Editor’s note: The “Dance Dissection” series is created by students enrolled in DANC-270: Dance Kinesiology at Loyola University Chicago. As one of their culminating projects, small groups of students are required to select a movement in dance and create a photo essay describing it in detail based on content presented in the course. Please understand that this is an introductory course and students’ understanding of the body is just beginning. While we encourage comments and feedback, please frame your responses in this context.
Rond de Jambe: A Descriptive Photo Essay Exploring the Common Ballet Movement
By Kayla Forsberg & Lexi Belleville
The Basic Movement of Rond de Jambe
Rond de Jambe means “circular movement of the leg”. This can be a terre, meaning on the ground, or en l’air, meaning in the air. Rond de jambe is a complex movement incorporating the lower and upper body to complete a rather common and graceful movement mostly found in ballet. However, it can be seen in other styles of dance as well. It is most commonly done at the barre as a means of exercising and strengthening a dancer’s turnout and tendu. This photo essay will go into more detail about how the anatomy of the body relates to the rond de jambe, and what a dancer can do to correct some common mistakes often made while performing rond de jambe at the ballet barre.
The Lower Body
First, the focus will be on the lower half of the body. The dancer starts in first or fifth position where the legs are straightened with the feet in a turned-out position, or rotated laterally, at the hip.
This is done by engaging many muscles found in the trunk to create the proper posture and placement. Elevating with these muscles, such as the quadratus lumborum, transverse abdominus, and lower rectus abdominus, allows the upper body to extend. Thus, engaging the inner core allows the upper body to elongate and lift from the hips, creating an optimal starting position. This helps the leg fully extend once the movement of the rond de jambe begins. Additionally, the sartorius muscle of the inner thigh allows for the head of the femur in the acetabulum to turnout at the hip. The feet and ankles are flexed during this time. Both the working and standing legs must remain in the turnout position throughout the entire movement.
As the movement begins, the working leg moves toward the anterior part of the body while it stretches and extends into a tendu position. The working foot is pointed, or plantar flexed, as the ankle is extended. In this movement, the flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucius longus, peroneus, and gastrocnemius work with the ankle joint to create plantar flexion of the foot when in tendu. The ankle joint is comprised of the bones talus and calcaneus which, along with the tarsals and metatarsals of the foot, work to plantar flex the foot.
The working leg then starts the circular movement by moving to a la seconde with the hip externally rotated and in an abducted position flexed at the hip, keeping the leg stretched and in tendu. Finally, the working leg keeps rotating around the standing leg until it is pointed toward the posterior side of the body, where it is placed behind the body and the hip is in extension. Then, the working leg comes back to the center to first position with the foot and ankle becoming flexed again until the movement continues a second time. During this, the supporting foot remains standing on the ground while the working leg moves. Additionally, the knees remain extended to keep the legs straight throughout the movement. Once this movement is complete, the leg is moved back to its original position with the feet in turnout through the action of the hip; then, it is repeated.
The Upper Body
While the lower body is vital to rond de jambe, one must not forget the importance of the upper body and port de bras. In a rond de jambe, the movement of the upper body puts everything together and changes this movement from a simple barre exercise, to an elaborate and graceful ballet movement. There are many ways in which a dancer can position their arms for a rond de jambe. The most simple would be having the arm remain in second position throughout the entire movement.
The scapula would adduct and depress in order for the shoulders to be depressed down using the lower trapezius, lower seratus anterior, trapezius and rhomboids. Engaging the shoulder helps to elongate the head and neck during the movement to keep the upper body lifted. The humerus in the shoulder joint would rotate medially while the hand would pronate at the wrist joint. A port de bras could be used to further complicate the movement.
When the leg moves to a tendu devant position, the arm would remain engaged the same way. However, rather than abducting into a second position, it extends anteriorly above the head. When the leg is in tendu a la seconde, the arm then moves into second position. And, when the leg is in tendu derriere, the shoulder is flexed anterior to the body with the elbow straightened and the hand pronated. While the upper body movement of a rond de jambe might appear simple at first, it is equally as important and complex as the lower body during a rond de jambe.
Common Mistakes & Corrections for Rond de Jambe
There are many mistakes and alignment errors that could be made when performing a rond de jambe.
When the working leg moves into position, the standing leg could become pronated or supinated depending on where the dancer places their weight on the foot. This could cause alignment or weight placement issues throughout the rest of the movement. It is also important for the dancer to distribute their weight evenly on all three points of the standing foot, the heel and the medial and lateral joints of the 1st and 5th metatarsal that make up the ball of the foot. By keeping one’s weight evenly distributed, the dancer avoids incorrect alignment and movement, thus avoiding potential injury. Additionally, a dancer could be turning their feet out from their knee and ankle joints instead of using their hips to rotate the entire leg. This is common when dancers do not use their true turn out and instead, “force” their turn out and over-rotate their feet. This alignment issue could lead to injury of the knee or ankle.
Another mistake that could happen as the femur rotates would be the rotation of the upper body, which would not keep the hip and upper body “square” to the front, causing incorrect placement and movement. Lastly, when the leg moves to the posterior side of the body, a dancer could turn their leg in rather than keeping it turned out, which causes the foot to become inverted, or sickled.
An issue with the arms that could happen would occur when the arms are in second position, either during a port de bras or when they remain there for the duration of the exercise. If the arms are laterally rotated, rather than medially rotated, this causes an improper placement and alignment in the arms due to excessive use of the glenohumeral joint. These corrections to rond de jambe are common because these small actions happen early when one is just learning dance and are not corrected, over time becoming worse. All of these misalignment issues could later result in muscle imbalance and perhaps serious injury for dancers, especially in both the knee and ankle joints, because of their limited range of motion and because they bear much of the weight of the body. It is important when performing a movement to have the correct alignment, and make the necessary corrections to prevent injury.
Conclusion: How this Movement is Important for Dancers
Overall, rond de jambe is clearly a complex movement, however it can be overlooked at times. Why is it important for dancers to do? While this movement is usually done at the ballet barre, it can also be incorporated with other movements as part of a variation or other dance. Rond de jambe should be done at the barre in order to open the hips and work the turnout. It is especially important for the dancer to get a feel of where his/her weight should be placed and changed during this movement in order to assist in larger movements within dance. This can be a quicker movement of the legs like in tour jeté or grand jeté. Ultimately, rond de jambe is important for the dancer to feel the relation between the space and the floor, and should be considered a fundamental and significant movement in dance.
King, David. “Notes on Rond De Jambe…” A Ballet Education, 23 Mar. 2017, aballeteducation.com/2017/03/22/notes-on-ron-de-jambe/.
Calais-Germain, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Eastland Press, 2014.
Kayla Forsberg is a freshman student at Loyola University Chicago majoring in biology and minoring in dance. She has been dancing for almost eight years in several different styles of dance. She was a part of the Danse Arts Company of Devine Performing Arts in St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally, she was on the competition team at her dance studio and competed for several years. While Kayla will always love the art of dance and is continuing her dance education in college, she hopes to work in the field of biology after graduating.
Lexi Belleville is a junior from San Francisco, California studying at Loyola University Chicago with a major in Environmental Science: Conservation and Restoration Ecology while minoring in dance. Having been a dancer for 10 years, she has performed a variety of styles and techniques, along with being active in colorguard, both as a performer and coach. She is excited to continue her dance education through Loyola’s dance program while also pursuing the sciences.