Wrap Artist

(L to R) Devant (pointed), devant (wrapped) and relaxed (Erin Baiano)

Sur le cou-de-pied (French for “on the neck of the foot”) can be so confusing. Sometimes it’s wrapped. Sometimes it’s not wrapped. Sometimes it’s relaxed; other times, fully pointed. You’ll probably be asked to do all of its various versions at some point in your ballet career. But how can you keep them all straight? And how do you know when to use which type? Read on to learn the sur le cou-de-pied basics.

The Positions

Here are the four basic sur le cou-de-pied positions:

• Devant (pointed). Point the working foot and touch its little toe to the front of the standing leg just above the ankle bone.

• Devant (wrapped). Wrap the working foot around the standing leg’s ankle, with the heel forward and the toes back.

• Derrière. Touch the working leg’s ankle bone to the back of the standing leg’s ankle bone, with the working foot’s toes pointed.

• Relaxed. Relax the ankle of the working foot and touch its heel to the standing leg, just above the ankle bone.

How They’re Used

American Ballet Theatre’s Julie Kent demonstrates sur le cou-de-pied derrière in Les Sylphides. (Marty Sohl)

How and when you use sur le cou-de-pied varies from style to style. The Russian school uses a wrapped foot for frappé and petits battements, for example, while the French and Italian schools use a relaxed ankle for frappé. Most styles begin développés with a wrapped sur le cou-de-pied, but in Russian technique the toe comes up the front or back of the standing leg, while in the French and Italian styles it continues up the side of the standing leg.

Teachers usually have preferences about when each position should be used. But if it’s permitted, experiment with the different variations of sur le cou-de-pied to see which work best on your body. Some of them have benefits you might not expect. If you’re not a great jumper, for example, try using a relaxed ankle during frappé exercises on flat. The relaxed ankle makes the metatarsals and toes work as you brush against the floor. “It activates those muscles so that when you jump, you’re using the lower foot to really point in the jump,” says Raymond Lukens, a teacher in the pre-professional division at The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. The extra bit of point from the lower foot will add height to your jump, as well as polish to your line.

You can also use sur le cou-de-pied to help present your legs and feet. “If you’re stepping up to sous-sus, go through that scooping around the ankle joint before you step forward,” says Sarah Van Patten, a principal at San Francisco Ballet. “It adds a pretty little flourish—the foot comes up and around, rather than just lifting off the floor.”

Still Confused?

Figuring out how to work the foot in sur le cou-de-pied can be tricky, especially when you go away to a summer course and find that it’s used differently than the way you were taught. As a student, it’s to your advantage to learn all uses of the position—not just because you’ll be more versatile, but because doing so will help you gain strength in your feet and ankles and learn about maintaining alignment. “If you only work with a wrap,” Lukens says, “you won’t extend the foot fully and develop flexibility in the ankle. On the other hand, a dancer who works mostly in the pointed variations might end up sickling her feet.”

“It’s important to be versatile,” adds Kara Zimmerman of the Joffrey Ballet. “As dancers we need to be able to adapt quickly so we can be ready for whatever is asked of us.” Though it may feel confusing, practicing frappés with a relaxed ankle one day and a wrapped foot the next can only help you. Training that way will improve your versatility.

Sur le cou-de-pied is not a position you’re typically in for a long time. But a transition step is as important as any other. “Doing it well,” Zimmerman adds, “can be the difference between a clean, refined dancer and a sloppy dancer.”

Latest Posts


TikTok creator Dexter Mayfield is serving all the feel-good content we need in 2020. (Anastasia Garcia, courtesy Mayfield)

4 Queer Dancers Taking Over TikTok—and Maybe the World

The queer community has found a new home on TikTok.

Although not without its downsides—trolls seem to find their way onto every social media platform—many users who identify as LGBTQ+ are finding support on the app, which has opened up space for them to present their identities in a way that feels authentic. For dancers, who train and work in a world that often reinforces the gender binary, claiming space on TikTok can feel especially validating.

That sense of inclusivity is "primarily due to the fact that the main demographic of creators and users on the app are Gen Z," says dance and social media star Dexter Mayfield, who's done everything from performing with Jennifer Lopez and Katy Perry to walking major runway shows. "I have never seen a more intelligent and inclusive and engaging group of young people that are determined to truly be better than those who have come before them."

That network of support has propelled some queer dancers to the forefront of TikTok fame. Here are four of those artists who are dominating the app, doing things their way.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Class at Butler University (Michaela Semenza, courtesy Butler University)

The Truth About Grades as a Dance Major

You may know what it means to earn a silver, gold, or platinum award for your performance—but probably not an A, B, or C grade. Often, dancers don't encounter the idea of grading in dance until they enter collegiate dance programs. When you're evaluating an inherently subjective art form, what distinguishes an A student from a B student?

The answer: It's complicated. "There's a lot that goes into creating a well-rounded, successful student, which hopefully produces a well-rounded, successful professional," says Angelina Sansone, a ballet instructor at University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

In college programs, set movement phrases, repertory selections, or audition-style classes often serve as graded midterms or final exams. Written components such as self-assessments, audition research projects, and dance history tests might count as well. But the largest contributing factor to your grade is usually how you approach the work, day in and day out.

Dance Spirit talked to faculty across the country to discover what it takes to be a top student—and why dance grades matter.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
We loved seeing Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert back dancing in the ballroom. (Erin McCandless, courtesy ABC)

"DWTS" Week 6 Recap: Nope, Derek Hough Didn't Propose on Live TV

Please hold for applause: We're now roughly halfway through this season of "Dancing with the Stars," mid-pandemic, without a single case of COVID-19. Apparently we can have some good things this year!

And last night's episode of "DWTS" was particularly dance-tastic, complete with a special dance-pearance by judge Derek Hough. And while we were a little disappointed by certain aspects of his performance (please refer to this article's headline), it was all kinds of amazing to see Derek back dancing in the ballroom. But in case you missed it (or you were too busy voting early—go you!), here are all the highlights from last night's episode.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search