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Ballet Talk for Dancers
twotinydancers

square hips and grand jetes

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twotinydancers

I have an 8 year old daughter who struggles with maintaining square hips during leaps. She is able to keep her hips square with her front splits while on the floor, although that took quite a bit of time as she had developed the bad habit of twisting her hips when stretching her front splits.  She also has anterior pelvic tilt. She has done some PT to help increase her hip flexor and extensor strength. Does this sound like ingrained muscle memory that needs to be re-taught since she was doing her splits not square for so long? What my untrained eye sees when she leaps is that when her front leg comes off the floor, she simultaneous rotates the left hip toward midline as well as her torso and left shoulder. It's almost as she ends up in the air as a combination of a front split and middle split, if that makes sense.  Thoughts?

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Victoria Leigh

Twotinydancers, please let me say first, as a teacher, that I do not expect 8 year olds to have great grand jetés!  They should just be learning basic technique that trains the body to create the lines necessary for the vocabulary of ballet. This would include learning a tendu to the back, with correct alignment and use of rotation. This will later become arabesque, which is essential to creating a grand jeté. Look at her "front splits", for example: if her back leg is inwardly rotated in order to keep her "hips square", then that position is not going to transfer to a rotated arabesque position, which will certainly not transfer to a grand jeté!  Correct muscle  memory will come from correct training, and keeping the hips perfectly square in arabesque with the leg outwardly rotated is almost totally impossible. The shoulders should remain square, but not the hips for back extensions. They are square for front and side, but slightly open for back. They have to learn how to open, as slightly as possible depending on their rotational ability at a given time, and to do that without "lifting the hip".  So, short answer is that I believe that the idea of perfectly squared hips for arabesque is very, very old school. Watch professional dancers. Look at their line in arabesques and in the air when jumping. Note the line made by the back leg. (Also, if you go back and look at photos from the days of Anna Pavlova, you will see the lack of rotation in those days, especially in arabesque. She was obviously an exquisite dancer, however, that was the early 20th Century, and technique was very different then.)

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twotinydancers

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.  I think I understand what you mean about in the back the hip being slightly open. Her back leg is outwardly rotated when she does her "front splits." The problem that I am seeing is the hip of her front leg comes up and inward and the front leg also turns inward as she brings that front leg up.   Does that make sense? Forgive my lack of proper ballet terminology. I am learning! 

Also, for background information for you, my daughter is dually enrolled at both a ballet school and a competition studio. It's one of those things that happens when your daughter is 4 and says to you, "mommy, I wanna dance." So, you enroll her in the local dance school that takes 4 year olds. Then is snowballed into being on their competition team. The past year or so, as I've been learning more about ballet and also the "competition circuit," I am gently trying to nudge my children towards the local ballet school and out of the competition world.  Unfortunately, we live in an area where options are very limited. However, we plan a move within the next year which happens to be in a larger metro area with more options. Ultimately, they will decide what fits them and to what extent they want to continue. However, my concern is trying to prevent poor training from causing incorrectly-learned muscle memory that will be more challenging to "undo." Our ballet school, by no means, expects her to have a decent grand jete at her age. Unfortunately, she has one put in one of her competition routines. Not my choice, but I will respect the choice of her current teachers. So, my hope is to not have her learn too many bad habits before she receives different (good) traning and also, maybe, for her routine to not look ridiculous. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like the teachers at the competition school are giving her the corrections needed. Or maybe they are and my daughter doesn't understand them. The teachers at the ballet school, I feel, are teaching her good technique, but they appropriately are not focused on her having a good grand jete at this point. I really don't want to intervene, because I have no dance training, but it's a little hard for me to watch her be given a skill to perform that she is not ready for and be frustrated. 

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