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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Fifth position feet


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I have a terrible fifth position and wondered if it's likely to get better?

Is there any hope?

My teacher says in years it will become better but I'm not sure because my calfs aren't exactly skinny and get in the way!


I have quite a gap inbetween my feet and I just can't get a nice closed tight fifth.


Does any other adult student struggle with this?


I'm 23 years old this year.



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Very quickly as I'm running out the door --


I find that a lot of female adults seem to worry about how leg size translates into turnout. Um, have you seen Carlos Acosta's legs? (google!)!!! Turnout is turnout is turnout. Some leg structures may need a small gap in their fifth... but I'd guess that's a rarity.

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Are you kidding? I don't come anywhere near having a good fifth. Most of the women who I dance with (adults) don't have a perfect turnout either. I never have and I never will. I just am not that flexible and at this point in my life I don't worry about it. I just play the hand I was dealt. At 23 you are still quite young and could probably work on increasing your flexibility and turnout and improve a lot.

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Ami brings up a good point, although I think the concern may be less about how leg size affects turnout, and more about what constitues proper placement when leg size and imperfect turnout interact. For example, my front calf "gets in the way" during sous-sus, partially because it is large and partially because my turnout is limited. In order to keep my legs straight, I have to compensate by leaving a little space between my feet. I *think* this is the correct way to execute this position within my own limitations, but I do get corrected to close the space occasionally, so I'm never quite sure!

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In sous-sus the legs should be as close together as you can possibly make them without one knee bending. It takes really getting up out of your hips. Also be sure they are well crossed in fifth, so that you see one toe and two heels. :)


As for the space in standing flat, again, as close as you can possibly make them, and keep working to get it closer! It does certainly have more to do with placement and rotation than leg size.

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Yeah. I don't have any troubles with my calves getting in my way, but my fifth is pretty sad. I feel like I have to bend my knees to get into a proper fifth. I'm twenty and literally *just* started ballet.. perhaps that has something to do with it, but in general I stand more in 3rd than in 5th. To tell the truth, I don't even know how to tell if I am turned out "from the hips." Anyone have advice on how to feel that? My first position isn't great either... It's a 90 degree angle for the most part. I can get to near 180 degrees standing still easily, but I can't dance like that. It hurts.

Edited by shy.mouse
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First, here's Clara's excellent post on alignment



Second, if it hurts, STOP! Dance is difficult, hard, and yes, sometimes you feel the burn - but if it's a bad pain, stop. It's not worth it to ruin your knees, ankles, hips, etc.


Third - don't be afraid to ask. Ask your teacher for tips, comments, etc. They are the ones that can see you, and can best evaluate what's going on.


Fourth, it takes time. Lifting off/up/out from your hips takes a great amount of strength, stamina, and control. My suggestion is not to force it too much as you're building this strength. I think that working in third is totally appropriate for a beginner, and depending on body types and issues, might also be the best for people who have been dancing longer.


Finally, for now (!), know your body. For example, I've notice that as I get older, it takes longer for my body to feel 'ready' to really dance. I might not be able to start class with my best fifth -- I need to get those muscles working more before they are ready for that. Right now I have some severe back pain from work-related issues, and dance makes it feel better, but I also have to be kinder and gentler to myself at the beginning of class to deal with it. It will take a while for you to be able to figure out what you 'ballet' self needs, but pay attention for things that tell you 'this works for me'.

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I've just recently started having difficulty with fifth because my calves and quads and especially the muscles in the back of my thighs (those "lift from under the leg" muscles) are getting bigger and harder as I've been increasing my weight training and swimming and biking. And relevé/elevé have made my calves a bit "harder" and less "squishy" so they "get in the way" more than before.


My teacher said to "try" not to drift into third, and "try" not to let my knees bend, but it's better to loosen up my fifth than end up twisting my knees or hurting my hips.


I suppose her advice also takes into account that I am an adult beginner and not a "serious" dancer, and she also appreciates that my other activities/sports are also very important to me.

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And, fifth posistion is not bout FEET. It's about rotation, from the hips!!!

The feet in 5th position is just an outcome of rotation from the hips.

People with good turnout will have better 5th position when you look at their feet. But, if you focus on the feet, you will notice that people who look like they have the "perfect" 5th position feet might also be forcing their turnout by rotating in the knees and feet, which is really bad for the body. So, I would rather think of 5th position from the knee up!

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I have decent rotation with my right leg, but horrible in my left leg. If I try to even be in a bad 5th position with my left leg in front, I have to wrench my knee, so I work from 3rd. On the right side, I can approach an okay 5th position.


It seems like the feet should be in the same position regardless of which is in front, but from the pain- this is not my experience.


Although the girls in my class work in 5th, I see no shame in working in 3rd.

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Everything in ballet, absolutely everything, comes from deep within the core muscles--the muscles of the abdomen, back, and pelvis. You have to be able to lift the weight of your torso up and out of the pelvis to be able to achieve good hip external rotation. So yes, it is a matter of building strength in the core as well as well as flexibility in the hip tendons and ligaments. Rotation beyond what your hips can accomplish while your back and abdomen are disengaged will improve quite a bit.


One of the big issues with adults is that the flexibility was not developed as a child, and the strength has probably suffered from years of sedentary inactivity. It takes a lot of patient work to improve turnout, but it can be done, even in the middle-aged.

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Thanks from me too! After nearly a year in class I find I am a great deal more flexible. But it has taken all that time to make a difference. I started at just before passing 55 - so it really is never too late to start making strides on improving turn out.

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I have bigger calves (and hard too) and yet my fifth position really isnt bad.


There has been lots of good advice here, but I would like to reiterate the two points of working turnout from the hips and if it hurts (in a bad way) STOP!

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I remember when I first took ballet back up, it felt like the girth of my thighs was interfering with it. Although my thigs have toned up, it could have been bad alignment or something. I no longer get this sensation.

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