First of all, let's get down to the basics, chaînés (short for “tours chaînés déboulés”) are quick traveling turns. Chaînés are mainly done with your feet in first position but some schools teach chaînés in fifth position, with the hips facing the direction you’re traveling and the front foot stepping out to effacé each time. For me, I find that doing chaînés in fifth position are actually a bit easier than doing them in first. For hyperextended dancers who have trouble fully straightening their legs in fifth position might have an easier time with chaînés in first position.
Go back to basics.
Many dancers begin by doing chaînés with their hands on their hips or their fingertips on their shoulders. Going slow at the beginning gives you more control over your position. Removing your arms from the equation also lets you focus on spotting, and having a strong spot will help you turn quickly.
What are your feet doing?
Some dancers let their feet separate too much as their chaînés progress and end up losing control. Focus on maintaining tension between your inner thighs. The two legs should feel like they’re connected as much as possible. You also want tension in your torso, which will pull you up and keep you from traveling too far with each step. You should feel like energy is coming out the top of your head. Imagine your body making a spiral shape, moving upward as well as outward.
Arm placement matters!
To make you chaînés more dynamic, I suggest you pay very close attention to the way you hold your arms. Arm placement can really affect the feel of your chaînés. When I'm doing chaînés I like to close my arms in slowly as I progress, similar to that of a like a figure skater. Closing my arms helps me gradually increase my speed.
Other things to mention...
There are a lot of common problems with chaînés. For example, if your chaînés are slow, you might not be bringing the second side of your back around fast enough. I suggest stepping with your second foot on the first count of the phrase. Pull around so you’re already facing the back corner by that point. It gets the body spiraling quickly, and makes the sequence feel like a series of turns rather than a series of steps.
If the choreography permits, you can choose between doing a tombé, chassé or piqué into a series of chaînés. A tombé or chassé will help you gain speed right away, while a piqué makes a cleaner start. But it’s the way you finish the turns that leaves the biggest impression on the audience. I suggest taking a deep plié after your final chaîné to help put on the brakes. It’s that contact with the floor that orients you again. Then you’re ready for whatever’s next, be it a pirouette or a balance in arabesque.
This image shows you the picture version of how chaȋnés need to look.
(Ballet Academy East’s Lauren Wolfram demonstrates clean chaînés,
picture-perfect at every turn. Photo by Erin Baiano).
And that concludes my post on how to master Chaines. If you liked this post don't forget to give this post a +1 on Google+, share it with anyone who might benefit from this and don't forget to leave me a comment below telling me what ballet move I should write about next time. Have a wonderful week!
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