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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pushing heels forward in plie (Vaganova)


TipToes

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Hi! My 9-year old DD is at a Vagnova inspired school with Vaganova trained AD, who through the school as a child then choreo and teacher training over there as well, and an international faculty. The AD brought in a new Vaganova trained teacher specifically for my DD's level during this "very important year" where they go from both hands on the barre to one hand.

 

At any rate, their previous teacher (not Vaganova trained though uses the slow and steady curriculum from the AD) never really pushed turnout. She just let the girls turn out to where they were comfortable and reminded them to turnout when they forgot. From what my DD is telling me the new teacher is expecting a full 180 turnout in first and second and a closed fifth. She tells the girls it is like that from day one where she learned ballet, which is likely true, but from what I understand the girls are carefully screened to make sure that is safe over there. I'm hoping that she is just encouraging them to get as close to 180 as they can safely, not wanting them to force turnout to get there, but since I can't see class I'm not sure.

 

On the plus side, the teacher did explain to my DD which muscles to use for turnout and that has dramatically helped her, but on the down side my DD, who usually loves to dance, is coming home very sad after class. Yesterday she broke down in tears telling me that the teacher wants them to push their heels in front of their toes (so past 180) when doing grande plies and to come back down to their best turnout. This is causing three issues. First, when DD is getting close to 180, I can tell she is sacrificing placement somewhat to get there, as she looks off balance, her arches are starting to roll in, and her bottom sticks out a bit. The second issue is that DD gets a stretching pain in her arches when pushing the heels forward of her toes in grande plies. She's too shy to tell the teacher about the pain, and I have no idea what to tell DD other than to talk to your teacher. And the third is that DD feels bad not being able to apply the correction the teacher wants because it hurts her feet, but she's sure the teacher is mad at her and thinks she's not trying -- though knowing my sensitive DD, it is likely more frustration on her end than the teacher's.

 

As a parent who knows next to nothing about dance, what should I do? Are there exercises she could do to help strengthen her feet? Is it even a strength thing? She has high arches/in steps and very flexible feet that are supposed to be good, but weak from the reading I've done here. Her knees are over her toes when she does plie which her old ballet teacher emphasized, so I'm guessing that is good, but from what DD understands the teacher wants the heels in front of the toes when they come off the ground. She's that sound right? Should I talk to the teacher to tell her that I'm not sure DD is understanding what she is asking and that what DD is doing hurts her feet. Should I talk to the AD? Should I wait until we get a chance to observe class in November? I've been encouraging DD to speak up, but I don't think she's going to be able to do that.

 

Thanks for any advice.

Edited by TipToes
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As this is an important technique question, I think it might be best to wait to hear from our Teacher-Moderators.

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I would actually like to wait for our Vaganova expert to address this issue. I believe she is traveling home today but not sure when she will get there. My guess is that there is a possible misunderstanding by this 9 year old in terms of how far to go, and also that her heels may be lifting too high at the bottom of the plié, which could cause the strain in the muscles under the arch of the foot. Different teachers often say things differently, and misunderstandings are not too unusual, especially at that age. :)

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It is never correct to turn the heels more forward than 180 degrees, at any age, at anytime in any method or style of teaching. Vaganova schooling specifies the goals of the placement of the feet on the floor and rotation of the legs in the hip socket. If one does not place the feet correctly on the floor, nothing else will be correct. One must not roll in. The weight must be placed equally through out the whole foot

 

Since you daughter is only 9 and Vaganova Academy begins with 1st year work at age 10, two hands facing the barre and then slowly progressing to one hand on the barre, I suggest you ask questions to figure out where the misunderstanding is.

 

Since I have little to no idea of the vocabulary your daughter is learning (except grand plié), I am picturing what I know to be 9 year old work in Vaganova Academy. How many days a week does your daughter study ballet?

 

The 10 year olds who are accepted into Vaganova Academy already know how to stand on their feet, hold their bodies and arms beautifully and most of the basics of classical ballet. They learn these elements beginning with floor work exercises to strengthen the legs and body as well as flexibility exercises in their pre-ballet classes beginning at approximately age 7. They are not doing grand plié at age 9. Rather they learn to stand well in the centre with less rotated feet/upper leg and at the barre, two hands, facing the barre with the legs rotated more fully. Grand plié is taught at the end of the 1st semester of Level 1. The students are approximately 10 1/2.

 

I suggest you ask for a meeting to voice your concerns as it seems your daughter is experiencing pain in her feet.

 

I also suggest you watch a few YouTube links of pre-ballet and 1st year work at Vaganova Academy. What you will see are examinations. Remember you are watching children working so very hard to do their best. There are mistakes, including young students rolling in on their feet as one will find in all of the most reknown schools.For the most part, you will see the basics of Vaganova schooling at its best.

 

Enjoy and wishing your daughter a bright future.

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Thank you both so much! This is definitely not Vaganova. Nor is it trying to be a US version, it's only "inspired" by that style of ballet. I'm sorry for any confusion. They do work on the floor. The class is just moving from two hands to one hand on the bar. The age range in this class is 9-11 years old. I'm glad to hear it's just a misunderstanding by a young, inexperienced dancer. I will encourage her to speak up to get a clarification or set up a meeting with the teacher myself if she just isn't ready to do it on her own yet. I just don't know enough to know if this was expected or misunderstood. I'm so glad to have found this place. Thank you again for your time and dedication to helping educated parents and young dancers!

Edited by TipToes
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Hi! My 9-year old DD is at a Vagnova inspired school with Vaganova trained AD, who through the school as a child then choreo and teacher training over there as well, and an international faculty. The AD brought in a new Vaganova trained teacher specifically for my DD's level during this "very important year" where they go from both hands on the barre to one hand.

 

 

TipToes, I have a problem understanding a "Vaganova inspired school". The AD is a trained Vaganova teacher, the new teacher is Vaganova trained. What are they teaching?

 

Vrs said "It is never correct to turn the heels more forward than 180 degrees, at any age, at anytime in any method or style of teaching." That says it all, IMO.

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Someone being Vaganova trained is a bit ambiguous actually. There are those trained as students, to be dancers and those who train after a career to be teachers. There actually is a big difference. This is the case in teaching in general. Dancers who later train to be teachers of any method are more prepared to teach than those who teach only what they think they remember or what they have picked up along the way.

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