Next most important to squeezing the butt as hard as you can is keeping the shoulders pulled down as hard as you can. Paradoxically, you must somehow keep the torso very long and lifted, and the neck stretched upward, and at the same time hold your shoulders down with all your might.
Everything looks amazingly better with the shoulders pulling down. In class I can slack off and have absolutely lousy technique in every other way and still look half-decent by holding the shoulders down.
So U. spends a great deal of our classes yelling, "Shulldahs, bewtees!" … "Gulls! Shulldahs!" And if any of us are able to do this for a few seconds, it automatically makes everything look 75 per cent more beautiful.
Also, U. could yell, "Shulldahs!" every other second of class and be totally justified because inevitably all of us will have our shoulders up around our ears. For some reason, it’s hard to keep the shoulders down. Apparently, we are a shoulder-raising species; we’re bracing against burdens even when we don’t have backpacks.
It seems to feel helpful when we jump or raise our legs if we lift our shoulders.
Finally, U. could nag us about our shoulders for 100 per cent of the class and be totally justified because, even though it looks good to hold the shoulders down
it looks even better if you are straining to hold your shoulders down.
Somehow the viewer can see the strain of the effort to hold the shoulders down, and it’s a beautiful thing.
So: you can never be "good enough" at holding your shoulders down… you always must be trying harder than your current capability.
To me, this is a very zen thing about ballet.