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Isabella

Polka step ballet

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Hi Everyone, 

I've been asked to work on turn out in a ballet polka step and, although I've scoured the internet, I can't find any good examples to show my child. Can anyone help with any tips or suggested photos? Many thanks, Isabella x

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Hello Isabella and welcome to the Forum!

 

Would it help if you could ask the teacher who recommended this be more specific and suggest specific exercises that could be safely undertaken at home?

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I agree, Jan.  Which syllabus are you/your child studying, Isabella?  If RAD, there is a Polka step in the junior grades, if I remember rightly.  You should be able to find examples on Youtube by searching for “RAD Ballet Polka” or similar.

 

Turnout can be quite a complex concept, especially for young dancers as it involves various muscle groups being identified and engaged to ensure correct technique (and the strength to maintain turnout while dancing).  Hence I agree with Jan’s advice to ask the teacher for advice and, if applicable, exercises.

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It’s an imperial ballet step and is like a forward galop ending in a fondu derrière. In my opinion it’s a hideous step and making them look good is very hard. The dancer has to have straight, turned out legs on the first ‘galop’ phase, and then bent, also turned out legs in the second phase which looks more like a curtesy position. From this position the back leg moves through a petit developpé devant on the “hop” preceding the next galop. All while keeping the body lifted and pulled up (tricky bearing in mind the rhythm and the fondu moment) and the step often looks heavy when it should have a light, lilting quality. 
 

good luck!

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Thank you so much for your comments. Due to circumstances I don’t get to see the ballet teacher as I often pick up late. I’ve looked for polka online before but I can’t find good examples. Thank you Dr Dance for the description that’s really helpful. I’m not a dancer so I’m going to google some of the terminology! If anyone can recommend a good video or any other advice I would be very thankful. 

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To try and simplify - The basic step is -hop step, together ( join feet 5th), and jete ( swish jump).There are 3 main features which would to need to look turned out. The first is a hop with the other leg straight out in front ( turned out and toes pointed) and step forward ( turned out) Second, the back leg pulls in to the front leg in 5th ( Demi pointe and obviously turned out) Third is a ‘jete ordinaire en avant ’which the front leg swishes along the floor, jump on to it and land with back leg in a turned out plie up behind in coup de pied ( turned out). It can also be done to second ( travelling side to side). It is a very tricky and complex step for grade 1 and I’m sure this can’t help you at all!

If you google jete ordinaire derrière and en avant you might find something . Have fun!

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Sorry, just to add, the step is supposed to look natural and gallopy so the rhythm is probably just as important as the technical aspects. 

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Thank you Valentina. I’ll break that down for her. You’re right, she’s got the rhythm and the ‘lightness’ of step but i know as soon as I start going on about turn out she’ll lose that. It’s a fine balance! Thank you again x

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5 hours ago, drdance said:

It’s an imperial ballet step and is like a forward galop ending in a fondu derrière. In my opinion it’s a hideous step and making them look good is very hard. The dancer has to have straight, turned out legs on the first ‘galop’ phase, and then bent, also turned out legs in the second phase which looks more like a curtesy position. From this position the back leg moves through a petit developpé devant on the “hop” preceding the next galop. All while keeping the body lifted and pulled up (tricky bearing in mind the rhythm and the fondu moment) and the step often looks heavy when it should have a light, lilting quality. 
 

good luck!

 

Oh!

 

My Imperial Ballet Grade 1 girls look lovely doing this step and we always enjoy the challenge of making it look neat and tidy. It helps with rhythm and counting too .....a1&2, a1&2. I certainly wouldn't call it a hideous step!! 

 

Isabella, we always start off learning it 'sideways'. Face your partner. Learn the rhythm first...a1&2. a1&2. Then move, hop gallop change spring.....(landing in petit jete derriere position) try and concentrate on a good landing position. Your daughter should understand this or if in doubt ask her teacher. Good luck. 

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13 hours ago, Petit Jete said:

 

Oh!

 

My Imperial Ballet Grade 1 girls look lovely doing this step and we always enjoy the challenge of making it look neat and tidy. It helps with rhythm and counting too .....a1&2, a1&2. I certainly wouldn't call it a hideous step!! 

 

Isabella, we always start off learning it 'sideways'. Face your partner. Learn the rhythm first...a1&2. a1&2. Then move, hop gallop change spring.....(landing in petit jete derriere position) try and concentrate on a good landing position. Your daughter should understand this or if in doubt ask her teacher. Good luck. 

Personal opinion is all - I’ve seen it done so badly particularly in festivals that I developed a dislike for it early on! As an RAD trained dancer I wasn’t exposed to it until I began teaching in my 20s and didn’t quite understand the relevance of it, especially as I was seeing it done so badly most of the time! I’m sure if I had seen it done beautifully and properly from the outset my opinion would be different! 

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I’m sure I have a distant memory of learning the polka around Primary/Grade 1 RAD...and I can still hear the tune! As soon as you said a 1 and 2 a 1 and 2 Petit Jete it popped straight into my mind. 
I seem to remember holding our ballet tunics out whilst doing it....and my main memory is going side to side initially.

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RAD Primary used to include polkaing with a partner. Wearing our white dresses with ?pink sashes (or was it pink, blue, white and yellow as for badges for the graded exams) and remembering to dance so close to our partners that ‘we could hold a newspaper between us’. 
 

 

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11 hours ago, swanprincess said:

This may help!

 

 

Oh my gosh! Yes! Thank you!

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Sorry to put in a negative note, but I don't really "get" why the teacher would ask parents to work with their child on exercises that require an understanding of correct technique.   With the best will in the world a lay parent can't take the place of a trained teacher and I would never ask our parents to do that.  A parent can make sure the child practises, but honestly how would they know if they're doing it correctly?  The video of the Russian children is actually not how the RAD does it, as far as I know!  I always taught it with a jump - hop through with a turned out petit developpé into a gallop followed by a step hop with the back leg turned out.  It can also be done to the side and with a turn.  Good for you Isabella that you're trying to do it properly, but in my opinion as an experienced teacher, I don't think you should have been asked.

Edited by Dance*is*life
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Yes, this video is NOT how it is done in ISTD Gr1. It is a little more technical. It was always done with a petit developpe when I was teaching but I didn’t want to confuse poor Isabella.

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The above video is incorrect for the ISTD polka too. 

I’ve found a version of it being shown sideways on YouTube so at least you get an idea of the step....

 

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@LinMM, is it my imagination or was it a bit faster than in the video? I am almost certain it was. 

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OMG that’s the tune!!! And much nearer the way I learned it...in the 1950’s I’d better add!! 
Thanks for your video though Swan Princess the Russians do tend to use demi pointe more on the whole. That makes it a bit more ‘delicate’ but It was quite a vigorous step and I remember loving doing it! 
You can see the instruction for turnout would be for that first leg as it comes forward ...heel forward sort of thing ...not with the foot flat on to the front. 
But I agree with Dance is Life to be honest unless the teacher has given out or instructed parents to view a particular video for demonstration it could be the ‘blind leading the blind’ a bit at home. 

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Hello All, thank you so much for replying and trying to help me with this step. Just to clarify I wasn’t asked by the teacher to practise this...sorry I didn’t make myself clear. We were given some feedback from a festival a few months ago and it asked us to work on turn out in the polka step so I’m trying to help my daughter out as once they learn the dance there isn’t a lot of time to return to it during dance sessions. Funnily enough the above video of the lady is the video we’ve used to try and improve the step. It’s just so hard to combine rhythm, turn out and to actually get the step right! 

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Yes Fiz definitely faster than the Russian one and maybe a fraction faster than drdance video which is probably why I liked it so much. 
 

The best polka of all is the Polish turning polka.. that grown ups would do with a partner. It’s so fast going round it makes you a bit dizzy! 

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For classical training the Russian one is the correct balletic version, which you will see on demi pointe or pointe in most of the major classical ballets.  With a galop it is "ballroom" or character, great fun, and a good way to prepare for the ballet polka.

 

However, I am not a fan of the ISTD version as it interupts the flow of the step and has the wrong emphasis.  The rhythm of a polka is "step together step hop" and remains the same whether the "together" is galoped or on demi pointe.

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4 hours ago, Pas de Quatre said:

For classical training the Russian one is the correct balletic version, which you will see on demi pointe or pointe in most of the major classical ballets.  With a galop it is "ballroom" or character, great fun, and a good way to prepare for the ballet polka.

 

However, I am not a fan of the ISTD version as it interupts the flow of the step and has the wrong emphasis.  The rhythm of a polka is "step together step hop" and remains the same whether the "together" is galoped or on demi pointe.


I totally agree with you Pas de Quatre. I don’t know the history of the Polka but I think there’s a lovely one in ‘ Meet me in St Louis’ or ‘ Little Women’ and it a lovely, natural, happy movement that flows along quite chirpy. The ISTD version stops very suddenly after the spring/ jete which indeed stops the flow of movement. But I don’t know how all these versions came to be.... sure there’s good reason.

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4 hours ago, valentina said:


I totally agree with you Pas de Quatre. I don’t know the history of the Polka but I think there’s a lovely one in ‘ Meet me in St Louis’ or ‘ Little Women’ and it a lovely, natural, happy movement that flows along quite chirpy. The ISTD version stops very suddenly after the spring/ jete which indeed stops the flow of movement. But I don’t know how all these versions came to be.... sure there’s good reason.


Sounds like a dance research project needs to be done!!!!!! Interestingly (or not) I also do north-west Morris dancing and the polka step in clogs is VERY different! Although it has the same rhythm. 

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I’m totally confused now... there are so many different versions now I’m not sure what to tell my daughter. I suppose it will be subjective to each adjudicator as to whether she’s doing it right?! 

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my daughter nearly always gets comments about "sustain turnout" from festivals, I suspect an awful lot of them do when they are young! Her teacher has always said that they need to have good muscle strength to maintain the turnout so perhaps you need to ask for advice on exercises to strengthen turnout which will then enable her to hold it during the step if that makes sense?

 

should add, just a mum here and my daughter was born with her legs turned in so turnout has always been hard for her so we take it all very slowly as a result.

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@Isabella the best thing to do is to talk to your DD's teacher and see what they suggest. As you say, there is always a degree of subjectivity, and some adjudicators are more knowledgeable on particular things than others. I am not anti festival at all - my DD did them for over a decade and got a lot out of the experience  - but I think it is always wise not to take them too seriously. The adjudicator is seeing just a snapshot of your DD's dancing, and whilst the comments can be helpful, personally, I would generally take the advice of a trusted teacher who knows your DD well, over an adjudicator who has watched her for 90 seconds, especially when there is more than one approach to a particular dance or step. 

If you tried to follow every piece of advice you would go crazy! I remember one particular national dance that my DD did for a while in her later teens which became a bit of a joke because it seemed that every time she did it the adjudicator would directly contradict the one before. She was told it was too fast, then too slow. She was lifting her legs too far, then not far enough. It was a dance from a hot country, so she was putting too much energy into it, it should be more languid. No, it was from a country where the people are very exuberant so it needed to be livelier....you get the picture! 🤣 The amusing thing was, that as it was from her grandmother's home region she had done a lot of research and choreographed it herself and we knew it was technically very accurate. There was just one step in it that was not completely authentic and none of the adjudicators picked up on that. In fact if I recall rightly she had a few positive comments about that part!  But basically, she just focused on doing it the way she knew was right, not changing it every time an adjudicator was critical. I'm guessing your DD is younger and her dances are choreographed by her teacher rather than self choreographed, so I would say that she should dance it how she has been taught, and if she is unclear, ask the teacher. As you say, seeing lots of videos all slightly different is likely to confuse rather than help. 

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14 hours ago, Isabella said:

I’m totally confused now... there are so many different versions now I’m not sure what to tell my daughter. I suppose it will be subjective to each adjudicator as to whether she’s doing it right?! 


I wouldn’t worry too much about the detail as long as she’s making some effort to turn the legs outwards, rather than parallel. Whichever version the teacher wants, it will need to be with use of turn out if she’s doing ballet. 
She is only Gr 1? And it takes many years to learn to hold those legs outwards so don’t worry too much.

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Thank you all. I’m going to take your advice and literally just work on the turn out. Keep it to what we know and keep it simple and like you said @Pups_mumeach adjudicator will see it differently.  Yes @valentina she is only grade 1. Feel like I know what I’m doing now. Thank you x

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