In ballet, Adagio refers to slow movement, typically performed with the greatest amount of grace and fluidity than other movements of dance.
Adagio in Ballet Class
In a classical ballet class, an adagio combination or lesson will concentrate on slow movement to help improve a dancer’s ability to control leg movement and extension, all while keeping the entire body controlled and aligned.
Adagio combinations are typically done both at barre and in center. They usually consist of many basic steps of classical ballet technique, such as arabesque, attitude, développé, grande rond de jambe, and plié, among more advanced steps. They are usually given at almost all skill levels and classes, from beginner to advanced.
The quality of a dancer’s adagio work is shown by how fluid the dancer can move and hit the fine balance of high extensions without sacrificing strong standing legs. Also, how purposeful the movement looks without lots of noticeable movement in their feet or arms to keep balance.
Adagio in a Pas de Deux
In a typical Grand Pas de Deux, the adagio is often the first movement or section where the ballerina is partnered by her male dancer partner.
While pas de deux surely translates to “steps for two,” a partnered adagio can also come in other relationships, such as a pas de trois of 2 females and 1 male (for instance, in Swan Lake’s first act “Pas de Trois”) or 2 males and 1 female (in the case of some versions of the Pas de Esclave from Le Corsaire).
Adagio in Ballet Music
In the world of music, the word adagio is used to describe a slow section of music. However, in ballet, adagio simply refers to the type of movement and does not necessarily mean it has to be performed to slow music. You can dance an adagio to quick music, so long as your movement is truly slow. Contemporary ballets sometimes use this to show contrast in the piece.