Developpe in classical ballet technique is seen mostly throughout ballet in adagio and jumps. It is especially seen performed by women in pas de deux and variations, and mostly commonly by men in jumps. A developpe is basically the movement from one position to the other, usually with the end position being an extension of a leg.
Developpe, like most ballet terms, is a french verb translating to English as “to develop.” It is pronounced and sounds like dave-luh-pay. Since its a verb, or a word describing an action, its a movement through many different positions. A clean and proper developpe would then have all of its “checkpoints” as clean positions as well.
For this lesson, we’ll be looking specifically at Développé à la Seconde, which translates to “develop to second” or as we would likely say in English, “Developing to the side.”
Développé à la Seconde in Ballet
Développé à la Seconde usually begins in fifth position. Dancers at barre or women in pas de deuxes will often start in a sous-sus (fifth position releve). Here’s how you can perform a proper developpe a la seconde.
- In fifth position, releve or flat, extend your outside arm to allonge (extended side with fingers stretched and palm down) to the side as a preparation.
- Bring your arm down to fifth position en bas (low fifth position).
- Right as the arm reaches fifth position, scoop your front foot into cou-de-pied.
- From cou-de-pied, continue to lift your leg into a proper and flat passe while also moving the arm to first position.
- Continue the movement by trying to isolate just your knee moving upwards while keeping your hip down. Try to engage your inner leg muscles to do so.
- Once your knee gets to the highest it can go, without sacrificing placement, extend your leg while keeping the knee in the same place while your arm extends to a high fifth position.
As you can see from Caitlin Valentine-Elllis demonstrating, she is hitting each position or “checkpoint” properly, but when actually performing this, you want to seamlessly move through all these points.
Things to Avoid in Développé à la Seconde
Since it does go through many positions, there are many technical errors and cheats that every dancer should try to avoid.
- Try to keep your bottom leg and foot turned out and straight. Don’t sacrifice any part of the standing leg in the effort to get your leg higher.
- It’s very easy to sickle your foot through cou-de-pied and passe, so remember to keep your heel forward as you move through every position.
- From the start, make sure your hips aren’t tilting or raising in anticipation of the final position.
- Keep your arm and leg coordinated with each other throughout the entire movement.
- Make sure you get to your full passe before lifting your knee, this will help you get your leg higher but also in the proper position.
- Maintain your leg turn out and rotation from the hip during the whole movement, especially when you end in a la seconde.
- Avoid trying to lift with your hip and quad muscles, which can lead to too much tension and actually works against you.
Keep it Proper
Like most of ballet technique, it may be difficult to do correctly at first and you find yourself looking for the easy way to get your leg higher. Using these sort of cheats, like lifting your hip and over engaging your quad muscles, actually work against you, especially in the long run. It is always just to trust your technique and practice properly, keeping in mind that results don’t happen over night.