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Développé help!

Guest tournout

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Guest tournout

I received a correction in class and I was hoping some of the teachers (or anyone who understands my question) could provide me with some much needed assistance.


Last night, my teacher said I incorrectly hold my working leg during a développé en avant or à la seconde because I use my quadriceps too much instead of “from underneath.” What muscles “underneath” am I supposed to use? My hamstrings? How does one do that? I was told that my leg will not go as high or hold turnout as it should because of this.


As an aside, I was also told (on a prior occasion) that I used too much quad when performing grand battements to the front and side. However, that one made sense to me because I can feel the difference when I concentrate on pressing the ball of my foot into the floor and really brushing up (using the dégagé). I felt my leg swing a little freer in the socket and go higher.


But, the développé correction is really bugging me. I just don’t get it. Please help!

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OK, what is apparently happening is that you're grasping the quads in developpé. Not only will this hold your leg down, but it will lead to an overdevelopment of the quad. If there's one thing we don't need, it's to be musclebound!


What you have to do is indeed to use your hamstrings, and engage the lower abdominals and gluteal muscles as well. Some of those "backside muscles" begin about halfway up your back, so you will have to get the back into this operation as well.


You've begun the trip out of this situation by learning to connect with the floor, and feel the energies running up and down the legs and foot, as if they go into the floor. As you have begun to experience greater freedom in grands battements using this method, you are building flexibilty. Strength to do the developpé properly will come with repeated practice.

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This is what I did several years ago in order to identify the proper muscles to use for develope and grande battement...:)


Stand in first position and using your turnout muscles (the ones that wrap from your derriere to your front thighs) tendue to the front. Be sure that you are pressing the foot "into" the ground all the way out to point. Stretch the leg without allowing the hip to move forward - keep them square.


Keeping those turnout muscles engaged (not just the working leg, but also the supporting leg) lift the leg off the floor by stretching even further. Think about lifting "out", not "up". Continue to lift, keeping the turnout muscles engaged. If/once you feel yourself using your quads to lift, lower your leg until you re-engage the turn out muscles. Eventually you will be able to lift higher and higher using the correct muscles. Slowly lower your leg using the same muscles - don't use your quads.


Repeat doing this to a la seconde and with the other leg. When you degage, you use the same inner muscles to move in and out. tendue,degage, develope, grande battement are all extensions of the same muscle groups working in tandem with each other - just on different levels.


Think of your leg as a pendulum on a clock. A pendulum has its momentum taking it always outwards, not up and down. Even if you are only working half a swing, as in grande battements. Energy moves outwards from the core of your body, whether it's legs or arms, or even your head. Keep your core strong (square, engaged) and the energy in your extemities moving outwards - even if you are posed and not moving.

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I’m not a teacher and would never claim expertise with respect to ballet technique, but I feel comfortable in human physiology and know it is absolutely impossible for the hamstring muscles to raise the leg to the front or side. Muscles can only contract, they can’t extend. I’ve heard this correction from many a teacher and think that perhaps it is the imagery of the hamstrings doing the work that produces the correct result. Thinking of the hamstrings as contracting may just result in using the abs to stabilize the pelvis, which I think is really what is needed.

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My guess (bases on anatomy and physiology studies for my MD) that at least three things might be participating to the fact that it must feel like lifting with muscles that don't actually lift the leg do work right. :)


The first is, that engaging the "turnout muscles" takes some workload of the main part of the quads, because once the leg is turned out you can get some help in holding the leg up from muscles in your inner thigh. You still are lifting with the quad, also, or even mainly, but not only with it, and it might indeed feel "not using the quads" at all, as the workload on them is less.


Then there is the engagement of pelvis and abs which was already mentioned, of course.


Also, the human body works in isometrics: when you flex a joint, the force to do so comes from the flexors, but the extending muscles do much of the fine control of the movement. That could also play a role.


Anyone with some actual knowledge in dance physiology who can tell us what's going on? Or can anyone recommend a good book on the subject?

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Gary is right about it being primarily imagery.....however.....the imagery works! There is definitely a huge difference in the efficiency, the amount of energy used, and the freedom, look, and feel of the whole movement when one learns to use the imagery of lifting from underneath. While the quads have to work, the less work they have to do the better. They must be contracted to be straight, but they do not have to PULL the leg up!


This is one of those things that it is very easy for me to show to a student, but trying to explain it this format is not at all easy. They can SEE the difference, and I can get them to FEEL the difference. But it takes my hands, my voice, clear imagery, and a fair amount of patience ;) One of things I use is the image of a ferris wheel, and I use my arm to demonstrate by sort of drawing the movement in the air from the top of it (over their head) down behind them and under the leg and foot, which creates a circular movement (undercircle) and the image of an outside force, or energy which comes from behind and just lifts the leg. After the leg reaches the top and starts downward there is another full circle so that arrive in 5th in a lifted position, with the body resisting upward as the leg lowers. I also use breathing to help with extensions, inhaling just before the movement, exhaling as you start the extension.


In grand battement I use a 3/4 meter, not a march, and each grand battement will use 2 measures. I prefer the leg to go up rather quickly and descend slowly, which works for both flexibility and then control.

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Guest tournout

Though I am not convinced I understand how to fix the problem, I do understand it a little better -- that I am perhaps "clenching" or using my quads too much. I am off to ballet class now and will see if using some of your immagery suggestions help. Thanks.

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The main thing you should avoid is having your quad muscle rock hard when you are in develope. When you are at your full height give them a poke and see if they are solid, or if they give under your finger, on top. If they are rock solid, then you are gripping with them, try to rotate your leg out a bit more and lower it until you could hold your leg there for a long time. When you don't grip with your quads, your leg is able to remain in develope for much longer without fatigue.

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what an informative discussion, about something which is often considered just 'too hard' to try to talk about.


my comment: garyecht is, of course, absolutely right, and jaana heino provides interesting possible explanations (some of which are beyond my anatomical understanding). tournout: annie provides good advice, because garyecht hit the nail on the head when he says

"perhaps it is the imagery of the hamstrings doing the work that produces the correct result"
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  • 3 years later...

I was searching for a topic related to develope and this was what I've found that most closely resembles what I'm looking for.


I'm pretty flexible (especially to the back during portebras, arabesque, etc...). My develope to the front hovers right around 90 degrees. I'm pretty muscular with decent turnout and extension. Hovering at 90 degrees for a short amount of time isn't that problematic, however, I lack the strength to take it higher and/or hold it longer.


I'd like to know if there is any prep and or strengthening exercises that can help me toward the goal of better developes. Or, do I have to just be patient?

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I have been doing releve lent to the front every day, and have been seeing improvement in my front extensions. Releve lent can be depressing (it'll be a low leg for a LONG time), but seems to get results. My extension front is not horrible anymore.


Pied dans la main and letting go has helped me with side extensions. The progress is not very immediate at all, it takes a long time.


The key to not griping quads is having good use of turnout. Turnout on both sides. Almost every problem I encounter in ballet boils down to using turnout better and making sure the hip bones are nice and pulled up so that the turnout is easy and free in the joints.

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I understand releve lent, however, what is pied dans la main. I tried looking that one up in the dictionary and didn't find any help. :yes:

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Since reading this thread some time ago (or a related one), I've been reading up on my anatomy and also experimenting.


As far as I can tell from my anatomy book, one of the major muscles that can lift the thigh bone above about 90 degrees (the rectus femoris - part of the quads), also crosses the knee joint. That means, if you want freedom of use of the lower leg with the leg raised (e.g. developpe), or if you want to raise the leg high with the knee straight (e.g. grand battement, when for instance that muscle will be already shortened, and so will be less effective), you cant use this muscle. The ONLY muscle you can use above about 90 degrees is the iliopsoas. Unlike the rectus femoris, which attaches a long way down the lower limb, the iliopsoas attaches (i.e. its insertion) right near the top of the femur. This arrangement has a few implications:


1. The iliopsoas is not very effective at lifting the leg when the leg is pointing straight down. However, the higher the leg is lifted, the better its mechanical advantage. So you can start a movement (eg grand battement) with the rectus femoris and adductors, but in the second half of the movement, you must use the iliopsoas.


2. Its insertion right near the hip joint means that it makes movements that are fast, but are of low force. This is indeed the feeling with flinging the leg in the air in a grand battement.


3. This means that strengthening the iliopsoas is essential for getting good extension. As is often pointed out, holding and/or raising the leg (with knee straight, so the already-shortened rectus femoris can't do the lifting) is the way to do this.


4. I'm still trying to work out why the subjective sensation of pushing up from below is the one that seems to activate the iliopsoas. I am wondering if in fact, we imagine the sensation is coming from the nearest superficial muscles (eg the gluts) when in fact it is arising deeper. A problem is that the iliopsoas is so deep if it is difficult to localise subjectively, and it is common that we "project" sensations onto the nearest bit of body surface.


5. In fact, since trying all this (and I'm on holidays, with no classes to go to either), and since being more aware of the anatomy, I think I do indeed now relate my subjective sensations to the iliopsoas, and can tell when it is contracting. And lo and behold, my extensions have got higher, faster, and more powerful in a short time.


6. So I wonder, if instead of saying "pushing up from below", training people to identify the sensation of using the iliopsoas mightn't be a better way to go.




PS Pied dans la main is (literally at least) foot in the hand.

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Thank you, Jim!


I've been waiting for someone to mention the iliopsoas. :)


This is what I tell my students, too.

It does take awhile to get the control and strength of this muscle / pair of muscles. (iliacus and psoas)


There are several exercises one can do to increase the strength, but stretching is also very important.

(Sitting tends to allow the iliopsoas to shorten, so the runner's lunge, for example, is helpful. There are several variations of stretches, of course.)


I have found that if a dancer thinks of lengthening their backs while doing gr. battement or developpe devant, it also helps them not to overuse the front of the thigh.

The imagery of lifting from underneath also accomplishes this in many people.

(some people need different images to find the same thing. As several of my students are also medical people, I have to be a bit more precise anatomically :wink: )


It also helps to not "pull" the leg out of its socket, so-to-speak; lengthen, yes; but not to disengage, as this will only disrupt the alignment - though sometimes not even visually so - and make it even harder to lift the leg properly.


For most people, it is easiest to feel the iliopsoas engaging when doing a developpe to a la seconde.



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Jim & Diane,


In my beginning classes, to activate and strengthen the iliopsoas we did exercises where we lift the tigh while keeping the knee relaxed, thus preventing the quadriceps from doing the lifting. Lifting the tigh to over 90 degrees even with knee hanging relaxed is no easy task to the iliopsoas of a beginning student! :wink:


With the final lift we were sometimes asked to hold for a while and then straighten the knee (using an arm to help hold the tigh up if it was otherwise impossible) - and that is when the quads kick in. The difference in feeling when lifting the leg with quadriceps and in using quadriceps just to straighten the knee is instantly obvious.


After doing these exercises for a few months in my beginning classes, I've been afterwards always been able to recognize when I'm lifting with quads and when not. I can't isolate the feeling of iliopsoas exactly, though, it never crossed my mind that it might be useful to do so. I'll have to experiment a bit and see what I find. :)



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