAS DE CHEVAL 6/8
Spring points and pas de cheval are two new steps to be introduced in this grade.
The build-up to spring points and pas de cheval is:
Step close step and point in Preparatory. This is because of the point on the fondu and leg positioning
Spring points – The weight needs to be off the front foot and in the supporting leg.
- Spring points can sometimes change into spotty dogs with the weight on both feet and no point.
- If students struggle to keep the weight out of the toes, do spring heels, it is harder to put weight into the front heel. Practice this until the weight starts going onto the back leg. Once this has been mastered start to reintroduce the toe lead.
- On landing the spring point, keep the weight out of the supporting leg and distract from sitting in the hip.
- Place a mat or floor marker down in front of the student and encourage them to place the working foot on the mat with a toe lead, encouraging turnout in the working and supporting leg. Imagine the mat is hot so the foot doesn’t want to stay on the floor for too long.
- A practice exercise: x3 hop points on one leg then change, reduce this to 2 hop points and change, then to 1 which is now a spring point.
- A good elevation is required so that the legs can change with ease. The step will become a lot easier to fulfil if there is an elevation in the movement.
- There should be no upper body rocking sideways this needs to be upright, with the core engaged. There is a tendency to throw the weight either forward or back.
- There is a lot of technique that is vital to execute this step correctly.
Pas de cheval
The foot action is : from the degagé devant, pull the working foot into the supporting ankle. Pull the foot up the side of the supporting leg to the knee and open out into the fondu position.
The one question is should the foot of the working leg be turned out? Yes, it should be encouraged.
Turn out should try to be achieved in Primary but if a student is struggling to get the turn out in the working leg this is satisfactory for this grade. Just keep working at developing this technique.
Take the action to the barre to help with getting placement and control before bringing into the centre.
- There needs to be a rise and fall in the pas de cheval action. The supporting leg straightens as the working leg pulls up the side and bends when the leg is lowered into the degagé. Coordinating the leg action can be challenging for this age group.
- The working foot stays in contact with the floor on the drawing inward action.
- Maintain the turnout, don’t lift the working leg too high, keep the weight out of the foot when pointing on the fondu and control the straightening and bending of the supporting leg.
- Make sure the working leg doesn’t go behind the supporting leg.
- We have seen the straighten and bend action before in:-
Pointe and close exercise – Preparatory
Step and point with balance – Primary
- Core strength is needed when executing the pas de cheval action.
STEP AND HOP ENCHAÎNMENT 2/4
This is the first time that the petit jeté action has been introduced.
A petit jeté must always start from one foot and land on one foot, this is what we call one to one.
A petit jeté can’t be taken straight from standing. Have a good understanding of the foot placement and make sure that the foot doesn’t sickle around the supporting leg. Both legs maintain a good turnout.
It can be hard for students to feel the point of the foot at the back and the toe can sometimes touch the floor or place too far across the supporting leg.
- Take the exercise to the barre and practice the demi plié in 1st position.
- Release one leg and place the foot in the petit jeté position explaining how the action is like half of a demi plié with both legs turned out. Once students have achieved this with steadiness bring it into the centre.
- Heels need to be down after every petit jeté, which is achieved if there is a good bend in the supporting leg. This method of working would have been introduced back in Preparatory.
- Don’t let the leg that is coming into the jeté action swing behind the supporting leg, it needs to be placed with precision and control by the heel of the supporting leg.
- A good elevation is imperative. Petit jetés fall into the allegro category.
- The step and close actions have already been accomplished in the step and pointe with balance exercise. Recap this action, you are looking for two straight legs with extended feet on each step.
- A clean 1st position placement is in the middle of the Step and Close action.
GALLOPS FORWARD AND SIDEWAYS 6/8
The pattern and direction is set by the teacher. There are no set amount of gallops that have to be used. Good contrast should be considered. Appealing usage of the studio space is required.
Sideways gallop build-up is:
Sways and Gallops – Preparatory
Forward gallops build-up is:
Warm up A – Primary
- Refer back to Warm Up A notes for guidance.
- Hips should be facing the line of dance. As the children progress up the grades it is the hips that will determine the direction of dance.
- When choreographing the pattern make sure that there is a good transition between the forward and sideways gallops.
INTRODUCTION TO FREE MOVEMENT
This section is unset and should NOT be choreographed.
Students are allowed to choose which character they wish to be and they tell the examiner their choice. They don’t all have to be the same character.
The characters are:
- This is the first time students would have done any form of expressive movement. Sit down with your class and chat with them about each character and what they would do and how they would express that in movement.
- Make sure that you dance with them as they will be looking to you for encouragement. Some may lack confidence and feel self-conscious.
- Don’t make a big deal out of it if a child doesn’t want to initially join in. The more free work is done, the more relaxed students will become.
- They don’t need to use set ballet steps as it has to be free expressive movement.
- Explain the importance of good use of space, pattern, and direction.
- If you have a child that is very shy about joining in, get another child to buddy up with them and they can work together until confidence is built.
DANCE WITH THEME
Dance A 3/4
Dance B 2/4
Dance C 6/8
This is danced as an individual dance, but all together in an exam group.
It is the teachers, choice to select either Dance A, B or C for your students. Each student in the exam group must use the same piece of music.
It is fine to vary your choice of music between exam groups.
Make sure that your dance has a theme to it, use steps from the Preparatory and Primary grade. Use good pattern and direction. Props may be used if required. This is always very useful to students and helps them relate to the theme.
The students must be able to tell the examiner what piece of music they are using either A, B or C and explain what their dance is about.
CURTSEY OR BOW 4/4
Don’t neglect the curtsey or bow as your students get marked on this.
After the curtesy or bow, students need to say thank you to the examiner and to the person controlling the music.
Depending on where the door to your studio is, either number 1 or number 4 will lead the group out.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
If you would like to have a go at some questions regarding this grade click the link below.