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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is 3rd position so bad?


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I am not able to get a good fifth position, whether due to lack of enough rotation, lack of strength, presence of thighs, or a combination of all, so I find that I use a position that is about half way between third and fifth - the heel of my front foot is at the ba-ll of my back foot, rather than heel touching toe. A new teacher commented that she's a stickler for fifths and doesn't want to see any thirds. If I try to get into an actual 5th position, my bottom needs to come out and I lose whatever turn out and rotation I could get in my "3rd".


It seems to me that its better to have a nicer position, rotation, posture in a less-than-ideal-almost-fifth than to try to force a better fifth and have the rest fall apart. Am I supposed to be able to hold a fifth? Am I doing something wrong?

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I would rather see a 5th position that is not fully turned out, but still "toe to heel". Just my opinion.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

I allow (and encourage) that third-to-fifth position you describe above, Sew Ribbons. I see nothing wrong with it, and see many things right with it, again as you describe above. I see much more success with beginners (of all ages) eventually getting into a truly functional fifth position when they approach it by gradually crossing the third position to the fifth position. Here are two threads that appear on the Teachers Forum, on that subject.


http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=56128 http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=55895


And I feel you are doing nothing wrong. It seems you have a very good understanding of how your body works, and how best to work with your body :)

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I hope its okay if I sneak into this thread, as I have a similar issue. I've worked from third (or somewhere between third and fifth) for quite awhile, mainly because I feel pressure in my hips if I try to work from fifith, and its hard for me to close the position fully when I'm doing tendus or degages en croix. This is especially evident with my right hip, and I often feel it when I try to close my right foot to the back. I talked to my teacher about it, and I've been working on stretching and trying to be sure I'm not sinking into my hips/standing leg. I also tend to have overpowered quads (boo), so I'm not sure if that's pulling my legs a particular way and preventing me from rotating, or making my hips tight?


Since I've been out of ballet for awhile, I know I've lost some flexibility, but are there other things that may be at work here (e.g. as SewRibbons suggested: lack of strength, presence of thighs, in addition to a rotation issue?) What sort of exercises/stretches should I try/talk to my instructor about? (i.e. I'm guessing the sticky on rotator muscles would be helpful?)

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*Teacherhatgoeson* I prefer to see fifth position, but sometimes find that due to weight, poor balance, or extreme lack of rotation, 3rd is a more reasonable position to start with, as it gives a broader base. As a teacher of many recreational students, I am all about working with them where they are at!


*Teacherhatoff,dancerhaton* Of late, it has been harder for me to utilize a good fifth position. It makes me very sad, and I am worried that if I work from third for a while, I'll become sloppy and will have a hard time regaining my fifth position at all.


morninglorie, you might ask your instructor about stretches for your psoas and for your glutes/hips, if you aren't already doing them.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi morninglorie:


Here are some links to articles and books about dance conditioning and injury prevention. They deal with the issues you speak of, in your post. I hope this helps.
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Thank you both so much!


Insidesoloist--I am doing a couple of hip/glute stretches, but nothing that looks like a psoas stretch (which I remember doing in "floor barre" at the school I went to growing up). Will definitely ask about that!


Pas de Quoi--Thank you for the links! I was just thinking about how I wished I knew more about anatomy. I'm excited to have some reading (and work) to do. The injury prevention is especially important to me, as I've had some injuries (both dance and non-dance related) that I don't care to re-live :happy:

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi morninglorie: I may have posted the wrong link in my message above. Sorry! This one is specifically about anatomical factors affecting turnout, and also references another article about training turnout, which is also excellent..




It's recital day and I am trying to somehow get 25 children under the age of seven and a lot more over the age of seven on and off stage without tantrums or serious bodily injury :nixweiss:

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As a teacher, I think as long as you are aligned correcty and working your turnut correctly (ie.using the correct muscles, not gripping etc) then I am not *too* fussed where the feet exactly are, as long as you are working towards always improving it.

As a dancer, I actually find it easier to access the correct muscles in a crossed 5th - I find if I wok in 3rd I seem to grip my glutes. I don't know if that's just a strange personal habit of mine, but when I am fully crossed I just find it easier to really feel my deep rotators (perhaps because that's the only thing that can work!).

All that said, I'm sure no teacher here would force a student to stand in a tight fifth if their body could not handle it and it resulted in poor posture, rolling, tension in the body etc etc... You might need to experiment a little after class one time when you are warm to play around and find what works best for you.

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  • 1 month later...

I had class last night with a different instructor than I've had at the new ballet school I'm attending. He wanted me to work from real 5th, rather than my "somewhere between 5th and 3rd" default position. It was difficult to remember! Going to have to retrain that part of my brain/body. I'm also really displeased with my turnout in real 5th, so I'll have to work on that (still feeling a tightness in the hip of my front leg when I try to turn it out more than it wants to).


As a dancer, I actually find it easier to access the correct muscles in a crossed 5th - I find if I wok in 3rd I seems to grip my glutes. I don't know if that's just a strange personal habit of mine, but when I am fully crossed I just find it easier to raeally feel my deep rotators (perhaps because that's the only thing that can work!).


This morning I woke up with rather sore inner thighs and it made me remember the comment above from Miss Persistent. I think I'm definitely engaging my inner thighs much more in real 5th (and here I've been trying for weeks to use those muscles correctly). Just goes to show that actually doing ballet is best for working the muscles you want to improve ;)

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I tend to offer my adults both, but encourage them to do as willimus suggested. Of course, I do a great deal of focus on alignment, lift-off, and resistance, as well as exercises to help dancers ID the rotators, so it becomes an easier task to establish 5th.

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It has been a long time since but one of the best teachers I haad in college refused to allow college age beginners who did not have suitable rotation to use anything but 3rd at the barre. Maybe it was a personal quirk? I never asked.

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I prefer working in 5th because I feel the muscles so much better. That said, I've been working in fifth for something like 25 years or so....


With my students however, I find some of them have very limited turnout, so if they were in fifth, they'd have to displace their hips so much (with one hip bone significantly in front of the other, if that makes sense), that I ask them to work in third. I then focus with them on lifting out of their hips (what Clara calls lift-off and proper alignment, as well as trying to evaluate their own turn out potential.

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