Thinking through assemblé

We all have that one step, you know that one thing which is just so hard to communicate to your feet, no matter how much you think your brain has grasped it.

For me, this is assemblé. It just makes me feel like a baby elephant. Really ungainly.

Aww baby elephant allegro.

Aww baby elephant allegro.

I wrote here ages ago about this, and my search for some tutorial vids. I guess it goes to show how long you have to think about and sit with a step sometimes before you start to feel any progress or “click” with it.

I’m still not comfortable with them in the centre at all, but I am feeling pretty good at the barre practicing them. I think my problem is that I am holding back from my plié and into the jump so I don’t actually have time/space to “assemble” properly. I think this just is fear that I will somehow break my ankles!

I have to perform assembles as part of the exam I’m working towards. I’m really learning to love allegro, although I don’t think it is my strong suit – I am an adage girl really and truly.


I just bought a skipping rope. My thinking is it’ll help with stamina, especially on petit allegro. Now, d’you think it’s acceptable for an adult to be seen skipping in public? Note that the skipping rope is for boxers, not for little girls. It does come in pink, however.

Formation Training

The other week I was in class with Fab Teacher and we were were getting ready for petit allegro, lining up eight at a time to do the steps towards the mirror. There’s always a bit of a shuffle as we figure out eight leaders, and line up behind them. A couple of girls got in muddle about groups, and then kind of mouthed Oh it doesn’t matter to each other and sort of formed their own ninth group shoved in the middle somewhere.

Of course, I’m thinking Nooo, it does matter! And, of course, I’m not going to say that and sound a total douche am I? But come on, there is no way this man who has trained most of his life in a performative art isn’t going to notice. This man notices a tendu that needs help in a roomful of people!

And so music off, class stop, we all start again. Fab Teacher might say something like People aren’t going to pay 120 quid a seat to watch that sloppiness on the tour I’ve booked us on this Summer, or something equally hilarious. But then comes the realness – this is formation work. This is ballet training!

I don’t mind starting a sequence again, and I’m not frustrated with these particular people in class, but this little episode made me think about formation. We’re not a corps de ballet, and we don’t have to arrange ourselves on a stage. We could be forgiven for thinking – what does it matter?

It’s the ethos of ballet isn’t it? It’s why we do it, and not ballet barre or pilates or something. (We do those too, but as training for the main event!) If ballet could be said to have a theory – or a manifesto, or a way of explaining life – the discipline of formation would be a huge part of it. And the particular ethos of dancing as an adult amateur adds layers to this. There’s never going to be a performance – we’re internalising and working with the beauty and strangeness of ballet for its own sake, not for some projected end-point where we’ll be seen and appreciated or judged.

I’ll be honest, this can sometimes sit oddly with me, the same way I can appreciate the beauty of a tutu and pointes (and want them for myself) and yet feel critical of the culture which prizes them.

There must be books about ballet theory out there somewhere, but I haven’t read them. But – if we were to write down our own Ballet Ways of Living, from our own lived experience as amateurs (lovers!) – what might it start to say?



I just don’t get assemblés


My brain gets it – brush jump, brush jump.

But my body just doesn’t understand!

Normally I can get by on mimetic action before I’ve really got my technique down and get a feel for a step.

But it’s like my body is just slack-jawed and uncomprehending.

I’m going to Youtube chain a whole load of vids to see if this will help something to click.

*Edited after having a search*

I think the two vids below are possibly the most helpful I can find, because they are nice and slow, and show the whole step from start to finish a number of times. I can’t stand those HowCast-esque things that take two minutes to introduce whoever it is and then just show you a step in bits. Rubbish!

Reviewing the above, I think I am getting the basic movement of the step, however it just doesn’t feel right and when I watch myself in the mirror it looks ungainly. I think I have been unsure of how far to brush out the working leg, and I can just bet I haven’t been keeping my spine and trunk as straight and immobile as in the vids! Also I have been unsure of when precisely to jump with the standing leg. Funnily enough I think part of this is the name of the step putting me off – I haven’t been able to connect what I’m doing with “assembling” the feet together.

I’ve only just really gained confidence in the petit allegro – it really has taken me this long to jump without waving my torso around or leaning or whatever. In the last few weeks somehow its clicked and I’m having loads of fun being springy. It great to see your feet really point and extend whilst you’re in the air isn’t it?

Oh and Re. Glissade as in the video above – THAT took me far too long to get my head around. First of all I thought it was called a glissande (sounds like a shampoo) and I thought it was a change of weight from one foot to the other. And I had no idea the plié was the main thing going on in there. Stern Teacher goes Where’s your plié? I’m like it thought it could sit this one out?? Not realising this was the part of the Little Jumps section.

So that has been my YouTube research presentation. My findings indicate a number of points that are causing my body to go “Assem-blehh??!”. Thank you.