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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Update on dd and her hips


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So as some of you may know, dd (just turned 12) wasn't advanced to the next class this year because of turnout and placement issues. She was complaining about her hips again (she has been plagued by snapping hips for some time) so I took her to her physician to get a referral to physical therapy, we had X-rays done when all this started to make sure there was nothing skeletal going on.


The PT appointment was rather eye opening..! Apparently, dd has successfully hidden something quite serious. The PT told us it looks as if she has done things wrong for quite some time, one hip has been compensating for something going on with the other and has resulted in one hip having extremely limited outward rotation . Her hips feel even bonewise which is good, but she has apparently really messed herself up and been able to disguise this well in the studio. The PT also told us dd is extremely tight, which is funny because she has always been one of the most flexible dancers... We were given exercises to stretch first and then strengthen the specific area she needs to work on, and hopefully, with lots of hard work from her and lots of nagging from me about doing said work, it can be fixed over time. Hopefully. The PT seems to be slightly at a loss but she's the best local choice and dd says she does feel some improvement. To top it off, dd has grown almost 5" since December which is HUGE for her, she normally grows about an inch a year. She is still petite at 4'10 1/2" but I'm sure this growth spurt isn't making things easier on her right now, physically.


Obviously not looking for any medical advice but if anyone has ever encountered something similar with their dk, I'd sure love to hear how it turned out (no pun intended!). As it looks right now, dd has normal range of rotation in the right hip, normal to high inward rotation in the left hip and only about 15 degree outward rotation, which is a huge problem. Hips seem even structure wise, this seems to be muscles and ligaments who have over the past year or so tightened up. She had a fairly serious injury about 18mo ago (severely sprained hip flexor) which I am sure is at the bottom of all this. She took it easy and didn't go back to full class for several months but I'm sure she could have started compensating for some residual pain while healing....


I know it's only the start of the school year and hopefully it will improve, but she is not feeling challenged at all in her new class and still desperately wants to move back up with her peers. One thing at a time, if she physically cannot do what is required then clearly we need to address that first, but she is feeling very discouraged and goes from wanting to work super hard and improve, to wanting to give it all up thinking she has no talent and will never amount to anything because of this new (hopefully temporary) physical limitation.... This won't be an easy year, for sure, and assuming she makes it through and continues dance it will be a good year for her training in hindsight but it sure isn't easy right now..!


Thanks for reading!

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Is there any possibility of finding a PT who specializes in working with dancers? We were lucky enough to find one nearby, but it would definitely have been worth a trip to see her. She was able to hone in quickly on what was going on and focus on strengthening her dancing muscles (in our case, her turnout muscles and the stabilizing muscles in her feet/ankles). She even has dd wear her flat and pointe shoes during appointments and they work on how she is using her body while dancing.


We have seen her bi-weekly, so it hasn't required a ton of appointments.


Good luck!

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She needs to slow down her training- greatly. By that, I don't mean the number of classes, necessarily, but the content. She is obviously doing vocabulary that is beyond her muscular ability to control. If she wants to dance professionally, or even, walk correctly as an adult without pain and early onset arthritis, she needs to follow the PT advice to a "T", and take lower level classes until her strength catches up to her flexibility.

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Thanks ladies! This PT is recommended by the studio and finding a specialist would entail a 4hr drive one way, so not feasible.

It seems as if the PT has good knowledge about what dd needs, she just seems a little perplexed about how this happened in the first place. We have gone once/wk and are now going every 2wks to give dd a chance to really work on the exercises in between.

We are definitely following what the PT is prescribing and have shared all this with the AD/head teacher. Dd is taking this level of ballet for the second year and (in her words) it is not challenging because it's all things she knows already. I tell her it's perfectly fine and she can make it more challenging by paying attention to the details and make sure she works hard and "perfects" things if she is not learning anything new. *I* definitely see it as a good thing for her to be "held back" to work on what she needs to work on, I don't want her forging ahead and getting injured, nor does her teacher. Dd also takes a beginner class 1hr/wk to really get down to the basics and fine tune.

I think the hardest part for her is that she is has great musicality, picks up moves and choreography easily and is very strong, but her body is preventing her from doing what she in her mind can do. It feels like holding a race horse down and making him trot, lol! She just wants to dance.


I think in a way I'm both glad and devastated that there was an actual physical reason for her not being able to execute certain corrections.... Glad because we have an answer, it's not just dd not "getting " it, and devastated because it's a set back and something else she will need to work on and fix before she can go on to more complicated dancing. And of course I don't want her to be injured or risk future pain because of this! If, in the end, it comes down to a physical reason for her to actually have to quit dance it will be heartbreaking but if the choice ever becomes dance now=physical handicaps later in life of course dance is gone, in a heartbeat. But we have hope that this is correctable!

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Hi Nikkismama! I am wondering if you have a rhythmic gymnastics studio in your area. They need flexible kids, it does not matter so much if the child is tall, and they don't require turnout. Also, because it's a new activity, your daughter would by necessity start at the bottom, advance quickly since she has skills from a related activity, feel good about herself etc. Otherwise, I would just try to start thinking hard about some alternative activity, such as musical theater or something. If it were my kid, I would not be working so hard trying to get those hips to turn out. She'll need them for other things later in life - having babies, carrying groceries, hiking, etc. If this approach does not resonate with you and her, please ignore it - everyone's path in life is different, and only fundamentally know the answer. Best wishes!

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Hi Nikkismama.


Like you, I think it's really encouraging that there is nothing wrong with the bony structure of her hips. You seemed to imply this, but my guess is the toughest part of this is going to be you enforcing the PT exercises. I've had to do something like this with one of my kids, and the daily grind of it can be exhausting. You're really going to find out whether your DD wants this or not!


Can you afford pilates or gyrotonic, even a group class? Having her work on this a couple of times a week with someone else might take the strain off the family. My guess is that gyrotonic would be especially helpful in the situation, but I'm far from an expert, so maybe you should ask your PT about it.


Good luck and keep us posted about how it's going!

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Rhythmic is a very demanding sport on the hip joints and any problems with rotation in ballet will be magnified 100 times in rhythmic. Unless it is very recreationally, I would advise to stay away from rhythmic.


My DD did rg for 5 years and left due to physical impairment with her hip rotation. Her leg flexibility is (more than) fine and rotation adequate for ballet, but continuing rg would mean potential injuries so she quit.


Rhythmic is also very, very hung up on tall- much more so than ballet in my experience.

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Thanks all! Unfortunately her love has always been ballet (from before she was old enough to take creative movement classes..!). Now that she has danced since she was 3, she still loves ballet but her absolute favorite is contemporary ballet in which she feels less impaired by her (less than stellar) turnout. My other daughter does competitive (artistic, no rhythmic around) gymnastics and several coaches has expressed interest in training the dancer... but she wants nothing to do with it. She just wants to dance.


We did have an appointment with the PT today, and my dd said she has felt like it has improved slightly and her PT agrees. Long way to go, but we are happy to see any small movement in the right direction. She said since dd started her exercises she estimates about a 5-10degree improvement in the troublesome hip and considering it has been less than a month, I feel positive about that change! Dd got a few more strengthening exercises to do in addition to the stretching so she will be busy.


I will definitely check into Pilates, the last week or two dd has been much better about doing the work after the PT kinda laid it on her with the "nobody can make this better but you" speech which worked so much better than coming from me, lol!


She will never be tall, unless she continues this growth spurt for a long time or has several more drastic ones like this. It's so hard to guesstimate, but taking into account her build throughout her life so far (always petite and at times below the charts) and her genetics, she will probably end up somewhere in the 5'3"-5'5" area. Not too bad for a dancer, awful if she loved basketball, lol!


Thanks again for reading, sharing experiences and offering suggestions!!

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  • 1 year later...

Nikkismamma, My dd has a similar external rotation limitation. We have tried two PTs with no dance knowledge and no useful advice. Did the PT work your dd use result in significant improvement? (If you care to share.). And would you mind sharing what muscles were targeted for the stretches/strengthening? I hope to compile some exercises for dd and also plan to schedule some Pilates reformer lessons. Any information would be appreciated! Thanks!

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Harbor dancer, the PT was successful. While my DD may never have 180degree rotation, she is basically even now and her rotation, turnout and placement have all improved since this was written. In the past 2 yrs she has also grown 9" which certainly didn't help matters any, but all in all the PT exercises combined with a new teacher who has given her better corrections and suggestions on how to actually deal with the problem and learning to work her body to her best advantage have helped tremendously. DD doesn't do the exercises anymore, which I feel she should as they are good for general stretching and strengthening of the muscles controlling the turnout. :) Her PT was able to give her several exercises ranging from modified frog to clamshells to subtle rotations using therabands. I thought I had them all somewhere but when I went looking for them for a student of mine (I coach gymnastics) who struggles with turnout, I couldn't find them. I'm currently out of town but once I get home I would be happy to message you the ones I remember correctly.

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I am so happy for your dd! Thank you for posting about this situation. It has given us some hope. :) Thank you, a message would be greatly appreciated.

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