Frappé is, and always has been, one of my favorite steps to do. The sharp attack and speed of the step drew me in from the start.
Teaching frappé has not, however, been my favorite. It felt a bit on the clumsy side for a long while. Some consistent challenges I noticed were:
- Students seemed truly baffled by the step as a whole.
- There were too many elements for students to keep track of in order to execute something that even resembled a frappé.
- The battu within frappé was nowhere to be found.
I decided to put away my preconceived ideas of what a frappé should look like and, instead, focus in on what the students before me could actually accomplish. After some time, I landed on a method that has proven to reduce stress for both myself and my students, and offer very satisfying results. It requires time, but I would rather invest the time and end up with razor sharp frappés than rush past the small details and end up with sloppy mush.
- FIRST STEP: Facing the barre, in 5th position, the students allow the front knee to bend as they lift the front heel off the floor to a relaxed quarter pointe and pull that foot back towards the supporting foot. The working heel should be placed below the ankle bone.
GOAL #1: To reach and maintain this position without the hips sinking/lifting/twisting.
GOAL #2: To feel the working thigh pressed back gently so as to maintain turnout.
GOAL #3: To keep the working foot shaped properly at all times. No sickle.
- RELAXED BATTU: Once they demonstrate an understanding of where this relaxed position is, they open the working leg from the knee joint (keeping contact between the ball of the foot and the floor) and place the position derriere. A very relaxed battu movement. There is no attack or real beating action occurring. Continue with this “battu” movement for a few repetitions. (NOTE—The opening from the knee can be as large/big as necessary to help the students feel the correct movement. The smaller the movement, the harder it is to control.)
GOAL #1: To maintain the technique accomplished in the FIRST STEP.
GOAL #2: To feel the thigh being held in place by the correct muscles while the leg opens and closes.
GOAL #3: To find the devant/derriere positions exactly. Every single time.
An “Almost” Frappé
- ADDING THE DIRECTIONS: Take the RELAXED BATTU and extend the working leg (keeping the ball of the foot in contact with the floor) as far as you can without the thigh moving. Do this in all three directions slowly.
GOAL #1: To maintain the technique already learned and accomplished.
GOAL #2: To feel a strong pull in the inner thighs as the leg attempts to extend and to attempt to use that pull to initiate bringing the leg back to the relaxed quarter pointe.
GOAL #3: To understand how frappé feels significantly different in each of the three directions.
- REACH DEMI POINTE: Once you know they are activating the muscles properly, have them extend the leg entirely to a stretched demi pointe position (the position they should reach just before pushing the toes off the ground to complete a frappé). The ball of the foot should remain in contact with the floor at all times as this helps with keeping the muscles engaged.
GOAL #1: To maintain the technique already learned and accomplished. (I know I keep repeating this, but it is worth repeating. At no point in time should students be allowed to get sloppy with previously learned technique.)
GOAL #2: To feel the energy in the demi pointe position almost screaming to push off the floor. Lots of tension in the ankle.
GOAL #3: To feel the return back to the ankle being done with precision.
Frappé In Pieces
- FLEXING: At this time, I introduce the preparation for frappé because I, personally, do not allow my students to flex their foot directly from 5th position. Therefore this section has two parts:
Part 1: Introduction
Begin facing the barre, 5th positions, bras bas.
Count 1 (Wait.)
Count 2 (Place hands on barre.)
Count 3 (tendu a la seconde.)
Count 4 (Pull into the flexed position.) Take special care that this flexed position is properly placed.
GOAL #1: Clear, distinct movements.
GOAL #2: Movements executed with technique.
GOAL #3: Movements memorized and easily done at a variety of speeds.
Part 2: Flex taps
Execute the preparation.
Keeping the supporting heel locked in place, tap the ball of the foot on the floor 4x.
Extend the leg a la seconde to demi pointe, pull into the flexed position derriere.
GOAL #1: To get the ankle accustomed to the first movement in frappé.
GOAL #2: To continue implementing previously learned concepts/techniques.
GOAL #3: To get the ankle accustomed to flexing on the way back in from the extension.
We are now ready to do a real frappé. Only it will be in pieces:
- Execute the preparation.
- Count 1 (Tap the ball of the foot to floor.)
- Count 2 (Extend the leg to a full stretched demi pointe position.)
- Count 3 (Push the toes off the floor to complete the frappé action.)
- Count 4 (Bend the knee, pull the thigh back, flex the ankle and place it directly where it belongs.)
- Repeat en croix.
By breaking the step down in such a way the students are less likely to be overwhelmed, and the teacher is more likely to feel organized. This sequence can be moved through at any pace that feels most natural and offers the best challenge to the students. Once these fundamentals are in place, students are well prepared to take on a variety of other challenges/concepts the world of frappé of holds.