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Ballet Talk for Dancers

teaching turnout


Guest Paquita

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Guest Paquita

I was wondering what your views are on teaching turnout to young students, like ages 5-9. I've heard that the russian schools force 180 degree turnout from the beginning which has it's obvious benefits... but it's been known to create over-developed muscles and possibly cause injuries. So just how far do you push a student? If they only do the amount of turnout that is comfortable, they will never improve it! I'm asking because in the fall I will be teaching a grade 1 and grade 3 class. Thanks.

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First of all, Paquita, there is a big difference between 5 year olds and 9 year olds! I don't believe in teaching ballet to 5 year olds at all. Creative movement, or pre-ballet maybe, but no turnout until around 7.

 

Teaching turnout, and teaching 180 degree turnout are two different things. There is something in between the use of only what is natural and the use of 180 degrees. The extreme turnout was designed for the perfect bodies, which are the only ones accepted in the Academies in Russia. These students have everything going for them physically, from the beginning, plus they have daily training. Taking children who do not have the perfect bodies, and take ballet once or twice a week at best, and forcing them into perfect positions is not, IMO, a sane thing to do.

 

You take what they have, and once they have some placement and control of their weight, and enough training in what turnout is and how it is accomplished, then you try to gradually increase it. Of course you don't just let them settle into whatever happens naturally. Ballet is not a natural art form! But they need to learn to use the muscles well and to work on their turnout, increasing it as much as possible without allowing displacement of the bones or especially rolling knees and ankles.

 

Students without the ability who are forced into too much rotation for their ability will roll, and they will, eventually, get injured.

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And another thing: The Vaganova method isn't designed for students younger than ten. Now, with the RAD system, Pre-primary and Primary have no turnout at all, save the natural stance of the student. As time passes, and grades go up, more and more turnout is encouraged, until you get either to Higher Grades or Majors, where turnout goes pretty much for the max for each student by the time you're done. :)

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Ah yes, Major Mel, and your keywords there are "...turnout goes pretty much for the max for each student". Emphasis FOR EACH STUDENT! I have a major problem with forcing 180 degrees at any level or age, if the student does not have the ability to do it without harm or displacement or rolling. Naturally one will aim for that, but it is generally not truly attainable by most students without something else going off. As close to it as possible, though, of course! :)

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Guest Paquita

Thanks for the help Victoria and Mel! I'm not really sure what the ages of my students will be, so I was really just guessing. Later on their previous teacher will give me a better idea of their ability. I agree, turnout is deffinately somthing to be taught gradually!

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