Episode 5 – Glissé and Jeté
In this episode we’re lifting the lid on Glissé and Jeté. Often the music for glisse and jete exercises can be interchangeable with only minimal tempo alterations required for the accompanist which should make it a relatively straight forward exercise to accompany – however – there are accents to consider and different musical styles such as rags, reels, gallops, codas, tarantellas and Mexican Hat Dances, to name but a few. You could possibly have to change tempo and or time signature half way through to accommodate different choreographic steps, and we discuss how we approach this in the studio.
We stray off topic discussing the essence and the musical flavour of these exercises and have a wider discussion on how teachers and pianists can communicate to get the best of each others knowledge. We discuss as a pianist attempting to support the class giving inspiration, flavour, excitement and indulgence whilst being the unsung hero in the corner of the room and attempting to not make it all about yourself. David thinks that pianists knowledge isn’t used enough especially in an educational setting and strongly puts forward the argument that it is ok as a teacher to not always know the answer to everything and that it’s ok to show that we’re all always learning all the time.
Music Referenced in this Episode
Transcription of this Episode by Jonathan Still
MG: Matt Gregory CH: Chris Hobson AH: Akiko Hobson DY: David Yow
[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident]
V/O: You’re listening to the Ballet Piano Podcast: Lifting the lid on dance accompaniment.
MG: Hello ballet fans and welcome back to the Ballet Piano Podcast and to this episode where we’ll be discussing battements glissés and battements jetés. I’m here with the usual motley crew, Chris Hobson
MG: Akiko Hobson
MG: And hashtag David Yow of Instagram
MG: And I’m Matt Gregory taking the reins on this episode. Now before we get into it, we have a huge thank you to say, don’t we? To all the listeners and for all the response and the feedback that we’ve had so far, I mean it’s been pretty amazing, hasn’t it?
CH: It’s been phenomenal.
MG: I mean, Chris is our Mr Stats man, I mean, what are the stats?
CH: The statistician here in the corner, yes, well we’ve been downloaded so far in over 60 different countries which is incredible isn’t it, so we can say hello to the English speakers, konnichiwa to Japan, hóla to Spain, guten Tag to Germany, ciao to Italy and bonjour to France, to name just a few countries.
AH: So we have lots of Japanese listeners.
CH: Japan is our third most downloaded country
CH: Yes, so konnichiwa
MG: Amazing, yeah. It’s been crazy. And we’re so grateful, aren’t we.
CH: I can’t believe it, it’s amazing how it’s taken off, I’m so proud.
MG: Yeah, so we need you to keep spreading the word, and spreading the love. And if this your first time listening, do go back and listen to our other episodes. We’re on all major podcast providers, and you can also connect with us on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to check us out. Now, as is customary in these episodes, we first throw over to our resident ballet legend, David Yow of Instagram to explain about the terminology. So David, what the blinking heck is a battement glissé and a battement jeté?
DY: Glisser in ballet terms, means gliding, movements that glide along the floor, or are small, but they leave the floor, so your foot comes off the floor, so you’re sliding out from a closed position, let’s say first, or fifth position, and you slide your foot out in any direction until you can’t go any further, and your toes come off the ground, and you do it quite quickly and swiftly, so that’s kind of a gliding movement along the floor; and jeté, jeter we talk about throwing the leg into the air, so it’s going to go a bit higher, just around about below the knee level. So they’re two different movements, but they’re kind of related.
CH: So it’s the glide and the throw
CH: So it’s similar but different basically, is what you’re
DY: One is faster than the other shall we say, the gliding movement is generally faster, and you use that for very quick movements when you’re trying to get from A to B, or trying to do something very quickly like beat, practice an action for beats which we’ll talk about later, and then when we’re talking about jeté we’re talking about starting to build up the class movements so that you can jump in the centre and gain height for bigger jumps.
MG: And they’re very similar movements, aren’t they? But notably different heights of the extended leg.
DY: Yes, it’s the quality really, with which you actually do them, that makes the difference.
CH: OK. Because quite often on the CDs that I produce and things like that, I will do [laughter]
CH: [inaudible] clang! there they’re called Modern Ballet Studio Melodies, download from iTunes [laughter/inaudible] I’ll chuck in twenty quid of sponsorship for that. I will often will interchange, sort of like, do a similar music for a glissé and a jeté
CH: Just because I know from experience musically it’s interchangeable, or it can be interchangeable.
MG: So David, for a battement glissé exercise, could you sort of talk us through how you would set one? Would you put glissés and jetés in the same exercise?
DY: You can, yes you can do, depending on the people that you’re teaching, and the purpose of what you want to do, so I would say, for a glissé I’d use a faster tempo, 2/4 or a 6/8 or something like that, and it’s very close to the ground, so that’s why you’d want a faster tempo, because you want to make the movement and the muscles of the legs move faster. The jeté is, tends to be a bit slower, steadier, with the action of feeling that you want to throw the leg higher in the air, that’s why you need more time to do it.
MG: Yeah, yeah.
AH: Like some teachers do like a tendu and then second time a bit faster speed with the jeté?
DY: True, and I do that too, as well, because then you’re using, you’re training the muscles in two different ways, which you’re saving on time, because you’re not actually describing a completely different exercise, so it kind of does two things in one go, shall we say.
CH: So how would you set it then, let’s say, with a jeté?
DY: So if I start with a jeté it would be steadier, and I’d choose a 2/4 perhaps, and let’s say we’d do two jetés to the front, and a battement piqué. A piqué means when you’re, if you are going to tap the floor with your toe, with a fully extended leg, very quickly.
CH: Like a prick [laughter]
DY: I was trying to avoid . . .
CH: Does piquer mean to prick?
DY: It does, so the action of just being, if you like, a reflex action, if you stab yourself with a needle or something, you immediately withdraw your hand
MG: Like a rebound
DY: Yes, like a rebound. So if I’d said, like, two jetés to the front, and we’re going to go [in rhythm] jeté out to-the front and in and out and a in, to fifth position, then out and a piqué and a close and a hold. So we’d do it like, one and two and three and four and-a five and-a six and-a seven hold eight. And we might do that en croix, which means in the shape of a cross, so we go front to the side, to the back, and the side, and then we might do it double time, yes, so you might go [rhythmically, faster] and one and two and three and four. Which would be “out in out in and piqué and a close” so that’s twice as fast, for the glissés as you would for the jetés.
CH: I’m getting “A very modern major general” about that [sings the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “I am the very model of a modern major general”]
MG: And David, how important is the fifth position?
DY: It’s crucial.
MG: Yeah, because as well as the extension being important, I always hear from teachers that the fifth position and the closing is important, and you’ve got a, the extension has got to be as good as the closing in fifth.
DY: Yes. So we’re always focusing on the actual basic positions that we make, like the closing position, like feet in first, or second, or third, or fifth, generally we don’t use third as much, but fifth position especially, we use a lot, and when you see dancers on stage, they’ll often be just standing in fifth position, because it’s a very elegant position, and it’s very safe to stand like that, but actually getting to that fifth, or from that fifth, we also have to have the precision of knowing where we’re going to and from, and of course, dancing is all the bits of the movement that happens in between those movements, and how you do it, you can do it in a million different ways, and that’s what we’re always trying to train the muscles to do, is to move at different speeds at different heights, you know, different ways, but we’re always going to go to and from those very basic positions.
MG: Yeah, and you know, the battement ji-, [questioning self] the battement jité?—battement jeté and battement glissé, I think this is where it starts relating to jumps, would you agree? At the barre?
DY: Yes, so you’re getting closer to the action and the speed of what you will do when you jump, and if you want to beat, beat your legs in the air, which we do later, that’s the action you’re aiming for, the speed.
[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident]
MG: And so, Akiko, Chris, and David, what are our initial thoughts on music for battement glissé and battement jeté?
AH: Always crispy
CH: Crispy—Akiko said in the last episode that tendu is the first exercise where accents really become very important, and now with glissés and jetés we start to get a little bit of speed behind it, it’s the first quick exercise that you’re going to get in a ballet class usually.
AH: Yes, yes.
CH: And that’s when you can start to have a little bit of fun.
DY: Exactly. What I love to do, is start slowly, and then start to speed things up, and then you know at the end, it’s really exciting that you’ve actually you know, evolved into this very quick movement, and perhaps if you’d started like that, the students would have looked twice at you and thought, I’m not going that fast anyway, I can’t do that, but actually by just gradually getting faster, you’ve actually made them do something that perhaps they thought they couldn’t do.
AH: I sometimes like play something and the teacher starts to speed up which I didn’t know when I started, and then reaching the point when, oh my God, am I going to be able to play with that speed, but I have to keep going! [others laugh]
CH: Because it’s only like 10, 15 minutes into the class when you get to glissés and jetés isn’t it, maybe slightly quicker at company, and it takes a drastic tempo shift from tendu into the exercise, isn’t it, it’s going from the slow indulgent 4s, as we were saying in the last episode, through to quick brisk twos or fast tarantellas, and having them all ready at your fingers to go.
AH: So by then, if your coffee hasn’t kicked in
CH: I’ve made sure that my coffee’s kicked in by this point, I’ve worked out how to do it. But then the plethora of repertoire that you can do is brilliant, isn’t it. It depends on how you’re going to approach the rest of the class sometimes, you could go real, you could do The Muppets theme tune, you could do Etudes tarantellas
AH: Or even a classical tune like Beethoven and things like that
CH: Or Pirates of the Caribbean, yeah?
AH: Oh yes!
DY: So how do you actually, when you’re, when you’re playing that fast, how are you, what’s your brain thinking at that speed when you’ve got to like, when you’re thinking, what am I going to play next. How do you do, how do you go about that? Have you already set something up, or are you just relying on your experience.
MG: Well, I have a thing with battements jetés, because I’ve played them quite steady, if a teacher or a ballet master is trying to find the [in rhythm] fifth [wait], and fifth [wait] and fifth and fifth and fifth.
MG: So there’s like three quick in the space of. . and so they want something a little steadier, and then let’s say they’re doing some to second where it will then go into a brighter two, and so I find jeté and glissé a bit of a minefield, you know, like some other exercises you know, you say you’re a bit wary of, that’s, this is the one exercise that can be quite steady, or really quick, and so it’s the one that I have to really look at and see what the person is setting.
AH: It’s the accent, isn’t it.
MG: Yes, it’s where the accent is, and of course that determines what I play.
AH: I think when I am looking at the marking, I just go through my database of music and then try to find the same sort of accent music, a few of them, back in my mind, so if I start off I can just switch to something else, but which has got a similar sort of accent.
CH: Mm. I was playing for a teacher recently who was asking for a coda, which worked, but I just wasn’t expecting, I was expecting from the way she set it I was expecting something more like a reel, and then when she came over and indicated what she wanted at the piano, it was actually a coda, and it was right, and it worked, I just, I’d missed that in marking, and I was paying attention in this class, you know, the caffeine had kicked in, it just didn’t, it just wasn’t, I just didn’t get that from the way that she set the exercise.
DY: So when a teacher’s started steady, like in a jeté, as you said Matt, for the precision of the movements, that’s what we’re trying to aim for, and then we speed it up so that we get the muscle memory to go even faster, how important is that rapport with, between you and the teacher, when you’re playing, in the midst of your playing?
CH: Very important, isn’t it, it depends on the relationship you have with the teacher, as well, and, so you almost, like for example, if you and I work together, I’ve got a rough idea when you’re going to ask me to speed up from your combination, so I’ll have my eyes on you from, you know, eight counts, or eight bars before that, and waiting for you to either raise your eyebrows, or spin your fingers around, and that just comes from the familiarity of working together, doesn’t it? If it’s, for me, if it’s working with a teacher you’re less familiar with, then it can sometimes, it’s a bit like jumping into the deep end and not knowing if you can swim sometimes, it can be, because you don’t quite know how they’re going to ask you to go quicker, or how much info, how much lead-in you’re going to get, and you’re going get two counts in, and then they want it you know, 50% quicker, and you’re like, oh blimming heck, you know, I didn’t have a chance to quite physically and mentally prepare for that, where I’m going to go repertoire-wise.
AH: Like it would be, I would appreciate it if the teacher can give us some sort of indication, eight counts into the new speed.
CH: The last phrase
AH: But, it doesn’t necessarily that it happens
MG: Because I’ve played for teachers where they’ll start with the jeté of the exercise, where it’s in 6/8 [sings a rhythm in 6/8] or whatever, and then there’ll be that, and then there’ll be the 2/4 bit, which is you know, possibly in first, and then some quick closings in fifth, and then a balance, but you’ve just got to quickly change your time signature.
CH: I suppose that becomes part of our job as well, you have to adapt instantly, don’t you, you’ve got to be able to adapt straight away
MG: You can’t have a new intro for the new time signature, you as the musician have to trust and lay that 2/4 in, and then the dancers will follow. They’ll hear it instantly.
DY: That’s what I find so amazing though, that you respond so quickly, that you can go from one time signature to another
MG: Yeah. And you also can’t pre-empt your new time signature early, you’ve got to finish the 6/8 section and then [in rhythm] um-pah um-pah um-pah into the 2/4 bit.
DY: Straightaway, yeah.
MG: Straight away. No introduction, and just lay that new tempo and the new time signature.
CH: It takes a teacher who’s confident in music as well, as well, to be able to trust you that you’re going to do that, doesn’t it.
MG: And the musician has to be confident enough to do that
DY: I’m always amazed by what you do. Totally amazed.
CH: Does anybody else forget that, if you can remember the first time that you either changed tempo or changed time signature or both, halfway through an exercise, and you got it right. It’s like “I can do my job, this is brilliant!”
AH: But before you do, your heart is just beating
CH: Oh my gosh, I hope I get it right.
MG: Well, I also played an exercise once, this was for an open class, and the teacher and I played the famous hornpipe, but he wanted the whole exercise to get progressively quicker. So I think it started with things en croix, it was all in 2, but the first bit was quite steady, and then we did some in first position that was a little bit quicker, then it was some cloche at glissé height that was even quicker, and then it was a little balance which was super quick, quick soutenu, second side, and then you have to go back to that first tempo again for the second side
AH: Which you’ve already forgotten
MG: So good luck remembering what that was! [all laugh] But you know, and it’s little things like that.
AH: I just sometimes get like frustrated that you know, like, a teacher sets something in 2/4, and with your experience you know that 6/8 works better, but . . .
MG: Yeah. . .
DY: What do you do? What do you do then?
AH: I normally play what the teacher set.
AH: And then after, if it didn’t work, I would suggest perhaps 6/8 might be better, but . . .
DY: That’s good.
CH: Well that used to be one of my gr—, what I think is one of the greatest interview questions, if you’re interviewing for a ballet pianist job, the teacher asks you for a 2/4, but then sets it on a 6/8, what do you do? It’s like, for me, I would guess, the answer is go with what the teacher has set, always without a question, just because that’s what obviously, when you’re marking it through, it’s almost like you’re dancing it, or you’re dancing it in your head, it’s what you want, isn’t it? And 2/4 could have just been a mis-counting, or you know, he could have wanted a 2/4 when he planned the class, and then you’ve got in there, you’ve seen it, and he’s like, oh no, a 6/8 is going to work better.
DY: Yes. But I think it’s important for teachers, especially if they’re young teachers and they’re inexperienced, is to not feel that you have to be the font of all knowledge, just because you’re leading the class, because you have other experts like the pianist in your, within the room, and to treat, and you know when there’s something like this that comes up, when there’s a mismatch between the actual exercise and what you’re asking for, and the actual playing of the piece that the pianist is playing, is to use that as part of the class, as part of a learning experience, that the students see that you as a teacher are also learning. Teaching is a two-way thing, it’s not all one-way, coming out of the teacher, and that’s important, I think, you know, that we all learn from each other.
MG: And the pianist is a resource.
DY: Yes, that’s very undervalued, and very. . .In my experience, you’re not . . . your experience is not used enough. And I would strongly suggest to any teacher to listen to their pianist, to talk to your pianist, and to learn from them, and not feel that you have to actually be, you know, numero uno all the time. You don’t.
MG: And I always say to fledgling pianists that are learning to play for class, you know, because you know, some concert pianists, you know, who are really good technicians, you know, don’t necessarily know how to play for class, and they sort of think that it’s something that’s maybe a little bit beneath them, or something they haven’t trained for, and I always say to pianists, that I might train or I might coach, you have to be the unsung hero in the corner, you know, make it work, make it fit, support the teacher, support the dancers, without making it about you. And that’s how I try and always play for class.
DY: That’s a fantastic [inaudible]
MG: Until that resource is, you know, the teacher calls upon that resource, you know, for some, you know . . .
DY: You guys really are, for live music, it’s the lifeblood of dancing, I mean it makes such a difference when you compare that to I mean, you know, playing, using music on a CD, and some people don’t have the pleasure and the advantage of having a live pianist, but it makes such a difference when you do have a live pianist.
CH: It’d be like having a, not a live teacher though, wouldn’t it, actually, from our point of view. What do you do, you bring a DVD in of a teacher setting an exercise, and then the class does it and the pianist plays, it’s just. . . It’d be difficult.
AH: I found some teachers sometimes get too much into just time signature, I don’t know whether this is part of the teacher’s training, but they just get obsessed with telling the pianist just the time signature, but sometimes time signature doesn’t mean anything to us, we just need the right accent, and the right speed.
CH: I think instead of time signature we could refer to it in a dance class as meter, is it two, is it three, is it four, five or 6/8.
DY: The easiest thing for a teacher to do, is just sing la-di-dah, what you want. A tune that you’re familiar with, even if it’s the same one every day
CH: Every time, yeah.
DY: As long as you get the right meter right, your pianist will pick you up and they will fly with it.
CH: That and the time signature and we’re pretty much set then, aren’t we? [MG/AH: Yeah]
MG: And I always think of each barre exercise as having character, or flavour, and it’s up to the musician to bring the flavour of, you know, of that exercise, or bring the character: is it cheeky? Is it prickly? Is it all those things?
CH: Is it piqué? [all laugh]
MG: Is it piqué! [laughs] Do you know what I mean though, and when the teacher sets an exercise, it’s very helpful if they put that into their voice, but if they don’t, you know, they don’t always have to, and we’ve got to be imaginative enough to think, OK, what was the previous exercise, what’s the one after this? You know, it’s going to be a different flavour, a different character.
DY: And that can make the biggest difference from one day to the next, just to hear somebody play a different tune to the same exercise.
CH: I’m going to have to learn some new repertoire now!
MG: What sorts of things do we play for battements glissés and battements jetés?
CH: I like a good reel
DY: I love the reel, when you play the reel. It’s brilliant. It’s so exciting.
CH: Like a good reel, the Scottish one, The Dashing White Sergeant is bog-standard stuff, but it’s, you know, it works [sings the tune] you know, a reel, or a hornpipe, or 42nd Street or The Muppets.
DY: I play The Muppets as well. Or I play Putting on the Ritz or something like that.
AH: I played the French national anthem for French dancers once
CH: Really? How did that go?
AH: They loved it! [laughter]
MG: But I’ve also played like a 6/8 march, like Sousa marches and stuff, when you want a jeté that’s a little bit steadier, and you want to put three into one count, things like that work really well, or slightly slower marches, because then you can get the three glissés into the space of one battement jeté or something
CH: Or a quicker 6/8 like the Mozart horn concerto, is it E flat? [sings the tune] Or a quadrille [sings a quadrille melody]
AH: I play some Beethoven.
CH: What Beethoven?
AH: Oh gosh!
MG: Tarantellas work
MG: Little 6/8s
AH: If it’s 2/4, a rag
MG: Or Bibbdi-Bobbidi-Boo from The Sleeping Beauty [sic—it’s actually Cinderella], the Disney one.
DY: There are so many ways you can play it, aren’t there.
CH: It’s the first exercise really, in the class, where you get this massive choice of music to play, isn’t it.
MG: And I also think of a battement jeté and battements glissés, because the exercise that follows is ronds de jambe. So it goes back to being very slow and very still, so they have to be as warm as they can be from the waist down, up until this point.
MG: And so in terms of tempo, it depends what the tendu has been, what the plié has been, what the slow tendu the quicker tendu, it all’s leading up to this battements jetés, battements glissés. It’s like a little climax, before the exercise calms down again, and we start finding the turn-out in ronds de jambe, so in terms of tempo, it can be, it can vary, a lot.
DY: But it’s a lovely surprise, whatever you play, because you never know, we’re not quite sure what’s going to come out. It’s great!
AH: And once the speed of the music is established, you know, I sometimes you know play with the silence, and they usually like that.
MG: Yeah, I’ve been doing that a lot recently.
DY: I think it’s so useful and so helpful to the dancers to make them really listen, and not just like, just regurgitate from day to day and not think what they’re doing.
MG: I know we’re going to get to it, but in jumps as well, I put a little bit of stop-time in. Because they’re providing the meter with the landing, you know, but that’s for another episode.
CH: Or play on the off-beats, but let’s get to that later on, yeah? Oooh!
MG: You do lots of tricky things like that, don’t you?
CH: I’m a pain in the backside sometimes.
MG: No, we love it, we love it. So, that’s all we have podcasters, another stellar episode for you. On the next episode we slow things down a bit as we look at ronds de jambe à terre. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and please keep letting us know your thoughts via our social media platforms, @theballetpianopodcast, as we love to hear what you think, and love connecting with our listeners. So until next time, it’s goodbye from me.
[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident]
. . . ENDS. . .
© 2020 Ballet Piano Podcast (Christopher Hobson, Matthew Gregory, Akio Hobson, David Yow)
Produced by Christopher Hobson
Transcription by Jonathan Still 26/4/20