The 16th edition of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores assemblés, which are jumps commencing on one leg and landing on two. Like sautés, they are usually performed as part of the allegro (jumping) section of a ballet class.
|Steven McRae in The Nutcracker|
Photo: Bill Cooper / ROH
The word ‘assemblé’ unsurprisingly means to assemble, and the jump involves bringing the legs together in the air. The simplest and lowest-height version, a petit assemblé, commences with one foot on the ground (the other is usually lifted in a cou de pied position with the toes pointed and touching the ankle of the standing foot), and involves a small jump where both legs come off the ground, landing with two feet on the floor in a plié.
A full assemblé begins with both feet on the floor, usually in 5th position, in a plié. One leg then extends – either to the front, back or side – by sliding the foot across and slightly off the floor. This is followed by a jump, springing off the supporting leg, to bring both legs together in the air and land on two feet in a plié. The slide of the working leg is, strictly speaking, a preparation, and only the jump - from one leg to two - counts as the assemblé.
There are many variations of assemblé, in terms of the direction of the working leg, the height of the jump, whether the jump travels or stays on the spot, and whether or not the supporting leg remains in the same position in relation to the working leg. The most common variations for the latter are assemblé over, where the working leg commences behind in 5th, slides out to the side and lands in front, and the reverse, assemblé under. Assemblés can also be performed en tournant (turning) and with a wide variety of arm positions.
Assemblés are performed in numerous ballets, most often in male solos. Here is Dutch National Ballet dancer Gaël Lambiotte performing the prince's Act II solo in Sleeping Beauty, commencing with three diagonal travelling sequences which each end with a grand assemblé over.