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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Using the right muscles


elise

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Since the summer session has started I've taken two of the beginning classes this week, they are still feeling out everyone's level so both classes were very basic and *slow.* Boy do I hurt now!

 

I was standing in the shower yesterday doing developes and thinking about what the instructor said about grand battements and using the back of the leg to lift and not the front. I assume this is the same idea in a develope. But I swear I am using the front only. Does anyone have any tips on how to locate and use that back of the thigh muscle instead?

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Guest beckster

I asked my teacher this very question in class last week. She told me (and showed me) that it is to do with turnout. If you turn out to your fullest extent so the heel is forward you will find it easier to locate and use the underneath muscles. You may have to move your leg forward a la seconde to achieve it.

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This is one of those weird things that happen in ballet. Technically it is impossible to use the muscles at the back of the leg to lift the leg toward the front. Muscles only contract. They cannot lengthen. Nevertheless, it does seem to help some students if they think the muscles at the back of the leg are working to lift the leg. That’s the weird part.

 

As someone who knows a little about how the body works, I’ve never found that correction very helpful. What my body seems to respond to is just trying to present the heel when doing any kind of battement, or movement for that matter.

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Hmm interesting. I still think I am using the wrong muscle. Should this type of leg lifting be the hip flexors or mainly the actual quad?

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Practicing developpe in the shower :P You're very dedicated.

 

From my understanding, the hip flexors lift the leg and the quads straighten the knee. The hamstrings need to be relaxed, or else they'll prvent you from straightening the leg. That's where all the stretching we do really helps with extension.

 

The most helpful tips I've gotten so far have more to do with the supporting side and the lower abs. I'm taught to keep my hips COMPLETELY level in extensions, with the weight shifting onto the supporting hip. The front of the hip is held straight and the lower abs must be pulled inward and upward during the extension. The working leg is permitted to be in front of the hip. Rotation is more important in the beginning. Only after there is a lot of extension and strength, the leg can gradually be brought further side.

 

My teacher always says that you don't lift the leg. Lifting the leg causes you to go off your hip and grip with the upper quads. She always says to think of the knee coming toward you in developee. In grands battements, you lift the foot, not the leg. The leg should feel like it's dropping into your stomach.

 

In a strange way, it seems to make more sense once you have extension over 90 degrees and tons of torso strength. I am just starting to get the right feeling for this now, but it took a considerable amount of time. It also didn't happen until I could do pied dans la main over my head with my hips completely level. First you need stretched hamstrings, then you need to have mobility in the hip socket. I always try to "drop" my working leg right into the hip socket. Like I'm pulling it toward me, while staying very lifted on the supporting side with abs pulled in.

 

Even when you understand it, the body is very very stubborn about using the right muscles. I'm still gripping and struggling, though there is a little improvement every week.

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Guest AmyLiz008

I practice grand battements and developes lying on the floor sometimes, and I find that I use my abdominal muscles more than leg muscles. My teacher told me that if I use my quad muscle to lift my leg, it will never go over 90 degrees, and my quads will eventually look like watermelons. All the time in class I hear "Turn out and use that six-pack!"

For what it's worth...HTH

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These latest two posts are very much on the mark and go further to explain Ms. Leigh's explanation of the "Ferris wheel" effect going on in developpé, but go at it from another angle. Run a search on "Ferris wheel" and look at Ms. Leigh's explanations of how it works. Her words do the job so much better than I can.

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Lampwick wrote:

"In a strange way, it seems to make more sense once you have extension over 90 degrees and tons of torso strength. ......... First you need stretched hamstrings, then you need to have mobility in the hip socket. I always try to "drop" my working leg right into the hip socket. Like I'm pulling it toward me, while staying very lifted on the supporting side with abs pulled in."

 

Yes. There are some muscles which are responsible for lifting the leg above 90°. The iliopsoas and psoas (together) are the only ones which can do this; there are no others which attach above the point where the leg joins the torso.

 

The iliopsoas starts out on the inside of the upper thighbone (femur) and goes up in front of the pelvis and kind of through the abdomen and attaches to the spine (T 12 - L 4), middle to lower spine. The part which is higher is the psoas major. (I have heard that the higher it is attached to your spine, the easier it will be to lift the leg high. Who said that? Was it here that I heard that? Sorry.... :unsure: )

 

Anyway: That is why you feel as if your abs are working. Practicing developes while lying on the floor allow you to feel this without the actual "stress" of trying to get the leg up there.

There are also many stretches which are good for this one; it tends to get tight with lots of sitting and such.

 

The ferris wheel image is a really good one. So is the one which says you lift your foot and not the leg.

 

If anyone has any other ones, I can use them all. :wink:

I have found that the more ways I use to explain and try to visualise things for my students, the more likely they are to "get it"; someone will probably feel "spoken to" by at least one of my images. :D

 

-d-

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