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Grand Plie and the knees

James Clouser

Teacher and lecturer

 

Perhaps it was because of my training in music, that early on in my dancing career I was frequently given teaching assignments. Certainly, it was because of recurring knee problems that I became interested in the scientific and kinesiological aspects of teaching dance. Within weeks of removing grand plies in fourth position from my own daily regimen (at the suggestion of Beatrice Tompkins of the New York City and Joffrey Ballets), my knees stopped aching. A few years later, when I was teaching at the American Dance Festival, I attended my first kinesiology lecture (given by Sally Fitt of UCLA and the University of Utah). Sensing the wisdom of her words, which at the time were considered controversial, I stopped giving grand plies entirely and began to devise other stylistically appropriate exercises to provide the benefits of the grand plie without exposing my students to its risks. I do give the occasional grand plie now (but never in fourth), usually near the end of the barre and only to those who have mastered their foot and ankle alignment.

 

My most formative ballet teachers were Anatole Vilzak, Igor Schwezzov, Edward Caton, Eric Bruhn, Benjamin Harkarvy, Robert Joffrey, Arnold Spohr, Audrey de Vos, Kirsten Ralov, Vera Volkova and Asaf Messerer. These teachers, who represent the finest of the English, Danish, Russian and American School, along with those teachers who exposed me to more contemporary styles, Robert Moulton, Betty Jones, Clay Talliafero, Matt Mattox and Martha Myers, also taught me about the dynamics involved in teaching dance. And as I think back, I realize they all brought a sense of joy and nobility to their teaching which still sustains me

http://people.unt.edu/~jbc0011/teach.html

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