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Sway back, turn out and straigtening knees


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Very interesting reading, my daughter has sublux jionts, this does not cause a problem as long as high muscle tone maintained, very good turn out and sway back legs, this she is told helps give her a nice line in arabasque, just trying to work out if sway backs are good or bad.

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Mel Johnson

Sway back is always bad, as its next consequences are compressed discs and pinched nerves, leading to overall compromised mobility. :(

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Sorry, I think that I did not make myself very clear in last post, daughter has sway back legs she has learned not to lock her knees, was told that this gives a nicer line

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Guest tipo'thetoes

I have been reading all the posts on this thread, particularly Clara76's description of pelvic positioning and Mel Johnson's recent comments and it brought up a question for me.


Is it always the case that a tilted pelvis (i.e. titled to the back) is caused by bad posture or could it be that for some people this is simply the way they are made (i.e. it's their natural skeletal shape)?


My daughter has had some similar corrections to the original poster's because she seems to stand with her pelvis tilted slightly back, which gives the impression of her tummy sticking slightly out. Her paternal grandmother is South African and I was under the impression that this is a relatively common African body shape. Is it possible for her to improve this alignment (and not have to resort to tucking under) or could it be that it's simply the way her skleleton is? I think that to look perfectly straight from nape of the neck to the base of the spine, she does have to tuck under, which I understand is not advisable.

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Victoria Leigh

Perfectly straight is not possible for anyone, unless they have no buttocks at all! :devil: As with everything else, it is about making the alignment correct, and tucking under will not work. It messes up everything else.


That said, almost every 10-11 year old girl has that kind of stance, and it is totally correctible, in time. If I ever had a child that age who did not need to be corrected for that I think I would faint! :(


There are people who have a structure which is more set in that pattern of "sway back", however, with training, they can also learn to be correctly aligned. If they have a larger buttocks, then it is not going to go away if it is structural, but they can learn to be welll placed and work very well.


balletpointe, sway back knees are a totally different thing. That is called hyperextension, and it is both a good and a bad thing. But, it's only bad if they don't learn to control it. If they control it, then it's fine and yes, it does give them a very good line, at least if they also have the shape of foot and the rotation to create that line.

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  • 4 years later...

Hi. I'm about 4 1/2 years late on this thread but just joined Ballet Talk about a year ago. I searched the topic "sway back" in arabesque and got this thread. I'm uncertain if I should start a new one or ask here. This is in reference to girls class ages 12 -14. The girls in this group have received 4 to 6 years of solid classical training.


Mel mentioned that sway back is not a good thing overall.


At my daughter's school they tend to "favor" sway back or the appearance of a porpoise chest or ribcage popping out along with sway back. This is confusing because as a parent in observation class I hear the corrections being made. To not pop the ribcage out, not to lean over and sway back to cheat in making arabesque higher. The teacher tells the girls to keep straight over the hips and not lean over the front toe in arabesque, etc...


My daughter has as close to a straight back as possible. She has a fairly high arabesque, but there are a couple girls who tilt over like a tea cup, arch their backs and thrust their ribcage out like a porpoise who have a higher arabesque while doing the same combination. These girls tend to be the favored in the class and are able to take extra advanced classes when it seems they haven't mastered what is required in the current level. I am just curious if there is a time and place in classical ballet for the above mentioned presentation to be desirable?


I have supported this school for many years and only within the last couple of years have questioned the training and philosophy. But I keep convincing myself this is the best school and environment for my children. My children are very happy. However, I fear that this is a crucial time in their dance development and they are lagging behind based on the schools conservative approach to teaching technique and not advancing dancers that need to be challenged.


Because we have been on the fence for a while about my daughter's training, we sought a second opinion from a former professional dancer who has his own small classical ballet studio and he is also a pilates instructor, with experience and degrees and education to back his opinions. He feels my daughter has the ability to be dancing at a much higher level than the current training she is being offered.He bases his decision on throwing difficult combinations her way and also technical things she had never done before and she is mastering them.


1) If the desired look in today's ballet world is to arch the back and have a porpoise ribcage then why has my daughter not been trained to do this? I have been told she is a diligent worker, easy to please, and a very capable learner on top of the fact she is a beautiful dancer with a strong presentation. She should be able to take the corrections and follow through with it.

2) Why are some girls allowed to do this and it is desirable, yet others are corrected?

3) Is there a proper way to achieve that look and I'm missing it? Because I don't understand when it is or isn't acceptable.If the school is not asking this of my daughter at this time could it be that they must feel she isn't technically strong enough to achieve this look and if she does it wrong she'll develop bad habits?

4) My daughter is very disciplined an takes corrections well. I hear the teachers correct girls on this and my daughter is remaining in proper alignment as she has been asked. But it seems they are minimizing her ability to achieve the very look they prefer if they will not allow her to tilt over and arch the back and thrust the ribcage out as some of their girls do.

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I'm wondering what you mean by the sway back girls being favored. I don't think anyone on this board would be able tell you why some girls at your school are being "allowed to do this" while others are corrected. Maybe the sway back girls happen to have other attributes that are exceptional (let's say, musicality, for the sake of argument) so they get parts based on this and less on proper placement.


By age 14, I would think that they should have had the sway back corrected out of them. Obviously some kids have a more bendy back than others, but I don't think it's a desirable trait for classical ballet, and it is not described as such by the earlier commentators in this thread. Many contemporary ballet pieces that I have seen performed by professional companies certainly have choreography with very bendy arched backs, but that would be specific to those pieces, and even at that level, done as choreo, not in regular classical daily class.

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Agreed, lemlemish. Something doesn't seem right, there. If your school is more conservative in training, which is good, then I'm confused about why they are letting these girls get away with such distortion. :shrug:

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Thank you for your replies regarding my confusion and concerns lemlemish and Clara76. I am just as puzzled as you are regarding the situation and why these girls would be advanced to a higher level and given more complex training if this "conservative" approach is their philosophy and the corrections in these areas have not been fixed.


To clarify: My using the words "favored" may have been taken wrong. I do not see favoritism in class. All the girls seem to be given equal time and attention and the corrections are well distributed, along with the praises.Which is very nice to see. What I meant is these girls seemed to be "favored" as in being selected for every solo or spot light feature in their level. They are the preferred dancers of the AD and choreographer and so they are selected time and time again.


"Maybe the sway back girls happen to have other attributes that are exceptional (let's say, musicality, for the sake of argument) so they get parts based on this and less on proper placement"- lemlemish ( I tried to copy and paste this as a quotation and wasn't successful).


Yes, one of the girls does have many beautiful traits mentioned above; musicality, artistic expression, poise, grace, along with the sway back and puffing of the ribcage in certain positions. Which is why I was wondering if this were a desirable feature in a dancer.


Sorry folks. I edited this to try to stay on topic. Rather difficult at times. I was whining a bit. I appreciate your feedback and support and will be asking my daughters private dance/pilates coach next time I see him. I think I'll show him examples. Maybe the sway back I'm seeing is a very flexible back and it is a preferred feature.

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In a clean first arabesque, we should see the shoulders and ribcage square to the direction we are facing. There is a curve in the lower back, BUT it should not be accomplished by splaying open the ribcage, and distorting the line. Both the supporting leg and gesturing leg should be well-rotated and straight. That's just basic technique, and the arabesque is far more involved, but hopefully that helps a bit.

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Thank you. And I'm glad I condensed my last post and tried to remain on topic. It likely helped you answer with more clarity.

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Yeah- it's so hard to convey exactly what you intend when writing these conversational posts. If one was in the same room, a smile of intonation could help clarify the meaning. :)

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I completely understand your confusion. I can't comment on the technical aspects other than understanding what you are talking about with the exaggerated arabesques and cambres. I'll add to that the "way over" the box foot bendy look (think Svetlana). At dd's first dance school, these exaggerated poses were preferred by the AD's. It was confusing because dd's teachers taught one thing but the roles, photo ops and favors were showered on those who did the exaggerated stuff. DD learned to do both ways: The use of a swayed back to exaggerate the arabesque as well as a nicely placed 90 degree arabesque. It was probably the exaggerated version that helped her end up with spondylolysis (think of repeated bending of a paper clip which eventually weakens it to the point of breaking). When she went to her boarding school, it took months to train that exaggerated stuff out of her body. Once they got that sorted, she was allowed to push her leg higher in arabesque, bend further in cambre when the choreography either called for it or gave a little room for emphasis. The extremes were only used as punctuation marks to otherwise clean technique that was danced very musically.


As only a mom who's seen more ballet than I ever thought possible, I have to say that I have learned to appreciate the proper use of an extreme but it really bugs me to see dancers who think that it's only about holding that high arabesque way past what's musical. All these photos of feet bending way beyond what any dancer could hold other than the millisecond of that photo shutter really bother me too. Aside from making young dancers think they should be dancing with their feet in this position, it's dangerous for their feet! I think this confusion is all part of the evolution of ballet and of the ongoing conversation/debate about extremes in ballet.


edited to add further thought:

I think the extreme "punctuations" are like icing on a cake BUT without a strong cake (foundation) underneath the icing, everything falls into a weak mess. I'm sure AD's look for the opportunity to showcase dancers who look like they have the whole package: cake and icing but without the discipline of solid technique the long-term result may just be a fallen cake with a bunch of icing sliding off the side! As informed parents, we can search for training that builds the best foundation and allows for the icing at the end.

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