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I've done a search on this (looking for "bent" and "leg" and "pirouette") but have not found anything substantial.

Five years ago at my other ballet school we were taught en dehor pirouettes with the back leg straight. Then I entered my current ballet school in the student division level four years ago and was told to bend the back leg. Now that some teachers have left and some company members are filling in, some of them stress that the back leg should be straight.

Now I am not a natural turner (with either a bent or a straight back leg). I cannot get double turns (my 3 year obsession) either way. But I was just wondering what is the consensus on this board. For en dehor turns, should the leg be straight or bent?

In my opinion, turning from a straight back leg "looks" prettier (the bent one reminds me of a squatting dog ready to let one go!). This particular teacher I'm talking about says we should bend the back leg ONLY milliseconds before we take off for the turn. When she does it with a straight leg, it looks marvelous. It seems as if her hips are forward, square, and ready to go and she spins forever.

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Hi Gerlonda,

I'm RAD trained, and all my life I have never done an en dehors pirouette with straight back leg. We always prepare with fourth position en demiplie, that means both legs are bent in a shallow plie, deepening dynamically until the point when we snatch up to the turning-releve.

If you prepare with a too-deep demiplie, it doesn't only compromise the aesthetical appearance, but you also loose the power in your legs to execute the releve.

I've seen the straight-legged-preparation in videos. But RAD never teaches us that.



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It is a matter of method, gerlonda. Some methods use the bent back leg and others the straight. These days professional dancers need to be able to do it either way, depending on the company they dance with and also the choreogrpaher of the ballets they are working on. The turn is essentially the same from either position, as when the leg is straight, it still bends just before the turn. The dynamics of the turn are the same from either position. What is the most different is the position of the arms in the preparation. If the front arm is straight, then the dynamics, and the physics of the turn are different than the turn using a rounded front arm which moves to second before becoming first. Witht he straight front arm, that arm pulls directly into first, and does not go to second.

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Recently in my new class I was taught to do the pirouette from fourth (bent back leg) with the front arm straight. I found this extremely difficult to execute. But when I sneakily bent my front arm so it is rounded in front, the turn became much easier to execute. What is the dynamics involved here?


Also, regarding straight back leg, I have never done it myself, but imagine it would be much more difficult as the time for you to gather the force to go up (using a demiplie) would be less, wouldn't it?

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But when I sneakily bent my front arm so it is rounded in front, the turn became much easier to execute. What is the dynamics involved here?


Airchild, I think I explained that in my post above. The dynamics of the turn are different because the motivation and the use of the arms is different.


The straight leg or bent are really not that different, as the back leg still bends, and the length of time needed in the bend is very small, so the force is not affected by that.

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Witht he straight front arm, that arm pulls directly into first, and does not go to second.


Miss Leigh,

Yes, I did read what you wrote about the dynamics but I was just wondering what the difference is between the arm pulling directly into first and the arm going into second. For me, it seems that the latter gives me more of a "propelling force", for lack of a more accurate word. Can you help clarify that?

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When you have either position for preparation the turning force is generated from the back muscles. The difference is that the force from the straight arm position is more like pulling the cord on a top, or a motor (think old motor boats) straight out to make it spin. It's more like a pulling back of the leading shoulder and bringing the other shoulder around. In the rounded position, where the leading arm moves to second, the force from the back is moving out and around, with the other side of the back coming around and bringing that arm around to meet the other one, creating the first (5th en avant) position of the turn.


IMO, the second one generates a more logical force, or energy, because it is a circular motion rather than a straight line motion. Since turns are circular things, this makes a lot more sense to me. I also find the position of the rounded arm far more attractive than the straight arm. But, that is a personal opinion. The other way is used much more these days. The straight arm CAN look okay, if done correctly, but that is a rarity. Most dancers seem to carry that straight arm to second instead of coming directly to first, and, with the palms flat down to the floor, it makes an angular and unattrative position in second. Also, I see a lot of them bending the arms into first from the elbows, instead of creating a circle from the back muscles. That bending makes an angular position, which is quite incorrect.


I find it curious as to why even those who use the straight arm for en dehors pirouettes still use the rounded arm for en dedans pirouettes. :)

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Wow, Miss Leigh, your explanation makes everything clear as light for me! :) Thank you so much!!!

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I know that Balanchine would have his dancers do a VERY deep lunge with the back leg straight for en dehor and dedan pirouettes and they could turn forever, but ofcourse they had been trained to do that since they were little kids at SAB. I just don't know about me. When I bend both legs I have an extremely hard time getting totally up on my supporting leg. I try not to sit back but because of the lack of turn out I have when I'm in demi-plie fourth I'm ALREADY not totally on my front leg and it seems so hard to actually get there. It's just a tiny bit easier to get on my supporting leg with the back leg straight.

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gerlonda, I was trained in 'Balanchine' pirouettes, but have learned to do 'normal' fourth demi preps. The transition was hard - it seems to me that you're having a similar issue to the problem I faced - that of moving your weight forward enough from the fourth demi to the releve in retire. Thus, to me, this doesn't specifically seem to be a turnout issue. You might be perfectly able to do the releve to retire without the turn - for me, when turning, I'd often have to think about moving my weight forward enough. I still find this to be true to this day. It explains a lot of my 'bad turn' days!

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Gerlonda, it may help you to start with a straight back leg and then plié with your weight almost entirely on the front leg. The back knee would soften but there would not really be any/much weight on it. Eventually you will be able to go directly into demi-plié and your leg will be in the right place.


Also, about dancers trained at SAB being able to "turn forever," I honestly saw no evidence of that during the two years I was there, except from people who were naturally gifted at pirouettes.

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Almost all my training has been bent leg, bent arm. One teacher - fresh from a Balanchine-focussed company - used straight arm and straight back leg. She said it gives less of a hint to the audience of what you are about to do, so the turn is more surprising and delightful. But I haven't had a class from her in more than a year.


Now I find that switching to the straight arm and leg is sufficiently different that I can escape from some unconscious bad habits, so sometimes it really works for me. I'm afraid if I use it too much I'll just transfer the bad habits, so I use it sparingly. A new and/or complex preparation also helps interrupt the bad habits. Of course, working to correct the bad habits directly is still the best long-term strategy! :D

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