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Losing turnout on supporting leg?


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I just started ballet a couple of months ago, at 33. I was a gymnast for 15 years, so I had a bit of a ballet foundation that we had to learn for floor and beam routines, but really not much. As it turns out, I should have been doing ballet instead of gymnastics -- my teacher says I'm a natural, and have a beautiful ballet aesthetic. I have rarely been so moved as I was when she pulled me aside to tell me that. :(


Anyway, things have been progressing well, getting my strength and flexibility back, but I've developed a new problem. I seem to lose the turnout on my supporting leg. I mean, the foot stays in one place, but my body naturally rotates until the supporting foot is basically in parallel. It happens very slowly and gradually -- I don't even notice it until I go to close in fifth or something, and my legs collide.


My teacher told me to pinpoint a spot on the wall to watch, thinking it will help me stay centered, but it didn't work. My head and shoulders stayed where they were supposed to be, but my hips just kind of rotated on around. I'm not forcing my turnout -- I can lift my feet off the ground one at a time and maintain my turnout, but I don't know what else it could be. My teacher said we could work on it if I come to class early next week, but I'd like to try to work on it ahead of time too.


It wasn't always like this -- today was the first time it happened. Could I be building strength unevenly or something? Maybe fatigue I wasn't aware of? I think it has something to do with the fact that my muscles and flexibility are coming back, but I can't pinpoint the cause. The turnout on the working leg stays exactly the way it's supposed to be.


Any ideas anyone? Thanks in advance!

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Aha! I have the answer!!! You just started ballet a few months ago!!!!!! Ballet takes time, time, and more time to be able to build the strong foundation so that a dancer can control her body. The important thing is that you are aware of it, so now you can begin to work on controlling it. It does sound like you could benefit from some strengthening exercises as well, and being sure you've located the proper muscles to control for rotation.


Check out these links:




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Yes, I know I still need practice and to learn, but this is a new problem. I held my turnout just fine as late as last week, doing the exact same things. My turnout was the one thing I could count on being right, and suddenly it's not.


Could it be that progress I'm making in other areas is coming at the expense of certain muscles or something?


It's just weird that it happened so suddenly. Even my teacher was puzzled, which is why she suggested that it may be fatigue.


Another idea I just had -- I also bellydance professionally, and I had a performance the night before class. Maybe all the hip drops and figure eights tweaked the muscles in a weird way that I wouldn't normally notice unless I was doing ballet and actually focusing on turnout?


Forgive me for obsessing, but I'm a chronic overachiever, and I always like to know "why" about everything.

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I have no answers for the problem then, whether it is based on any of those things or none. We are human, things do not always work exactly the same, like it does for robots. Our bodies sometimes do exactly what we want them to do, and other times not so much. Rotation is difficult for everyone, and being able to maintain it, after 2 months of ballet, is really expecting too much. When you were maintaining it at first, perhaps you were not doing something else correctly. No one but your teacher can really know.

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Check where your weight is (on the supporting foot). I have bad rotation and mine always turns in automatically when I do not really watch it. Instead of thinking about turning out, I keep the weight on the ball of my foot (have the tendency to sit back on my heel because I am hyperextended) when shifting the weight from two legs to one (like developpés in the center for adagio). Is the weight on the ball of my foot, my whole body would have to adjust to go into parallel. Instead, when I have the weight back on my heel, just my foot moves to parallel.

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Aaaahhhh, an Achilles heel for me and I’ve been at it for 17 years. Though I’ve improved quite a bit, I still consider it a problem area for me. In that sense, you might want to discount what I say.


My approach is just to first know it is a habit. I know that I’m capable, but perhaps my brain is thinking about other things that at the moment seem more important. My brain only likes to think of one thing at a time. Occasionally I’ll decide to think only of my supporting leg at the barre and essentially ignore what the working leg is doing. That is pretty effective through most of the barre, though I admit to drifting toward what the working leg is doing as the barre progresses. I can do the same thing with center tendus, but after that I definitely switch to combination mode—i.e., just trying to keep the combination in mind.


I want to emphasize that throughout, I’m not really doing anything, but rather just thinking of turning out the supporting leg. It is completely an image and when I do that I believe all is well.


Occasionally in my home practice I’ll make it a point to do center adagio and pirouette combinations without music and concentrating on what the supporting leg is doing throughout. I start with a very slow tempo and gradually try to increase the tempo to that of the music I have. I might do this kind of practice about once every two weeks, more for variety than anything else.

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Like Miss Leigh pointed out, you might have been managing to hold the turn-out by unconsciously using a 'cheat'. I could hold turn-out 'til the cows come home when I arch my back, but when I have to stand pulled up and in proper alignment it becomes a real challenge. I think Miss Clara's alignment post, which she mentioned, would probably be useful for you.

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Thanks, everyone - good advice, all of you.


I've been practicing at home until I get back to that teacher on Monday. We have a smallish dance studio in our home because I give bellydance lesson occasionally, and I've been spending even more time than usual in there lately!


Last night in particular, I was practicing holding various positions but concentrating on the supporting leg instead of the working leg, and I found myself actually talking to my own foot. When I came out, my husband was surprised that I was alone -- he thought I was giving a lesson in there, so he didn't even poke his head in to say hello when he got home!


<sigh> Is it a good or bad sign when ballet makes you hold conversations with your own body parts? :grinning::blink:

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