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too concerned about injury?


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a couple of days ago, i was told off by my teacher of "not pulling the toes back" to a proper 5th during tendus. i explained that i was concerned about the forced turnout of my feet and knee, at what point she gave me a lecture about being too concerned about injuries because that "limits my growth".


is it possible to be "too concerned about injuries"? i'm in a full-time diploma program with 4 ballet classes a week, and i think that i need to be concerned because of what we're expected to do.


for example, one of our expected routine during ballet is to keep our feet in a perfect 5th. i'm one of the few who can't, and we're expected to plie into a "good" 5th and then straighten the legs out keeping the feet in the 5th. i don't know about the others, but i do feel a strain at the back of my knee when i do this. and "pulling the toes back" increases the strain.


what are your opinions on this?

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Well, playing devil's advocate, I know a few students who could do with a little 'boost' and actually work towards a better turnout; that's for sure (if you don't ever go towards an 'uncomfortable position', you are limiting yourself I believe; but because there is a fine line between 'uncomfortable' and 'unsafe/painful', it's difficult to know for sure if you're not in the body of the person. It's also difficult to know if they are doing everything right to achieve that maximum turnout)...


However, if you are CERTAIN that your turnout is at its maximum (it's easier to decide this in a static position, or a very slow one, like going from tendu to slowly close -and of course, the more proficient you are in your training, the more you can be sure of that), then I think it's foolish to expect you to go beyond that. It WILL lead to injuries eventually. :hyper:


For example, one of our expected routine during ballet is to keep our feet in a perfect 5th. i'm one of the few who can't, and we're expected to plie into a "good" 5th and then straighten the legs out keeping the feet in the 5th.

Now, THAT's food for concern! :crying::D

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I think that as adults you do have to be aware of what your body can and can't do. This can work for you and against you.


For example, I am quite aware of what I can't do without a lot of warming up! I'm also really careful about turning out from the hips and not rolling my feet in plies. And I've noticed that I will say "I've had enough pointe work for today', and do the rest of the class on demi-pointe, whereas the girls seem to feel that they have to keep going, even when they have terrible blisters or are too tired to work effectively.


So an awareness of your body and how good technique relates to YOUR body certainly should help prevent injuries.


But I probably don't push my body to its full limitations either. So maybe I am cheating myself by holding back at times?


The other thing that I've noticed is that I am much more hesitant about turns, especially if I feel that I don't have a lot of space around me because I am scared of whacking into a wall! And I find it difficult to launch myself into double pirouettes because I am scared of careening out of control into something! So a fear on injury does hold me back then.


What an interesting topic!



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Even with younger students, there are some who can be pushed for more and others who cannot. The teacher needs to be certain that the student has the capability from the hips AND that they are properly placed and aligned before trying for a tighter 5th. If the rotation is coming from the hips and the alignment and weight placement are correct, then they must do the very best 5th that their rotation will allow, but it cannot be done from forcing the feet.


If there is pain in the knees this is a major warning sign to NOT push. However, it's also a wake up call to really check the alignment and weight placement. Just a tiny bit of release of the pelvis, or the weight too far in the back foot or in the heels will prevent a good 5th, and that problem is increased if the student is hyperextended.


Sapphirenite, is your teacher also working on the other things mentioned above when she is trying to get you into a better 5th? Are you sure that when you try to straighten from a demi plié that you are maintaining your aligment? Are your legs hyperextended? Do you have good rotation from the hips? If you do not have much natural rotation, forcing the feet into perfect 5th should not happen, IMO. If you are hyperextended, but have the rotation, then a very tiny adjustment might be needed, with about a half inch or less of space between the heel of the front foot and the toe of the back foot.


Lots of "ifs" here, so you need to do some work on figuring out why it doesn't work for you and if you are capable of making it better or not.

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Guest Lizzie 37

While it's very important to work to your fullest capacity, there are anatomical realities. NEVER ignore knee pain. It is indicitive of a problem. If indeed you have checked out the points made by Ms. Leigh, and you are not designed for a perfect fifth, so be it. I've no idea how old you are, but this needs to be factored in as well. As a clinician[ nurse practitioner] and old dancer, I urge you to listen to your body. I'm sure your teacher wants whats best for you, but you will have to live with the consequences of your decision. Good luck.

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this may cause further prejudice against my teacher, but i have to say something about this. besides being in the daily ballet class, i was told to join her adult intermediate ballet class in the evening. most of the students had been learning from her for about 6 months to a year, mostly trained in chinese classical dance. they have the dance knowledge, experience and flexibility, just not in ballet.


as the term just started in january, a couple of new students joined the class. again, some of them had training in chinese dance, but there is one particular student who had had no dance training whatsoever before. think beginning ballet student and you'll have an idea of her posture, arms and the rest of it. last week, my teacher started pointe, and she actually allowed that student to go on pointe! i couldn't believe it. i couldn't watch that student because i kept getting the feeling that she was going to twist or break her ankle. how can a teacher trained in ballet with both a RAD cert and a degree in dance allow this??

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I would suggest you get out of here and fast. :angry:


how can a teacher trained in ballet with both a RAD cert and a degree in dance allow this??

Unfortunately, any certification that exist nowadays only gives the teacher the 'tools'. The RAD is not an organisation that claims to 'police' everyone or have a follow up policy to see if what they taught is applied correctly subsequently. Any award as you know probably, gives the recipient a track record, showing that at time T they were able to fulfill the requirements of the exam. Nothing more!


I am RAD certified, but I think I know better and wouldn't put a beginner on pointes. It just shows that there are bad and good teacher everywhere, with the best and the worst 'diploma' record. :shrug:


I would however, still give a little nudge towards the RAD if you are truly concerned with this teacher. It has been known that the RAD can take back their certification if the teacher is really bad (mind you, it doesn't happen often, but I've recently heard something to that effect. A teacher has been 'barred' from her certification). I don't really know what happens in this case, if they're allowed to resit, or if they are unable to approach the RAD again in their life...

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In my experience, it is possible to be too concerned about injury. There are some people in my adults classes who have been so terrorized about forcing turnout that they don't try to even work it, and completely ignore the teacher when she tells them to work on it a little more (and this is a teacher who is very strict about not forcing it, so I feel they should trust her the few times she tells someone to work it some). This has recently become one of my pet peeves. :angry:


However, it doesn't sound to me as if you are over-concerned here. Knee pain is not something to toy with, ever.


I also know from personal experience that it's not always possible for me (even though I am an adult) to know what I can and cannot do - I need the teacher to tell me to not try to keep quite so much of extension, or to try and turnout a bit more. Often I try things that are not safe unaware of the hazard, or don't dare to try things that feel impossible even though they actually aren't. Finding a good teacher is thus essential.

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Guest nicoal

Jaana, I think that's a very good point you mention - I think we as adults sometimes think we know better than our teachers. My teacher often will tell us, let me build your bodies - I know what you can't do - if I think you can do it, go for it! Sometimes I know I have mental blocks with certain things (especially on pointe, anything that involves plie en pointe I get very anxious because of my flexible ankles) and I have learned to trust her judgement.

Often times I surprise myself! :angry:

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Sometimes, as a teaching stratagem, I use a Balanchine gambit -- "Janey, I'm a man, I've not done the pointe work you have...Is it possible to do this?" Most often, I get, "Why yes, Mr. Johnson, I think that's possible! Do you mean like this? "Why yes, dear, something like that, just don't drop the rotation in the supporting leg. Thank you! :angry: " :shrug:

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It's hard to assess the class unless we can see for ourselves what's going on, but just a note about the fifth position comment about pulling back your toes -- is it possible that the teacher wants you to cross more, as opposed to turn out more? If that were the case, it would be an appropriate (and common) correction. But we'd have to see what's going on to judge.


Regarding concern about injuries in general with adults -- I will say that one of the reasons I stopped teaching beginning adults and went back to focusing on children and teens is that I heard from the get go too many voiced concerns about injuries -- right from plies and tendus. What I wanted to say was "But you haven't even done anything yet." I understand that these people were coming in with injuries they had received in athletic pursuits, and now were worried about "what next," but that in itself can be crippling, when it become the overriding focus. I'm very open to people telling me before or after class about various physical issues, but a common problem with adult beginners is wanting to talk too much about what they're doing during class time -- you can only intellectualize so much. Then it's like the toilet bowl commercial about 2,000 flushes. It's 2,000 plies, etc. That's the only way you're going to improve -- repetition of the basics.

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As others have said, it's hard to know exactly what's going on without seeing it in class. But here's a guess that others haven't yet ventured.


In closing to fifth position from tendu front, sometimes dancers will close the working heel to the standing toe --- and then as an additional movement, try to "close up" the fifth position to as close toe 180-degrees as possible.


Although this practice might make the 5th position "look" more turned out at the end, it doesn't give any additional USEFUL WORKING turnout. When I see this kind of close, I watch for the opening of the next tendu --- and invariably the dancer will begin the next tendu by TURNING IN the working leg (i.e. moving the toe before the heel), turning it back in to the position it was in before the "extra" turnout was forced after the last close. To be useful, the turnout must be held throughout movement.


I therefore recommend practicing tendu front as follows:

1. On the way out, the working heel begins the motion, and the toes don't move until they have to. This is the "heel first" that we always hear about, and it will maximize turnout on the way out.

2. In the tendu (stretch), try to keep the foot as FAR from the body as possible, while leaving the big toe on the ground. Keep the heel as high as possible. This will maximize turnout in the tendu position.

3. To close back to 5th position, start the motion by drawing the working toes back. Only when they can't go any further does the rest of the foot, etc. get involved. This "toe first" on the closing is the reverse of the "heel first" on the opening. It ensures your turnout is maximized on the way in.


If these procedures are followed, then when you get back to 5th position, you will be maximally turned out for your current body & placement. There is no additional "closing up" after the 5th position has closed.


As for the look --- yea, maybe you can get a more "turned out" 5th position by "closing it up" after you close. But as I said above, that's not functionally or structurally useful. Others have pointed out that there are risks involved. And viewed from the front (the audience point of view), it's hard to tell the difference between a 145-degree and a 180-degree fifth position anyway --- but easy to tell the difference between a stable dancer and an unstable dancer.

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Funny Face, send your adult students to me. I don't see a need for intellectual understanding of the technique as a problem. Actually, I'm usually afraid of analyzing the movement so much I bore even the adults. In the end, they seem to get what I say and translate it into correct movement amazingly quickly.

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Sorry citibob, they've already been 'sent' ...


I believe it's quite common for adults who have accomplished a great deal in their respective careers to want to be able to apply that to dance. My point is that there is a time to stop analyzing and to just do the work -- which amounts to repetition, like it or not. Interestingly, I've seen the highest attrition rate among doctors and lawyers, particularly the latter. It's understandably difficult to come into an unfamiliar 'body-based' situation, and to feel self conscious when you're used to feeling and exhibiting confidence. Some will stick with it. Others, however, may want to over intellectualize it.


Here's a little anecdote to prove my point. I recall years ago when doing one of my 'story' ballets with the pre-school bunch, thinking it would be wickedly funny to insert into our figure skating across the pond routine some very intricate jumps just to see their reaction. Because they didn't know this was difficult, they didn't perceive it as difficult and they just went out there and imitated me. It was pretty darned funny. The joke was on me, as what they were able to do with no preconceived notion was remarkable.


We all lose a bit of that fearlessness as we grow older. My point is to try to encourage that attitude from creeping in too early in life. Relax, enjoy, and do, do, do it! I was wondering if there is a bumper sticker that says "Shut up and dance." Perhaps there should be.


True, caution should accompany all injuries. But there are many teachers of adults out there who have seen too much analyzing and worrying supercede the joy and commitment of just trying it again and again.

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Funny Face, of course adults intellectualize more than children, and fear stuff more - but I still don't get what exactly was the problem with your adult students.


In my experience, when a teacher gives a class, with the necessary repetition and stuff, practically all adult students take the class and no complaints. They intellectualize in the dress room, sure, and some read ballet books like crazy, but the teacher is not there to see that. Occasionally (like, twice or three times during my three years in classes, not every month or anything) I've seen someone launch into intricate questions during class, but at least all my teachers have solved the problem with a simple "ok, let's try it now" or "just do it, I'll correct if necessary". Sometimes, of course, someone decides that ballet is not for them and drops out. That's fine, too, as enough keep to it to keep the class going.


But what did your students do, then? Refuse to do your combinations? Drop out in numbers? Keep on talking when you told them to do a combination? I find all these hard to imagine. Maybe it's a cultural difference - Finns are not supposed very talkative anyway. :D


I'm off-topic here, but this really intrigues me. Maybe we are doing something in our classes that is bad for the teacher, and I'm not noticing it at all? :unsure:

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