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ArletteGriselle

Turnout and arch

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ArletteGriselle

Hi. I've been dancing ballet since 4 but stricktly only since 13 years old (as in with a ballet studio that teaches proper ballet training). I am now 17 years old and i struggle with certain things. One of them is my turnout and arch. Sometimes i feel that i am straining my knee trying to get a perfect turnout but then when i leave my natural turnout i am not pleased, so I want to know what exercises I can do to get the best turnout. The same goes with my arch. When i have a ballet friend pull down on my arch, my toes do touch the floor while keeping my leg completely straight and then my teacher asks me why i dont use that arch when dancing. So i want to know how i can build strength to have the good arch i potentially show while dancing.

Thank you :)

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Victoria Leigh

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, ArletteGriselle.

It's good that you are studying at a good ballet studio. Since you have been there quite a while now, I think that the best one to talk to would be your teacher.Teachers should be able to help you more than we can, because they can see you.  Has your teacher insisted on "perfect turnout", or is that what you think is essential?  Has the teacher, when noticing your arch when stretching it ever offered to tell you HOW to use your that will help them look better?  The reason I ask is that you are old enough and have enough training to understand that everyone has different physical abilities, and that you must work towards the best usage of those abilities. It is the teacher's job to help you do that.  We can't see you, therefore, we can't know your physical ability or limitations.  

Rotation cannot be forced, at least not safely.  Learning how to work on it intelligently, and diligently needs to be taught in the classroom.  Besides certain stretches, barre exercises, when executed with purpose and knowledge, are designed to improve rotation, and of course development and correct usage of the feet.  It sounds to me as if you might not yet quite understand the hows and whys of all of the exercises. But if you do, then those exercises will help you.  Maybe adding a lower level class to your schedule could help you to learn how to really work on these things. Or, maybe some  private lessons would be helpful. There is always room for improvement, but do keep in mind that your body has it's own limitations in terms of how much improvement.  Usually, with knowledge and tenacity, there can be quite a bit of change. Very few dancers have everything naturally. There are certainly some, but also many who have worked harder for it. :)

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EnPointe38

Hi there ArletteGriselle!

As Miss Leigh said, exercises will help a ton if you understand them! I have started to really work with and on my turnout. Before doing anything, in my first and second year of ballet, when I stood in sixth and opened to first, I had quite literally only 90° of range. It was terrible and I felt terrible about it. But then, I came across some really wonderful resources. One of them is the Tricks for Turnout book [ . . . . . ]. Because I had done gymnastics for 5 years before transitioning to ballet, the muscles in my hips and glutes were really bulky and restricted my range. The Tricks for Turnout book has several tennis ball release exercises that you can perform to loosen up tight muscles in the hips. After doing the releases for only a few days, I had instantly gained 70° of range! Since then, I’ve gained even more rotation. 

But then, I had to develop the strength to use it. I visited a dance physical therapist for a few problems, and I also spoke to her about my turnout frustration. She gave me some exercises, as well as clarifying the right muscles to use, and I am noticing improvement. It felt like there was something blocking me from turning out in the back of the hip. But now, I can feel that I am able to work past it. The physical therapist as well as book and online resources had some nice evaluations I could perform on my hips to see if it was a structural restriction, or a muscular thing. (For example, lying on your back with your legs straight, then raising one leg straight, bending it to form a 90° angle, then having a partner rotate it.) This can further aid you in figuring out where you could ideally be; a goal to work toward.

There are many amazing and free videos, websites, and books at the library that have suggestions for exercises. It’s well worth doing a little research. :D 

In class, just maintaining an active awareness of turning out from the hip will help! It’s a slow and frustrating process at first, but you will improve! I have heard from many sources that the alternative, forcing the turnout, can result in bad knee, hip, and back problems. I know from ongoing experience that it’s hard to look in the mirror and see many people with beautiful turnout, and yourself not so much. But don’t compare yourself to others. Just focus on doing the correct thing for your body. Do you and don’t get discouraged. The most beautiful turnout I have ever seen someone exhibit was not from a dancer with 180°. It was from a dancer who controlled what she had in every combination! 

Edited by dancemaven
Removed blog link per BT4D Rules & Policies.

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Victoria Leigh

I must add here that I am very wary of trying to learn physical exercises from books and videos. Also I don't like the idea of having a "partner" do the stretching. A Physical Therapist or a Teacher is one thing, but a partner is not likely to have the knowledge to safely do the work of a  PT or Teacher.

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EnPointe38

It is important to note that all exercises and/or stretches are not created equal! Even “traditional” turnout stretches that everyone does have recently been proven to be detrimental rather than beneficial. For example, the frog stretch with the feet touching. In my studies I had read an article by a physical therapist cautioning against this stretch, saying it caused damage in the hips. But I ended up adding the stretch to my routine anyway— after all, everyone does it, so it can’t be all that bad, right? Well, after a week or so of doing this stretch with pressure (because without force, I wasn’t feeling anything), my hips began popping oddly. Needless to say I stopped that one right away! That taught me a lesson: to never assume just because a stretch is conventional, it is good. I had gymnastics coaches give me stretches that I later found out through professional PTs’ articles on the Internet were the cause of my destabilized ankles. 

If a stretch or exercise does not feel natural, or is not working the area it should, watch out: this is probably not be a good one for you personally. I have had that happen to me with both traditional stretches and an exercise my PT had me try. No body is exactly alike. 

That said, the other stretches and exercises are like tools you can add to your toolbox. Especially if you can’t see a PT, it is extremely helpful to have professional advice from resources in literature and online! Especially in this day and age where so much is known about the human body and the best ways to handle it, combined with the easiness of Internet posting and searching.

I highly recommend that you, in real life and online, only use stretches advised by professionals (e.g. physical therapists and teachers). Wonderfully, there are many prolific dance physical therapists and teachers who have taken to the Internet.  Of course there is false information, as there is everywhere, but it is relatively easy to tell if a source is legitimate or not. Doing your own research does come with risks, and may not be for everyone, but for me personally, I have found it super helpful. 

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