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Ballet Talk for Dancers

A potentially silly question about turn-out


Jaana Heino

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I am new to ballet, as you know, so I apologice for a potentially stupid question and not knowing the correct anatomical and ballet terms.

 

The problem is like this. I seem to have a pretty good turn-out at the hip: for instance, if I sit with my legs straight and feet pointed, or lie on my back with knees bent, I can point my knees to the side pretty far (not 180 degrees, but close).

 

The problem is, when I flex my ankles (which I obviously have to do to stand with my heels on the floor), the turn-out gets *much* less. So, I can stand in the first with my knees to the sides when on demipointe, but with my heels on the floor, and even more so when doing a plie, my turn-out gets worse.

 

This most probably is because of some weakness or tightness in the muscles or other joins, but I have not been able to figure out in which?

 

So, is this a normal phenomenon? Can I (should I?) do some exercises at home to cure it?

 

[ 09-15-2001: Message edited by: Jaana Heino ]

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Victoria Leigh

Yep, normal phenomenon! Unfortunately, having turnout and being able to USE that turnout is one of the things that makes ballet so difficult and why it takes so long to develop a dancer :eek: In time you will build the strength in all the necessary muscles to be able to maintain the rotation while upright, but don't expect it to happen overnight! Keep working on the rotation with the exercises you are taught in class, and also on strengthening the abdominal muscles, as placement and strength in the torso is key to being able to use your rotation.

 

[ 09-15-2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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Thank you for the answer! I'm quite happy to work for it patiently as long as I know that what I am doing are really doing something to it. :) The teachers have shown us exercises to strengthen "turn-out-muscles" and abdominals and stuff.

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I also have some concern regarding turn-out. I have just received the book "Classical Ballet Technique", which Victoria recommended to me. Page 10 shows a simple exercise for determining a person's natural capacity for turn-out (lying flat on the floor with soles together). Having tried it myself and compared to the pictures, I believe that I land somewhere between the pictures labled "acceptable" and the one captioned "unacceptable". Should I be concerned, as an amateur dancer, that my natural capacity for turn-out is less than ideal? Is there really nothing that can improve this quality? I would be devastated if I could not continue to develop as a dancer now that I've finally taken the plunge! Victoria, any thoughts? Thanks, Anders

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Victoria Leigh

Anders, I think if you showed much more than what you describe it would be quite unusual! You have to remember that starting as an adult all those muscles have not been used towards increasing what your natural rotation is, and it will take time to activate them. There is no way of knowing how much improvement you will see over time, but there will be some, if that's any comfort. Also keep in mind that rotation is the thing that most dancers have to fight for the hardest and keep working on all their lives.

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Guest Manhattnik

Anders, as long as you enjoy taking class, who cares what your turnout is? Work on improving yourself as conscienciously as you can, enjoy your successes, don't be disheartened by your failures, I mean learning experiences, and just make sure you don't stand in front of anyone who's better than you, and don't make anyone trip over you.

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Guest beckster

I know just what you mean! I remember looking at the pictures of pointed feet in the Classical Ballet Technique book and being extremely disheartened when I compared them to my own feet. I think the "unacceptable" caption is not something that should be taken too seriously by an adult recreational dancer, since practically everything about us is unacceptable for a career as a ballet dancer! That doesn't mean we shouldn't dance for the sheer enjoyment of it, though. Maybe one day I will be a good dancer ... but I would still be considered unacceptable by Ms Ward Warren's exacting standards. It is unfair do compare yourself to the standards expected of career-track dancers, so as an adult dancer I think it is wise to go back to the old adage about accepting the things you can't change (like your age, and the fact that you've not danced in years), and working on the things you can change (like your strength and flexibility).

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For all the "unacceptable" examples, the adult student should be sophisticated enough to read, "needs more work"! ;)

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