The dynamic spring to arabesque on pointe, or grande sissonne ouverte sur la pointe, is a useful step to practice because it will help you build strength, coordination and daring. Here, former New York City Ballet soloist and current School of American Ballet faculty member Katrina Killian explains the fine points.
—Begin in fifth position en face, right foot forward, with equal weight on both feet.
—To get the right energy for the plié that initiates the movement, Killian suggests thinking ahead, that you will land equally on both feet. “You’re landing,” she says, “but make sure to have energy in the ball of the foot and an understanding of where your heels are going to be.”
—Dart forward into first arabesque on the right leg. As the right leg moves from the plié in fifth to pointe to execute the sissonne, think that it continues to cross in front of you. At the exact same time, battement your left leg from fifth directly to the arabesque precisely behind you. You hit the position in one count. Ideally, a grande sissonne ouverte sur la pointe is a big movement that travels forward—in this case to first arabesque. “The distance you dart becomes a progression. When you start learning the step,” says Killian, “you’re only going to go so far, but as you learn to propel both legs equally, then the dart will become yours, and you will go further.”
—The arms and head are part of the movement from the start. The head and elbows set the tempo of the plié. As you land in your plié, lift the elbows and bend the head slightly forward, then extend with energy. Use your eyes to spot to where you are going to stop in the position: Fully extended in first arabesque, with the eyes looking over and past the top of the front hand. “Find the position in your mind,” says Killian. “Move from head-to-toe and toe-to-head, including the eyes, into your best position, the cleanliness of that right spot.”
By Katrina Killian as told to Virginia Johnson