Maria and the Boys à la hauteur in Tokyo

(L-R) Blaine Hoven, Julio Bragado-Young, Marcelo Gomes & Maria Riccetto of American Ballet Theatre in Tokyo.

Tokyo Metro commuters were temporarily stymied the other day by an unexpected set of turnstiles that sprung up at the entrance to the Omotesando station… no, wait, those aren’t turnstiles… those are ABT dancers stretching their gorgeous long legs!

Blaine Hoven, Julio Bragado-Young, Marcelo Gomes and Maria Riccetto decided to hit Omotesando, also known as the Champs-Elysées of Tokyo, on one of their few precious days off while on the company’s tour of Japan, and Ballet to the People had to redirect traffic.

Julio, Marcelo and Maria demonstrate the extension known in the French school as à la hauteur, that is, raising the leg to 90 degrees. This takes more than flexibility, it also requires turnout and muscle control to keep the hips level and create the longest possible line or arc from fingertips to pointed toes.

Whether you extend the leg in front, behind or to the side, it should feel like you are not simply lifting but rotating the leg outward in the hip socket and lengthening it away from you.

Marcelo, on the steps, assumes an attitude effacé derrière – he raises the downstage leg, the one closest to the audience, behind him with the knee slightly bent.

Blaine, Julio and Maria’s poses are all variations on croisé devant – the downstage leg extended in front, obscuring the top of the thigh of the upstage leg. Their port de bras (carriage of the arms) and épaulement (shouldering) vary: Maria uses the classical “opposition” arms – that is, she raises the arm opposite to the extended leg, whereas Blaine and Julio are raising the arm on the same side as the extended leg, and Blaine is throwing in a little cambré derrière (upper back arch).

Note the tilt of the head and shoulders in the different poses, creating a long, unbroken arc from the fingertips to the toes.

Pack your bags and catch ABT in Japan through the 31st of July as they delight audiences with Don Quixote, Romeo & Juliet, and a brilliant mixed program of works by George Balanchine, John Neumeier, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and others. From San Francisco, it’s a mere 11 hour and 15 minute flight.

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