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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can ballet cause bow-leggedness?

Guest dreamofdance

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Guest dreamofdance

My DD, seemingly overnight, has developed bow-leggedness. This is not something she was born with, nor is it anything we have noticed in her 5 years of dancing. (She is 10). I am wondering if there is something that she is doing in ballet (possibly incorrectly) that could be causing this. I should also mention she seems to be developing a small degree of hyperextension that was not previously there either. Are the 2 related? Is this something that just develops as growing bodies change? Besides being obviously concerned about what this will mean in the dance world, I am more concerned about any long-term "health issues" this could cause her. Any advice/opinions would be appreciated as we can't get in to see an orthopedist for weeks.

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dreamofdance, neither bowleggedness nor hyperextension can suddenly appear. They are structural, and have to do with the shape of the bones. It is possible for legs to be both hyperextended and slightly bowed, and perhaps not to the point of being noticeable until the child starts pushing her knees back too far. Ballet will not cause either condidtion, however, the way she stands can make it more visible.


If she has good alignment and rotation, the bowleggedness will not show in ballet. The rotation hides it. The hyperextension is one of those good things/bad things. It's good because it creates a better line of the extended leg, especially if the foot is also good. It is bad because it is hard to control on the standing leg, and if the alignment or weight placement is off, it pushes the knees back too far, and this is hard to control, especially at 10 years old. It can take a few years, a lot more maturity, and a teacher who knows how to work with it, to get this under control.


With all that said, the "normal" stance of a 10 year old is highly likely to make this shape of the legs more visible, as they often do not yet have enough control of the abdominal muscles to maintain a correct alignment, especially outside of class! [And, regarding other threads on this board, this is another huge reason not to put 9 and 10 year olds on pointe! ]

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And remember, Jean-Georges Noverre wrote that in forty years of teaching, he had only seen a handful of dancers with straight legs. He considered bow legs and knock knees so prevalent as to constitute normal. He even gave them names, "arqué" and "jarreté", respectively. It's genetic, don't give it a thought. We teachers are used to training students to camouflage it and use it at the same time!

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Guest dreamofdance

Thank you both so much. I truly lost a full night's sleep wondering if by letting her dance 5 days a week I was permanently damaging her legs. I will be certain to ask her teacher at the next available opportunity to watch this closely and help her learn how to use her hyperextension correctly.

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Noverre even had a name for the hyperextended students. He referred to them as "près-des-jambes" (close-legged) dancers. Just have her take a second position and lock her knees momentarily. You'll see what he meant.

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