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Ballet Talk for Dancers

working on turnout


kat23

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My 8-year-old is in her first year of ballet at a pre-pro school. Her teacher has told her to work on her flexibility to maximize her turnout. She has a flat middle split and a flat frog, though I know from reading other threads that these don't indicate her turnout standing upright. Does her ability to do these stretches indicate that she has turnout potential she hasn't learned to use? Are there other stretches she should be doing instead that would be more helpful?

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  • Administrators

Kat, at 8 she should not be working on ANYTHING outside of her classes with a teacher's supervison. Stretching without proper warm up is not good, even if you are reasonably flexible. Is her middle split turned out? If so, I would say that might indicated potential for good rotation once she is old enough, strong enough, and has enough training to learn to use it correctly. I would not expect much great use of rotation from 8 year olds! :o

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Thank you, Ms. Leigh. I am glad to hear that it's not expected at this age. I was surprised and would prefer that ballet stays at ballet--I am the last person who is qualified to determine whether she is doing things correctly and don't want her to get hurt or form habits that are hard to correct. Just for my own knowledge, where should her knees be if her middle split is turned out? She does it with her knees pointing to the ceiling.

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  • Administrators

That is good then. If the knees and feet were rolling towards the floor in front of her, that would not be good. :)

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Ms. L. . Is there a typo? Which is good. . .knees toward the ceiling or feel and knees rolling toward the floor?

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  • Administrators

Oh yes, thank you very much, learningdance! Definitely a typo. :)

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My DD, (age 9 1/2) has a "mild to moderate" femoral anteversion (turned in hips). I had an orthapedic surgeon look at her last year. We were very sad when we learned this. She really, really loves ballet and takes three 1 1/2 hour technique classes per week--the maximum offered at our studio for her age group. I frequently hear, as stated above, that young dancers shouldn't be doing too much outside of ballet class, but I can't help but want her do as much as possible to increase her maximum turnout ability before her bones mature at age 11 or 12. In class they do wall splits (which I asked about on another thread) where they hold their legs up against the wall in a V. DD has her right and left splits, and almost has her center split, but her knees do turn forward in the center split. When she's up in the wall spit, she has an almost perfect spit with knees pointed correctly. Does this indicate that it is possible that she eventually will be able to do a regular middle spit with knees turned up? It seems to me, that if there was no potential due to her femoral anteversion, she wouldn't be able to do the wall split.

 

DD's older brother also takes ballet and wants to dance professionally. DD and DS are getting good training. I have told DD many times that boys have more opportunities than girls anyway, but DD wants to be a dancer and has always wanted to be a dancer. She came out of the womb dancing, it seems, and was dancing long before her brother. She is flexible, looks graceful and artistic when dancing, and she has a "ballet body" (tall, but not very tall, small head, long arms and legs, short torso, etc.) , and she seems to have everything else going for her, and she does well in her classes, so I'm told. Her femoral anteversion is always in the back of my mind--does she have a chance to fulfill her dreams as a dancer? If I encourage her, am I just setting her up to have those dreams dashed? Will money be wasted if I continue to sign her up for the maximum number of classes and, later, SI's and summer classes? Should I encourgae other interests for her? I know that ballet training is never a waste, but at what point should a student face the reality that they have a physical impediment to making dance a career, as a professional dancer or a ballet teacher? Or maybe it's not too late? Perhaps femoral anteversion can be corrected over the next two years, but I don't know what, if anything, we can do to make that happen. Am I already doing all I can with putting her in three technique classes per week? Is there anything she can do outside class?

 

I also want to mention that DD has a severe form of auditory processing disorder. She has always struggled in school because of her inability to learn to read phonetically. The ballet studio has always been the one place where her disability is not visible. Whenever I mention this to her ballet teachers, they say, "You'd never know it." I thought she'd have trouble understanding the commands of the teachers, but she never has. I think she has the ballet terms down in her mind so well, that it's never been a problem. Anyway, I have poured my heart out here. I'd appreciate any thoughts the moderators have.

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My DD has femoral torsion, I believe the same thing with a different name- her hip sockets turn in slightly, causing her legs to trun inward.It's very mild- many in dhs family have had it since birth much worse and required braces, etc. DD had a mild case of pigeon toes easily corrected by rhythmic gymnastics. however, as she got older the lack of extreme flexibility in her legs became a big problem, she used her lower back to compensate and was not injured but was headed that way if she continued. She was not diagnosed until nearly 11, after years and years of stretching she just couldn't get the leg flexibility to the back, and no wonder- bones don't stretch! Rhythmic calls for extremes of flexibility ballet does not, though. The years of stretching gave her more flexibility than any ballet dancer we've seen, and her turnout is perfect despite the hips, from stretching. Her arabesque will not go much past 90, (with squared, aligned hips) but that isn't such a problem.

 

Stretch, stretch, stretch!! For DD, it was having someone stretch her, which I understand isn't done in ballet, but is in rhythmic. The middle splits was hard, but she is flat, knees up- I'm not exaggerating when I say it took years and active pushing of her legs. A few minutes stretching in ballet class will not be enough for your DD to get full use of the limited rotation she has. Other kids can stretch less, use less, and have the same flexibility, but with a limited range the only way is to use every bit. I am honestly very surprised that DD has such great turnout, knowing what I know about her physiology, and I can only attribute it to the stretching focus of rhythmic gymnastics, and a ballet coach who spent literally hours teaching her to use her hips to turn out. Her ballet was always sporadic, but there was of it was incredible- I just didn't realize it until DD started to dance!

 

You might find a local rhythmic gym and talk to the coach about a stretch class, or private sessions. Or a physical therapist, but they must know about turnout.We had no luck with a regular PT, who goggles at her flexibility and didn't see a problem, she wasn't diagnosed until we went to a PT with a background treating ballet dancers- he did xrays because he understtod the problem, and there it was. I wouldn't advise setting off on your own to stretch. And your DD must be on board, because stretching hurts. They have to want it enough to do it.

 

I'm still stymied DD insists upon pursuing the sports most unsuited to her body- first rhythmic, now ballet, shed be great at soccer!! But where there is a will, there truly is a way. DD is living proof!

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OK. So when a child is practicing middle splits their knees should be facing up to the ceiling along with the top of the feet? How do you work on this if the knees are going the wrong direction.

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  • Administrators

Very slowly and carefully and under the supervision of a teacher. They need to be taught how to stretch, and splits are stretches. They need to be done only when warmed up. If their legs are not rotated from the hips in a middle split then they are going beyond their rotational ability. It's not about doing them, it's about using them as a stretch, which only works if one is doing them correctly. If they have not been taught how to do them correctly, I would look for another teacher.

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I allow teach students to do box splits with the knees forward initially, the body is also forward (forearms flat on the floor) to prevent any twisting from the hip or knee. Only when they've got that or are pretty much there do I allow them to have their knees face up and then they have to keep their bodies up straight (using the barre initially if needed). If they try to do the turned out split from the beginning I find they can't support themselves correctly as they aren't flexible enough, they end up leaning forward onto the floor and then I have concerns about twisting!

 

We do lots of other stretches that ultimately help with the turned out split too though.

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BalletTeacherUK

Thank you again, you have been very insightful and that is what my DD is doing so good to hear.

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Yes, my DD is still dancing, in fact she just started this year, other than some ballet that supplemented her gymnastics. I think if shed started out in ballet, she would have had problems due to her hips, but through the focus on flexibility in rhythmic gymnastics, she reached her full potential in her rotation.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm very turnout naive and not really sure how to word and discuss this. My daughter 9yrs old does competitive dance She gets 1 1/2 hours ballet a week. Her teachers say she is naturally turned in and therefore is going to have to work harder than other dancers to overcome this. They say she is going to "be in a lot of pain" to accomplish this. I do know dance can be painful but I've also heard forced turnout is not good. Like I said, I'm very naive on this subject. Can you give me a quick turn out for idiots course please? I've gone to a different studio and the teacher there does not necessarily agree that my daughter is turned in. She says more ballet will help her. She has been invited to join this studio and will take 3 - 1 1/2 hour ballet classes plus one jazz class a week. She can do more classes like hip hop but these are optional as her schedule permits. The studio she is at requires 1 1/2 hours ballet, 1 hr jumps and turns, 45 minutes tap, 1 hr jazz and 1 hr hip hop. Any advice on what to do? I don't want her to get hurt but have no clue what to believe or do. She will be 10 in August.

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