Monday, 3 August 2015

Ballet Steps: Fouettés

The latest installment of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores fouettés, the technically-challenging pirouettes on one leg found in many ballets.
Alina Cojocaru and Alejandro Virelles
in Swan Lake
Photo: Photography by ASH
The word fouetté means 'whipped' and can be applied to a 'whipping' movement of the leg in various different ballet contexts. For example, a fouetté can involve one leg staying in the same position in space but shifting in terms of its relationship to the torso (such as from in front to arabesque) with the supporting foot pivoting or jumping to realign the rest of the body. Contrastingly, a battlement fouetté, which is usually performed at the barre, involves the working leg commencing lifted to the side and then striking the floor as the foot comes in to end pointed either in front of or behind the supporting leg. This blog, however, refers specifically to fouetté turns, or, to be more precise, fouettés ronds de jambe en tournant.
Fouettés are performed predominantly by female dancers and usually begin with a double pirouette (often commencing in plié in 4th position) as preparation. As the final preparatory spin is completed and the supporting heel returns to the floor with the knee bent, the working leg remains off the floor and performs the ‘whipping’ fouetté movement, by extending directly forward and then circling to the side. The working leg returns to pirouette position (bent, with the foot placed just below the opposite knee) as the supporting leg relevés and the dancer pirouettes again. This sequence can be completed multiple times with each pirouette landing forming the beginning of the next fouetté. A series of fouettés is usually finished with a final virtuosic pirouette – typically including three or more spins – to land with both feet on the floor.
An alternative way of performing fouettés involves extending the working leg directly to the side and straight back into pirouette position, rather than including the forward extension first. Dancers can also choose whether to perform single fouettés, where the body makes one 360o spin in between each ‘whipped’ movement of the working leg, or multiple (usually double) fouettés. The key feature is that after the preparatory pirouette, the working leg must stay off the floor. Ideally, dancers should also remain on the spot with the supporting leg landing in exactly the same position each time, although some choreography involves fouettés travelling forward.
Fouettés are often included in pas de deux coda (following a duet, male solo and female solo). There are the infamous 32 fouettés for Odile in Swan Lake (although contemporary dancers often include more than 32 spins within the music), and fouettés feature in numerous other ballets including Le Corsaire, Grand Pas Classique and Flames of Paris.
Here is Natalia Osipova performing the Don Quixote '32' fouettés twice in the same performance. She combines both single and double turns and spins much faster than most ballerinas:

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