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The In's and Outs of Rond de jambe en l'air


Anjuli_Bai
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I think that of all the different exercises at the barre, rond de jambe en l’air is one of the most complex.  I have seen it taught and executed in so many different ways.  I have read of the shape it creates in the air described as a circle, a pear or an oval. 

 

It can be done as a single or a multiple rotation and thus a circle within an oval.  The working toe can touch either  the knee or  the calf of the supporting leg.  The accent can be either inward – as it passes the knee – or outward, as it passes its furthest extended point.  It can be done at various speeds.  Also, on demi/full pointe or flat, with the body turning or stationary. And, of course, either en dehors or en dedans.

 

I will try to give you my perspective on it. 

 

Since this is a rotation of the knee – it is an exercise that must be done very carefully.  The knee is a major weight bearing joint, but it is a hinge rather than the stronger construction of ball and socket and therefore open to injury and stress.  The rond de jambe en l’air, if not done correctly, can exacerbate or initiate stress to that joint.

 

The primary problem that I have seen, is the propensity of the student to extend the leg straight out to second by snapping the knee.  The timing of the rond de jambe, in my opinion, is not an even count.   It comes inward quickly to touch the standing knee (or calf) but opens out more slowly to the full stretch of the working leg.  This slowing down of the opening motion allows the knee cap to pass smoothly along its track.

 

The knee cap moves with a retarded movement from place to place.  To test this stand on both legs in front of a mirror and pull up strongly on the thigh muscles to tighten the knee caps.  Now as you release the thigh muscles watch in the mirror the extra time it takes for the knee caps to lower.  It is a delayed reaction to the release of the thigh muscle. 

 

The knee cap must be given that time for its natural release.  If the student snaps the leg straight in the rond de jambe, the knee cap will not be allowed the time it needs and stress will result. 

 

It is a basic rule of a correctly executed classical rond de jambe en l’air (rather than the can-can variety) that the lifted thigh may not move.  It cannot rotate and it cannot go up and down.  It must be held steady.  That is where I see another problem.

 

Many times, especially in classes where there is a certain amount of student competitiveness, the student raises the thigh during the full extension to second above 90 degrees, but then must bring the thigh down so that the incoming toe can touch the standing knee and thus violates a basic tenet of the exercise as well as destroying the shape of the rond de jambe - with added stress to the knee. 

 

The benefits of rond de jambe are many.  It tests the steadiness of the alignment and balance.  It offers stamina to the lift of the leg. But, in my opinion, it is also an exercise in isolating different parts of the body and just as importantly, an exercise in timing –  slowly out and quickly in.

 

Your thoughts………….

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Yep agree with all that. I have seen the leg extend higher at the end if the rond de jambe but that's going into the next movement, it wouldn't then lower again for another circle.

 

I have seen students take the circle too far back. The way I was taught (RAD) for en dehors the leg comes straight in and circles forwards, for en dedans it comes in forwards and circles back to the supporting leg and straight out from there. But at no point does the foot go further back than the supporting leg. Not sure if there is a method that allows the circle to go further back but it seems to result in the knee/thigh turning in slightly!

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I agree with Aurora - I also see student wiggling the thigh all over the place to make a big circle, when it should be half a teardrop shape. Personally I don't think there is much chance of the rotation of the knee joint during a rond de jambe en l'air being hugely dangerous. If done correctly the actual rotation is very minimal so it's hardly enough to irritate. Rotation or twisting of the knee joint becomes much more dangerous when weight bearing.

 

I think it's an exercise that is useful for practicing precise movement as well as working to train/maintain stability in the turnout and hips of both standing and gesture leg, especially when done on DemiPointe or pointe.

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I don't think it is the rotation which endangers the knee - but the "snap"  that is often used to fully extend the leg.  

 

 

"The primary problem that I have seen, is the propensity of the student to extend the leg straight out to second by snapping the knee."

 

Sorry - if I wasn't clear.

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One teacher I had described the "in" movement as Anjuli and then a sort of working the leg out "as if through treacle" to get the quality in the finish into the extension. The outward movement definitely slower. Certainly no snapping of the leg out.....though I have seen people do this in class.

 

As it happens have had no problems with knees doing this exercise but used to have a problem in the groin area(from a skiing injury) in the working left leg so I guess the muscles working for turnout(is this the psoas?) I found it hard to do any sort of retiree action and hold the leg in second. But usually I like the quality of rond de jambe en L'air as a movement.

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As it happens have had no problems with knees doing this exercise but used to have a problem in the groin area(from a skiing injury) in the working left leg so I guess the muscles working for turnout(is this the psoas?) .

Aha! The poor psoas - it's so misunderstood by dance teachers, in my experience. I had a teacher at dance college who constantly referred to the psoas - it was his holy grail!

 

The iliopsoas muscle is a muscle of two parts. One part is a deep abdominal muscle, and the other part goes from the deep abdomen, crosses the hip joint and attaches on the thigh. It is a hip flexor but runs deeper to the major hip flexors. It will play a part in lifting the leg but it's not the only 'player'. It's not really a turnout muscle though. The exact turnout muscles will vary depending on the action and position of the leg. There are deep external rotators in the hip, then the gluteals above them. Then the adductors, sartorius and gracilis in the thigh will also act. And if the leg is to the back, piriformis kicks in!

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I can never get these sets of muscles firmly fixed in my mind!!

 

I worked with an osteopath on this when it played up in the summer again and seems to have done the trick! Worked a lot with middle to lower spine a moving the leg around across and away from body and pressure release exercises. So far so good so since September have been able to do rond de jambe without any problems which is nice.

It does lurk though as the accident was about twenty two years ago now!!

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"....as though through treacle" is a good description of the quality of the movement of the working leg.

 

As the leg makes its circuit it should make the air visible.

 

Isn't that a major component of what a dancer strives to do?....make space visible.

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