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Ballet Talk for Dancers

tight hips and turnout


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hello all,

I have a question that is related to turnout (a topic which I know has been covered here a lot), but with a slightly different angle I think. I have been taking ballet and modern classes for about 3 years. I started as an adult, so I don't have all that amazing bendiness that those who started earlier (and some just plain lucky people) have.


I stretch faithfully, before and after class. I am one of those people who gazes with envy upon those who can easily slide into a straddle split and then almost effortlessly "roll" through their hips and lie on their stomach (if only!). Now, i know that being flexible in a static position doesn't garantee the turnout and range of motion that you need while moving. BUT - I feel like I have hit a plateau with flexibility and that to some extend it hinders my ability to go forward. My particular problem is my hip rotators. I feel like they are "in the way" so to speak. I stretch them before and after class, in several different ways. I have also tried several images (a good one is pulling up through the inner thighs while imagining the butt, hip rotators and lower back melting like butter; I also try to imagine things like battement originating from a push from underneath and behind). It never seems to get better and I usually feel like my hip rotators are gripping, and that of course makes it harder to turn out and to use my inner thighs.


So my question is - anyone else out there with tight hips? Found any good stretches that have changed things for you? Any good images. Anything...? (ps - I do take yoga somewhat regularly also, but have not found a lot of relief through that either).



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Hi Boots, welcome to Ballet Alert! Online, and especially the Adult Ballet Students' forum!


Unfortunately there is a limit to how much more rotation can be accomplished beyond what is there when you begin, espcially when you begin as an adult. Whether this "platueau" means you have reached that limit or not, I don't know, but it could be. With all the stretching you do, and the yoga, etc., your hips may just not be able to do much more. However, using what you have really well can make a big difference in the LOOK of your turnout.


I'm not sure what you mean in your description of pulling up inner thighs and the rest "melting like butter". Can you clarify that a bit for me? If you are relaxing the butt muscles, which also contain rotators, then you will not get the maximum use of your rotation. The image about lifting from underneath and behind is good. Try finding this by using breathing to help. Take your breath before the release of the leg and exhale just as you start into the battement. Feel the energy moving in a big circle that goes behind you and under the leg, allowing it to lift freely and with less work by the hips and the quads.

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Thanks Ms. Leigh,

Regarding the "melting" image, what I'm trying to do is relax those muscles a bit so that they aren't gripping and try to work the turnout from the inner thigh more. This was a suggestion that I read somewhere - the author said that yes, you need to use your butt and hip flexors to turn out but that if you rely on them too much you limit the range of motion and can't engage the inner thighs as well. Does that make sense? I see your point though - maybe I need to use them more than I think?


I'll continue with the lifting image and work on the breathing that you suggested, because I know that we all have that bad tendency to hold our breaths for, oh, 45 minutes at time at the barre. But here is another question for you... That image is great for battements, but what above slowever movements like develope? That is where I really feel the gripping in my hips and where I feel like I can't get much turnout and extension.

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Hi Boots :)

Welcome also :)


Yes I too have tight hips, although in the last fe wmonths I have really worked hard on improving their felxibility alot. Its going slow, but I can definatley see an improvement.


One exercise I started doing and that really helps me alot release the tightness, is this. I will try and explain as best as possible.


You know how babies when they lie on their backs can grab their toes and bend their legs so that their knees are by their ears? well if you do, then this is a strecth imitating that.


Its actually a yoga stretch. So lie on your back, legs stretched out. bring one leg up to your chest and flex at the knee and at the ankle. Now place your arm on the outsid eof your leg parallel to your shin and hold your heel/foot, and breathe deeply, gently pulling your heel and knee toward the ground. You should feel a stretch in your hips. Pulluntil you feel a nice stretch and hold that. Do this with the other leg and as your progress move onto doing it with both legs.


If you understand this exercise I will give you some others.

Try not to strain anything. The entire action is only in the hip area, you should not lift up your torso or strain your neck, everything else should be relaxed.

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Yes, Boots, you've got the idea. One must USE those muscles, but never GRIP them. Not as easy as it sounds, is it? :)


As for the image on the developpé, it is the same. Inhale when you hit the retiré, and exhale on the way out, trying to let the leg "flow" out, as opposed to tedious unfolding. The quads and the hips work, of course, but you try to minimize that by making better use of the hamstrings. At the top of the extension, the quads will contract. They have to, or the leg would not be straight! But, with the breath and the images, you can make it more efficient movement and not overwork the quads, especially.


In grand battement this works best if the up part is rather quick and then the down part slower, for control. That part works the hips too. I prefer to do grand battement with two measures of 3/4 music, emphasizing the up and the slowly down, as opposed to a march where the accent is in the fifth and the battements are fast. Very hard to feel anything but hips working on very fast grand battement.


Xena, I'm assuming you lower the leg to the side in that exercise? ;)

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no, i only do that when they are flexible enough. To start with they hurt, wellone side did. My right hip is way more flexible than my left. My left hurt me when I did that, so I didn't do it:)

I think all my injuries are somehow associated with my tight left hip, just a hunch, although my PT will correct me if that is not the case.

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Not to the side? Then I don't think I understand. The arms don't reach far enough to lower the leg in front of you if you lying on your back!

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not if you flex your knee, like a baby does..you know when they grab their toes and pull their legs in towards their chests. Normally, not so flexible people just put their hands on the leg and hug the knee to the chest, but to increase the hip stretch, you put your hand around your heel and foot and pull gently down to increase the stretch, it feels like being 6 months old again..


i tried to find a picture but couldn't..I'll have another look...

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OH! I think I get it :) You pull the leg down in the flexed position! I was thinking you meant to straighten it out, which is possible to the side when holding the heel, but definitely not to the front! Sorry, I think I was being a bit dense here :)

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:) no no not at all... I will try and scan in a photo of it from my yoga book, just in case any more confusion arises ;)
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Thanks Ms. Leigh and Xena for your suggestions!


Xena - if I've got this right, the ankle and knee should be in the same line and they should be perpendicular to the floor as you pull them down toward your armpit (or the floor)? I have tried this before, although I admit it's not one of my "regulars". So I'll add this to the repertoire and let you know if it helps!


Ms. Leigh - thanks for the additional suggestions on the develope. I will use both suggestions in class tomorrow!

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