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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Adult Students and Turn Out


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I'm curious about turn-out and adult students. This question is prompted by an injury query - so I'm not sure whether this post should really be in the 'health' forum, but it also relates to technical issues for adults, so I've decided to put it here. Please move it if you see fit. :pinch:


I've been attending great classes where I've received lots of alignment corrections. My arched back is much improved and my turnout has increased. I've also had instruction in how to really hold my turn-out, and I can feel the rotators working very hard in class. However, I've also been experiencing discomfort at my lower back - I think at my sacroiliac joint - which is quite pronounced after class. Is it possible I'm pushing my turn-out too far, and - if so - how do I bring it back a little while still working the rotators? :thumbsup:


I was reading in Valerie Grieg's book on technique and anatomy that adult students must take a 'clear-headed' approach to turn-out, but balance this with actually using the rotators. Again, I was wondering how the balance is to be struck? Would it differ for those who danced as children and absolute adult beginners? Is there a greater risk of injury for adults in turn-out than there is for children? Is there a limit to how much turn-out can typically be attained with an adult recreational student?

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I don't concern myself with turnout. Mine is not very good, but I just don't worry about it. I do what I can. I'm in my 40s and it's not going to improve much. With children a lot can be done because the muscles and bones are still forming.

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I'm uncertain how much improvement can be seen in the set bones of a recreational dancer-adult. Even in very advanced young teens, I've noticed that turn out is one of those struggles that seem to be extremely related to natural anatomy. I'm not sure if my turn out has improved since I've started dance so much as I've learned to use what potential turn out I naturally possess correctly. Does that make sense? I think there is much room for improvement, but to have a drastically different turn out from what your body seems to allow you might be unrealistic. If it is mainly the turn out causing back problems, then you might have to reconsider the ways you are currently holding turn out.


At one point, I was having not back pain, but sciatic pain from turning out. What helped me greatly was massage and private instruction from a pilates instructor who was formerly a dancer. The exercises given to me by the pilates instructor have been so valuable in learning how to align myself well, how to best utilize my muscles, and how to work within a safe range of motion for my body without seemingly "not trying". I'm always concerned about the "safe range" looking like I'm not working hard enough, but I've learned that that is not the case at all.

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I had reasonable turnout until I broke my back along the hips level. Now I don't have great turnout, but I do work with what I have. What I believe is EXTREMELY important is not to try to turnout past the point your hips can go - that creates knee problems!!!


As for pain along the sacro area, I have that too, but only on the one side. I believe part of it is due to that injury I suffered in my twenties (back broken). Massage helps work that out, along with a really good chiropractor for when things get rotten. My turnout HAS increased tremendously through sheer hard work, though - I had a greater range but atrophied ligaments closed it in. Now they're stretching out nicely and I'm getting as much as I expect I'll ever get.


I don't honestly think you CAN turn your hips out too much if you don't have hypermobile joints that way. What you might be feeling is sore muscles in that area, from holding it and working it. Also, check the abs - are you using them to support the spine? It's the only reason my hips didn't slip forward in the years after the breakage. Strong abs and pulling OUT of that bad hip side that I have usually help immensely during class.


Just random thoughts....hope they're useful.

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I strained my piriformis a while ago and I experienced pain in a similar area to what you are describing. Maybe try and see a PT and see what they say?

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Don’t forget that turnout that turnout is both something you do and something you have. As an adult who started ballet late in life, I only concern myself with the former. I’m not sure what a “clear-headed” approach to turnout means. We all think we act clear headed, so I’m not sure it means anything. With regard to the amount of turnout that can be achieved, I’m sure that if one were to begin ballet at a young age and works at it diligently, one’s amount of turnout would be greater than for the person who begins as an adult. Nonetheless, I can attest that regardless of when you begin ballet, if you work diligently, the amount of turnout you have will increase ever so slowly with time.


Personally I think it’s difficult at best to attribute a cause to back pain in cases where the back pain isn’t immediate. It could be the result of many things. The risk of injury is also small in instances where you aren’t forcing an action. Forcing any movement is going to up the risk of injury to the joint being forced.


Obviously there is a limit to the amount of turnout any human can achieve and there are individual differences as to that amount. The more important issue in my mind is who cares? Many a professional ballet dancer has less than 180 degree turnout. For the adult dancer, I think it’s more a matter of using what you have.

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To Mazanderan (I also suffer from an instability of the sacro-iliac joint on one side, so have to be careful) - sacroiliac joint problems should not be trifled with, as they can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and can become very debilitating. I think it would be better to post your question on the Health forum. Personally, I would not do anything which challenged the sacroiliac joint, and would put up with less turnout if that was the price to pay. There are muscles that can help stabilise the joint, but they're not very effective.


The muscles that help stabilise the joint include the deep abdominal ones, and as you have - or have had - swayback issues, maybe these muscles are still not working hard enough. Also, if you've a tendency to be hypermobile, the ligaments of the joint may have got stretched in the past, and I suggest that it would be a good idea not the challenge the joint any more, to let it settle down. But this really needs a medical moderator to advise (of course).



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Thanks for all the responses :yes:


To clarify a little, it doesn't matter to me whether I'm only structurally capable of a small amount of turnout. What I wanted to ensure is that I give 100 percent of what I do have, but whether or not this was a wise route for the adult student - especially given the discomfort I've been experiencing.


La Fille Sylphide said


I'm not sure if my turn out has improved since I've started dance so much as I've learned to use what potential turn out I naturally possess correctly. Does that make sense?


That makes perfect sense, and that is exactly what I'm after - I just want to use what I have properly. I think the corrections I've received have helped that greatly in many ways - using the muscles has improved my turns, balances and my arabesque is now properly behind me intead of wavering out to the side. I think that's maybe what's confusing me - that good corrections and hard work are causing 'bad' pain.


I'm always concerned about the "safe range" looking like I'm not working hard enough,


Again, spot on. I just don't know where the 'safe range' is.


Serendipity said


I don't honestly think you CAN turn your hips out too much if you don't have hypermobile joints that way. What you might be feeling is sore muscles in that area, from holding it and working it. Also, check the abs - are you using them to support the spine? It's the only reason my hips didn't slip forward in the years after the breakage.


Unfortunately, my lumbar region is hypermobile - so there's always a risk I'm unwittingly pushing something too far. Although my back is stiff and wonky, I haven't lost range of motion, as it were. I can still manage that high swan thing in pilates, for example. As for using the abs - I've just discovered pilates classes and also my abs :thumbsup::sweating: I'm using them in class as hard as I can to stop arching my back. My back does feel a bit better if I do that scooped abs thing during the day.


That's so amazing that you recovered fine from a broken back!


Lau, I think if this doesn't clear up in three weeks I'm going to go the physio. :thumbsup:


Garyecht, I totally agree with you. As I've said above - it's not that I'm dead set on achieving perfect turn-out (it's not do-able for me) - I'm just muddled as to why using what I have properly is causing me pain.


jimpickles, I think I will post this on the health forum too. I didn't realise that sacro-iliac problems were as nasty as you describe - and I'm sorry to hear you have those particular issues. Fortunately, those particular classes are off for a couple of months - so I'll be forced to take a break. I think, given your own and other advice here - I'll take a trip to the physio. Thanks :)

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Spine peel to bridge in Pilates has helped me with SI joint issues. I also take time before ballet class to do the joint release exercises from Pilates: curve over/under, occillation, knee sway, knee stirs, windshield wiper, head nods, c-curve, hundreds, spine peel to bridge, roll up/ down, and shoulder exercises. This really helps me feel my transversus, crotch muscles, motifidus (sp), and the rest of my core and body placement before beginning to move.

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  • 1 month later...

Thought I should update this in case it proves to be of use to anyone else. Turns out that I have inflammation and hypermobility of the sacroiliac on the right hand side. I think a number of things have exacerbated this - pushing turn-out too far, overcorrecting my back arch, lifting my hip. Recently, though, I twisted awkwardly during a quick sort of pivot in arabesque - and really annoyed it. Currently working on core strengthening in pilates - and icing like crazy.

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Nothing to offer here but sympathy!


I've been dancing seven years now (I'm 63) and I'm still finding new alignment habits that need to be broken. :( Every time I begin to fix something, I get sore muscles as the body re-aligns. (Currently it's along the top of the pelvic girdle on the right side as I strive to correct sitting in that hip.)


For what it's worth, I took my weekly "ballet exercise" class for two years before I could actually get through the abs part without dropping out. It's been several years since then, but I keep learning ways to do the exercise **correctly** and it's back to being barely able to do it. I finally decided to regard the pains as a good sign - having no real choice!


Occasionally I look back and realize that I've come a long, long way. Hard to see because the goal is still so far off. That's something I really love about studying ballet technique - there is no end, it has to be about the journey because nobody actually ever gets to the destination. We are all, always, still working on our demi-plie.

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I think it can swing both ways in the safety/working hard pendulum.


One of my teachers was very into being safe, and only working in that zone. What I realized years later was that I was *not* working my rotator muscles very much. I had a comfortable turn out and just stayed there, after all, don't want to injure myself.


But then another teacher was working on me and he said that I had really good turnout, but I don't use it. And now, I have to work on those weak muscles, muscles that I should've been working on from the very beginning.

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I'm having trouble with my turnout. I have hyperflexible knees, and I think I must have lax ligaments, as my turnout seems to come partially from my knees. Which I know is bad.

I'm trying a smaller turnout at the moments, as well as trying to strengthen both my vastus medialis and piriformis, but do you think it would help or hinder to tape my knees so that they cant't twist, especially in class?

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I'm not sure what type of taping you mean- elastic bandage or kinesio tape?


Either way, I'm a bit leery of doing anything external to your body to help with alignment. My initial gut reaction was to recommend slowing down your classes by dropping back a level, and working with a PT for strengthening exercises. Also be sure you have careful ballet teachers who are really correcting you every time they catch you not tracking, and not engaging your rotators. :blink:


Have you read these 2 stickys?




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