Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ballet Steps: Révérence

In the 10th edition of my ballet steps series, I consider révérences. These are bows or curtsies performed at the end of class or performance as a way of saying thank you to the teacher, musician(s) and/or audience.
  
Male bows are quite straightforward, simply involving  tipping the body forward from the waist with the head bowed (and coming back up again).
 
Tamara Rojo
Photo: The Ballet Bag / ROH
Female dancer révérences are typically performed by stepping to the side and bringing the working leg behind with a pointed foot. Both knees are then bent and straightened, with the head and upper body simultaneously bowing and returning to upright.

Within this, there are several options: the plié may be kept small with the back foot staying in the same position, as typically performed by young children; the ball of the back foot may be placed on the floor as the dancer performs a deep knee bend; or the back foot may slide backwards as the dancer bends (deeply), until the back knee reaches the floor (pictured). Different styles of révérence are performed by different dancers. The latter is typical of British companies.
 
Arms during révérences are highly varied. Dancers may open their arms sideways or upwards as they prepare, lowering them during the révérence. Alternatively, they may perform with no arm movement at all, or may hold bouquets of flowers that have been presented to them.
 
Post-show révérences are often performed in character and may be choreographed specifically to reflect different roles. Odette (from Swan Lake) is likely to curtsey with her arms in a wing-like pose; Kitri (from Don Quixote) will probably place her hands on her hips during a révérence. Female dancers may also bow rather than curtsey, especially if they have performed a folk (character) dance.

In class, révérences are often incorporated into a port de bras exercise which slows down the body's heart rate and acts as a cool down (opposite of warm up). They may also include slightly different curtsey movements, such as stepping backwards as the upper body is bowed and then straightening the body and supporting knee with the other foot pointed in front.

Royal Ballet dancer Romany Pajdak demonstrates two different révérences:

 
The Royal Ballet School has a rather lovely tradition where students perform a révérence at the beginning of class as well as the end. This exercise gives the young dancers a chance to focus mind and body before beginning exercises at the barre.
 
When I am teaching dancers to révérence, I generally let them learn by copying, including it in the final exercise of class without any explanation (though I give more description later if needed). As bows and curtsies are something young children often practise during childhood games (such as when pretending to be kings or queens), rarely is it difficult for them to perform. Even for older students, once some basic ballet technique has been mastered, révérences are fairly easy to achieve and it is only the grace and/or characterisation of the movement that needs perfecting.

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