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stiff back? Bandy legged? or just weird?

Guest lulu1

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Back to ballet after a loooong vacation. Never had the greatest turnout, but having read many technical manuals etc don't think I ever really worked on it the right way. Now I am starting very slow with demi plies, tendus and fwd/bwd stretches.


Have slight tibial torsion (i think!) especially on left leg. Basically when I stand in first position my legs ie calve muscles dont touch by about 3/4 inch. They will if I pull them in hard ie pull back hard on the knee joints.


But! have noticed in cambre forward feet in first position esp body bent 45 - 90 degrees, hey presto, legs turn out a fair bit more and calves touch magically!!! All with no effort! I try to keep this lovely position as I come up from cambre but once upright the pelvis feels too far tipped forward, back a little too arched, so I correct back and my blasted legs pop apart!!!


I asked a teacher about this but she couldn't really answer. I'm seeing my physio in a week, so will ask about this.


I feel that my lower back is very stiff, I move in one piece from waist to knees! Also, i think my knees are a bit stiff, as I go through the exercises, the calves start to touch, but I'm worried that the strength I use through the quads/hamstrings will eventually leave me with Arnold Schwarzenegger's thighs (no offence arnie!).


What do you think? Is there something I should (not) be doing?

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Well, maybe then you could run for Lord Mayor of London! But if you're going soon to a physio, anything we say here except "don't lock the knees back" might be superfluous, as you are soon to get an eyes-on reading of your situation. This sounds like an interesting case. Let us know what the physio turns up, or out, as the case may be. :dry:

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Hi there! Just an update. Basically I am just stiff stiff stiff in hips and hamstrings. Being very slightly bow legged (genum varum, not hyperextension of the knees) doesn't help either.


When I stand in parallel there is about 3/4 inch between my knees which can be eliminated by pulling inside of legs together. This also applies to standing in 1st position, but of course the action to do that is the opposite to that of turning the legs out. When I get a bit looser things should equal up.

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Good! Glad the physio was able to give you some advice about that. Sounds like what I had to start with, except I started when I was twelve and essentially never stopped long enough to seize up.

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I would be interested to know what you did to overcome this.


I think some of my problem has to do with the fact that some times I seem to be "tucking the pelvis" under. It feels as if my posterior is sticking out, but looking in the mirror it isn't and I tend to over correct this. I am trying to avoid that action like the plague.


I don't need a large backside and thunderthighs to add to my problems!


On another note, as I look round for a decent class/teacher in London, when I question them closely about anatomy and its effect on dance, there are very few that seem to know.


I'll just keep studying the dance anatomy books. I've learned more in the past month than I did in my teenage dancing years and things are starting to improve dramatically!

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Never had the greatest turnout, but having read many technical manuals etc don't think I ever really worked on it the right way.


You say also a bit later that you have tight hamstrings... To me, the whole problem (the more you speak, the more I can see that happening -esp the tucking under of the pelvis :wink: ) seems to come from a bad posture.

If your whole weight is positionned badly on top of your leg (too far back), your 'bowed' legs will have even more trouble adjusting to what ballet is all about: turnout and movements within that turnout.

So, for a start, try to see if your weight is effectively on top of your legs (in a normal stance, the pelvis would be tilted slightly too much forward, and the upper body is -to counterbalance- a bit too far back. In ballet, you need to lengthen the whole back (lengthen up and down, as for an elastic... Lengthen the neck, lengthen the lower back to avoid having a swayback, and lengthen the upper back sideways -as if your arms were wings and you want to spread them), and lengthen also the whole abdominal area.

In doing both of these, you will have gained a few millimetres, and your upper body will 'free' some space under your hips to fit your legs turned out.


If your stance is too far back, the muscles around your shins will compensate (to keep your balance) and be overactive. On the contrary, your hamstrings which should be doing some work to turn out your legs will be underused.

So, I advise you make sure your weight is placed on the pad of your foot, before your toes (and if you can't balance without clawing your toes on a normal ballet stance it's a clear sign that you're too far back -your toes should be relaxed and lengthened) one point just behind the big toe, one point just behind the small toe, one point just before the heel pad (closer to the arch). That way, you're 'ready to get into action' if there is a surprise 'releve' in an exercise.


Similarly, if you're too far back, your jumps will not have full support of your legs (you will also have a lower back prone to injury as the jump 'resonates' in all of you on the landing onto the heels, instead of going through the foot) and your achilles will avoid most of the work they're supposed to do -break the rebound.


have noticed in cambre forward feet in first position esp body bent 45 - 90 degrees, hey presto, legs turn out a fair bit more and calves touch magically!!! All with no effort!

It simply means that as you go forward, the legs are finally free to turn out instead of 'turning in' (in fact!) to counteract the fact that you want to stay balanced.

Think of the inside leg wanting to come forward rather than anything else. If your upper body is placed well, that's about it in terms of 'thinking about the turnout'. Involve your buttocks and thigh muscles, but not to the extent that anything is gripped. Shift the weight as soon as a leg is free and goes into degagé, battement etc...

'Bowed' legs is not a problem if you work well with them. Your weight shifting is one big part of how your turnout will be executed nicely.

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Hi there,


I've got similar posture problems and tight hamstrings and hips too. What you've just said balletowoman about standing with the weight further forward is a bit of a revelation that I only just became aware of recently.


I've been doing contemporary dance classes (as well as ballet) for the past five weeks and my flexibility has improved more in that time than in years of just doing regular ballet class (all those contractions and stretches that leave me hobbling around the next day are good for something!)


But yesterday my contemporary teacher said that the reason I didn't look right in a develope to the second was because I wasn't standing 'over my leg, and for the first time I had a correction about this. She also put my hips in the right position. It felt very strange and I felt like I should fall over, but I didn't. She said that I'd been tucking under and sitting back all this time. I'm not sure what this means really but I will see if I can remember the correction. (If not I'll ask her again - the contemporary class is small and she is very good at noticing things to correct.) Anyway, this correction made a big difference and I looked 'right' and I will try to apply this in my ballet classes as well.

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Thanks Balletwoman and Kate B this is fascinating stuff! I believe you are right about weight distribution and getting on top of the leg.


The more I read, the more I realise which muscles should be doing what! When I stand in parallel and look forward, I can see that the musculature has developed on the "outside" of my legs all the way up and down, and as I was reading somewhere, bow legs will produce shorter than average hamstrings and arches that drop/pronate.


If I compensate by "drawing my legs together" using, I assume my hamstrings, the arches lift, the legs turn out but I have to be careful not to roll outwards with the feet.


I was practising today and realised after reading here that basically i should be holding my weight more forward and there is a tendency to go backwards.


I also have a tendency that the feet turn outwards but I have to work really hard to get knees over toes ad the angle of the knee joint means that my feet are angled to my legs.


Sounds like I look like a monster, but we are talking fractional differences making great improvements!

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Whenever you walk 'normally', your stance is (if like the majority of people) rather back from where it should be in ballet. If you're like me, I'm not really careful about my posture if I walk down the streets. It means that by the end of a long day, my lower back is quite painful (as I 'sit' back)


If you however, 'stick' your back to a wall (with heels as close to the wall as possible) you will almost feel like you will fall forward: this is the correct posture in ballet (very straight, as opposed to a bit of 'sitting back')

In other words, you should not feel 'relaxed' in a ballet posture. Something is working all the time. I'm not saying it should feel uncomfortable at all (although at first it will feel quite bizarre) but you must remember to go 'up and over' (you will feel like you're bending forward when really, you're perfectly straight).

The UP and OVER feeling must be there though (it's also possible to sit forward... so, there should be a feeling of extension too)


It's a lot of work if you haven't worked that way so far, but once you get that, you will achieve better balance, better line and avoid injury. :P

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