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Ballet Talk for Dancers

problem closing in fifth derrière


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I really hope I can explain this problem I am expereincing without confusing anyone. But I apologise in advance if I do.


The problem is:


When I do any exercise, for example a retiré passé to close 5th behind, I find that I cannot close properly in 5th unless I either sickle my foot, or place it a few inches behind then close, or rise ever so slightly so it fits in. I only noticed this problem because I was looking sideways in the mirror and I saw with shock horror that I was doing some weird thing with my foot to get it to close behind, it was awful. I do not have this problem on demi pointe or pointe. So I am presuming it has something to do with perhaps my bulky leg msucles? or my turn out. I am not sure how to correct it. I will ask my teacher, but I always forget.


I hope this makes some sense?





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Do ask your teacher, Jeanette. From the sound of it, you're compensating either for hyperextension, or perhaps from the bulky leg muscles you mention. This requires an "eyes-on" check, and, of course we can't do that here! In the meantime, make sure that you're "out of your hips" when working à terre, and not settling in, just because you're not on pointe or demi-pointe.:D

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Yes, I will, its just lately I seem to have so many other correctable things, won't she loose track or do teachers have wonderful memories? She reminds me even when I forget. But yes one of the corrections is that I tend to straighten my legs too much (is that possible?) which causes my knees to hyperextend. and has led to the knee problem I have today (don't worry the dcotor is sorting that out and my teacher sknow about it). We are working on me not doing that, I am finding it difficult. I will think about the things you said though Mjr. Johnson, thank you :D

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I think it's important that you straighten your legs always. You can't work on a half-bent leg...

However, the mention of a 'too' straight leg probably means that, because of your hyper-extended legs, you 'over' do it... There is nothing worse than 'locking' your leg, and that's probably what was refered to here (but of course, it should be confirmed by your teacher)...


By allowing then a little 'relaxation' of the knee (only for a start) allows you to feel less pressure in the knee and possibly compensate for a not so straight leg by pulling up in the leg... That's what you're aiming to do (straight leg, not locked leg)...


I have to admit that I also have hyper-extended legs, and I had comflicting advise on this one (one teacher did not tolerate that my first position had a gap between both feet -which was really hard to compensate for, each time, while the other thought it was ok to work like that, as my legs were different and therefore needed to be worked on with their limitation)...


I would be interested to see what others think...

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While we are at it, could some one explain to me what "locking" the knee back or straight means? I have very hyperextended knees, but I don't feel any sensation that I could desrcibe as "locking" when I push my leg straight.

My teachers advice me to have a gap between my heels in first, but encourage me to work so that I have the calves together instead of the inside of the knee (this basically just means to work on the turnout).


I tried to work on keeping my knee "just straight" instead of hyperextended, as I had read somewhere that this would be good, but it lead to bending the knee - I don't seem to be able to feel the degree of bend in the knee very well - and my teachers told me to just hold the leg as straight as I can.

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As far as I gather, if you have hyperextended legs, it means that when you straighten your legs, your knees are actually past their acceptable range of motion, therefore the knee is being hyperextended, or locked, whether you realise it or not. In other words, the knees are pressed too far backward, leaving the ligaments at the back of the knee permanently stretched. The knee is an extremely complex part of our bodies. I know this as I have just had an MRI done on my knee and the lady showed me the pictures, and I was truely in awe at how much intricate my knee is, and then felt miserable that I had hurt it so. Its different looking at pictures of other peoples knees, but when you see inside your own, well I just became more aware of how badly I treated them. If you go and visit this web site http://www.dance-teacher.com/backissues/de...cehealthy.shtml

you will see pictures of 'locked knees', straight knees and bent knees.

Hope this clarifys it for you.



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My daughter had a tendency to lock her knees in a hyperextended position. Since she works with an ex ballet dancer who is certified in Pilates, they have worked to correct this and teach her the proper position for her knees in order to avoid any long-term damage. She has had no problems at all since learning this.

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Yes, since my teachers over here have noticed this, they are doing all they can to help me not do it, as a result, my knees hurt less and less, but I'm wondering how many years I have been doing this? I guess for a while, so I am hoping I haven't done irrevocable damage. Your daughter is lucky that it was caught early on :(

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We're talking here about hyperextended knee, but we have to be careful when someone presents her/himself with a 'knees don't touch when in first position' as it may not necessarily be hyperextended knee, but another hyperextension somewhere in the leg...


That doesn't simplify the problem always...


For me, it was the knee, and in some ways, I know I 'lock' my knees when I shouldn't (first position and on pointes) but because of the shape of my leg, in an arabesque viewed from a corner, it appears to be bent, even though it's straight... My problem is then to make it 'look' straight in a certain angle, which often means consciously 'pulling' my leg off my hip and really thinking of my knee (while the rest struggles to follow :( )

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Then there's the other side of the coin from hyperextension - hypOextension, where the leg "locks" in front of straight! That's a nasty one to try to clear up, as the condition may be skeletal, and there's not much ballet technique can do about bending bone!:( Fortunately, that sort of hypoextension is not frequently seen!


Describing ballet in words can be such a dodgy business, I've found myself falling back on my old airplane mechanic language to describe things. Instead of "lock", for example, I'll often use the phrase "the joint reaches full travel", as if the part being discussed were an aileron, or a trim tab.


An adjustment for hyperextended knees is usually accompanied by a slight relaxation of the knee, together with a pull upwards through the legs, while at the same time maintaining a downward "connection" with the floor, almost as if one had roots. I realize that this is general advice for anybody, but with the hyperextended dancer, it becomes even more important than for the fortunate few with absolutely straight legs! The leg will

look straight, but the joint will not have reached "full travel".

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Ok, thanks for the explanations. My hyperextension definitely is in the knee; when I was a child it was severe enough that the school physician wanted to follow it up for a few years. It's gotten less severe, but is still very markable. I've never had any pains in the knees, or any other real problems because of it, though.


If I understand correctly, the "locking" only means "having the knee as far back as it will go", and that what matters in ballet is having the leg straight, no matter what one's personal locking point is. Figuring this makes more sense to what my teachers have said...:(


I think I've mentioned before that one of my major problems is a very poor proprioceptic sense in my knees - I cannot really feel the difference of slightly bent and slightly hyperextended. Now that I think of it, by advicing me to leave a little gap between the heels in 1st position, but not as big one as I could have it and not letting the calfs "drop back", my teacher has found me a position where I can feel the leg almost straight (only a little hyperextended) but not totally back. :)

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