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Flexibility/turnout progress in adults?


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I'm putting this more on medical because I've just had some therapy on my hips (and WHAT a difference!!) and asked the chiro about this one, but didn't get a really comprehensive answer. She refrained from saying yes or no definitely. I'd like to hear from the medical mods regarding it. Please do move it if it goes elsewhere....


As an adult dancer in middle-aged years, previously having danced before, I'm finding one hip is so much tighter than the other. I've had some issues in past, including a cracked back in my 20s. I was told by one of my teachers that I need to work on straddle to open up the hip more, that it would help with extensions, etc. I have moderate strength in that when the leg gets up there, it can stay (with intense concentration!), but I'm not very flexible in any direction.


My split, such as it may be, is about 4 or so inches from the floor. My straddle is poor in comparison. To me, it seems to be almost a foot off, but if I stay in it long enough it does release down to around 8 or so inches.


Turnout on left is reasonably good, in the "acceptable" range for ballet. The right side is just short of "acceptable."


The question is, at my age, will working at it as hard as I have been really make all that much of a difference or am I killing myself over it for nothing? Granted, I won't let up even if the answer is that it won't make a difference but I still want to know so that if it doesn't get much better, I won't get discouraged and stop altogether - if you know what I mean.


Can turnout and flexibility improve reasonably dramatically in someone my age, with intense (albeit careful) work? I take 6-7 ballet classes a week, most are an hour and a half, one pointe class and one "lyrical" (for fun, honest!!). Plus, before each ballet class, I do about an hour of warming up at the gym, with aerobic, strengthening of hamstring, ankle and abs, and the above-mentioned stretching (split and straddle, where I kind of settle into each and let gravity do the work). Surprisingly, my knees, so far, are fine!


Thanks for any insight into this. I have high aspirations (not of a professional nature) and want to make sure they're not pie in the sky ones.

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Guest Ruth Z

Hello Serendipity:


I'm new here and am not sure how to post a reply so please do forgive me if this is not the correct format! I have been dancing most of my life, and teaching for over 25 years. I have had the pleasure of seeing many lovely dancers in my classes with gray in their buns - often they are the most fun to watch because they bring such commitment and passion to their dancing.


Have you tried taking less class and giving yourself some down time? I know it's scary to think about when one is trying so hard to achieve a goal, but sometimes "less is more". If you tend to build muscle easily, that can hamper your efforts to become more flexible - perhaps switching the gym workout to a yoga class and some aquatics may make a difference.


I believe anyone can improve his or her flexibility, no matter what the age. There is an excellent book out called "Tune Up Your Turnout" that has proved helpful to some of my students. Also, a dance therapist named Eric Franklin has some good conditioning books out. He's really quite technical so his books are not easy reads.


About your stretching in the splits and straddle - again the less is more strategy may help. Try doing each kind of stretch with your knees slightly bent. You'll find you can access more muscle fibers this way, and your muscles may be able to better relax and therefore stretch more easily. A good passive stretch for straddle spilts is to lie on the floor, facing a wall and put your feet on the wall in your second postion grand plie position. Your bottom will not be touching the wall - make sure you are not overrotating your feet (ie. knees in line with toes - just like a normal grand plie) and let gravitiy send your knees farther down towards the floor. This is a very safe stretch.


I hope this helps.


Happy dancing,

Ruth Z

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THanks, Ruth, for your response. I had been doing the standard against the wall straddles - legs on the wall with bottom touching but never thought about doing it using bent legs - second position!! I'll give that a try tomorrow and seen how it goes. One of my teachers generally insists that I use bent knee for my splits, to protect the knees, since I don't go down fully. I do get a good stretch that way.


I'd rather not do fewer classes, though. I crave these class (no matter how much they hurt....*sigh*). They're my outlet for stress and, as one fellow student at Richmond said, help to stave off Alzheimers. :thumbsup:


I have cut out one class, though - the third one on one day. I just can't do THAT much. So I finish after pointe and go home and rest. I have two rest days over the week, though - Friday and Sunday.


I've got the book you mentioned about turnout. It's superb!


Thanks again for the great ideas. As this topic has been up for quite a while and the med mods haven't responded, I hope your response gets to stay on the board. But just in case, I'm copying it over to my hard drive. :angry:

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This is my first attempt at replying on this board, so I hope this works...


I started dancing as an adult. I was a gymnast before that, and was always very flexible. But my turnout was awful. My first few teachers--all of them good teachers--weren't able to help me solve the problem. But one of my current teachers explained to me that I needed to relax certain muscles, and that got me past the problem. Apparently I was unknowingly tensing the wrong muscles, and it was preventing me from turning out. The harder I tried, the more the wrong muscles resisted. It had nothing to do with flexibility. And over time, the degree of my turnout increased to the point where now it's as good as anyone else's. I still don't hold my turnout as well as I need to, but that's improving. Anyway, I thought I'd reply to your message since you may have a similar problem. Maybe you're protecting an old injury without knowing it? Just a thought...


Also, as Ruth Z mentioned, maybe taking less class will actually help. It's wierd, but it seems to help my turnout. Also, I had a foot problem for a couple months, so I didn't do any half-point. And I noticed a big improvement in my turnout 'cause of that too.

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  • Administrators

I moved the topic over here to Adult Students, so the above posts can stay.


Welcome Ruth Z and myfeethurt :ermm:

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Thanks Ms. Leigh! :0)


I'll keep the muscular possibility in mind. I forgot to mention above that I had a second session with the chiro who actually owns the office. He "popped" my hip last Friday and I saw my turnout improve by about 2 inches. So far, although my hip hurts at the moment (not the bones, the sciatic - worked very hard this week), the degree of turnout has held.


I'm also interested in increasing general flexibility, though. As a teen I could do standard splits on each side. Straddles were always a bit of a struggle, though. I'm going to give Ruth's idea a try and see how that works.


Thanks again to both of you for replying. :-)

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My studio offers a floor barre class. I know floor barre is somewhat difficult to find outside of a few areas, but if you can take a class, I recommend it because I can definitely find and work turn out in that setting that I have a hard time "accessing" in a normal ballet class. It also makes me a great deal more aware of my turn out during my regular classes.

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I danced for 13 years as a child, and stopped at the age of 22. I restarted 6 years later.


I feel like my flexibility improved the most with learning how to simply relax the muscles, and to find the minimal effort needed to attain the right alignment.


I need a lot of classes to look muscular and have high extensions by world standards (hard to do with my work schedule). But flexiblity, alignment, and general movement quality have more to do with knowledge than anything else in my experience.


A lot of years dancing on stage have helped as well. I love the challenge of trying to look better each day.


Dance is a very rewarding endeavor. It's very hard. Have fun:)

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One can think of turnout in either of two ways. Turnout can be either something you do or something that you have. Personally, as an adult dancer I think of it almost exclusively in the former way, as it is the essence of ballet technique. The amount of turnout that an adult dancer has is pretty much irrelevant as I see it.


Nonetheless, in my own case I’ve notice that the amount of turnout that I have has very slowly increased over time. And I should say I have done absolutely nothing outside of going to ballet class to promote that increase in turnout. I think I can say that I have not given a nano second of thought to increasing the amount of turnout I have.


With respect to increasing flexibility, my thinking is that is like all physical characteristics. When one first begins a flexibility program, there are big improvements but with time improvement becomes less and less until it reaches a point where essentially there is no improvement. How long it takes to get to that point varies for people, thought for most people it will fall in the 8-10 year range. That assumes steady and persistent practice of course.

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Well, today I was nearly on the floor in my right split and very proud of that. Little or no discomfort. Couldn't do the same for the left due to hamstring pull but I did stretch it out.


Still working on straddle - did that wall straddle that Ruth recommended. I didn't feel anything but wasn't in it very long this time around. My teacher recognized it though; however, she's flat on the ground in her turnout so it doesn't work for her unless someone "stands" on her legs (as she put it!).


I assumed that I want my knees as low as possible in the straddle, right? Proper alignment as if in second position plie, in other words? I was careful not to overturn the feet.


Thanks again for all your advice. Please keep all ideas coming if you can!! I'll be trying them. I honestly don't think my turnout will get any better than it is, but I would like to get more flexible overall.

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Wow, thank you for this topic--as these are also issues I deal with as well.


I met a professional dancer at a party I went to a few weeks ago and was explaining to her some of my issues: (poor turnout on one side/weak ankles), and she gave me this exercise, which I thought was good:


Sit on the floor--legs out in front of you in first position parallel--and focus on rotating the hip in and out while focusing on keeping your torso pulled up. (Hopefully, I'm making sense here.) Kind of like a modified floor barre.


It was hopeful (for me, at least, as a beginner) to isolate the different muscle groups.


(She also gave me some great tips on arms and some good foot exercises. Seriously, aren't dancers the best people ever? You go to a party where you don't know many people and leave with dance tips.)


Ruth Z, I am going to try the one exercise against the wall you suggested.

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