Traditionally a ballet step, the chaine turn can be one type of turn that children begin to try at a very young age. Constant spinning as they travel along pretending to be a tornado or spinning top will create something that looks like a chaine turn. Many children will probably do the basics of this move at some point, whether they go to dance class or not. But as with any step there is much more to it than meets the eye.
A chaine turn is essentially lots of little tiny steps that you take along a line. This line can be either curved or straight, it’s perhaps easier to first get when practising on a straight line as the alignment of the feet will always be the same. However, when starting the step there is likely to be a little curve in the line that students make. To begin, have student start in the corner and have their arms on their shoulders or waist. Ask them not to start facing the corners they’re travelling to but the corner 90 degrees to it. Begin with a simple step to the side, towards the corner they are travelling to. This step should not turn them at all. Making sure all the weight has transferred onto this leg, get them to take a step with the back leg towards that corner, but this time they should turn to face the opposite corner. Another step to the corner and another half turn to face the original side and the chain has been started. If they continue to the end of the diagonal they’ll have done quite a few preparatory chaine turns.
The above is a starting point, the students will probably look a feel a bit likeViolet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, once she turns blue. As they become comfortable with the turning focus on the movement of the head next. The head should always look in the direction of travel, so as the body returns from the second step, the head needs to move quickly around to be back facing that direction. Having a spot to look at on the wall can help students with this as it gives them a point to focus on, as opposed to looking at the wall. Brightly coloured shapes can work well for this as they’ll stand out from the wall. When done a little faster it should almost look this the head never moves, as it moves so fast to come back to that point.
Watching the stepping of the feet is crucial, especially when transferring all the weight onto the moving leg as it comes, as this will encourage students to put the foot down earlier (or later) than it should actually be put down. Try to encourage the students to step on the straight line, every single time. As an exercise either use lines on the floor or a rope to test how close to a straight line they are stepping. Challenge them to get the steps correctly, the head movement should help a lot with this as often it is the 3rd step that student put down before they get back around to the right point.
Once the stepping motion has been acquired by most students, subtly change the weight placement, trying to get them to have a more central centre of gravity. This should feel more natural for the pupils, but also makes it a little harder to remember which foot is stepping where as the next foot as a little bit of weight on it making it a little hard to pick up. To help start initiate this movement, get students to start with the front leg point to way they are facing. This will make the first step have a little rond de jambe in and will help initiate the turning action. As students get this without the arms, add in the arms that you think are best. There are quite a few variations with arm movement during chaine turns, perhaps the most common is to have students start with arms in 3rd position and then have them move into 1st position and stay there until the turn has finished.
To make this harder have the students speed it up, this means the head connection also gets sped up adding to the amount of coordination the children need to complete the step.
I hope these tips help with improving your chaine turns!
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