Jump to content

Swaybacks


Picturesinthefirelight
 Share

Recommended Posts

A lot depends upon the amount (degree) of swayback.  It is a difficult construction with which to work.  The dancer must constantly be aware of the need to engage the muscles upward through the thigh rather than pushing back through the knees.

 

Depending upon the degree it can be a more at risk construction for the knee and give the dancer problems in placing the weight in correct alighnment.  

 

However, many dancers have overcome these challenges.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might find this of interest - 

 

 

 

Knees are Very Interesting

If you lined everyone up with feet either in parallel or in first position, you would find that everyone is different.

However, you can roughly divide knee construction into two basic types from hyperextended (swayback) to bowed. The hyper extended knee can be seen when the dancer stands in first position and the knees touch but there is a space between the heels. It can also be seen when the dancer stands with feet parallel and the line from the back of the knee is behind the back of the heels.

In the bowed knee the heels touch while there is a space between the knees. This can also be seen when the dancer stands in parallel and the bow of open space is seen between the knees.

These two basic constructions (hyper extended or bowed) go all the way from a huge space between the heels (severely hyper extended) to a huge gap between the knees while the heels touch (severely bowed).

Most of us are somewhere between these extremes.

The severely swaybacked knee offers many problems and is a weak construction. If it is severe enough the dance student - even though well taught - will have increasing difficulty in controlling the muscles of the leg. In the more moderately hyper extended knee construction the dance student learns never NEVER to push back into the knee to straighten it (which in fact over straightens it), but rather to pull up - engage - the muscles of the leg - moving upward into the strength in the core of the body. Learning how to engage these muscles is crucial. The student has to learn how it feels - rather than how it looks.

The swaybacked knee if not used in conjunction with the correct muscles of the leg can throw the dancer off the central line of balance which runs from the foot on the floor (flat, demi or full pointe) through the body. For this reason as well as the dynamics of rotation - it gives the dancer trouble- and looks wobbly and distorted in pirouettes.

For these and other reasons the hyper extended knee is a weaker construction, difficult to learn to use correctly and prone to injury. However, in a moderately hyper extended knee which is correctly engaged - it is a beautiful line and compliments (and complements) a well arched foot.

On the other side of the equation, the severely bowed knee is almost impossible to work with. No matter how the dance student tries - it will never look straight though all the muscles are engaged. It, too, throws the central line off balance. It will affect pointe work buy not allowing the dance student to come fully onto the platform of the shoe - the knee will always look and be bent.

However, if the knee is slightly bowed, with only a minimal gap between the knees in first position while the heels are touching - this need not be a career ender. It is a strong construction, seldom gives problems and the student can be taught to minimize the look of the knee not looking entirely straight. When I stood in first position with heels touching there was a one inch gap between my knees. This gave me a strong construction and I never had knee problems. I learned how to minimize its look and my knees in my pictures look straight. Of course, one inch is a minimal problem - so I was lucky.

As for the often asked question: "Is it possible to train your knees over time to stretch out in this way? "

To the extent that the student can be taught how to work with a moderately swaybacked knee or a moderately bowed knee - one cannot change the actual construction of the bones of the leg or how the joint of the knee is put together. The knee is not a ball and socket joint - it is a hinge. It is meant to have a large range of motion and is weight bearing. For these three reasons (type of joint, motion, weight bearing), it is fairly vulnerable.

I have seen and heard of some absolutely horrific attempts to alter the shape and line of the knees to suit an artificial notion of how it should look to accommodate ballet. Any attempt to alter the knee joint itself - is a prescription for disaster. You can't alter bones. You can learn to use a moderately hyper extended knee with the correct usage of the supporting muscles but you can't change the bones or the joint. The same is true for a bowed knee - you can't change the shape of the bones or the construction of the joint.

I remember one teacher who looked at that gap of one inch between my knees in first position and swore she would get my knees to touch - I ran from that teacher. Years later I had a conversation with an experienced physical therapist who told me of the many patients she had who had suffered injury from just such circumstances - someone trying to straighten a knee which is naturally bowed.

I am purposely not describing the various tortuous (abusive, really) attempts to alter knees - I don't want to aid or abet anyone who wants to do this who may be reading this board. In addition, when one considers that this is done to young people who need to walk for many years - long after their dance days are over - makes me want to weep

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot depends upon the amount (degree) of swayback.  It is a difficult construction with which to work.  The dancer must constantly be aware of the need to engage the muscles upward through the thigh rather than pushing back through the knees.

 

Depending upon the degree it can be a more at risk construction for the knee and give the dancer problems in placing the weight in correct alighnment.  

 

However, many dancers have overcome these challenges.

 

I have a teacher who has said a similar thing to what you have said, Anjuli. She has been trying to get me to engage the inner thigh muscles upwards and it has made a difference to things like balance. She has also said the difficulty of having swayback legs is that it's easy to push the hips out of alignment because the knees pull you back. So activating the inner thighs is good for stopping this happening.

 

I have swayback legs and I have been told I am 'as swayback as they come'. I once met a girl about to go to vocational school, who did not have swayback legs. She told me she wished she had legs like mine - we all want what we don't have! But I told her I found things like closing in a tight 5th (or back to the 5th I started with) difficult because the calf muscles seem to get in the way. Personally, I think this is the hardest thing about working with swayback legs.

 

However, I think it does make a beautiful line on dancers who can control or use it properly. I am still learning to do this.  :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certain physiques take longer to strengthen. This is not due to lack of effort but just that like a good wine they can take longer to mature. Stick at it as it will be worth it in the end but it is important not to compare yourself to other dancers with different physiques in class. Focus on building firm foundations and the rest will fall into place in its own time.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a teacher who has said a similar thing to what you have said, Anjuli. She has been trying to get me to engage the inner thigh muscles upwards and it has made a difference to things like balance. She has also said the difficulty of having swayback legs is that it's easy to push the hips out of alignment because the knees pull you back. So activating the inner thighs is good for stopping this happening.

 

I have swayback legs and I have been told I am 'as swayback as they come'. I once met a girl about to go to vocational school, who did not have swayback legs. She told me she wished she had legs like mine - we all want what we don't have! But I told her I found things like closing in a tight 5th (or back to the 5th I started with) difficult because the calf muscles seem to get in the way. Personally, I think this is the hardest thing about working with swayback legs.

 

However, I think it does make a beautiful line on dancers who can control or use it properly. I am still learning to do this.  :)

 

 

It also presents difficulties in going through first position such as in rond de jamb a terre.  The dancer with a hyper extended knee has to remember where her own particular first position is and allow for that when passing through first position. Otherwise the dancer, in an effort to go through first with heels brushing past one another, has to either loosen the moving knee or make a squiggly line instead of a straight line while passing through first. 

 

We all have our own personal first position - as in many other things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It also presents difficulties in going through first position such as in rond de jamb a terre.  The dancer with a hyper extended knee has to remember where her own particular first position is and allow for that when passing through first position. Otherwise the dancer, in an effort to go through first with heels brushing past one another, has to either loosen the moving knee or make a squiggly line instead of a straight line while passing through first. 

 

We all have our own personal first position - as in many other things.

 

Yes, I agree with this. I always have a gap in first position. But I have come across teachers in the past who would not accept that gap and they would tell me to close that gap. I found this quite frustrating. I once replied that I didn't know how to close that gap and it was the truth - that must have been the only time I have ever 'talked back' at a teacher (if you would call it 'talking back').

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see that as politely replying, not talking back in a rude way Dancer sugar plum :)

I have swaybacked (and slightly bowed, I now realise!) legs- I think the swaybacks give me a nice arabesque line, however I do find steps such as pique turns on pointe very difficult as I can't seem to fully straighten the leg I am stepping onto....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My friend has extremely swayed back legs and everyone always tells her how lucky she is, as they create nice lines especially on pointe, and is common in many professional dancers, however I notice that especially very swayed backed legs are quite hard to control, to try not sit into them and when in positions such as 1st they cause difficulties. I guess it's one of these things that can be a bit of a curse and a blessing!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...