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I read the thread bout hyperextension in the teachers forum and the article that was linked to it as well.


According to that article hyperextension is

Hyperextension is the extreme extension of a limb or part of the body. In knees, it is most commonly known as swayback. Other conditions are cross-eyed, knock-kneed and bow. Most people fall into one or more of these categories. In swayback, the knees are pressed too far backward, leaving the ligaments at the back of the knee permanently stretched.

The article


All my teachers have had the similar opinion about hyperextension as ms Sullivan who wrote the article: that hyperextension should be worked with correct placement.


But what nobody talks about is all those of us who have problem on the other end of the scale. When you have trouble keeping your knees straight, not because of bad technique, just because you were born like that. (Is that called hyperextension too?) What are we supposed to do? If we press our knees really hard the kneecap pushes into the leg and the leg is locked. Even then, the leg looks slightly bent.

Wouldn't that result in almost the same kind of damage that hyperextension can cause? (I can see though that at least the placement of the rest of the body would be correct, which is not the case with hyperextension)


And also...knock knees? What to do about them? I can't stand in 1st without my knees hitting into eachother (so I have to bent them slightly in, but then they look bent :wacko:) . It hits less the more I turnout, but since I wasn't blessed with perfect turnout I will always have that problem.


But of course, these are problems for all of us without the "ideal body type" :P where hyperextension is part of the "ideal".

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Susanne, the condition you describe is hypOextension. Usually, it's a soft tissue situation brought on by tight ligaments in the knee joint, but in some cases, it's actually skeletal, and the joint stops short of straight. In the cases where it's only limited by soft tissue, the knee can be slowly worked straight over a long period of time, but when it's skeletal, you're pretty much done without major surgery.


Hyperextension is not part of the "ideal" body type, nor are knock-knees (jarreté). The upside of having a jarreté configuration in the legs is an easier time with adage and posed steps.

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It does happen a goodly part of the time, but also, they mistake the one condition for the other! You can have both, either, or neither. Noverre wrote that straight-leggedness was so unusual, that it was not the sort of thing that he could write about generally.

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Sorry Mr Johnson but I have to ask one more thing:


What did you mean by this:

The upside of having a jarreté configuration in the legs is an easier time with adage and posed steps.


Why would it be easier? I find my tight hamstrings limiting my dancing alot, even though I keep on stretching them they seem to have been 1 mm longer over 1 year of time :P it doesn't seem to have anything to do with my bone configuration?

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Suzie, 1 mm in one year is progress! Especially seeing as you're an adult student. Let me give you a quote that may more fully explain the qualities of arqué vs. jarreté dancers.


It's from Leo Kersley and Janet Sinclair's text for A Dictionary of Ballet Terms (London, 1977):


...This difference in physique is as great as the vocal difference between a soprano and a contralto:  the singing teacher who attempted to make all of his students sing in the same register irrespective of voice would find few pupils, yet this is continually attempted in the ballet world....
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Ha ha that qoute was good!


But is still don't understand why it would be easier for a jarreté person to do adage?? What is the physical explanation to that?

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It's a bit involved, and Kersley & Sinclair go on at some lengths about children who are jarreté, but in whom the characteristic becomes undectable as they fill out. I won't attempt to explain the physics of it, because I simply don't recall enough of physics to make a useful statement. I can only opine that it would have to do with lines of force and the center of gravity and the alignment thereof. For a real physics explanation, consult Kenneth Laws on The Physics of Dance.

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Please forgive me in advance for asking a question that I know has already been addressed on the Forum. I am still not clear about something. It relates to the "hyperextension doesn't necessarily mean knock-kneed" thing. My legs hyperextend moderately, one leg more than the other; however, when I am standing in first, I can rarely get my knees or thighs to touch. Does this mean that I am bow-legged or could this just be the consequence of poor turnout? I have seen some improvement in this area. I have noticed that when my hips are loose and I really squeeze my behind, I can OCCASIONALLY get my knees to touch slightly. And on a REALLY good day, I can get the very top of my thighs to touch also, but this is an exception and not a norm. This also often results in me swaying my back and sticking my behind out. Here are my questions.


1. I don't understand logically how a person can have both hyperextension and be bow-legged.

2. Also, if I am bow-legged, is bow-leggedness a structural thing that really can't be changed?

3. If it can be corrected, is there risk to my knees with respect to trying to push my legs together if I also have a tendency toward hyperextension?

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This is actually an easier question to answer than you think.


Hyper- or hypoextension has to do with a front-to-back axis of the leg.

Arqué/jarreté has to do with a side-to-side axis. If you stand in first and the knees and thighs don't touch, that sounds like hypOextension. If you stand in sixth (first neutral - no turnout) and the knees don't touch, that's arqué (bow-leggedness). Hypoextension is pretty much a done deal if it's skeletal, but if you are only restrained by soft tissues like cartilage, it can be corrected. If you are bow-legged AND hyperextended, that's great. You'll have the extension from the hyperextension and the jump and power from the bow-leggedness. You can't change these two latter things without major orthopedic surgery, and that's only indicated if the situation is so bad that your mobility is compromised.

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Well then, I guess I have hyperextension and bow-leggedness. I have lots of space between my legs when my feet are parallel, and I am pretty confident that my legs hyperextend. If bow-leggedness is the result of the side-to-side axis, does this mean that people who are bow-legged tend to struggle with turn-out? If I weren't squeezing my bottom in class, I would look like a pigeon - both because my legs seem to naturally turn-in a little and because my feet have a tendency to sickle. I have seen some improvement in this, so I wonder if some of my bow-leggedness might be partly skeletal and partly tight soft tissue from too many years of running.

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Then, Suzie, you are Fanny Elssler, who excelled at terre à terre dancing and demi-caractère parts in the Romantic Era.


Hart, the running could have a good deal to do with the difficulty in attaining your maximum use of your natural rotation. The running gait trains a toe-straight-forward step and to ballet, this is reinforcing turn-IN! Gently does it! Rather than squeezing the buttocks tight, try aligning yourself from the top down, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees over toes, and see where that leaves you in terms of rotation. In order to accomplish this, think rather of the spine lengthening, than tucking in the pelvis.


SC, I'm really glad you asked that question, but I have no idea why. I've been arqué for years, and wish I knew why it works that way, but still, I'm glad you asked the question! :D Still, nothing is automatic. All that the bow legs indicate is a tendency to gifts in the direction of allegro. I'd look at Laws for a possible explanation of the physics of things, and Celia Sparger's Anatomy and Ballet for more information. Sparger is kind of old-fashioned, but still pretty good.

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