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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Tendu derrière advice?


lindalw

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Hello all!

 

I'm having a little bit of trouble keeping my hips completely square in tendu derrière (and to be honest with most things that require my leg to be behind me). One piece of advice I've been given is to imagine that you are pushing against/in the opposite direction of the working leg with the hip of the standing leg and this should stop you from twisting outwards. This does sometimes work but I mostly find it just pushes me sideways and I end up looking like I'm leaning precariously/diagonally towards my standing leg. This is probably emphasized by the fact that I have swaybacks and also because I'm trying for dear life to keep my weight over my toes rather than my heels, but nevertheless, I look very diagonal rather than straight (if that makes sense!). I also find that this technique hurts my upper back sometimes because if I'm not careful my torso will twist with my hips so I twist back again to keep my torso square and I think all that twisting in opposite directions is causing the pain. Does anyone have any other advice on how I can keep my hips square? Most of the time when my hips twist when my leg is derriere I don't even notice because it feels like my hips are square to me! Thanks.

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Hi Lindalw, and welcome to BT4D!

 

It sounds like you're trying to achieve what you're teacher has asked but perhaps the imagery has just missed the mark for you. Don't worry - It happens to all of us! Perhaps rather than think about using your upper body to "square off" think about your turnout working equally on both sides to keep you square.

 

If you stand on two feet and your hips are facing the front ('square' for lack of a better term), before you start your tendu feel like both legs are lengthening and rotating equally outwards from your hip sockets - turnuout always needs to work equally on both legs. If you imagine both legs are like corkscrews going downwards and outward as you slide your foot out to the tendu, your stomach muscles stay strong and your spine lengthens upwards - fingers crossed you should be nicely placed! Don't worry about how much your legs are turned out for now, just that they are working equally. Often the supporting leg becomes the poor cousin to the working leg and we 'give' all our turnout to the working leg, neglecting the supporting leg. The uneven use of turnout often results in us 'swinging' on the supporting side to try and appear more turned out on the working leg, but all it does is ruin our alignment. If you work your turnout and placement correctly, the amount you can access and control will generally include over time :)

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Everything said above, but also don't be afraid to allow the working leg hip to open just a bit. In order to get the rotation of the back leg, a tiny bit of opening, meaning not exactly square, may be necessary for some people. It will definitely be necessary in arabesque, and your arabesque line starts with tendu derrière. Trying to keep the hips perfectly square is not going to work when you lift your leg because the gluteus muscle is in the way.. Moving your body weight forward and upward is absolutely essential, but allowing the hip to open is also essential. The upper body remains square, but it is really not possible to keep the lower half square and still have a turned out arabesque. :)

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Oh dear, I feel your pain. Working derriere is my downfall! If I really think and work on it (not always possible in a fast exercise) I can get a decent line, but it's not embedded in my muscle memory in the way it should be after 40 years ...

 

As a student, things I find I have to think about, and tips from my excellent teachers over the years:

 

* pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, Oh and did I say, Pull up?

 

* torso forwards & up. I had this correction from a master teacher (Kat Wildish) in NYC -- she got me to place my torso, from rib cage up, far more forward than I've ever worked. together with pulling up (did I mention that?) it really releases the hips & I was able to use my flexibility to an extent I'd not been able to before. But not forward so much as to look like I'm leaning forwards.

 

* thinking about first my big toe then my little toe leading in tendu derriere. This simplest step is the hardest I find. I don't have great feet, so I have to really work each separate section of them. That's why I love a slow tendu exercise. So derrriere, I don't think too much about my hips ( :blush: ) but concentrate on working the foot, bit by bit. I work on keeping it in contact with the floor for as long as possible, while keeping my hips level and the torso pulled up. And I think even harder when bringing it back in to fifth, than stretching it out from fifth. My current teacher asks us to imagine that there's space in our hips - pulling the torso up & forwards helps me with that.

 

My current teacher also gives us a standard training exercise for arabesque: tendu derrriere, then a small back bend with arm in fifth (first en haut in some systems), putting NO weight on working toe at all. Then slowly, keeping the angle/relationship of foot and head, straighten up out of the backbend. You really get the sensation of stretch across the front of the hips, and space between the ribs and hips, and keeping the hips square. It's now become one of my at home/gym/after class stretches.

 

If I work on it, I can create a nice line derriere, but I just can't get above 45 degrees in arabesque while keeping that nice line! Fine if I'm learning early Romantic ballet repertoire (Giselle, Sylphide). My teacher reassures me that some people are like this, and that my hips are built for extensions devant, where I'm now finding that I have no difficulty for waist height developpés and shoulder height grand battement, all reasonably turned out with (relatively) level hips! But I don't have the same facility derrriere, and never have. I need a magic trick or correction, and it's just never happened yet. Grrr.

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I am with Victoria Leigh here. Allow your hip to open a bit. I prefer my students with slightly open hips but with a fully rotated leg behind. The square hips will come with time. Just make sure that your shoulders are square. For finding the middle of your back, just where your toes should be, make sure that you hold your adductors before you start to tendu derrière and don't let them go. You might try to hold a little paper (or a ballet flat) between your tights and do not drop it, when tenduing backwards. This gives you a sense of where your leg should go.

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I am with Victoria Leigh here. Allow your hip to open a bit. I prefer my students with slightly open hips but with a fully rotated leg behind. The square hips will come with time. Just make sure that your shoulders are square. For finding the middle of your back, just where your toes should be, make sure that you hold your adductors before you start to tendu derrière and don't let them go. You might try to hold a little paper (or a ballet flat) between your tights and do not drop it, when tenduing backwards. This gives you a sense of where your leg should go.

 

I agree with a piece of paper between your thighs :) I make my kids do that a lot. I also agree with Redbookish about the lift through the body that is so essential when working derriere

 

Yes to sqaure shoulders! Though I say to my kids square ribs - as in thinking of the whole ribcage. Personally though, I prefer not to talk about keeping hips 'square' or 'open'. I prefer to focus on using both legs with equal turnout. We all have different facility and I worry that to some people the thought of trying to turn out the working leg derriere to make it look like a 'good' or 'better' line will be at the expense of the supporting leg. I feel that if both legs are working properly then the hips will end up in the right position naturally. I agree as a teacher that it is impossible to keep both hips 180 degrees facing forwards when working en l'air derriere, but I would focus more on turning out the legs from within the hip socket, rather than the where am I positioning my hip so that I can turn my leg out. Perhaps we are just attacking the same thing fro two different directions?

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Oh, I like that one about the rib cage and turning out both legs! I will steal this from you :-)

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* pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, pull up,pull up, Oh and did I say, Pull up?

 

Would it be safe to say that, in all things ballet, it's never wrong to pull up?

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