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Ballet Talk for Dancers

5th position (feet)


swantobe

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I am starting to despair about ever being able to do a nice 5th position (feet). I have hyper-extended knees. My teacher says I naturally have good turnout but I don't feel like I do :) My physiotherapist is on maternity leave, but when she gets back I will ask her to help me assess how many degrees of turnout I seem to have. I know I have more turnout in one leg than the other :thumbsup:

 

Anyway, I know that I'll probably never be able to do a "flat" (foot against foot, aligned the whole way along) 5th position, but how can I assess what is realistic for me? I don't want to force turnout from the knees/ankles (thereby "rolling in" my feet). Mostly, when it comes to 5th position, I feel like my knees are in the way. I can't figure out whether this is to do with the hyper-extension or not...?

 

Can someone give me advice please, especially regarding getting into 5th position with hyper-extended knees? Also, something I'm struggling with is figuring out where exactly "straight" (as in "normal" straight) is for my legs...I am continuously told to "straighten my legs" in class - I'm trying not to hyper-extend my knees and I think I might be going too far in the other direction now. Any advice on that point? We're on a break from classes for another 2 weeks, but I'll also ask my teacher(s) about this when classes resume.

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Guest pas quoi

I'll respond here:

 

It would seem that it is the shape of your legs, not the degree of turn-out, that is the issue. I have had several very very good teachers (who have had many students go on to professional careers and who teach at major schools in my part of the world) tell students that fifth position is different for each dancer, that it is a process (ie. assembling the legs completely from the top of the leg down and not from the feet up) and that in a good fifth position, the legs should fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. I had one teacher share this exercise with me and, again, I have had good success: Facing the barre, place yourself in your best first position. Then, without lifting your foot off the floor, slide that foot across sideways to try to assume a fifth position. Wherever you must stop because your knees are contacing each other, stop right there. That's your "fifth position". After you have done this, try this second exercise: Get yourself in this "fifth position" again facing the barre. Execute a tendu to the side, do a demi-plié in second position and while in the demi-plié, slide the other foot in to your "fifth position" and straighen your legs again. When I do this exercise, I feel my turn out from the top of the leg down.

 

Bottom line, I don't believe one should try achieve a position that just doesn't work for one's body. I don't think it makes a better dancer, just a tense and frustrated dancer who may be setting herself up for injuries later on.

Edited by pas quoi
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Thanks for your reply. I do a number of exercises on a regular basis in order to strengthen my adductors, most of which are pilates-based and were given to me by my physiotherapist. I am slowly gaining some strength in that area.

 

I think I used to have a very clear idea of where "normal straight" was - my ballet teachers when I was younger insisted that I did not "lock my knees", so for years I've been dancing at "normal straight". But then at my new studio (been there a year and a half), one of the teachers has a very "old school" perspective on hyper-extension and likes :thumbsup: me to push into it (she likes the "line" :blink: ). Please don't suggest I change studios because I am really happy at this studio otherwise, and I only have one class with this teacher a week, and I've explored all the options (very limited) in terms of changing studios...but now I find myself being told to hyper-extend in that class at times :) I have fought my side of the argument (it hurts, it's very bad for the knees etc) but this teacher's attitude is "suck it up" (basically, it's "necessary" pain so you should just deal with it)! :P I know I'm an adult and I just need to be more firm about it (and possibly bring in some literature about the damage it does to my knees!). But it has confused the issue about "normal straight". I will go and see my other teacher (who teaches me in all the other classes and who disapproves of pushing into hyper-extension) and ask her to help me to figure this out, and when she tells me to straighten my legs, I'll ask much more specific questions about what I'm doing wrong.

 

I'm pretty nicely crossed over, but I can't bring my back heel in closer to my front foot. I'll try your ideas though, and see what happens.

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Guest pas quoi

Hello Lau:

 

It seems you have answered your own questions! That's a good thing. Please forgive the post above. Good luck to you. I'm sure you'll do very well and continue to enjoy your dancing. :)

Edited by pas quoi
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I'm not quite sure why you're apologising - you really don't need to, Pas Quoi. Your suggestions are very helpful. I just have a question for teachers - I intend to take my RAD intermediate exam later this year - how much will this "not so good 5th" issue count against me at this level? I've also read somewhere on this site that leaving a very small gap between the back toes and front heel in 5th position, will help with hyper extended knees - is that correct? I know this makes it easier, makes it feel less like my knees are in the way. But I think I did that in class before and my teacher told me not to. Would I be penalised for this in an exam setting? I know I am permitted to leave a small gap between my heels in 1st position, and my teacher's fine with that.

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Lau, you might find it useful & helpful to do a browse or a search of the Young Dancer forums here: I know Ms Leigh, Clara, VRS, & Major Mel have answered similar sorts of questions from young dancers. Although we Adults can't post on those fora, we can read them!

 

But to me (although I'm no expert) your comment

 

I don't want to force turnout from the knees/ankles (thereby "rolling in" my feet). Mostly, when it comes to 5th position, I feel like my knees are in the way. I can't figure out whether this is to do with the hyper-extension or not...?

 

doesn't sound as though it's a consequence of your hyperextension, but is to do with the degree of your turn out. Does your hyperextension limit turn out? I didn't think it did necessarily as a general rule? Although the comments about straightening your legs may be about hyperextension. I hope a Teacher expert will be along to give you the expert view.

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Guest pas quoi

Hello: I'd comment on the feeling of the knees "being in the way" as this is what I have learned in my teacher training with regards to helping students with this problem. If a student overcrosses her fifth position (ie. assumes a position where her knees feel in the way) then the legs can actually lose rotation, thus causing the rolling feet and feeling of forcing turn-out from the knees down. The exercise I described in my post (#2 above) is designed to help a student achieve her maximum crossed position without sacrificing turn out in an effort to achieve a textbook fifth position.

 

When I was beginning my teacher training, I was very fortunate to have been able to observe the younger grade classes at an exellent RAD school, and saw this theory in action. I could see the students naturally progress from third to fifth position when encouraged to cross only as much as possible while keeping their rotation. It was much more important for the dancer to have that rotation than it was to have a completely crossed position. In my teaching of adults, this theory has served very well too.

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After practicing today, and concentrating especially hard on turning out from the hips, 5th feels much easier. It's just tiring to concentrate that hard consistently (while trying to do everything else) and my muscles do need to get used to being worked harder. I do exercises daily to help strengthen and improve my rotation muscles, especially the "deeper" hip ones.

 

I also tried what you suggested, pas quoi, and moved the point where I the heel of the front foot meets the back foot to be a little less crossed, and it did help a little bit, but not much.

 

Practicing today, I noticed when I wasn't concentrating hard on turning out from the hips, it seemed less my knees that were in the way, but rather my thighs :innocent: In my mind, this could be from 2 things - 1. Lack of rotation (letting it go) or 2. Bulky muscles/legs. I have one of those body types that gains muscle (bulk) quite easily. My muscles are not out of proportion to my body but I have to be careful with the (weight/conditioning) training I do in order for them not to get too bulky. I am also not ballerina thin, but nor am I overweight. Is it possible that more muscular thighs could prevent a "cleaner" 5th position?

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Guest pas quoi

Absolutely - The shape of a dancer's pelvis and legs definitely determines the look of that particular dancer's fifth position. It sounds as if you are a very hard worker, and actively seek information to improve your dancing - what a "dream" student you are! Good luck and success to you - you deserve it! :innocent:

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Claude_Catastrophique

What prevented me from a better fifht position (well, for me it would be more something between fifth and third, as my therapist told me to do but still) was working on my weight distribution on my legs. I had a bit more weight on the back leg than on the front leg and a great new teacher told me to take my whole weight more forward. Suddenly, my legs could cross without the weird feeling that they were each other in their way.

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