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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pirouettes a good first position


Guest dancerwannabe

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Guest dancerwannabe

Had first class with new teacher last night. (You may have read my other post where I expressed some nervousness because my regular teacher has moved to another company). It wasn't SO bad. It was much more difficult and fast paced than I'm used to...but I caught on well enough.

I actually have two problems. A. When I try to pirouette I am constantly falling over.. Like I'm throwing myself off balance. I am trying to keep my shoulders down and hips and shoulders turning at the same time but it is not working. She(new teacher) says that I have enough power to get through several pirouettes but I'm not balancing properly. Help. Am looking forward to the Richmond pirouette class. I realize that you can't really help me here without seeing me dance like horse. :)) But if anyone can give out some pirouette secrets I'd be most appreciative.

B. my hamstrings and the muscles on the back of my knees are super tight. I cannot physically make the backs of my legs touch in first position. I never have been able to. It's odd because it seems like such a natural thing to others. But not for me. I am doing a stretch in the evening where you lay flat on your back and take the straight leg and lift while keeping the hip relaxed. It's very hard for me...particularly if I flex my foot. The object is to keep the knee straight and not bent. Are there any other ways I can work on this? Seeing improvement in this area has been sort of slow going since I have alot of leg and not alot of torso. It's a struggle for me.

 

Thanks for your help..

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It sounds to me like you need to work on the relevé to the pirouette position, and finding the center (balance point) of that position. Take your 4th position, and be sure that you are correctly placed, with your weight more in the front leg. Go to the pirouette position on flat, without a relevé and really feel where your center is. One exercise I use for this is doing a promenade in this position. Next just practice going to the position with a relevé. Try to hold each relevé as long as possible and then not collapse down but lift yourself off of the position as you lower the working leg to the floor in either 4th or 5th position. When this is working, then start going around the corner, but not doing a full pirouette. Start with a quarter, then a half turn. There are several things that are often neglected in teaching pirouettes, and sometimes one needs to go back and master a-b-c before they can accomplish x-y-z :)

 

As for the hamstrings and backs of knees, what you are doing is good. You can also sit with legs straight out in front of you and bend forward....GENTLY. Do not bounce or force these stretches! Then do forward bending standing up, being sure to keep the knees straight. Start in a parallel and slightly open position, then move the legs closer together, and then, on the barre, in a turned out position. A parallel 4th position is also good. For the backs of the knees get yourself a rubber ball, not too hard. Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out in front. Place the ball under one knee, flex the foot, and try to press the ball to the floor.

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Guest dancerwannabe

Ms. Leigh

Have you seen my leg and knee problem in other girls too? It seems that I've never found anyone with my same problem. I feel like a dope because I am the only one I've ever seen with it this bad.

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Yes Kc, although the reasons vary a bit. I have one teen who has legs a bit like toothpicks and they are just so thin that they don't come together anywhere. Sometimes this problem is due to legs which are bowed, and sometimes it's due to the hypoextended knees, which means basically that they just don't straighten all the way even when you are straightening them as much as you possibly can. (Hyperextended knees straighten back too far, and hypoextended not far enough.) It's very hard to know the reason for your problem, as you said before, without being able to see you. If you are placed correctly, and using the rotator muscles when standing in first position, are the knees not meeting because they won't straighten far enough, or because there is a curve, or bow, in the bone structure?

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Guest dancerwannabe

Ummm I think its partially that I have really skinny legs ( i am teased for having toothpick legs too!)... and they don't seem to straighten out all the way without significant work. Even when I stand up straight I have a little bend to them sort of. I can get them to touch if I PULL PULL PULL them together but it's totally unnatural and seems to put undue strain on the knees, which I am pretty sure I don't want. (I have to pull really hard through the inner thighs) I have noted an improvement since I started ballet almost 8 months ago, but I am impatient with myself and wish for better improvement of flexibility through the hamstrings and back of the knees. When I sit with my legs straight out in front of me (or stand for that matter) I can't touch my toes. And you know how if people flex their legs they can actually get their heels to pop up off the ground. I can't do that either. It worries me that I have so little flexibility through that area. The first time I took a private stretching class with my teacher she was astonished at how tight I was. It's a little bit better now but still really tight. I thought it was because I was so long legged and tall. (am 5'10") but I think not. I don't wish to be a professional dancer or anything, but I would give anything to touch my nose to my knees the way that dancers do.. I get really paranoid at classes because every time I attend with a new teacher they tell me to make my knees touch in first and I can't. I physically cannot do it. It is a great source of ballet frustration.

 

 

:)

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Dancerwannabe, you can only do so much, especially starting as an adult. Don't beat yourself up about this. Just continue to stretch and work at it, and there will be progress, but it will not happen quickly. It's a long, slow process to change things that have been set for a long time. And you can't force the hamstrings! They get upset very easily :)

 

The people whose heels pop off the floor when their legs are straight in front and the feet flexed usually have some degree of hyperextension. It sounds like your knees are the opposite. Try working with the ball pressing exercise, and also with a theraband. It will not work miracles, but it will help, over time. Eight months is a very short time in terms of ballet!

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Hi dancerwannabe :rolleyes:

 

OK, just a tip with the pirouettes. I notice a lot of technique problems in other adults, namely the pirouette one, and myself as well...

One of tendencies is to throw the arm out to second. For example, if you are turning to your right, the right arm is thrown out. This is done because panic sets in and suddenly you are so desperate to turn that you think by throwing your arm around this will somehow get you round quicker. Yes, it will but not in the finesse of a perfect pirouette. You really need to control the arm, don't rush it. Arms are so important during pirouettes, of course you can do them without, and I bet you, you would sail around light as a feather. Try it without arms.

The next thing is correct alignment. This can only come with practice, practice and more practice, but try to think that your collarbone needs to be slightly forward of your navel and not back.

As Ms. Legih says, you need to really break down the pirouette movement. So pretend that you were going to do the turn, but don't, just balance there in relevé passe, see how long you can hold it. Once you know you can balance there, then you canmove onto the next step. Just turn half turns, always remembering to control your arms.

 

ONe final thing is spotting. Soooooo important, there is no way you are going to be able to do multiple turns unless you spot, and even doing just one turn it helps you tremendously. Besides, it stops you from getting dizzy :)

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One of the things I'm doing to help the feel of turning with spotting and getting the arms out of the process is to put my fingertips on my shoulders, with my elbows pointing out. It seems to help you find your center axis better. Then after, use your arms as prescribed. I saw this on one of David Howard's beginning ballet videos. (Beginner Class I think). It helped my center alignment.

 

Ms. Leigh, thanks for your wonderful information. I will use the breakdown you gave to practice them now. Excellent assistance.

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