Strong! Fast! Zzzzzush! Fire!

Frappés, man.
I have heard more than one teacher say, during class, while telling us to do frappés, “I don’t know why we do frappés!”
Which makes me think, “well then why Are we doing frappés! I though you were in charge!”
I actually kind of like frappés for the tricky tricky way they go against everything ballet: that not-pointed foot, and the way you are actually supposed to make a noise against the floor, plus if you take a Russian style class it’s a whole different exercise but it’s still called frappé, like they ran out of words and were just like, ‘Meh, let’s call it the same like that other thing that it doesn’t resemble at all.’
One thing I don’t like about frappés: when teachers give a helpful image, it’s pretty much always the bug.
As in, “Imagine there’s a bug right there on the floor in front of you! And you smash it!”
No, dude, I don’t want to smash it. Especially not in my ballet slippers, gross. And then what, there’s a smashed bug on the floor? We stretch there. Double gross.
So imagine my grande joie the other day in class when the adorabablay French ballet teacher was all, “Frappé means to strike! Strike the floor as you would strike a match! Strong! Fast! Zzzzzzush! Fire!”
That’s hot. I can do that.

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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24 Responses to Strong! Fast! Zzzzzush! Fire!

  1. Joanna says:

    A teacher once told me that we do frappes to improve petit allegro and to shape the foot (we do them from a wrapped position.) Not sure how that applies when doing them from a flexed foot, though!

  2. amandakash says:

    I’m awful at frappes. I was doing them during my David Howard DVD and smashed my left big toe straight into the ground. Now I’m irrationally afraid of them as well.

  3. kit says:

    Ahh, like striking a match – suddenly the imagery makes sense! While I hadn’t heard that (gross) bug imagery before, all my teachers had said frappe means to strike, and I’m thinking ‘Oh, strike, like to hit something’. Which is obviously not how the move goes…
    Striking a match definitely matches (pun, lol) the kinda scrapey movement involved, more than a hitting kind of strike.
    I also think frappes are an acquired taste – beginners dislike them (or find them to feel odd) while the more advanced students I’ve met are like ‘”yay, frappes!” and doing beats between them and stuff.

    • Scrapey movement, exactly! And the match striking image does a much better job of conveying the feeling of your energy going out, not just down to the strike-point on the floor.
      I’ve also heard, “Imagine a little speck of dirt or dust bunny on the floor and strike it like you’re scooting it away from you,” which is better movement-wise but also still gross image-wise, as we all know that 90% of dance studio dust bunnies are made of hair, and nobody want to touch that mess with their ballet slippers.

  4. calchi23 says:

    I love frappes. Minus frappes to the back. That does not make sense to me.

    Also, what are Russian frappes? I’ve only ever taken Italian classes.

    • Yeah, the back ones.
      I’ve been away from my Russian style class for a little bit, so let’s see if I can describe this from memory:
      Your working foot is pointed and touching the ankle bone of your standing foot. Heel held well forward. Then you beat back front back front touching only your heel when in back and only your toe when in front, then -very quickly but still articulating every little bit of your foot- you slide the toe down to the ankle to the floor and out to a diagonal ending in a tendu-ish way, while you plié the working leg and follow your working leg with your arm in a beseeching, palm slightly up way. And pause there for a moment making a pose.
      Then you beat front back front back, foot out to the side, arm out to side with palm in normal second position, pose,
      Then beat front back front back, slide the foot to the diagonal back while the arm goes front, palm down, and you glower over your shoulder in a haughty way at yourself in the mirror, and pose.
      It’s very dramatic. There is no striking the ground, no ricochet up to a point, but the speed of beats is there.

  5. guyenne says:

    I have always thought that frappes were the barre warmup for the steps with beats later on – cabriole, brise, brise vole and so on for the flexed foot variety, and to the other foot motions often used with hops on pointe for the wrapped/pointed foot variety.

  6. daktulos says:

    Frappes to the back are my nemesis! I love the image of striking a match though.

  7. Jessica says:

    Haha! In my regular class we never really do frappes, but have been focusing last week or so on petit allegro and have been doing them more. I always had done them from flexed foot, but took a class while traveling this summer where they were all from wrapped foot (way easier to spell than sur le coup . . . yeah) and omg that was hard! Yikes! Which of course means I should be practicing it. Le sigh.

  8. Try Harder says:

    Frappes! Yay! Love them! Except I hate them to the back. But LOVE them a la seconde! And thank you, thank you, people, for your rather disturbing bug/hair imagery. We go with the much neater: your foot has to move so fast, you’ve time for coffee after you reach the final position.

  9. Jeff Tabaco says:

    Yes! One of my teachers uses the “strike a match” image for frappés too. It’s a good analogy ’cause it also reminds you to balance delicacy and strength. She tells us, you want to strike hard enough to light the fire but not so hard that you break the stick!

    I do like the challenge of frappés (in theory!). It’s like, let’s get your leg and foot in a bent, atypically ballet position, and then straighten and point everything… a-NOW! And yes, frappés to the back are the devil’s work.

  10. Jessica says:

    Oh, and my teacher flat-out says the ones to the back are the most difficult. It’s not just you (us)!

    • They’re so anticlimactic to the back. Like, a good Pow! front, Pow! side, back is like *puffff*. For me at least.
      Ok now I’m worrying I’m the only one with that particular problem with this particular part of this particular expercise.
      So many problemz!!!!!

  11. Nadine says:

    Frappés warm up the ankle, shin and calf. They lead into the first part of a glissade or assemblé or jeté ordinaire – swish! My whole life I have always heard the strike-a-match metaphor, never any weird & troubling bug-squashing imagery . .

  12. v says:

    frappés are supposed to help “strengthens the toes and insteps and develop the power of elevation” (according to the abt dictionary online! hehe i cheated) :) my teachers like to crumple up a wad of paper and have you frappé it across the room. the only thing that i hate about frappés is when my toe gets caught in a seam on the floor or when i misjudge the distance/force and smash my poor toes into the hard, hard ground. coincidentally i did exactly that this morning!

  13. Janet Parke says:

    I am a ballet teacher. I believe frappés (done with relaxed/flexed cou-de-pieds and striking to a stretched and extended leg/foot) are very important for the following reasons:
    1. They teach the pathway that the foot should use in petit allegro when going from cou-de-pied to a brush in any direction. Say you just landed a jeté in cou-de-pied back. The foot is stretched in cou-de-pied, but should brush (or strike) the floor for the next jeté (glissade, ballonné, assemblé, etc.) — hopefully without jamming the toes into the floor. In order to brush the floor, the ankle and toes must flex slightly and strike the floor about six inches away from the supporting foot. Frappés, as an exercise, teach the coordination of striking from a flexed foot to a stretched and extended leg at a quick tempo.
    2. All jumps (even those that don’t brush) require going from relaxed joints in plié to fully stretched joints in the air, then back to relaxed again in the next plié — at lightning speed. Frappé combinations are one of the only preparations in a standard ballet class for this kind of alternating energy at a speedy tempo. Tendus/Dégagés alternate between flexed and stretched, but the knee stays straight. Fondus alternate between bent and straight, but the foot stays stretched the entire time, and the tempo is much slower than jumping. Frappés are the only movements in which the toes/ankles/knees all relax inbetween the fully-stretched extension, alternating at a tempo similar to jumping.
    3. Ditto #2 for relevés, especially on pointe. The speedy alternation of relaxed joints and totally stretched legs, ankles and feet is a particular muscular coordination that (in my opinion) must be mastered in order to be an excellent and strong jumper and relevér. If a student’s relevés or jumps are sluggish, or the pointe work is week, I would first look to the quality of their frappés.

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