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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Fifth position and the young dancer


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My daughter's teacher wants her 5th position to be closed. She can do this, but her feet are turned out way past her knees, and her feet roll in. She's 11, and has been dancing two years. She's in level Intermediate 1 at her school. What is expected at this level?

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It depends, because "intermediate" means so many different things. At 11, the fifth position should be fully crossed, with the heel over the base of the big toe. Turnout must emanate from the hip (rotation), and correction should center on achieving proper placement and alignment, which will allow maximum turnout without odd things sticking out. Rotation must increase gradually, from within the student. Forcing turnout can lead to injury.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes, but here again, I'm with Celia Sparger, and I'm talking about skeletal age. We can see it as teachers, and usually be right, but actually only the pediatrician knows for sure. I am assuming that levels in this schools curriculum are something like RAD, perhaps an unfair assumption, and of course, turnout is dictated from the hips, not where the feet end up on the floor. Especially when there's rolling involved. After all, you can do fifth position without 180° turnout.

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knock knock--

There might be a confusion over terminology here.


"Fully crossed" means heel of front foot in front of big toe of back foot. This would be in contrast to third position, where the heel of the front foot is in front of the middle of the back foot. As far as I know, it is reasonable for teachers to begin asking for a fully crossed fifth at some point in training (not sure when).


"Fully crossed" is different from "fully turned out"--where the feet are crossed and each foot is turned out 180 degrees, so that the feet touch each other at heels and toes.


If motherof5 means "fully turned out" when she says "closed"--yikes. From reading other discussions on this board, I don't think any of the teachers recommend forcing turnout to 180, but I will leave it to them to elaborate.

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Yes, koshka, you're absolutely correct, I don't mean crossed AND fully turned out, if that's forcing the turnout in excess of hip rotation.

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yes, i understood the difference between 'fully-crossed' and 'fully rotated' BUT, what i am suggesting is:


that a fully crossed 5th with inadequate turnout is an ugly item,


which doesn't help technique at all, in my view. it really complicates things, especially if they don't have small feet!


i would rather have a 3rd position AT ANY AGE - with good rotation, than a 5th with inadequate turnout, just "because they are aged 11".


mel i am not at all understanding your comments about celia sparger's book: how can a teacher 'see' skeletal age?

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Little things like the tweaking of the ends of toes and fingers, general appearance of the student, and of course, the deadly certain note from the pediatrician, who, as I said before, knows for sure.


I use third position sometimes in remedial, but it depends on the class and the circumstances. If practically the whole bunch roll in fifth position, that's an option which can be exercised. But, just among us teachers, that's an option, not a set rule. A good teacher has a whole trunkful of methods and means to teach good ballet and a reduced turnout in fifth is one way to do it; using third is yet another, and there are more. A good teacher doesn't leave the brain in the waiting room and teach by rote, s/he doesn't teach a class of, say, thirty. There are thirty individual students there, and they all have to be taught within the compass of a given discipline or school, but not at the expense of what is best for the individual student. It's what tires teachers out - thinking for thirty!

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