Épaulement is a horizontal movement performed by shoulders since “l’épaule” in French means shoulder. When a student has a correct body position without épaulement, the hips, ribs and the shoulders are aligned and form a rectangle. During épaulement, the hips and the ribs should maintain a square, the shoulders should move independently (one forward and the other back, or both together forward and back) and the hands should still be kept in the peripheral vision. This practice enables a performer to face in a certain direction without losing the readiness for a technically difficult choreography in the dance piece. Historically, when the King or the Queen were present in the audience, it was unthinkable to turn one’s back on them.
A nice way to improve épaulement is by placing the hands on the hips, ribs or the shoulders. When the arms are in low positions and they are in front, épaulement is bigger and more noticeable, when the arms move into higher positions or they are sideways, it becomes subtler.
Port de tête meaning “the fluid head movement” or carriage of the head consists of: Straight, up, down, turn right, turn left, forward, backwards, slide right, slide left, inclined right, inclined left. Then any mixture with them is possible such as: Head slide-turn sideways and up. In romantic ballets, this head movement is known as “the listening pose.”
Head straight Head up Head down Turn right
Turn left Head forward Head back Head slide-right
Head slide-left Inclined-right Inclined-left
A good exercise for head and arm coördination is to try to follow the hand with the head while the eyes are shut. While the student is imagining having a ring on his finger, during port de bras, he should be encouraged to look in the direction of it rather than the ring. Since it is common to feel good without looking good in classical ballet training, the way we look should come before the way we feel. Nevertheless, we must learn to feel the exact alignment and precision with comfort. With this in mind, the student will get a chance to sense the correctness of the movement. As a result he will obtain a clearer head and arm flow with the open eyes.
Whenever a hearty artist uses all the tools that are at his disposal to express a certain feeling or a motion, the outcome is divine since there is nothing alike on this earth.
Below are six pictures combining several port de bras with épaulement and various port de tête:
Up-forward-left Up-forward-straight Up-forward-right
Slide right-turn left-up Up-forward Inclined right-back