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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Posture problems and flexibility


Merry

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Maybe this thread should be called 'turnout problems', but my difficulties seem to be more than that. I have read a lot of threads in the archive about turnout, but I think I need a thread of my own to try and get to the bottom of my difficulties. :thumbsup:

 

Apologies if I over-explain anything (my bad habit!) And for this post being l-o-n-g!

 

I'm 45 and have had almost a 30 year gap from ballet. When I took it up again last September I was concerned that I wouldn't manage to turn out sufficiently, but whilst this is the case I have to admit it's no worse than when I was a teen, but it wasn't great then either! All those years ago we didn't seem to address our problems in the right way - it was just 'try and turn out more' without any explanation as to why I didn't seem to be able to, or how to overcome any specific difficulty. Since I began dancing again I have discovered the following:

 

I have a lordotic spinal curvature, which sounds oh so much better than 'don't stick your butt out', but means the same thing!! I have learned to tilt my pelvis to correct this but then I feel very restricted especially when lifting my leg at the back (hey, even pointing it at the back is awkward). It also means that if I try to curve my back into a C shape (stomach in, shoulders and pelvis forward) the mid section of my back is only ever flat, never curved, though it feels curved to me.

 

If I stand sideways to the mirror with feet parallel I have what I would describe as the opposite of hyperextended knee joints. If I draw a line down my thigh bone and continue it down to the floor the line is well in front of my shin bone - maybe as much as two inches in front of the 'core' of my shin bone. Somehow when I stand in 5th my legs never feel 'right' and I wondered if this is why? This brings me neatly to turnout........

 

My turnout is probably about 120 degrees absolute max (it pains me to type that!). I have tried lying in the 'second position against the wall' after warming up for a few minutes each day, for a few weeks, (thanks to whoever posted that on this site) which shows me my turnout, such as it is, is no better when encouraged by gravity. Maybe I should be pleased I can hold my max OK when dancing, but I don't feel great! It feels as if there is no place further to go from the 120 degrees when lying down - I cannot pull my legs any further down, but there is no pain or anything either.

 

The other associated problem is making a straddle position (not an issue for me in my ballet class, but I wondered if the problems I have with this make any difference to the other issues?). Sitting upright on the floor with nothing to resist my legs I can barely manage 100 degrees between them. If I hook my ankles around the bed legs I can probably make 120 degrees, but can feel the ironlike tug from where I tore my hamstring tendon behind my left knee 32 years ago (always get help from a physio if you have a bad injury!). No pain from the other leg at all, just it won't go further round! Now the next thing, mentioned quite casually in books/online etc , is to 'lean forward and put your elbows on the floor' or better still 'just lie down flat between your legs and watch TV for a while'!!!! No way!!! I can probably tilt my pelvis forward about 2 degrees and that is it!! Is this normal for anyone else???? I've been practicing most days for around six months and have seen almost no improvement at all.

 

Lastly (are you still there) just in case you think this thread is all doom and gloom, there is one stretch I have improved dramatically on - standing parallel and flat back forward I used to struggle to make 90 degrees perfectly flat, but now I can get a long way further - having struggled to get this for years in my teens it happened really easily now, so that's ONE big improvement to report!!

 

Thanks for reading.

Edited by Merry
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Merry, I'm not sure I've had enough caffeine yet this morning to deal with all of that, but I do want to address the lordosis, as I think you have a misconception of how to work with that. It sounds to me like you are "tucking under" in trying to straighten the spine, and that is why you are so restricted in movement and also contributes greatly to the lack of rotation.

 

Straightening the back does not mean eliminating the fact that we all have a gluteous maximus! It is not going to go away. You lessen the sway in the back with correct posture and alignment. Tilting the pelvis, backwards or forwards, does not work for anything. Please read this thread, as it will explain what you need to do:

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=35504

 

As far as rotation, it can't be forced. Once your alignment is correct, then you have to learn to work with what you have, while certainly tyring to improve it, but hopefully learning to maximize and USE what you have the best you can. The amount of improvement that is possible is different for every person, and depends a great deal on structure. In an adult one cannot expect the same degree of improvement that one could achieve as a child and young teen. It is a long and very slow process. Better to learn to work what you have and try not to expect major changes even with all of the stretching. The changes come in baby steps.

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Thanks for replying Victoria - I'll perk up some more coffee!

 

Am off to read the thread you suggested right now. Yes, I do tend to tuck my pelvis under to 'straighten' my back (and stop my jeans from bagging at the waist at the rear!) so am very interested to see what the thread says.......

 

Back soon.

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This was the bit that caught my eye:

 

Having the ribcage supported and lifted up off of the pelvis allows the legs to work at their maximum efficiency and allows the body to move quickly or slowly in control. It also allows one to feel the rotators and engage them.

 

I remember as a teen having to measure the space between the bottom of my ribs and the top of my pelvis (only at the front though!). Mine was always a good space which was smiled upon, but I'm guessing the gap wasn't what it should have been at the back if my pelvis was tilted the way my body wants it to tilt with the front of the pelvis lower. I don't think I tuck under a great amount (and probably not at all when I'm not thinking about it, as will be noted if anyone sees me catching my reflection in a shop window!) but you are saying I shouldn't be thinking about tucking under, but pulling up more maybe?

 

Until I began exercising again, after at least ten years of being a bit of a couch potato, I did get a lot of lower back pain which has almost entirely gone now, so maybe something is improved if not in my dance ability!?

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I'm glad the lower back pain has improved, but I think it is due to exercise, not because you are working correctly. Tucking is NEVER right! Absolutely do not tuck or even think about it. In fact, if you are being encouraged or taught to do that, find a new teacher ASAP!!!

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Pelvic tilt and lumbar curve are two different and independent characteristics. I'm not sure how many dancers and dance instructors really know this. This is a very informative website -- especially the figure near the bottom of the page which shows how external appearance can be deceptive:

 

pelvic tilt vs. lumbar curve

 

An anterior pelvic tilt can produce a similar appearance to an overly curved lumbar region, but the ways to mitigate these two are not the same. For example, it is possible to have a deep lumbar curve with the pelvis in proper alignment; in this case "tucking" (if by tucking you mean producing a posterior tilt of the pelvis) would place the pelvis out of proper neutral alignment.

 

I have a student in my Middle Eastern dance class with a deep lumbar curve, and she constantly gets told by dance instructors of all genres to tuck her tailbone. I don't tell her this because I've worked with her long enough to know that tucking is not the fix for her. I suggested she work with an Alexander Technique instructor and that is helping her.

 

But really, a physical therapist who works with dancers would be the best solution to start with.

Edited by macropis
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Tucking is NEVER right! Absolutely do not tuck or even think about it.

 

Oooh, that's like saying always eat every cream cake going for the rest of your life!!!! THANKYOU!!! lol - I shall never do it again, I promise :thumbsup:

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But really, a physical therapist who works with dancers would be the best solution to start with.

 

I know you are right about this, macropis, but there's no way I could afford it in the UK. I don't think we have so many specialists around either (I might be wrong though!) I will check out with my dance teacher if she has come across anyone reputable. Trouble is, I already struggle to afford two classes a week - not sure what my OH would say about seeing a PT when I'm not injured or anything! I think there's a different attitude to health in this country (UK).

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Merry, it is very important that your teacher is teaching you HOW to stand correctly. If that is not happening, and you are being taught or encouraged to "tuck under", PLEASE find a new teacher! Learning to USE the derrière muscles, in correct alignement is necessary, tucking the pelvis is not.

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I don't think my teacher has ever told me to tuck under and I don't think what I have been doing would actually be noticeable (I've just been looking in the mirror to see) - I was just aware that slightly re-angling my pelvis looked better than not doing it, but I won't be doing that now!

 

As far as I know this is the only adult ballet class for miles so there's no chance of going anywhere else. The teacher is young and has just finished her dance degree, so I have to give her a chance.

 

PS Having just looked at another thread I see you are addressed as Ms Leigh, so apologies if I missed that earlier! :thumbsup:

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No problem, Merry! That is expected from the young dancers, but adults are not as limited. :thumbsup:

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:thumbsup: Thanks! :flowers:

 

Later I can tell you about my extra short achilles! (only joking!)

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Just wanted to say that this thread has been really useful for me because I have actually been tucking in without realising that that was wrong, so thanks.

 

Will Pilates help with that?

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It should, if taught well, preferably by someone also well trained in ballet!

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Will Pilates help with that?

 

Pilates should definitely help you to understand your body in a different way to ballet or any other dance genre, as long as the instructor knows what they are about, as Victoria has said already. Only trouble is, you end up with some answers to your questions which then generate more questions!!

 

I think, (particularly) for those of us who dance for recreation purposes only and don't do lots of classes with different teachers, it's easy to become stuck in a 'safe' rut, so the more your mind can be opened by discussing matters with other people with the right knowledge, the better.

 

Pilates has done wonders for my core and makes me feel great :lol:

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