i have recently been re-reading (okay, well occasionally randomly thumbing through) gretchen ward warren’s brilliant book “the art of teaching ballet – ten twentieth century masters”. (i have read this cover to cover more than once over the past several years, but still find myself referencing it now and again for inspiration). there is a chapter in the book dedicated to master teacher gabriela taub-darvash and i’ve come accross a passage where ms. darvash discusses weight shifting and her displeasure with those who teach the concept of minimizing weight shift by visualizing a third or “ghost” leg. Well……i hate to tell ya madame darvash but i have to vote yes on the third leg theory. This theory, in short, is simply imagining your weight so centered between both legs when standing in first or fifth position that when you tendu or degage, your weight shifts as little as possible over the supporting leg, as if you were actually standing on a third leg in between.
there are reasons for me to support this teaching method, the main one being “hey, it worked for me!” i was first introduced to this concept in my late teens and while initially i found it somewhat troubling, as it seemed to force me to rely heavily on using the barre, eventually i found that working this way greatly increased the strength of my inner thighs and enabled me to switch legs at a greater speed. after working this way for a while i found myself so centered, that dancing on the whole became much easier and lighter.
however, ms. darvash points out that you can’t lift the leg higher than a tendu without shifting your weight over the standing leg and i kind of pretty much agree…but…i believe there should be as little weight shift as possible – that is, try to keep your weight centered over the entire foot as opposed to putting all your weight over the ball of your foot, which causes you to a) potentially sit in your hip and b) grip your quads. and we don’t want to do either of those things, now do we?!
so, there ya go. and while i beg to differ with madame darvash on this one point, i do find her chapter intriguing. she certainly has much to offer on both technique and artistry, as do the other nine teachers featured in “the art of teaching ballet”.