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Ballet Talk for Dancers

David Howard


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I was reading an article in a magazine (I think it was Dance Teacher), and David Howard said that he would rather have a student be out of alignment and then work back to the right position. Like if a dancer were to lift her hip in a la seconde to get a higher leg, he said it would be ok as long as they could fix it eventually, because it would inspire them. I've never heard of teaching this way; I always thought that working up from the correct position was the way to go. Is David Howard wrong? :thumbsup:

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That certainly is interesting...Ive always found that I have better extension with proper placement than out of alignment, and isnt it difficult to realign your extensions once you have the wrong muscles strengthened? Ive always thought that the stronger muscle groups take over, and if you use the wrong muscles enough to get your extensions very high it would be extremely difficult to change to the weaker muscles...my personal thoughts on the topic, I would really like to hear what people say about this.

 

Also, Ive noticed that teachers generally do prefer students with higher extension and bad placement. :D

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It depends on the student, on the circumstances, and on the technical flaw being allowed. Rather than insist on an absolutely side à la seconde, it is common practice, advisable even, to allow the student to place the leg slightly forward of ninety degrees from quatrieme devant. As the student's overall rotation improves, then the leg can be brought closer to straight side. Maybe it will never get there, but the extension will look and feel better.

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While I totally agree about the leg being slightly forward in order to be well rotated, I DO NOT agree about lifting the hip to get the extension. That is a whole different thing, and I really don't think that is what David Howard meant. I would like to read that in context, because it does not make sense to me. Placement of the leg is one thing, DISplacement of the bones is another thing altogether. Not acceptable.

 

And I also do not believe that teachers prefer extensions with bad alignment! :D

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David Howard has some odd theories on that one I think. But he must know what he's talking about because he is a great teacher! His class is awesome and so much fun. He is all about being lifted and not sinking etc. I'm not sure I really agree on that though :D

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I recently heard Howard speak, and must admit that some of the reportage in Dance Magazine was IMO less than accurate about his points about alignment and also jumping.

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I recently saw one of Howard's articles about alignment. I did not agree with the article. I have heard other articles from him and I did like them. It might be just me but I say it is controversial!

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At my school, a la second is taught with the leg straight out from one's first position, so unless we have a flat first we do have our leg in front of us. my first position is 180, but because of tibial torsion instead of actual turnout. my leg is forward a bit in second, and because of this i am able to have it completely turned out, so that when i flex my foot it is parallel to the floor. My question is, if i cannot maintain full turnout and placement when i take my leg further to the side, should i leave it slightly in front?

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With tibial torsion, you have to. Which is more important, having a turned out leg, or having it at a perfect 90º from front but turned in? Which will the audience appreciate? Will they have any clue at all that the leg is a couple of degrees forward of perfect side? I DON'T THINK SO!

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...a la second is taught with the leg straight out from one's first position, so unless we have a flat first we do have our leg in front of us. my first position is 180, but because of tibial torsion instead of actual turnout. my leg is forward a bit in second, and because of this i am able to have it completely turned out, so that when i flex my foot it is parallel to the floor. My question is, if i cannot maintain full turnout and placement when i take my leg further to the side, should i leave it slightly in front?

 

My question to you ConstanzaElizabeth is what is full turnout to you? I am not sure I am seeing the same picture. You confuse me when you discuss full turnout in relationship to the flexing of the foot in the air!

 

There are many differing schools of thought on the placement of the leg to the side, with the toes pointed to the floor, at 25, 45, 90 degrees and above. Basically it is all an ideal in any school of thought. The Vaganova method, in writing, states that the toes of the working leg are opposite the heel of the supporting foot. When the leg is in the air at 25, 45, 90 degrees or above, ideally a straight line should be drawn outward from the ankle, calf, hip shoulder etc. The working heel faces the same on the floor or in the air. The knee faces up to the ceiling. Whether the hip is lifted or not has to do with the height of the working leg not the direction or turn out of the working leg. According to this schooling, there is more to work on in a releve lent or develope to the side than the height and turn out of both legs. The direction of the leg at lower heights will define more advanced work. For example simple glissade. If the working and supporting legs do not always glide outward and inward in the same direction side for all dancers, how are lines kept on stage? If the working leg in pas assemble or pas jete does not brush in the same line upward and downward, for every dancer on stage, then how are formations kept? In advanced technique, for example, the movement grand pas jete passe, such as in Bayadere, the coda of the Wedding with Gamzatti and Solar, if Gamzatti does not have the same direction of the leg as Solar they could end up dancing on two different planes! What about grand saut de basque? What about the opening of Shades in Bayadere? If even one of those young ladies does not have the same direction of the leg side in ecarte front then the effect of the scene is not as clear.

 

The theory is to train the ideal standard. Often adjustments will have to be made or various preparatory movements made to reinforce the stability of the hip or the rotation of the thigh in the hip socket. Telling a student to work with the working leg slightly in front of the supporting heel for a while can help to reinforce the deep inside muscular structure of the hipsockets. A student must also realize that in any movement to the side a great deal of work is also being accomplished on the supporting side of the body. This work on the the supporting side will help to reinforce the leg when it is used as the working leg on the other side. It is very important to work correctly with the supporting side of the body in order to show greater improvement when the leg is in the air as the working leg.

 

Working on lengthening and sustaining the supporting side of the body as one opens through releve lent or develope to the side, will help a student to increase the turnout of both legs, where as placing a great emphasis on the height and turn out of the working leg can at times confuse the issue. Turn out, placement of the body and height of leg are all very important of course but without direction of legs, corps work can indeed get messy! :wink:

Edited by vrsfanatic
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When i say full turnout in second, i mean that the sole of my foot is facing the mirror/audience, therefore when i flex my foot, it is parallel to the floor. I do understand the point about corps work and such, and one can always make adjustments for whatever the teacher/choreographer/director wants :wink:

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We are discussing two very different ideas of turnout. I would suggest you follow Ms Leigh's and Major Johnson's very wise advise on what could be necessary to help you! :wink:

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