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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Help me understand my teacher

Jaana Heino

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Recently, when we've been doing battement fondus to demi-pointe (my personal menace, is that step), I have received from my teacher the correction "Push the supporting leg straight". I thought she meant push the knee more straight/back, but apparently this was not the correct interpretation (I am hyper-extended). When I was confused, she repeated "Push the leg straight" and made a motion with her hand as if pushing towards the ground. Later, I tried to do something like that, and she said "be stronger on supporting leg".


I have no clue whatsoever what she means. I know the idea of pushing through the floor for balancing, and I think I have the "straight but not pushed back" idea for standing on a hyper-extended leg. But these don't seem to do what the teacher wants - not that I am sure if it because it is not what her means, or because I just cannot do what I understand well enough. I can stand ok'ishly when doing e.g. frappés on demi-pointe, it's just this slow relevé in battement fondu that seems to trigger the flow of incomprehensible corrections.


Could the knowledgable teachers here try and function as interpreters and explain me what is going on? :P

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A fondu with a rise to demi pointe in the Vaganova system requires that you stretch your supporting knee before the rise to demi pointe. The coordination of the movement is quite different from fondu on a flat supporting leg. Is your teacher Russian? Is your teacher speaking in your native language? Sometimes when teachers are not speaking in their native language they may find ways to explain things that may not seem logical to a native speaker! :P

Edited by vrsfanatic
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With a rise to demi-pointe. And yes, she is speaking Finnish, and I am translating, but I don't think there is any other way to translate those words into English. From her gesture I think she might have meant "push down to make the leg straight", which I tried to do, but then got that "stronger supporting leg".


Is there such a thing as pushing down to make a leg straight? Usually you hear people talking about pulling up to do the same. :P

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I edited my original post since I realized you had indeed explained yourself quite well. Please re-read my post. It may have explained what you are looking for.


There are schools of ballet that do teach pushing down to go up. I do not understand this way of teaching. Perhaps another teacher will be able to help you with this idea of rising. :P

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My teacher is Finnish, but the style that is taught here is very Russian, Vaganova influenced, and yes, the way we do it is you straighten your leg first and only rise then. Where the wrongness seems to be in the movement is after my supporting leg is already "straight" and I am rising up. Apparently it is not straight in the correct way even though I think it is.


I have had this teacher for three years now and I have not heard her say "push down" in this sense before - she tells us to about "anchor" the foot to the floor in balances and pirouettes, but that seems different. Usually she tells us to pull up the muscles of our tighs, and other normal and understandble stuff like that. :P


I hope someone can explain further, and I will also try and make time to ask the teacher before or after class (difficult often because of schedules, but doable).


I could add that I have always had issues with straightening the supporting leg well and keeping it straight. So in this sense it is nothing new, I am constantly working with it, just that right now I do not know how exactly she wants me to work.

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It's almost like isometrics, where two sets of muscles work against one another to find a balance, except here it's gravity. Of course, you pull up to rise, but you also push down into the floor, rather like feeling "grounded" in a balance.

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Have you looked in the mirror to see whether or not your supporting leg IS actually straight, even though you might feel like it is?


My teachers always tell me to push into the floor for releve as well.


I've found with fondu and developpe with a releve, my weight will go ever so slightly back, off my hips, and the knee will bend. There's a little "caving" of the upper body as well. It's subtle, and I'm working on it, but it's still there. I see a lot of dancers (all levels) who's knees are a bit bent (especially in extensions front)


It's an overall placement thing, and a teacher could pick up on any number of corrections in different parts of your body to fix the problem. If you focus on the knees or pushing into the ground, it may fix the upper body. Or a teacher could try and fix it with the upper body, try going a little more forward.


Either way, I bet your lower back is rounding every so slightly with a slight pelvis tuck, and it's causing your knee to bend and your upper body to collapse.

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Maybe she meant to pull up your knee? If you are hyperextended your leg may look straight but if your knee is not pulled up than it is incorrect. However, the easiest way to find out is to ask her next time in class :-)

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I do not know, but I think that indeed my leg was not straight - it is a recurring problem. and the correction was about doing something to make it completely straight. I think she was maybe trying to give me a new way of thinking about how to do it... just I don't get it. :) But I think I will just continue working on keeping that leg straight and keeping my weight on it and ask her when I get the chance. (I don't want to interrupt the class by starting to talk about my problems alone.)

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Jaana, i find this question intresting, im an adult beginner with hyper-extended knees!

i will keep reading this post as i find it usefull, im not really at the point, to know what im doing right and wrong, apart from the obvious :) my teacher kindly is making some allowances for me im sure, not to say she lets me work using poor technique, she just understands - im a beginner :thumbsup:


hope you can figure it out, can you approach your teacher? i used to have a teacher who was so strict she scared me :blushing:



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I can approach her very well, but there is schedule issues - a class right before ours, one right after, either me or the teacher or both needing to hurry elsewhere right after class...


Working with hyper-extended knees is not easy! But my teacher does her best to help me, and I try my best to learn, and maybe bit by bit I will. :)

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The hyperextended knees ARE hard to work with. And you probably get no sympathy from people who aren't lucky enough to have them.

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Jaana, you don't have to take class time, if you think that a question will involve a long answer. Although, maybe it would be helpful to other members of the class, too. Have you ever noticed that when a teacher singles out a problem, the whole class starts to check itself in the mirror? If you think it will take too much time to straighten out, literally, approach your teacher after class for a little one-on-one.

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Alright, I had the time to ask her while we were putting our pointe shoes on, and the teacher said that the problem is that in the end of the fondu (when the leg is straight, and I am rising to demi-pointe, and after that, in the very end of the movement) my leg kind of is straight, but does not look so, because not all the correct muscles are engaging and the knee is kind of floppy. She said this is not because of my strength (I should be able to do it), but is a technical issue that needs to be corrected, and that she thinks it might be because I am noticably paying much more attention now to pulling up and out from my hips (I liked that part :blushing:), and so the leg is maybe forgotten. She said she thought it might help me to think that I am really working to push myself, or my hips and back, as far away from the floor as possible, to think of really grounding my foot to the ground and of growing up from there.


I am not sure if it makes sense when I try to repeat the explanation here in English, but I think it helped me now that she demonstrated more fully what she meant, and I am looking forward to trying it in class tomorrow.

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Further (hopefully last) update: it works. Now that I think of it, it is in fact just a variation of the old, old, old "up to go down, down to go up" thing you learn in about your first class - just kind of applied to the supporting leg specifically. I am sure I cannot explain it at all, still, but I am glad that talking about it on this board encouraged me to ask the teacher. Thank you for being there! It means so much.

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