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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pulled-up legs - helpful imagery?


Mazenderan

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I have a question regarding properly pulled up legs. Although I'm more pulled up than I was before (my torso doesn't 'sit' on my hips anymore), I'm still not pulled up enough in my legs. When my teacher comes over and physically corrects me (sort of grabbing me just above my knee and at the top of my thigh and then stretching - lol) I can fix the problem.

 

I do feel an instant difference too - my turn out muscles and hamstrings on my supporting leg instantly engage much more intensely and my working leg seems to have a lot more room to operate (especially in ronde de jambe sur terre, for example - my working heel has much lighter contact with floor). Is this the right feeling?

 

The only thing is, I find this sensation sort of elusive to attain on my own. I don't know exactly what I should be telling my supporting leg to 'do', and when I thought about being more pulled up I just ended up holding my breath and sticking my ribcase out - not really what I was going for :o I looked in the big Gretchen Ward Warren book, but her exhortation to keep the buttocks lifted off the leg (eh?) made no sense at all to me. :lol:

 

Can anyone enlighten me? I'm baffled! :D

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Mazenderan, are you using your buttocks muscles? If they are relaxed then you are not lifted off of your legs and your rotators will not work very well at all. The use of the buttocks muscles (note: USE, not GRIP!) is critical to the correct use of the thigh muscles as well as the rotators. In fact, when you use the buttocks muscles, the thigh muscles should automatically engage on the standing leg or legs.

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I'm sorry to be dim - but I'm not sure how I would use them without gripping them? My teacher tells us that the buttock muscle on our supporting leg should feel solid in releve retire (and it is) - but it never feels like that if I'm on the flat. Should it be like that all the time?

 

I'm getting the feeling that this may be why I seem to find it hard to maintain my turnout. I have quite good turn out, but as soon as we start exercises at the barre my turnout on my supporting leg seems to disappear.

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Um, I think that you might just have learned something, Mazenderan. :o Yes, the buttocks muscles must be engaged for a solid foundation and rotation. When they are not engaged, nothing is working correctly. Engaged and gripped are very different things. Experiment with it. Try standing in first position, and really grip the buttocks muscles. It will make you "tuck under", which is a VERY BAD thing. Now, try just feeling them work enough to lift you up and rotate your legs. Then move onto one leg and do the same thing. The supporting side must also be engaged for the same reasons. Over using is sort of like really contracting the muscles, but just using them does not feel like that.

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I think I have an imagery that might help with not gripping: Picture 2 lovely, rolling hills, right next to each other. See the natural valley right in between them? We don't want to bring the 2 hills tightly together, which would get rid of the valley! That would be clenching/gripping. If we leave the valley alone as it is, and just build up the base of the hills, we have a naturally strong picture!

 

(Boy, it's tough being PC!!! :o:lol: )

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Oh dear, I think I have another thing to add to my list of 'Things I've Not Been Doing Properly' :thumbsup: . And every new thing I learns makes class even harder! Our teacher is very insistent on not tucking under - but I didn't realise that there was a sort of middle ground between gripped and relaxed. And that middle ground is tough - my turn out muscles and all the muscles down the inside and outside of my thighs suddenly seemed to leap into action!

 

It would seem, then, that I've mostly been hitting 'poses' rather than really working the way I should be. Class should be interesting next week!

 

Thank-you very much for the explanation, Miss Leigh. :)

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I think I have an imagery that might help with not gripping: Picture 2 lovely, rolling hills, right next to each other. See the natural valley right in between them? We don't want to bring the 2 hills tightly together, which would get rid of the valley! That would be clenching/gripping. If we leave the valley alone as it is, and just build up the base of the hills, we have a naturally strong picture!

 

(Boy, it's tough being PC!!! :):lol: )

 

Miss Clara, I think that it the most tasteful correction I have ever been given! :lol: That actually does help me immensely, though. Thank-you!! :thumbsup:

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I took a class with Scott Putman from the VCU faculty at dance camp- a regular 3B, then requested a private lesson because he found something in my hips that helped me not only increase my extension but also balance. I wish I could really describe the feeling, as I worked on it for the rest of the week and will continue with it for the year.

 

He describes it as "making space" in the hip flexors. To do that, you have to do what Ms. Leigh so eloquently described. What I'd been doing was "gripping" but now I really feel a difference between gripping, which constricted movement to some degree and did not help AT ALL with my balance and turns, and that "making space" that he helped me find. I know what to feel for now, at the least.

 

On the last day of camp, he was conducting the Level 2 pirouette class, so I decided to go as I was having trouble maintaining balance in doubles. I'm usually okay with singles, but not doubles. By the time he finished - 45 minutes of class later, I was turning clean doubles and maintaining balance, using that same "making space" principle.

 

I really wish I could describe precisely what it is - to me it seemed like he was saying to tuck under, but he showed me the differences between gripping, tucking and "making space." You could see the differences anatomically. And it was such a difference in how solid I felt in demi-pointe work - again, balance has been an issue and I was putting it down to age, ankle, head issues, confidence, etc.

 

I hope this makes some sense to someone....it's kind of a pull in in the back and up in the front, at the same time. I wish I could make it clearer.

 

I can visualize it but can't quite describe it.... I think he's a kinesiologist as well as dancer/teacher, by the way he was discussing the way the body worked for ballet.

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This kind of thing is quite difficult to explain in writing. I can show it, teach it, help a student find it, but this takes place in class. Doing it here is very hard. I do find that many many teachers today are not getting the students to engage the right muscles, and I think it's a fear of making them "tuck under". By backing away from this too far, they have created a situation where students are not using the muscles at all, and this is simply not acceptable. It doesn't work. Tucking absolutely does not work, but neither does the opposite, which is like marshmellow butt. :thumbsup:

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Guest Dexie's Mom

:thumbsup: Hello All: I had a yoga teacher describe the feeling you're refering to this way: he said to "reach the femurs back towards the spine" to feel that space in the hip flexors, and then, while maintaining that feeling of space, to lengthen the spine and "allow the sitting bones to come forward" to achieve that lengthened, energized neutral alignment which is in between an anterior pelvic tilt and a posterior pelvic tilt.

 

Arturo Fernandez from Lines Ballet had his students do this exercise: Facing the barre, in first position, elevé and then reach the sitting bones back as far as you can (ie. arch your back or go into an anterior pelvic tilt). You should feel that "space" in your hip flexors and also a good stretch in your hamstrings. Then, WITHOUT TUCKING UNDER, use the abdominal muscles, and the glutes to lengthen your whole body up in order to bring your pelvis back "under" you, all the while attempting to stretch your legs longer, and reach your whole body up taller. Now let go of the barre - you should be right on balance, with muscles energized but not gripping or clenching. It works every time for my students who are having this issue. I regularly have my classes do this little exercise and they have come to love it - it feels great when done correctly!

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That is EXACTLY what Scott had me do at the barre in our private lesson, Dexie's mom!!!! He did some floor work with that, beforehand, then we moved to the barre and he did precisely what you described.

 

I felt so OPEN in the hips that lasted all through the next day (even while my backside hurt like the dickens - a "good" hurt, that is - a "worked" hurt). He said that if I practice working like this, I would have less trouble with my ankles and avoid any possible knee trouble as well (I don't have knee trouble, knock-wood, but if it helps avoid future trouble, that's fine by me!). I have had issues with my piriformis area, which haven't cleared up, and they didn't trouble me much after working his way, as well.

 

Considering the stability I achieved for the rest of the week, even while feeling sore in the feet and ankles, I'm inclined to believe in his way of teaching! :)

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Very interesting .. I tried the exercise from Arturo Fernandez (thank you Dexie's Mom) and I think I have it right. I get the feeling of turnout coming much more from the outer side of the thigh than usual. Could this mean greater engagement of the gluteus maximus? Does this mean I could be doing it correctly (at least in this respect)?

 

Before, I think I used mainly the piriformis and adjacent muscles - i.e. ones deep in the buttocks. But now I've got the new feeling, the new way feels so powerful and natural!

 

Thanks,

 

Jim.

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Guest Dexie's Mom

Hi Jim:

 

Don't you love it when something works! Now .... if I could just unravel the secret to doing those fouetté turns well - I STILL think there is a special leotard that one needs to be wearing to pull off 32 of those turns!

 

I'd pay a lot for one of those leotards.

 

Have a great day! :)

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Then, WITHOUT TUCKING UNDER, use the abdominal muscles, and the glutes to lengthen your whole body up in order to bring your pelvis back "under" you, all the while attempting to stretch your legs longer, and reach your whole body up taller.

 

I'm struggling a bit to understand this but I think I have it. Just to clarify, when you "bring your pelvis back under" you don't really try to move your pelvis but instead I actually moved my upper body 'over' my pelvis (using my abdominal muscles). Does that make sense and is it correct?

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Guest Dexie's Mom

Hi Sebastianni: It's most likely a question of semantics here. If I am in an extreme anterior pelvic tilt, my tail bone, etc. are definitely out of line with the rest of me (I tell my youngest students to imagine they have "too much tutu" in the back!). When I engage abs and glutes to lengthen my body upwards, then I feel that my pelvis moves foward to again be aligned correctly underneath my back, shoulders, etc. However ... I just did the exercise again, and I can definitely see that your analogy works, too.

 

I'm pretty sure we both are doing the same thing, just feeling it differently. I think from now on, I am going to cue my students to just simply lengthen the body without tucking the pelvis under. That way, hopefully all my students will be able to do this exercise more successfully. Thanks for sharing your experience - I'm always happy to learn from what others can teach me!

 

Now ... do you have any suggestions for those fouetté turns? :)

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