Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Ballet Series: Pretty Penches

  Hey everyone. Today's post is about one of the prettiest dances moves. Penches (pronounced pan-shay). When done correctly, penches can look effortless. But no one see's the effort involved with such an elegant move. Doing a proper penches has a lot to do with different body parts working in opposition, which is a concept some dancers find difficult to understand. But never fear, this blog post will help you master this move!
Loosing Control
  First off, it is very easy to fall out of a penche, especially if you're doing it on pointe. To balance this post you need stability, and good stability comes from good placement. Karen Gabay, artistic associate and ballet mistress of Ballet San Jose says, "you need to have your weight right over the balls of your toes. As you lift your working leg, spread the toes of your standing foot inside your shoe and engage your core, which will help fight the feeling of loosing balance." Gabay also suggest that you focus your gaze "past your fingertips" rather than looking at the floor. Looking at the floor can be disorienting.

Dropping Your Back
  If you pitch forward and drop your upper back as you penuche, you'll ruin the steps elegant line. "If you think of your leg pushing you forward while you resist your upper body, you'll never get into a funky "plank" position." says Jessica Collado, a first soloist with the Huston Ballet. On the way back reverse the order; lead back with your shoulder blades, and resist against them with your working leg.

Forgetting About Your Arms
   Many dancers, myself included, focus on only one aspect of a certain move, that they ignore the other parts involved. Having a good port de bras is important in mastering a penche. I suggest to picture a partner supporting your back wrist as you move into the penche to keep the arm from dropping too low or getting too far behind you.
Focusing on stretching both arms outward will create a feeling of opposition, which will help you keep your balance. I like to think about ice coming out of my fingertips (like Elsa from Frozen). It puts me right in the center of my balance.

Sitting In Your Standing Leg
Shifting your weight back into your standing leg and hip might give you a inch or two of height in your penche, but it can also be a recipe for disaster. "The second you rock back on your heel and stick your bum out, you'll start to loose control." Collado warns. Instead, think about lifting up on your supporting side and keeping your weight over your toes as you lean forward.

Opening Up Your Hip 
This next one is a penche no-no, when in theory, gives you more height and stretch. Opening up your hip distorts you line and in turn makes your penche look less impressive. "Don't sacrifice your position just to get the leg up. The key to creating the illusion of a deep penche is to maintain a hight-quality line, which will let the audience see every millimeter of your true extension." Gabay says. 
My dance teacher, Ms. Terese suggests imagining a line between your back toe and the opposing shoulder to keep your hips square (it'll also keep your leg directly behind you).

Penche Polishers
Obviously, have your left, right and center splits down helps a lot. Over-splits can't hurt either. These three moves will help improve you penche. 

The Sphinx: Lie on your stomach with your legs stretched behind you. Prop yourself up on your elbows, with palms flat on the floor, engaging your back and abs. Keeping your palms and hips on the floor, do a series (10 to start; increase by 5 after a week or two) of slow "push ups". When you're at the top, look at the celling, take a deep breath and imagine your hips dropping down." Gabay says. "That lengthening will give you a more supple back." 

Back-Ups: Lie on your stomach and lock your hands behind your head. Lift your upper body off the floor. Rock forward, lifting your legs; then rock backwards, returning your legs to the floor and lifting your chest again. "Continue to rock in that position, feeling the connection between your back and pelvis." says Miami City Ballet principal Tricia Albertson. You'll build strength in your back and hamstrings.

Wall Assist: Albertson also likes to do penches against a wall, positioning her supporting foot a few inches away from the baseboard. "I put my hands on the floor, and lift my leg slightly off the wall, ten times. It activates the muscles I'll need to hold the position, and keeps me from sitting back in my standing leg."

Here is a link that will help you strengthen your mucles to do beautiful penches, as shown in the two images below.

Photo credit: Google Images
Photo credit: Tumblr

   So that pretty much sums up this post on Penches. I hoped it helped you all, I know it helped me a lot. I have a dance photoshoot on Sunday which I'm so excited for. Have a lovely weekend and I will catch you next week.

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