Anthony takes the 4th

Anthony McHale adopts a princely demeanor on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Robert Watson III)

Anthony takes a break from rehearsing an Indonesian adaptation of ‘Swan Lake’ on the Big River to demonstrate an open 4th position croisé.

Think of the open 4th position of the feet as where you get to when you start in 1st position, heels touching, and slide one foot straight out to the front. This is distinct from a closed or crossed 4th position which starts from either a 3rd or 5th position. It is easier to keep the hips square in an open 4th rather than a crossed 4th, so beginning students often work in this position.

Men sometimes prepare for multiple pirouettes from an open 4th position plié as it allows them to push off the floor with greater force. Women, however, are usually discouraged from working in an open 4th, particularly when wearing tutus, as the silhouette can be unattractive. Barre exercises in an open 4th are not uncommon, though, often designed to strengthen turnout, work the inner thighs and encourage proper hip alignment.

In croisé the hips are facing a downstage diagonal while the upper body spirals slightly toward the audience; this is a workout for the abs, particularly the obliques. Anthony demonstrates ‘opposition’ arms in this position, raising the upstage arm while the downstage leg is forward. One should feel the entire body lengthening as the feet push firmly down into the ground, the torso spirals, and the arm and head stretch skyward.

We asked Anthony what the greatest challenge was in his new role as the Indonesian Prince Samid, who falls in love with a mysterious swan maiden only to betray her in a subsequent encounter with an evil princess masquerading as the swan. His reply: “maneuvering in this damn sarong.”

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