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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Unequal leg length


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Hello! I'm new to this forum!

Straight to the point, I'm 22 years old and I want to take ballet classes. I've taken classes before for some months, when I was in high school, but it was hard for me to keep up because I have had partial spinal fusion (up to the 4th lumbar vertebra, I think) due to a car accident. This causes my lower back to not bend at all. Moreover, my lower spine, at the level of the fusion, is stuck in a crooked position (read: scoliosis that can't get fixed :P). The scoliosis causes my right leg to be an inch shorter than my left, so I modify my everyday shoes. If I'm wearing a shoe with a higher sole on the right, my back gets totally straight. But when I try dancing, especially ballet, with ballet shoes, the difference makes it so frustrating... I can't even stand in the 1st position without my upper body going completely off balance. I wanted to ask if any of you have this issue and if you use some kind of custom shoes.

Thank you very much! :clover:


Edit: Actually, I have an idea: Do you think it's a good idea to get teaching shoes (those with the little heel) and just add some hight to the heel, like I do with my normal shoes?

Edited by Elf
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Update on this, since someone might be interested.

Today I went to a local dance school that is starting an adult beginners' class, and spoke to the teacher. She told me I should get jazz shoes and modify the right one by adding a small heel. Also that I shouldn't dance with the "normal" ballet shoes, since I'll be out of balance and I might do some damage to my back or just hurt. I can confirm that, whenever I wear unmodified shoes, besides having a slight limp, I end up with back pain on my left side. I'm so excited about taking up dance again!

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I'm so glad you found a knowledgable teacher and what seems like a solution.  It makes me happy when people with disabilities or other physical issues find adaptations that allow them to dance.

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It's great you've started classes again! And found a teacher who can help, and is knowledgeable.

But be reassured that most people have asymmetrical bodies, and have one leg longer than the other, or one foot slightly larger than the other. Usually, the differences are not of the order of 2-3cm, or more than a half size in shoes. Your asymmetry is caused by an injury, and so it's much more noticeable - probably because you haven't lived with it & adjusted to it over your whole lifetime. Gradually, with careful slow training, you will develop the muscle tone and muscle memory (proprioception) to start to counter the more-than-usual asymmetry.

It sounds like you've found the right teacher for that - congratulations! Have a wonderful time in class.

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I also have one leg longer by about 1/4".  I've been taking ballet for the past 6 years or so along with other dance genres and it has caused some hip problems.  I was also told to use an insert in the ballet shoe of my shorter leg so I think that is a great place to start!  

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Yes, 2,5cm doesn't sound like much but I think it looks worse because my pelvis and spine up to a point are fused together so my whole upper body gets out of line, if this makes sense. :P I have lived half my life with it so it's not very noticable when I'm walking (well, it gets a bit when I'm tired), but ballet positions don't allow me to "cheat" the way I usually do.

Thank you! :D

And thanks everyone for the replies. :)

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Oh I think 2.5cm is quite a lot! Most people have less than 0.5cm - not so much that they notice. It's great that you manage it - and let's hope that ballet training helps to strengthen and tone the muscles that help your alignment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My left leg is also 2,5 cm higher than the the right one. Together with my spine that is an inverted C shape, it doesn't make my body ideal for dancing. But I've found a great teacher who works with "difficult" bodies (slipped discs, knees that cannot straighten, very reduced flexibility etc) and her students have very high success rates in entering (and finishing) the Greek State School of Dance, the Greek National Ballet School and other private dance schools so the least I can say to you is to trust your teacher and gradually remove the extra help of the heel: your body will be able to handle a correct alignment by then.

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I also have a diagnosed leg length discrepancy, and was advised to wear a lift in my ballet shoes.  I had my podiatrist fashion one out of a very firm foam pad which I sit under my heel and it is great as it has a bit of 'give' when I move and jump. If you have a practitioner you could work with it could be an option to try and customise something for your ballet shoes if you didn't want to wear a jazz shoe, but there's nothing wrong with a jazz shoe if you're happy with that.  I agree you should try and have something as over time without a lift you will develop some odd technical habits as you've already spotted yourself in your upper body - and you'll probably also find one side of your body gets overused or overly tight trying to 'pull' yourself back into alignment all the time.  Best to take professional advice about how high you need to go as it may not be the whole amount you need to lift/even out - going too far can have bad effects too. Best of luck!

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  • 1 month later...

Miss Persistent, It's fine but I think my shoemaker could put a small heel on a ballet flat as well. I don't mind the jazz shoes but I like the style of ballet shoes too, aesthetically. :sleep:

Hmm I can't "even out" completely, I've noticed. Even with the heel, I'd need another... maybe half centimeter to even out, and still it wouldn't be perfect because my pelvis would still be crooked, despite my spine being straight. But I've decided I'll work with this. My first couple of lessons showed me I have plenty of room for improvement before I need to check the details. Thanks! :)


Waiiiit, you're in Greece too? I'm from Kalamata. :sleep:

Maybe you're right, because as I said above, even the heel is not fixing it totally.

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