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Essential clips: Paris Opera Ballet School

Here is a short excerpt from a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet School (L'Ecole de Danse de l'Opera de Paris), one of the oldest ballet schools in the world. This part features the male students. The technique on display here is remarkable, especially given the age of some of the dancers.

The lady introducing the clip is Claude Bessy, a former principal with the Paris Opera Ballet who went on to become the headmistress of the school. The clip shows students from the school doing a number of exercises which are then demonstrated by Patrick Dupond and Eric Vu An, also principal dancers.

The clip is in French but the images speak for themselves. See below for a translation of the key points into English. You will note that all the technical terms remain in French because this is the language of ballet.

Claude Bessy
An important feature of male ballet technique is that men pirouette on demi-pointe [unlike women who pirouette on pointe which means the very tips of their toes]. To spin 8 or 10 times in a row you have to make careful use of your back.

Ballet master
0.15 Think about your shoulders. [He counts/talks the boys at the barre through the exercise.]

0.45 [He counts/talks the boys in the centre through their exercise.]

1.52 Good. Not bad. Now, children, we'll have a look at pirouettes finishing in attitude on demi-pointe. Be careful, it's difficult. You need to ensure you use your back correctly. Let's start with a chassé, a relevé, pirouette in second position, attitude, détourné, then start again on the other side. Yes? Music please, maestro! [He counts/talks the boys through the exercise.]

Claude Bessy
2.43 For jumps to look stylish you have to take off with a lot of force (which mustn't be seen) and land as lightly as possible.

[More exercises are demonstrated.]

Ballet master
4.26 Now, children, we're going to look at the big jumps. Glissade, double cabriole devant with a chassé en arabesque, you come back up with a double cabriole croisée en arabesque, and then end with a développé en détournant. Then the same on the other side.

4.40 Take care of the position of your necks and make sure you engage the lower back to ensure the cabrioles are as clean as possible. Music please, maestro!

[The exercises are demonstrated.]

Claude Bessy
5.22 Let's count together: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. [This is a demonstration of an entrechat 8 - the dancer jumps and while in the air crosses and uncrosses his legs 8 times. Normally it's too fast to see which is why this clip is in slow motion.]

[More exercises are demonstrated.]

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