Butterflies, Flutters, etc…

I think some folks also call them double lifts. Makes for interesting discussions on the boards as folks try to decipher what others are talking about!

I find the naming conventions for Irish dance to be interesting. It seems some steps have 1 or 2 names and most folks use them. Other steps are called different things in different regions and even in different schools. I am especially enamored of the animal names like the deer jumps and butterflies.

A butterfly is called entrechat quatre in ballet. This is the jump in which you switch your feet 2 times in the air to land back in the same starting position. How is this accomplished?

Many times, I see dancers wiggling the feet back and forth with bent knees and a jerky twist in their upper body. This is as common in ballet as it is in ID. This happens because the dancer’s attention is focused on the feet. Instead, the focus should be on the hips.

First, let’s look at just a simple changing of the feet. If the right foot is in front to begin, jump to switch your feet in the air to land with the right foot in back. In ballet, this is called a changement de pieds which translates as “change of feet.” Most folks simply say “changement” (shawnj-mah). This link takes you to a little 3 second movie: changement.

Notice how long and straight his legs are. When he performs this movement, he is not thinking about moving his feet. Instead he is thinking about his hips, about changing the position of his feet via the small movements of his thigh bones (femurs) in the hip socket.

He starts with his feet crossed which is accomplished first by outwardly rotating his thigh bones in the hip sockets and then crossing his thighs (adduction). At the top of his jump, he opens his thighs (abduction) just enough so that he can then cross them (adduction) the other way. In the process, his feet change position.

The butterfly (as our former school called it) is known as entrechat quatre. “Entrechat” means interweaving or braiding and quatre is the number 4. The jump is named according to the number of times each foot changes position – if we begin with the right foot in front, in the jump the right foot moves twice (back then front again) and the left foot moves twice (front and then back again) for a total of 4. If you change your feet one more time in the air (right foot:back, front, back; left: front, back, front), this is called entrechat six (6).

This next link shows 4 jumps: saute (jump with no change of the feet), changement (single change of the feet), and then entrechat quatre and entrechat six. You will notice that when the dancer performs the entrechat quatre (butterfly) that his feet fly wide apart. This is just a particular way of doing them that highlights how quick his entrchat quatre is and how high his jump is. This link takes you to an 8 second movie: jumps.

Again, notice how long, strong and straight his legs are. And again, his leg movements are originating in the hips socket, not at the feet. When he performs the relatively small movements of the hips, it allows him to keep his legs long and straight as it produces the desired movement in the feet. This then eliminates the bent knees, wiggling feet, and jerky body movements.

More kinesiological analysis: Movement of the human body is a result of resisting gravity using our system of pulleys and levers. Our bones are the levers and our muscles are the pulleys. All movement is a result of muscles pulling on a lever that has a fixed point.

In the case of the butterfly, or entrechat quatre, the legs are the levers (specifically the femurs, the thigh bones); the pulleys are the outward rotators, hip extensors & flexors, abductors and adductors; and the fixed points are the hip sockets.

Let’s just think about one leg. In this movement, the leg (femur) is a third class lever:

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This is a pic of another third class lever:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Notice the fulcrum/fixed point (at the housing), the lever (the long metal section extending to the right), and the pulley/the effort. This is the same as your leg, although your leg in this step in straight down below you.

The fulcrum (pivot, fixed point) is the hip socket. The effort (the pulleys) are the muscles (the outward rotators, hip extensors & flexors, abductors and adductors) and the load is the entire leg. In order to produce the desired movement at the non-fixed end of the entire lever (the foot), the pulleys (muscles) manipulate the femur in the hip socket. This movement is small in relation to the movement in the feet. This is efficient movement.

This video below is of fly fishing. Why fly fishing? Because it is a fantastic example of a third class lever being used in an extremely efficient manner. Notice how far the end of his line flies, how he manipulates it. And then notice how relatively little movement there is at the wrist and in the arm. The effort is focused and applied where he is holding the fishing rod (the fixed point), and then all of that focused energy flies through the pole, into the line, and then out the end. The fisherman is in full control of where he wants to place that tiny end.

In a butterfly, you want your feet to move precisely and efficiently without flapping in the air, without bent knees, and without a jerky body. Keep your legs and feet long and straight, and move in the hip socket.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peggy
    Oct 02, 2007 @ 00:07:00

    Thank you! I hadn’t thought about entrechat until recently when being re-taught how to execute the jump.

    I liked the teaching technique- much better than being told jump as high as possible and move the feet as fast as possible… I liked it because it has only 3 changes of the feet- a good step between changement and enrechat. Second because it cannot be executed without using the hips.

    First we were given the basics 1. Shoulders must stay over the hips. 2. When hips are rotated, heels can’t get tangled.

    From 5th right foot front, echappe saute to second, then saute bringing the feet to fifth en l’air right foot front, change feet and land right foot back. Repeat until technique is established.

    I like having this exercise in the back of my mind, going back to it when heels start getting tangled and knees start cheating, as they invariably do. Rotating is still a new thing for my body and I still have some remedial work to do! Thanks for all the new things to think about!

  2. Trackback: Dance Kinesiology posts « Taoknitter

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