Perfecting your penchee and dealing with mean friends
How do I improve my penchée? —Niesha Johnson
First of all, remember that a penchée is really an extended arabesque—and an arabesque should come from your back, not your extremities. You want to maintain the connection between your upper back and your leg, constantly forcing the two against each other.
Stretch the front of your hips and your hamstrings, emphasizing length and freedom of movement. Strengthening exercises will help stabilize your standing leg, which will help you control the depth of the penchée without losing your balance or showing strain.
Stand on one leg in parallel without the barre, and simply plié, straighten and relevé to focus on alignment and smooth transitions. (The other leg is gently bent.) Repeat this exercise turned out and then do the other side.
A good preparatory barre exercise is to tendu arabesque and combré back. Imagine there’s a string connecting your bun to your foot and lift your toe to arabesque without breaking that string. Continue into penchée, holding that connection and resist the urge to nosedive—you want to avoid looking like an ironing board. Then, reverse the motion and come back to arabesque, keeping your leg up as high as possible. This will strengthen your back and encourage the correct aesthetic line. Remember to keep your knees straight, shoulders square and weight on the ball of your standing foot.
In center, I imagine that someone is partnering me—supporting me by my back wrist and lifting me away from the floor as I extend into a deep arabesque. Check out Susan Jaffe demonstrating a penchée at abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/penche.html. She’s classically picture-perfect.
Julie Diana is a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet.
I always get a minor or understudy part when I want the lead. I’m OK until people tease me! How can I stop feeling so sad? —Cherry Lang
It’s difficult when you strive for something and don’t get it, and worse when others taunt you. Let’s start by looking at how you treat yourself. Most of us are our own worst critics. Clean up your negative “self-talk” and start giving yourself words of encouragement. Don’t dwell on what you think your failures are. Instead, form an image of yourself as an experienced, talented dancer. How we think shapes our reality, so keep visualizing your goals and a positive outlook of your performance skills.
Perhaps if you are thinking positively about yourself, your peers will mirror that attitude. But if they continue to be insensitive or downright mean, let them know. Ask, “Did you mean to make me feel bad?” If their intention is to hurt you, they probably won’t stop teasing, and you should seek out new, supportive friends. But most likely, they just need to realize how harsh their words are. Finally, examine how you’re treating others. Be kind, and they’ll probably return the notion.
Robin Powell, PhD, is a professor of dance/performance at New York University and a psychotherapist.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.