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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Turnout - feet and knees won't agree

Guest Beth

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I don’t know whether I’m bow-legged, ‘tibial torsioned’ or just plain wierd but I’m certainly confused. :P Feet in parallel, knees turn in slightly and don’t come close to meeting. My lower legs seem to bend away from the knee just below the joint. With extreme effort focused on maximising my rotation using my inner thigh muscles and hamstrings the gap can be lessened sometimes to the point of nearly disappearing and the knees straighten up and I get straighter legs – spooky the first time I did it because it felt like I was standing on someone else’s legs! :blink::P

Standing in fifth, my feet turnout much more than my knees. My calves and knees don’t touch unless I really focus on my upper leg rotation and then if I get everything (postural alignment, etc) exactly right they do. It helps if I’ve stood in parallel first and rotated things as much as possible because that helps my brain remember which muscles it’s trying to use :(. I thought maybe I was simply over turning-out but since reading the forum and starting to concentrate on rotation instead of turnout :thumbsup: if I try turning my feet out less so that they are more in line with my knees I get discomfort in my knees. Also if I try using less turnout, my knees end up behind my feet as soon as I do so much as a demi-pliè – not healthy. I can pliè with my knees over my less turned out feet but only if I don’t use any rotation – which then makes the whole thing rather pointless! :D If I leave my feet turned out where they want to go, then I have no problems getting my knees over my feet when I pliè as long as I keep focusing on my rotation. So … given that I haven’t consciously and actively been using rotation to control my turnout until now, am I better off leaving my feet as turned out as they want to be (as long as I don’t force the turnout further e.g. by gripping the floor) and just keep working on my hip / upper leg rotation until my knees eventually line up with my feet, or not?

Since starting to think about rotation instead of turnout (about 24 hours ago!) my knees and legs are feeling distinctly different – more like whole limbs and less like bits of limbs with a dodgy knee bit in the middle. I know I may just be bow-legged with too many years of forced turnout, as I’m good at jumping and allegro stuff and I do have tight hamstrings and a tendency to sickle, especially on demi-pointe – something I’m trying to rectify now I’ve realised I do it! I don’t think I have particularly good rotation in the hips but then I don’t think I’ve ever really tried using the right muscles to get it!

After a few days reading the forum (I think it’s totally fantastic by the way :thumbsup::D) I’ve got plenty to work on – postural alignment, rotation, not sickling, arms, you name it. On the other hand I don’t seem to have bow-legs in any of the pictures of me in younger days! Weird! Anyway I’ll carry on practising rotating, aligning and not sickling and await your feedback and advice! :unsure:

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  • Administrators

Hi Beth, and welcome to the Adult Ballet Students' forum here on Ballet Alert! Online :unsure:


It sounds like you are on the right track with working to get the knees over the feet by using the rotation properly, so I think you should be able to maintain your turnout of the feet as long as you are accomplishing this. My biggest question would be why you have not learned this before? If you have been studying a long time and have not been taught to rotate from the hips, then I think maybe you might want to look for a different studio! :D

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Well I danced for about 10 years in my ‘younger days’ and made it to what’s now Advanced 1 level before I gave up at age 15 for a whole variety of reasons but not by choice. I think my basic training was OK and I always got plenty of corrections and made great progress considering I’m not your ideal ballerina type - but it was a long time ago so I'm a bit hazy now about what I was told to do! :blushing:

I restarted ballet just over a year ago at the age of 29 and have got completely gripped by the ballet bug again :P . I’ve been dancing 'by instinct' but knew that something wasn’t right - but I didn't know if it was just 'rust'. My current school isn’t particularly technically minded. It’s very much dance for fun which is great if that’s what you are after. But I used to do Cecchetti and that was really structured and classes were enjoyable but hard work at the same time. I really miss the structured routines of the Cecchetti barre and the port de bras and centre work …. :rolleyes: The syllabus I’m doing at the moment isn’t ISTD and is more performance than technique, and I know that I’ve been getting away with murder because of it. It isn’t that I’ve been deliberately doing things wrong – more that it’s taken a while for me to work out what I’m not doing right as no-one’s been pointing it out :o:dry: . I enjoy the classes but they’re only 45 minutes once a week, nowhere near enough dancing if I’m going to get back on form :o .

I’ve contacted some schools that teach Cecchetti and I’m waiting to hear back from them. I desperately need a lot more ballet classes and a teacher who’s not going to let me get away with anything, otherwise my self-correction could end up as simply swapping one set of bad habits for another! :rolleyes::wink:

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Guest beckster

I have the same thing! When I stand in parallel I am bow-legged and my knees point inwards. If I plie in parallel my knees meet at the bottom of the plie, meaning that knees-over-toes just doesn't happen for me and it's not a turnout issue. It puts pressure on my knees and ankles (even in parallel) to try and fix this. I have decided I am a mutant :wink: I find my turnout by rotating from parallel on my heels, and I hope that as long as I'm not forcing my turnout or gripping the floor, it's ok to just do what I can. At my age (26 and 2 days!) I'm not going to be a professional dancer so I am unwilling to do anything which hurts my joints, for the sake of a perfect ballet position. I never did ballet as a kid so who knows where the bow-legs came from!


By the way, if you are doing RAD syllabus and finding it too "performance" based, I assume you are doing the grades? You could see whether your school also offers the majors (I think they are called vocational now) which are much more technical but also enjoyable. Welcome to the board, by the way! We are planning a meet-up in London in January sometime, so do come along - if we ever get organised of course!

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No, I'm following an IDTA syllabus. It has Majors but I've been doing 'Awards' this year to break me back into ballet more gently! :flowers: However even the Intermediate class is only 45 minutes long and I know that I'm going to need longer classes than that and more than once a week to build up the stamina and strength needed for a Major exam. I've never done RAD before - and I have no idea where IDTA fits into the scheme of things! :) I always did ISTD Cecchetti before and I'm trying to find a school that does classes in Cecchetti Majors at the moment.


I'm never going to be a professional dancer either so I agree with you about the joints thing. I'm fantastic at swapping one set of bad habits for another. In the last year alone I've done the leaning forward, leaning back, tucking the pelvis under, arching the back, turning out from the knees, you name it - then I bought some ballet technique books, and discovered this site and thought ooops! :blushing: You'd think I'd have run out of ways of doing things wrong by now! :gossip:

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest kristinene

Hmm...I don't think there is anyway to run out of ways to do things wrong! At least from my experience! :)


This is pretty interesting, because I have the same thing. I just really focus on my upper leg rotation, and pretty much forget about how closed my fifth is (and it's not!) Maybe this is more common that we realize?

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What I find crutial in all your conversations, is that YOU seem to decide whether something is right or wrong... While I agree that a lot of the work comes from you, and you only, and I applaud your efforts, you also MUST have some sort of correction from time to time from a teacher whose eye is trained to point out the obvious to you (sometimes not so obvious from where you stand :D )


So, I urge you to find a teacher who is willing to put the effort... It's all very well to say it's a performance based syllabus. It can be, and it can be fun; however if you truly want to progress and dance safely, you need someone to tell you what to do with the details. It can be in an additional class to your 'performance' class or in the same class (dancing AND technique should form one entity, like a bubble. Bursting one side of the bubble bursts the whole thing anyway :shrug: )... And 45 min per week is unlikely to achieve that I'm afraid. :rolleyes:


One hour would start to be more beneficial (if corrections are given) but progress is noticeably higher if you have 2 times 1 hour at least per week...

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