This will be the first post in a series I will call Footwork. The purpose of this and most of my posts will be primarily to educate the general public about important elements of teaching and performing the art of classical ballet. Knowledge will empower parents to make good decisions regarding finding the right teacher for their child. In addition, I also welcome discussion about this or any other post that I write.
Today I will talk about the “wrapped” position sur le cou-de-pied. “Sur le cou-de-pied” means “at the neck of the foot” which designates the area of the lower leg from the base of the calf to the beginning of the foot. The Vaganova Method has five sur le cou-de-pied positions. The wrapped position is of particular importance as the shape the foot takes when “wrapping” the ankle correctly creates beautiful lines in many of the poses of classical ballet. To learn the “wrapped” sur le cou-de-pied you start in first position (for the uninitiated this is standing with your heels together with your toes facing out, ideally in a straight line). The foot – right or left – is drawn up the the lower leg by bending the knee to the side and simultaneously bringing the heel forward and the toes back. The heel ends up in front at the base of the calf and the toes “wrap” around behind the ankle. This is a beautiful and graceful line. The opposite – the toes forward and the heel back creates an awkward looking line or position. This can be illustrated for the novice by standing before a full length mirror with the toes pointing in towards each other and walking towards the mirror. I think everyone would agree this is an awkward looking stance and movement. Learning the correct position will create a beautiful movement quality when moving the leg to the front or back, taking a step, walking or running and picking the foot up by bending the knee. Also, when the final pose is reached front or back (arabesque, attitude or devant), the shape of the foot learned by wrapping the sur le cou-de-pied will, along with turnout from the hip socket, create a beautiful pose. An added benefit is that the muscles of the foot and outside of the lower leg are strengthened by practicing this position. As a side note, when the leg is lifted to the side (a la seconde) the foot position is different. You simply stretch straight through your ankle, toes curving downward and the instep hopefully curving upward.
Again, I encourage everyone to do research on the web. Look for clips on YouTube, and Google pictures of ballet dancers. You can also look at pictures in Dance or Pointe Magazine.