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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Clara 76

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Most of us tend to picture the front of our bodies when thinking about ballet technique. I want you to think about your body as being 3-dimensional, because it is!


First off, it helps to understand where the leg rotates from. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint held in place by the tendons and ligaments. If the joint were not a ball and socket, we couldn't walk or run or balance very well, because our legs would not be able to move.


The best way to feel the ball and socket joint in your hip is to lie down on the floor on your back, keep your lower back on the floor but lift your legs up to the ceiling so that your body is a right angle. Now, keeping your leg muscles as relaxed as possible, turn your legs out and in. In that position, you should be able to do this fairly easily keeping the muscles relaxed. It is because of gravity that things will be different when you stand, but more on that in a minute.


Can you feel how your legs rotate? That is one of the functions of our hip joints.


Now we need to understand why we use rotated legs in ballet! Most of the time, teachers will say something about the King's shoes and jewels, or something like that, but it really goes deeper: We use rotation in ballet for Balance, Extension, and Line.


Balance because it is much easier to balance upon a wide base than a narrow one. To test this, place your feet together in 6th position, and measure the width of your base. Now rotate your legs to 1st and measure- it provides a much wider base, which is especially helpful when balancing on one foot!


Extension because we cannot lift our legs en l'air above a 90 degree angle, without our hip lifting when our hip joint is not rotated.


Line because ballet is also about making shapes in space- angles, curves, lines, geometic shapes. A rotated line is a prettier line.


So, now we understand about rotation. How do we control it when gravity and movement are acting as forces upon our bodies? Well, that's where our muscles come into play. It is the job of our muscles to help keep our bones in good alignment, and they are responsible for controlling our turnout. Since we have muscles attached to our femurs in front, back, inside, and outside of our thighs, we need to make use of them! First, we have to locate them.


There are exercises specifically designed to help students when they are struggling to find those muscles within the structure of a ballet class. These exercises are usually done sitting on the floor on a mat, and sometimes involve a partner. However, ballet exercises especially at the barre, are already designed to work turnout!!!


Probably the best one is rond de jambe: The reason is that one must really concentrate on lifting up and out of the supporting leg; keeping the hips level; keeping the supporting leg rotated; and keeping the en dehors rotation in the moving leg all the way round, both en dehors and en dedans!!! Working correctly on rond de jambe improves control over rotation!

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