Tombe’ Pas de Bouree: ‘The Gateway’ and Kicking Yourself in the Butt :O)

September 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

I have been learning so much these past few months going between various teachers in several ballet studios in Berlin! Now it is nice to finally sit down and share one of the things that I discovered is super-important in moving from beginner’s technique into intermediate and advanced technique.

It seems so easy, it is a series of steps we always do and forget to focus on improving…perhaps we feel it is just a way to get from point A to point B, rather than an important part of the dance itself. It is the wonderful transitional step, the traveling tombee pas de bouree (let’s abbreviate it to ‘TpdB’ from now on, yikes!). Remember, in this post I am talking about a traveling TpdB that often leads up to a pirouette, or in grand allegro, not the smaller pas de bourre’ by itself in petit allegro.

There were 2 big TpdB things that I learned recently in Matthew Thomas‘ 3-day adagio summer ballet workshop in Berlin:

1. ‘The Gateway’

We know about ‘the gateway’ position for arms, that being first position. But I think Matthew took liberty with the term and applied it to the position of the legs and feet in initiating TpdB.

If you observe beginners initiating a traveling or sissone TpdB, you will often see them stepping out first with 1) the foot quite close to the floor and 2) an unpointed foot. This combination of errors makes this (supposed to be) exciting initial step look totally flat and dull. That initial step is the “Here I am! Look at me!” presentation to the audience. You don’t want them to think about Flintstone feet (point your feet!) nor that you look tired hehe

More importantly, this is the step that gives you the momentum and energy to turn! There is little ‘energy’ that comes from an initial step that is so close to the floor, not to mention with having an unpointed foot. This translates into less energy and momentum to pirouette. You will land ‘flatly’ and heavily in 4th position to do your pirouette, and have to struggle to get energy to turn when you could have generated springy energy yourself by…

remembering ‘The Gateway!’

When initiating a traveling TpdB, repeat to yourself over and over ’45 degrees petit developpe’, push, 45 degrees petit developpe’, push, 45 degrees petit developpe’, push.’ That’s what the Gateway is. Your initiating step (point your foot!!!), using the leg that you ‘tombee’ upon, needs to come to 45 degrees via a petit developpe. I said petit, not through passe’. The back leg passes to the front somewhere mid-calf, not at the knee. If you are starting from 5th position, slide your working foot up to your standing leg’s mid calf and petit developpe’ from there.

Then you PUSH yourself with your back leg onto that leg with force once your foot meets the floor. It needs to feel uncomfortable, that feeling that you are going to fall over your front leg is good! That means you are creating energy and force with your leg. It is like initiating a pique’ arabesque: the energy you need to push your back leg very high is related to the angle in which your initiating step (through a petit developpe’ also at 45 degrees!!!) strikes the floor.

I found a video showing a dancer using the Gateway, though she goes into glissade, jete’. But you can see how she uses the petit developpe’ and kicks herself in the butt in double time! Exciting! Behold:

But that is not all to improving your tombee pas de bourre and subsequently improving your pirouettes! I learned something else about TpdB:

2. Kick your own butt

Haha, yes it sounds funny! So, you’ve done you’ve made it through the Gateway, now your weight is on that front leg, now what?

You need to bring in your back leg with force and SPEED while crossing your legs, one behind the other. Imagine that back leg kicking your own butt in order to propel your body forward. You are basically pushing yourself up into a fast sous-sous! Hold those cheeks tight and cross your legs before moving into a quick small 2nd position, and of course finally landing in 4th position plie’ in preparation for your turn.

The steps kicking your own butt plus small second are double-time! They are faster than the initial Gateway step. This speed also creates energy for your turn once you land in 4th position. USE IT as a spring!

So to recap:

1. Point your foot!
2. Petit devloppe at 45 degrees (the Gateway)
3. PUSH with force onto the front leg
4. Use your back leg to kick your own butt in DOUBLE TIME
5. Small second (pointed feet even here!) before bringing foot forward to 4th plie’, weight over the front leg
6. Now use your momentum as a spring for your turn(s)

Keep practicing and soon you will improve your pirouettes as well as be able to do multiple pirouettes. Ok, and remember to push that knee back and press your shoulders down and on and on! hehe Aside from improving pirouettes which everyone is quite focused on, your dancing as a whole will become more technically refined. The traveling TpdB is a basis step in ballet and is used like crazy. If you do this beautifully and ‘correctly’ so much of your dancing will start to move from ‘beginner’ to intermediate level. The difference between ‘ok’ and kinda sloppy and beauty is really a matter of millimeters. Push and concentrate and you’ll get to that beauty!

Next post I will write about visualizations that will make your developpes in all directions more beautiful thanks to what I learned from
Chandana Hörmann
at the most INCREDIBLE ballet studio in Berlin, Marameo.

I hope I can film some of these things I am learning and add the videos!

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§ 2 Responses to Tombe’ Pas de Bouree: ‘The Gateway’ and Kicking Yourself in the Butt :O)

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