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Supporting Leg


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I have spent the last two months working on my supporting leg. I have been systematically trying different things to see what improves or hinders my ability to be pulled up with my weight properly distributed on my supporting leg because I want to take some of the mystery out of why I struggle so much with this. When I am off my leg, I want to be able to fix it, but what makes it difficult is I get pulled back and off my leg for different reasons on different days. Here is my short list, based a lot on Vogel's stuff that I have been playing around with:


The big reason why I think I struggle with this are:


1. Tight hip flexors (psoas and TFL) that pull me back and sway my back.

2. Pushing back into hyperextention instead of creating length on the frontside of my hip

3. Tight calves, Achilles Tendons and feet really make it hard for me to feel grounded and they pull me back on my heal. I feel like my heal is going to come off the ground when I move my weight forward. I think this is actually a biggy with my body.

4. Weak Gluteus Medius, lower abs and transverse abs.

5. Poor sense of balance.

6. Difficulty with rotation due to tight IT Band, Lateral Hamstring, and Hip Flexors

7. Pronounced Tibial Torsion that just throws everything out of alignment.

8. Long, loose spine and arms that are hard to control and sometimes throw me off balance.


I have been gaining consistency and improvement through stretching and strengthening with #1, 4, 5, and 6. I see huge improvement when I spend time on my feet, but I just haven't gotten to working on stretching them out yet because I have been working really hard on my pelvis. I eventually want to have a short little "get on your leg" warm-up sequence I do that hits my major weaknesses before class. Unfortunately my MAC and I-Pod were stolen out of my office yesterday, so I won't be doing that right away.


I am posting this to encourage a dialogue around the topic of the supporting leg.

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Have you tried a wobble board? These work the supporting leg quite well and hopefully train the muscles so that when you don't use it you continue to stand correctly.

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I once talked a friend of mine into taking a beginner modern class. In talking one day, he mentioned how difficult it was for him to just stand on one leg. I hadn’t thought of that before and after some thought came to the conclusion that simply doing things while standing on one leg is pretty much a fundamental dance skill no matter the style of dance.


When I was doing ballet, I worked a lot on my standing leg both during barre and center and consequently I could do things on one leg reasonably well. My image was always up and over the foot—imagining the vertical axis beginning at the ball of my foot and going straight to the ceiling.


Though I struggled with promenades for several years, I got to the place where I was decent, in part due to all of that work on the standing leg. Then one day in modern class we were asked to do a promenade with the working leg in attitude front, the supporting leg in plie, and the torso contracted with the head down. Everything down (excepting that small part of the spine between the pelvis and about mid-back). Wow, was that ever hard. I felt like a beginner again. It was then I realized that there were two aspects of doing things on one leg. In ballet there is the ballet alignment, the feeling of that axis and turn out that does make it easier to do things on one leg. But then there is just the plain old simple notion of doing things on one leg, whether aligned or not. Perhaps that is something like dynamic balance, I don’t know.


Now as an exercise I like to just stand on one leg and do an improv for 30 or so seconds, trying to make as large a movement as possible without falling off the leg. I’m quite fond of that exercise.

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I found in my Graham classes that regardless of whether one is turned out, in plié, &c, the gluteus muscles have to work the same way they would in ballet--or at least it had to feel that way. Just because the leg is not turned out does not mean some of the same muscles are not engaged; they absolutely must be. That is something my modern teacher had a tough time teaching some peole--modern dancers have technique, correct posture, &c, and part of that is, at least in Graham, having a "lifted" feeling along the upper back of the leg whether the leg is straight, in plié, even while doing floorwork.


As far as the "jambe de terre" or supporting/standing leg in ballet goes, one thing I have found useful is using demi-pointe to teach holding the rotation. How many of us, standing in a nice turned out 5th, have been asked to relevé and balance, and when we do, we turn in the supporting leg a little? Don't do that. Pretend your foot is made of stone and absolutely cannot move. You may feel as if your body wants to turn toward the barre, but you have to fight that by engaging the rotator muscles at the top/back of the leg. Maintain this feeling as you lower the heel, and that is how you have to stand every single time you are in a turned out position, on two legs or one, and in the air as well.

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Hans! :flowers: This is another thing my luv-er-ly teacher requests of us!!!!


And, it also helps immensely for those promenades on demi/pointe that we discussed last year I think!


Does anyone else find that detail exponentially more difficult en pointe? (not the promenade, but the maintainance of the same amount of rotation, especially with eleve and the roll back down?)

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"Pushing back into hyperextention instead of creating length on the frontside of my hip"


I hear ya, hart. That's always been my biggest pitfall when it comes to balancing on one leg! I don't know if you'll find this helpful, but it really helped me. In physio, in order to regain ankle propioception, I practice standing on one leg a few times every day until I worked up to being able to stand like that for 2 minutes. Then I had to close my eyes and do the same thing, working up to 2 minutes. Sounds simple, but it really helped me. :flowers:


Another thing is the fear factor. As soon as one leg is off the ground, I tend to think too consciously about shifting my weight instead of just trusting my body and letting it happen. My body knows where it's center is and will make mior adjustments to keep me balanced, but as soon as I think about it, it becomes... uh oh, I'm being pulled off to the right! and then I overcorrect to the left. Am I making any sense? I guess, to sum it up, for me balancing on one leg, especially in slippers, sometimes becomes a mental "fear issue", as with turning.

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Guest pink tights

old technique for teaching weight shifts/balance...start in first position, lift one foot. You should have your weight over the toes, so the heel can 'bounce' when standing on one foot.

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I so agree with you about the fear factor thing. One reason I wanted to "take the mystery" out of why I am always struggling with balance is to learn how to trust my body. My problem with allowing my body to find its center is that my natural center just happens to be wrong by ballet standards because of my bodies "natural" alignment issues, like tibial torsion, hyperextension. This makes movement hard because I do believe that you really need to trust your body to work well and be musical; however, my body systematically moves in wrong ways. This is why I have decided to "systematically" work on correcting these problems so that when I "let go," my body will hopefully learn the new habit.




I like the releve idea. I have been working on fondues without releves, working the spaces between plie, almost straight, and pulled up to learn the difference between not pulled up and pulled up. Maybe I will work the other direction for a while, from releve to flat.




I so agree that you have to spend a lot of time on one leg, even if you are not doing proper ballet movement. Balance is just something that is very hard to learn as an adult if you didn't get it as a kid. I have seen lots of improvement spending a little bit of time everyday on one leg, but progress is slow.

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Guest tutuonmymind

I think one of my problems is that I had very good balance as a kid -- with a different body. :wink: I have way more curves now, and I am the same height. One thing I notice is that I am a lot less flexible. From what I have read in some of the other posts, it may help if I got some of the flexibility back. However, it's not as easy as it was when I was younger. I guess that's to be expected.


One other thing that I noticed is that I may have learned to cheat when I was a cheerleader in high school and college. To do the stunts that I did required that your body be aligned, but every stunt didn't require that all of the muscles throughout the body be engaged in the same way as a balance in ballet requires. For example, most of the time I had my legs hip width apart with my feet pointed straight ahead. That does not require the same muscle engagement as a relevé soussus or just about any ballet position which requires that the legs be turned out. I now have to really think about engaging all of the muscles. I need a new muscle memory.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can't think about all those things at once, so the first thing I think about when I'm on one leg is, "Is my head directly over my the ball of my supporting foot?" And I slightly lift the heel to check that my weight is truly over the ball of the foot. For me, once I've got that, everything else settles down--I can think about pulling up and having my hips square, etc. In fact, in my experience, it's nearly impossible to have a tilted hip (in passe, for example) if my head is directly over my toe. I also tend to tuck my chin and look down a little, so I have to think about lifting my head. Someone mentioned feeling as if she's being lifted from behind her ears, and that's another great piece of imagery for me.



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