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Swayback legs

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My dd age 9 has swayback legs.

Her Associate teacher has said she allows her a small gap between her heels in first position up to an inch. When she puts her heels together she is slightly off balance and one knee crosses over the other knee.

Her regular dance teacher said she must put her heels together.

Has anyone else had experience of this and which way is best? She is doing one thing in one class and a different thing in the other class at the moment.

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I have sway backs and at school (Ballet full time) they tell me to stand with a small gap between my heels. Otherwise I’m technically standing on bent legs which causes issues with stability etc. Hope this helps, feel free to pm me with any other questions if you have them x

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Bless you, you have a burden (but a good one!) blessing and a burden. Burden in that you need to control your sway backs, blessing in they will give you  great lines. 

I am 54 and was made to put my heels together... not right for sway backs , you need that gap at the heels in addition to other advice (which I can not give) 

good luck!! 

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On this one I think it really depends on who you ask and also the degree of hyperextension, age of the student, level of experience. For example, there is a 10 year old at my studio (grade 4 RAD) with extremely hyperextended knees, and my teacher has instructed her to stand with an inch between her heels and given her exercises for the inner thigh muscles. The eventual goal for this student is to build up the strength in her VMO and external rotators so that she can stand with her heels touching without having that bent, overlapping knee look. It's only while she lacks strength that she is permitted to keep her heels apart. It may be that one teacher recognises your DDs age and perhaps a lack of strength to activate the muscles she needs to stand correctly with the heels touching?

 

I am a late starter (24yo) with a horrific amount of hyperextension (about 7 inches or 18cm between my heels with my knees still touching!) and my teacher has continuously assessed my strength to stand with my heels together. She says by my level (advanced foundation) she expects her students to be strong enough to have their heels touching and their legs straight. For the hypermobile dancer it seems impossible to have their legs 'straight' and their heels touch but it really is possible. One exercise I found helpful was to sit on the floor with my legs in front of me. When I first started I would straighten my legs fully and watch my heels pop off the floor. I then had to learn how to straighten my legs without letting my heels come up by 'pulling up my kneecaps' or activating the VMO. Once I could do that with control, I moved to doing the same action in the mirror standing in parallel, and then in turn out. Now I keep my heels together in flat shoes but keep an inch of space in my pointe shoes, because I lose a little bit of control of my rotation en pointe. This is something we're still working on.

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1 hour ago, Viv said:

On this one I think it really depends on who you ask and also the degree of hyperextension, age of the student, level of experience. For example, there is a 10 year old at my studio (grade 4 RAD) with extremely hyperextended knees, and my teacher has instructed her to stand with an inch between her heels and given her exercises for the inner thigh muscles. The eventual goal for this student is to build up the strength in her VMO and external rotators so that she can stand with her heels touching without having that bent, overlapping knee look. It's only while she lacks strength that she is permitted to keep her heels apart. It may be that one teacher recognises your DDs age and perhaps a lack of strength to activate the muscles she needs to stand correctly with the heels touching?

 

I am a late starter (24yo) with a horrific amount of hyperextension (about 7 inches or 18cm between my heels with my knees still touching!) and my teacher has continuously assessed my strength to stand with my heels together. She says by my level (advanced foundation) she expects her students to be strong enough to have their heels touching and their legs straight. For the hypermobile dancer it seems impossible to have their legs 'straight' and their heels touch but it really is possible. One exercise I found helpful was to sit on the floor with my legs in front of me. When I first started I would straighten my legs fully and watch my heels pop off the floor. I then had to learn how to straighten my legs without letting my heels come up by 'pulling up my kneecaps' or activating the VMO. Once I could do that with control, I moved to doing the same action in the mirror standing in parallel, and then in turn out. Now I keep my heels together in flat shoes but keep an inch of space in my pointe shoes, because I lose a little bit of control of my rotation en pointe. This is something we're still working on.

What does VMO mean?

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18 minutes ago, Lisa O`Brien said:

What does VMO mean?

 

Vastus medialis obliquus - it's the tear-shaped muscle just above the inside of your knee.

 

Very clear in this image.

image.png

Edited by Viv
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Viv’s advice is the same as our teacher gives us - whole family are hyperextended to a greater or lesser degree - and I think reflects current best practice.

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I was thinking about this thread tonight so took the opportunity to ask the main ballet teacher at DD’s dance school (we don’t usually see her as she teaches higher grades only). 

 

My DD has swaybacks and she looked at her legs and immediately said to leave a gap - and that over time she would get stronger and be able to bring her heels together. 

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The other thing that I've seen teachers discuss with students with hyperextended knees is that they need to learn a different way of thinking about legs being straight. I have normal knees, and when I pull up my knee caps, the whole leg straightens. But with hyperextension, you have to avoid locking the kneecaps, and get used to feeling that your leg is slightly bent. It's about thinking about the line through from the ankle to the knee and the femur. Our teacher showed us this on a fellow adult student, as a way of teaching us about learning about our own personal approach to alignment of our skeletons.

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I have spoken to my dd teacher again about this and she said absolutely no gap between heels.

She said she will call the other teacher to discuss it as she shouldn't be doing it in the other class 🙄

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I must say that the gap-between-the-heels approach seems counterintuitive to me: I’ve managed to injure myself a couple of times by (stupidly, tiredly) loading a hyperextended leg on landing, putting too much load on the front of the knee. Training dancers to do that rather than accepting some excessive bend in the leg until they’re strong enough and develop their proprioception sufficiently to hold the leg straight seems like asking for trouble.

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For what it's worth (if anything!) I teach students to put their heels together in 1st. Dealing with swaybacks is a lot more complicated than just having bent or straight knees. Weight placement is affected, and having a gap between the heels encourages dancers to have their weight back, not only in their heels but potentially behind their heels. Personally I teach dancers to have their weight towards the ball of the foot - dancers who do this find it physically impossible to 'lock back' or 'sit' in their swaybacks so it doesn't really even need mentioning. The teaching cues I use, especially with younger students, are more about weight placement. 

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I think it can be useful to leave a small gap, particularly if one knee is overlapping the other.  The gap between the heels should be the minimum possible to allow the knees to be correct.

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I’ve spent the last year moving  my weight placement forward in ballet and martial arts. It’s fun after a lifetime of letting it fall too far back.

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7 hours ago, drdance said:

Dealing with swaybacks is a lot more complicated than just having bent or straight knees

 

Of course. I didn't mean that there should be a bent knee - just that for someone with hyperextended knees,  correct alignment may at first feel as if the knee is slightly bent, so it's about getting used to a different way of feeling "straight" legs.

 

As I say, I'm not hyperextended, although I can push my knees back as if I am, and if I do that, I can feel that "locking" sensation, and it pushes my weight back in a way that distorts my alignment. 

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