10 Common Ballet Technique Mistakes and How To Fix Them

by | May 28, 2015 | Ballet For Adults, Beginners

Ballet technique can be both beautiful and frustrating. If you find yourself getting hung up on a particular step or movement, chances are you’re not alone. This list of common technique mistakes can help you identify problem areas and work to correct them.

1. Pliés – Too bouncy

1plies

Since pliés are the most basic step in the ballet vocabulary, it can be easy to breeze through them without paying attention to what you’re doing. There’s a tendency to “bounce” through pliés, and this is not good for your knees. Pay attention to the tempo of the music – if the music is faster, it’s okay to speed up the movement, but not jerk in and out of position. You want to slowly bend your knees on each count, but not snap up. After you plié, slowly straighten your knees.

2. Tendus – Sickling

2tendu

Make a line on the floor with your toes. Sound simple enough? Think again. Stand in first position, and pointing your toes, draw a straight line on the floor in front of you. If your heel is down by the floor, or your foot is making a c-shape, it means you are “sickling” and not doing it correctly. Instead, when you tendu your foot to the front, make sure the inside part of your heel is facing forward, and the top of your foot is facing away from you. Make sure you correct this to avoid alignment issues.

3. Dégagés – Sluggish

3degages

This looks like a tendu, except your foot brushes off the floor. You want your dégagés to be sharp and swift. If you’re struggling with sluggish dégagés, practice squeezing your buttocks and inner thighs as you quickly brush your pointed feet in and out. Pretend that you have a quarter between your thighs (you can actually try placing one there) and you don’t want it to drop on the floor with a loud clank!

4. Rond de Jambe – Hula hoop hips

4ronddejambe

When you make half circles on the floor with your feet, you want to keep your leg straight and your hips square. Don’t let your hips open in a circular motion (hula hoop hips) every time your leg goes around. Also, due to fatigue or poor technique, your knee may bend as your leg goes around behind you. Don’t let your knees bend. Again, try putting a quarter under your big toe. As you carry your leg around, see if you can keep your knee straight and the quarter underneath your toe the whole time. 

5. Frappé – Stomping

5frappe

Ah, the Starbucks step. When students learn frappé the first time, many make the mistake of stomping their foot against the ground instead of striking it. To help you through this step, try a visualization: imagine the balls of your feet are a matchstick, and you’re trying to light a fire against the floor. Have you ever lit a match with a slow strike? Of course not! So, the next time you have to do frappé at the barre, try quickly striking the balls of your feet against the floor, and not stomp out the fire.

6. Grand Battement – Noodle legs

6grandbattement

Just as with rond de jambe, your hips should stay square and your knees straight. You don’t want to break the line of the leg by flinging your leg in the air like a floppy noodle. Also, be careful not to let your body fold inward when you kick to the front, as if you’re doing crunches. When you go to the side, resist the urge to swing your hip up high, but keep it low and square. Finally, when you kick behind you, avoid the temptation to fall forward, by keeping your back straight.

7. Arabesque – Scaling down

7arabesque

You’ll want to apply the same principles of grand battement when you do arabesque. Unfortunately, when stepping into arabesque, some students let their upper body lean forward so far that they look like a plane preparing for landing. You can avoid this downward scale by focusing not on how high you can get your foot in the air, but how well you lift your thigh behind you. Tell yourself: Don’t let upper body move. Only the leg.

8. Jumps – Locked knees

8jumps

Nothing grates on a teacher’s nerves more (except unpointed feet) than locked knees when landing from a jump. Not only is it bad for your joints, but it’s not practical. Landing in plié serves a two-fold purpose: to cushion your joints and muscles from impact, and prepare you for the next step (usually another jump). So protect your knees and improve your technique by always landing with a small plié.

9. Turns – Dizzy

9pirouettes

It happens to the best of us. When practicing pirouettes or piqué turns, it’s easy to feel thrown off our equilibrium. You can combat this dizzying effect by “spotting”. Before you turn, focus your eyes on a specific point in front of you; your own eyes in the mirror, or a picture on the wall. As soon as you begin the turn, quickly whip your head around to lock your eyes on that same spot. The objective of this exercise is to not allow your eyes to wander, and cause you to lose your balance.

10. Leaps – Weak leverage

Female Ballet Dancer

If you want to soar in grand jeté, be sure to utilize your plié. Yes! You have to go low to go high. Well, not too low, but enough leverage from your gluteals and hamstrings to boost you up. The trick to performing a beautiful leap combination across the floor is to gain momentum, so don’t let yourself drag. Speed is equally important and will work in conjunction with your plié to give you decent height.

This list serves only as a basic guideline to common technique mistakes. Talk to your teacher if you have any questions, or want further correction. 

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