The penchée is one of the hardest movements to master in ballet. It takes an incredible amount of balance, strength, turnout and flexibility to get that perfect 180. It may seem like an impossible task, but with a few tips from a ballerina, you might be well on your way!
In Dance Spirit Magazine, Pennsylvania Ballet principle dancer Julie Diana dishes on how to improve your penchée.
First of all, remember that a penchée is really an extended arabesque—and an arabesque should come from your back, not your extremities. You want to maintain the connection between your upper back and your leg, constantly forcing the two against each other.
Stretch the front of your hips and your hamstrings, emphasizing length and freedom of movement. Strengthening exercises will help stabilize your standing leg, which will help you control the depth of the penchée without losing your balance or showing strain.
Stand on one leg in parallel without the barre, and simply plié, straighten and relevé to focus on alignment and smooth transitions. (The other leg is gently bent.) Repeat this exercise turned out and then do the other side.
A good preparatory barre exercise is to tendu arabesque and combré back. Imagine there’s a string connecting your bun to your foot and lift your toe to arabesque without breaking that string. Continue into penchée, holding that connection and resist the urge to nosedive—you want to avoid looking like an ironing board. Then, reverse the motion and come back to arabesque, keeping your leg up as high as possible. This will strengthen your back and encourage the correct aesthetic line. Remember to keep your knees straight, shoulders square and weight on the ball of your standing foot.
In center, I imagine that someone is partnering me—supporting me by my back wrist and lifting me away from the floor as I extend into a deep arabesque. Check out Susan Jaffe demonstrating a penchée at abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/penche.html. She’s classically picture-perfect.
Julie Diana is a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet.