What is a pas de chat in ballet and how does one do a pas de chat?
Pas de chat literally means in french, step of a cat.
A pas de chat in ballet is a step that is delicate and light, often resembling a cat jumping sideways when it gets a fright.
Pas de Chat is an important step to learn in ballet, and children typically start when very young by learning pony gallops to prepare them to do this step in a few years time.
When children begin to learn this step, they start to learn pas de chat in the form of pony gallops. This parallel action of the legs gets the children ready for the turned out pas de chat that they will do later on, as the action of the legs and feet are the same. At this level, the children need to get their knees well up in front of them and point their feet, to give them a good, sound technical base to work from.own from the knee.
What is a Pas De Chat
Here is a video so that you can see what a pas de chat looks like.
In the short video above the dancer does three beautiful pas de chat and then finishes it off with a pas de bouree under.
As you can see it takes a tremendous amount of training to get a pas de chat to look as good as this.
How To Do A Pas De Chat
The best way to do a pas de chat is to start standing facing the bar with your feet in third position.
Demi plie then practice drawing the toe up to the side of your knee using the back foot, with the leg turned out and the knee facing out to the side. Then do a small step to the side and place the other toe on the side of your knee, with the leg turned out in the other direction. Then plie gently in third bringing the toe down from the knee, ending with the same leg behind in a demi plie in order to try again.
Practice this travelling up the barre and then back down again.
Once you have the feet and legs looking good, move into the center. You can now try to add in the jump and both legs should be momentarily off of the floor at the same time. The first leg that left the floor is the first to return to the floor.
You need to use your legs and feet to push off of the floor so that the bottom is lifted underneath you at the height of the pas de chat.
Make sure to close your feet neatly in third or fifth position with both heels on the floor in a good demi plie before trying again. Also remember to maintain your turnout, as it is tempting to let the front foot slip as you take off again.
How Should Dancers Prepare For Pas De Chat?
Two great stretches you can do to prepare you for a good pas de chat is the butterfly stretch (sitting with your feet together and your knees open) and working on those middle splits.
Try this exercise. Lie down on your back with your legs together. Pick up one leg at a time and cross it over as in a passe. This should form something like the number four. Now pick up the other leg and bend it (the bending is optional). Use your hands to pull it toward your body as far as you can. This will stretch the turnout in your first leg.
What Faults Must Teachers Look For When Their Students are learning Pas De Chat?
There are a number of things that teachers need to pick up while they are training their students to do pas de chat. This will prevent long term bad habits setting in.
- Let your students perfect the pas de chat without having to think about arms. Only add them in later. A simple third position is a good one to start off with.
- Keep the upper body controlled and make sure the back doesn’t collapse as the student lands the step.
- Work on the speed of the legs once the step is mastered. There must be a sharp picked up action of the feet on the jump.
- Make sure that the knees are well turned out from the hips and the feet are lifted underneath the body at the height of the jump.
- Insist on a neat start and end of the step with a good third or fifth position of the feet and a strong demi plie. A good demi plie must start and end of the pas de chat.
- Try to get them to draw the foot up the leg and the other down the other leg.
- Don’t let the front foot slip as the back foot lifts to start the pas de chat.
- Make sure the pas de chat moves more up than sideways.
- Make sure both heels come back onto the floor flat at the end of the step.
- Land the Pas de Chat lightly.
- Make sure that the back doesn’t collapse forward when taking off and landing.
- At no time does the butt stick out.
Hope this article gets you all inspired towards working on that Pas de Chat technique.
Comment below if you have any questions.