Known casually as “that big circle of turns and stuff at the end of a solo dance,” a manège of any kind can be intimidating and difficult to master. But it’s equally tough to avoid, since those big circles and spins appear in almost every Classical and Romantic Era ballet.
So resist the urge to immediately exit stage right. Instead, check out these tips on how to face your fears and get your manège under control.
Squares Make Circles
You should always spot a manège in a square, no matter what kind of turns or movements it is comprised of. Though the audience sees a circle being made around the stage, your spotting should move in four sides according to where you’re going: first stage right, then upstage, stage left, and finally, downstage.
Use the last movement of every side of the stage (every fourth turn in a manège of piques) to transition to the next. This will round the corners of the square and give the appearance of a circular pattern, but with simplified spotting.
Always remember to keep your transition steps deliberate in their direction, whether the manège is focused on turns, jumps, arabesques, or all of the above (and more).
Hot Tip: Paced Breath
Try breathing in on every count, especially when performing a manège of turns. Pacing your breathing will help keep your focus clear and your steps in sync.
In a piqué turn, reach your leading arm and leg out to where you’re going; for a grande jeté, glissade in the direction you want to end up. Always know where you’re going and communicate that to the audience as well. Without a clear and solid sense of direction, you’ll lose your focus, making the manège look messy and confused.
Move with Energy
Perform a manège with confidence, strength, and energy. You have to be ready to move and work hard, but still have faith in your abilities. The right mentality will make it easier to complete the manège more cleanly than if you went in thinking, “Oh great, let’s get this over with.”
Keep your focus clear and your movements sharp with force behind everything. If you let your arms and legs droop, you’ll lose momentum; this, in turn, will cause you to fall behind, making the manège more difficult to complete.
Open Your Eyes
The best way to get through a manège gracefully is to keep your gaze sharp from start to finish. If you start to let your eyes get out of focus, spotting in general directions instead of specific places, you’ll be more prone to dizziness. Of course, being dizzy will throw you off balance, especially if it’s a manège made of turns.
So no matter how exhausted you get, always keep your eyes wide open and work toward a clean finish. The last four counts are the most important (even if you mess up or miss a couple steps in between), particularly if the manège comes at the end of a variation or coda.
Start with Singles
Though most manèges contain double turns, always rehearse the pattern starting with singles. This will help you get a better feel for the pattern and rhythm of the movement, and allow you to start off with a clean practice instead of becoming overwhelmed early on.
Once you feel confident in rehearsals, you can start to add the doubles back in. Remember that a manège is seldom set to a slow tempo, so keep turns sharp and quick, with spots clean and short. Floating double turns are beautiful, but slow, and you may not have time to do them without falling behind.
Don’t let yourself get freaked out about doing a manège. It may seem complex, but it’s really only four straight lines across the stage. Break it down one side at a time, looking at it as a four-sided square and not a gigantic, round circle. This way you’re thinking more about the manège itself and less about the vast openness that is the stage.
Face the Music
Being on time with the music will make your manège look amazing no matter what difficulties may occur along the way. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the soundtrack and listen to it outside of rehearsals until you can hum it perfectly in your sleep.
Try to follow the music instead of counting out the steps when you rehearse. Depending on your conductor or CD, the tempo may change, so being absolutely in tune with the music (and not focused solely on what your body is doing) will allow you to move confidently, regardless of any rhythmic changes.
Keep in mind that most manèges are sixteen counts, so pace yourself and your traveling rate accordingly (four counts for each side of the stage).
Don’t Look Down!
Those are some of our tips on performing a flawless and beautiful manège. What are your special tricks for the stage?