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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The hyperextended knee


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I think I've recently picked up the bad habit of "locking" my slightly hyperextended knees back. I received a correction for it last night from a teacher who also hyperextends and I spent much of class being very conscious of my knees.


In general, I did pretty well. The faster exercises required more vigilance but I know I can work through this fairly quickly. Once I figured out how to make my leg truly straight, I noticed right away that my balances on demi-pointe were far more stable than they had ever been before. We unfortunately didn't do any pirouettes last night, but I'm going to test this out tomorrow. I had big problems with an arabesque promenade two nights ago and I'd like to try that out on my "new" leg as well.


However (there's always one), pique arabesques threw me off. Stepping directly on to the demi-pointe seemed to throw me back into the "locked" position. I could tell, right away, that my balance wasn't as stable (especially once I'd felt the improved balance), but I wasn't quite sure how to get up on to the pique quickly enough and on a straight leg and still keep my knee pulled up rather than locked back. Can anyone help me out or is this something I need to see?


(PS: I've read through all of the archives on hyperextension and they were very, very helpful!)

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Michelle, for the piqué arabesque be sure that you are pushing off a good demi plié on the supporting leg, and then move your body weight well forward and upward, over the leg. Don't let the leg get ahead of the body.

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That's a really helpful reminder about having your body weight in the right place Ms Leigh - I have trouble with going straight up into a pique arabesque, tend to sneak in a step and little plie without even knowing I'm doing it, so thinking about stopping my leg getting ahead of the rest of me should help that. thankyou!

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Once I figured out how to make my leg truly straight, I noticed right away that my balances on demi-pointe were far more stable than they had ever been before.helpful!)


A bit off-topic, this, but I've always wondered how you can tell when your leg is truly straight. I had knee surgery many years ago and am convinced that when they put my leg back together they didn't make it straight. I constantly get corrections from my teacher to straighten my supporting leg, but when I straighten it to this extent in a developee I get a funny twinge in the back of my knee.


It seems I need to establish what - for me - is truly straight, and teach my leg what it feels like, and my teacher what it looks like! I did ask my physio about it, but he didn't have any answers for me. So maybe I just need to find a better physio, or maybe I need an orthapaedic surgeon to do more extensive analysis?


Ms Leigh - I recall you saying that you'd had knee surgery that had left your legs not particularly straight. Can you offer any advice?

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I wish I could, Mr. Robin, but unfortunately my surgeries (3 of them, 2 on one leg and one on the other) didn't do much but clean out all the shredded cartilege. Basically the joints work bone on bone, with no cushiniong in between. Because they did not heal well, I lost the strength in the quads, and gradually, over time, the ability to totally straighten them. They did straighten all the way for a while, eventually, but I think the reason I could not keep them working was that as I got older and other things started getting arthritic, I found that I could not work as much or as hard on them, and that's when I lost the quad strength. I think if I had been younger, keeping them working would have been possible, but the last two years have been a bit more difficult. It's really only this year though, that I find they just don't straighten all the way. They were originally very hyperextended, so, for a long time, even if they weren't as straight as possible, they still looked straight. Now they don't. It's very frustrating. Because of this I have started to doing less and less demonstrating. Also frustrating. :wub:

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ms leigh, was the surgery you had ballet related as in injury at all?

just wondered as im hyperextended and i worry that i could one day have problems with my knees. Im aware that placement is very important, do you have any other advice concerning this?

thanks :)

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It was just worn out cartilege, cassy. Never an actual injury to the knees. Ballet related, sure, BUT, after I stopped performing and began teaching I also took up tennis! I was an avid tennis player, and had been teaching about 20 years before the damage showed up. So, who knows? :D (I was also a workaholic all my life, and put the same kind of obsessive attack into tennis that I did into ballet, so, doing both and working 7 days a week......well, it's bound to take it's toll somewhere. And then there is the age factor too. :) )

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Ms Leigh, you have my sympathies - no cushioning in the joints sounds very uncomfortable...


My surgery was different - they cut a wedge out of my tibia (severing it completely in the process) to alter its alignment in the knee after I repeatedly sprained it. Although the surgeon was very highly regarded in his field, I don't think he did a very good job - it's never been right since. The really frustrating thing is that I've since seen physical therapists who've suggested that if I had the same problem these days they could correct it without resorting to major surgery...

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ms leigh you must be super fit :thumbsup:

all that hard work!

i guess you are right, whatever sport/hobby lifestyle you adopt must have some kind of affect on our bodies.

I dont believe the bit about age though :)

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Thanks, cassy, but I'm facing the facts of life here and not liking it much. There are just too many things I can't do anymore, and it's not injury. :thumbsup: I still look like I'm in shape, but that is more my genetic structure than anything else. :wink: But seriously, being a dancer does have it's advantages in terms of aging. I think most of us, as long as we keep doing it, are in better shape by far than most people our age. And, I guess the fact that we are able to deal with pain better than most keeps us going too. :)


Mr. Robin, that does sound like a really drastic surgery. Also frustrating to think that if it had happened later the surgery might have been avoided. :D

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I really think most mature dancers have a fantastic figure :innocent:

I hope i will be that way when im older :lol:


Apparently there is a teacher who is a friend of my teacher - they work together at another school, she is in her 80s and is still very beautiful and really looks fantastic - not only that she also really knows her stuff and looks great demonstrating too!


I hope the pain thing is true too because im a total wimp :P

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