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Ballet Talk for Dancers

About to take classes again but turnout is poor


Older Ballet Boy

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My turnout (which wasn't great previously) is quite poor. Planning on taking classes (for the first time since taking just a few when I was younger) in 3-4 weeks time. Got a lot of work to do in between. On the websites of a couple of schools, I've seen photos of the adult ballet classes and to be honest, it seems like I'm not the only one with that problem, or am I just being a bit deluded? Apart from the fact that it looks better, what other implications are there of poor turnout, e.g. not being able to execute barre exercises, steps and centre work correctly?

Edited by Older Ballet Boy
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From what I know, turnout facilitates balance and line. Height of extensions, etc., cannot be done with proper alignment without good use of turnout. For women, you can't do pointe until you have adequate turnout to maintain rotation while en pointe. It's difficult to balance in retire and pirouette if the hips aren't properly turnout out.

 

I don't think it's uncommon for adult ballet students not to have 'ideal' turnout. It takes time to develop that rotator strength, since proper turnout uses the very deep internal hip muscles. Those are hard to target and it takes awhile to learn how to rotate from the hip. Trying to force turnout beyond what can be held by the hip rotators is a very bad idea.....all that does is pronate the feet, torque ankles and knees, and generally speaking causes injuries at worst and is bad technique at best.

 

Also, for adults that didn't do ballet as a young child, once puberty onsets some things cannot be changed anymore - pre puberty, with proper training, ligaments and bone alignment CAN be molded, to some degree. After adolescence, it's permanant. So an adult beginner may find that they can never achieve 'perfect' turnout simply because their bones don't allow it. But, it's really all about working the turnout you have!

 

Unfortunately, it's just one of those things that take time and proper teaching to develop. It's very very hard to 'feel' those internal rotators, and too easy to cheat by torquing things that shouldn't be torqued. It does take lots of time (years) and patience, and consistent, steady, work, to grow one's turnout to the best of your natural ability. Some things like height of developpes and extensions might have to be held lower to maintain proper alignment, as your turnout improves then you can go higher without sacrificing turnout.

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Thanks for that silkmaiden. I know that when I start going to classes, there's going to be a lot to work at and that I'll probably be mediocre at first. Then again, it's an adult beginners class, so I'm sure there'll be others in the same boat. The one thing I do have in my favour is that I'm quite fit and have decent leg strength from running, especially from doing hill-work. Ironically, it was a calf injury from running that caused me to consider giving ballet a proper go. Basically, my physio commented about my lack of flexibility in my hips causing one of my feet to turn in slightly when it hit the ground, thus putting pressure on my calf. So one of the reasons why I'm planning on taking ballet is to get me to work on my abductors (or is it adductors?) - always get them two mixed up. Only planning on going to one class a week for now, them possibly two after Christmas. Maybe I'll fit in a beginners yoga class as well.

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I wouldn't worry about it, I think you'll find everyone's in the same boat. ;)

 

I ran for awhile too, and yep, those hips get really tight! I ended up with all sorts of crappy tendonitis issues before I finally gave it up for good. Running long distances also really wrecked my flexibility, I was surprised how tight you can get. Runners tend to end up with very short hip flexors and poor medial glutes, at least it was that way for me. It'll be different, for sure, don't be surprised if you're exhausted by the end of your first class!

 

You might want to try some pilates along with the yoga. Pilates compliments ballet VERY well, will really work those hidden core muscles, and sometimes you can even find a yoga/pilates fusion class. Downward dog is a pretty awesome stretch for the entire back of the legs.

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Yes, I think I saw some post of yours yesterday or the day before about you doing a lot of running including 10ks and marathons etc. Thing is, running is the main thing for me (I also coach), so ballet will always have to take second place, I'm afraid. I think you're right about us runners having tight muscles including hip flexors. It's fairly common I believe. Although running won't compliment ballet very well (and I'm quite realistic about the limitations on what I can achieve from ballet), hopefully, ballet will compliment the running and lessen the impact running has on causing tight muscles, i.e. hopefully I won't become as immobile.

 

In the meantime, thanks for the advice about Pilates. I'll definitely look to fit in a Pilates class each week as well.

Edited by Older Ballet Boy
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I love pilates, though my poor tailbone doesn't! I must have a pokey long tailbone because it always feels like it's grinding into the floor on rollups and those sitting balance positions. Ouch.

 

I knew I couldn't go back to running anymore when I caught myself walking in turnout position! But that's okay, I never really loved running like I love ballet. I hope ballet will help your running, you'll definitely have to post your progress because I'm really curious if it helps - most of the time I've heard that running and ballet don't mix (though more from running hurting ballet ability than vice versa).

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Silkmaiden, not sure if you mean post my progress at running or dancing, ha, ha! Might post on here whenever I break my 10k PB or half-marathon PB. Seriously though, assuming I stick at it, I'll certainly let people know how I get on. Thanks once again though for the encouragement and support.

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I think the mods would probably prefer posts on BT to focus on ballet! :happy: To clarify, I meant that I'd love to read if ballet helped your running in any way.

 

Good luck with those PB's!

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Silkmaiden, thanks for the encouragement with both ballet and running. That's really appreciated. Though I don't know at this juncture what effect ballet lessons will have on my running, either positive or negative, the thinking is that if it helps with the mobility, then it'll reduce the likelihood of injury. This has been the bane of my life the last few months, causing me to miss a lot of training. Despite this, my times in races have generally been good, so I do wonder what they'd have been like if I had been in full training. I suppose if it does work in this way, i.e. stops this lower leg niggle caused by tight hips, then great. Anyway, I digress.

 

Just hope I make progress in both.

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Don't let your lack of turn out stop you. A good teacher will help you work with the turn out you have and perhaps help you improve it. One of the loveliest dancers I know has dreadful turnout.

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I used to play a lot of Rugby, thought I was fit from that, until started the Ballet classes, did I get a shock from the fitness required for Ballet ! found muscles I never knew had and then some, I think like has been said when you start "older" you are never going to totally reform the muscles etc, improve them yes, transform them no, but having said that, my leg muscles have certainly "re shaped" some from the Rugby days and I do feel a lot fitter have to admit, but doubt will ever get to a good turn out stage, my girlfriend been doing since she was young and never had any off time from it, it shows in her "flexibility" etc compared to the other girls in the class who started as adults, all we can aim for is the best we can do. Main thing is to have belief in yourself I think, and to always work for improvement

Edited by AndrewUK
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Well, found some exercises for improving my turnout which I've been doing over the weekend in addition to some exercises my physio gave me last week for my hip flexibility. Although still poor, once I'd warmed up and repeated the stretches, I could see a bit of progress (I think!).

 

Andrew, I'm quite sporty myself and without sounding big-headed, I know my cardio-vascular fitness is good. However, as per your post, I'll be working muscles that I'm not used to working. I would imagine ballet is more about strength and muscular endurance than the cardio-vascular endurance needed to run a 5k or 10k race or play football for 90 minutes (though I've retired from that). It'll be all that time on relevé and all the pointing of the feet and tendus that might my legs scream for mercy by the end of my first class. It's certainly a different type of fitness. I'll probably try and do some barre exercises at home between now and then.

Edited by Older Ballet Boy
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Takes some weeks I think before you see any improvements, thought I also had fairly good upper body strength, having played Rugby, ( although stopped about 3 yrs ago) until we started will some "trial" lifts, goes to show every thing has its own pull on different muscles and when you haven't pulled on them before, they don't half scream out at first !

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Ballet works a lot of those small, intrinsic, 'buried' muscles that usually never get much work. Like all the tiny little muscles in the foot, the internal hip rotator muscles, the inner thigh muscles, etc. Also, core, core, core!

 

Cardio-wise, unfortunately, it's not that great a workout. Which is annoying for me, trying not to overeat even though I feel exhausted after class, but too tired to fit in another cardio workout somewhere. I was too used to eating whatever I wanted when running long distances, and I just can't do that anymore.

 

The best single exercise I've found so far for calf, ankle, and foot strengthening are stair calf raises. Just hang your heels over the edge and do as many as you can. You can start with two feet and eventually work up to single raises, and work different counts. I usually do 4 counts up, 4 counts down on each foot for a few sets, then 2 up 2 down, then quick releve up and slow 4 count down. I try to get in 100-120 everynight that I don't have ballet class. I have found this single exercise has made an enormous difference in my calf and ankle strength and endurance, and very quickly too.

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Andrew, cheers for that. I guess like a lot of things in life, it's the sort of thing you need to be patient and really work at before you see any results.

 

Silkmaiden, thanks once again. The exercise in question is similar to one I used when I had an achilles niggle a couple of years ago (which stopped me going back to classes at the time). However, the physio's advice was just to do 2 or 3 sets of 10-12, so nothing like the number of reps you suggest. Thing is, my goals now are a little bit different (working on my conditioning to help me at ballet), so I'll be doing those exercises and hopefully build up to the number of reps that you suggest.

Edited by Older Ballet Boy
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