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Holding turnout?


swanprincess
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I have noticed that, whilst I can hold my turnout at barre, I struggle to maintain it in the centre, for example in adage. I find it hard to balance whilst working on steps such as developpes, when I have to stand on one turned-out foot. Any ideas for strengthening exercises would be much appreciated :)

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Hello Swanprincess,

 

I'm by no means an expert and there can be all sorts of reasons why a student has difficulty maintaining turnout so it wouldn't be appropriate to suggest exercises for you without having watched you work - does that make sense?

 

Do you have access to a dance physio who could assess you and suggest which muscles you need to work on? If not, is your teacher "hands on" and can therefore see or feel which muscles perhaps aren't engaging as well as they could?

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Hi Swanprincess it's very difficult to give exercises for this via an Internet forum. It's something I work on a lot in classes and in private coaching sessions. Part of the issue is awareness of the necessary muscles to engage. PM me if you want more info

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It's hard to describe exercises on the forum but getting a floor barre DVD or having a look at some of the exercises suggested on Lisa Howell's ballet blog might be a good starting point if you cannot get advice from a dance teacher or dance physio. Most teachers should be able to give you exercises to do at home. You mention it is harder in the centre so one thing you might want to focus upon is not relying too much on the barre as this will help with weight placement in the centre.

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Hi Swanprincess,

 

I am not a teacher or physio so I can't suggest exercises, but I like the advice given so far. However, in case it's useful, I did have this same problem and this was my experience.

 

I used to be terrible at holding my turnout, it would just 'go' when I started moving in class (basically, anything in the centre!). Then I learned it was me being 'lazy'. I don't mean 'lazy' in the sense of 'can't be bothered', but just that holding turnout for me needed more thought and effort than I thought was required. Turnout for me is something I need to think about all the time, always thinking about heels forward, always thinking about the muscles working to maintain that turnout and never relaxing them. I still struggle to use my maximum turnout in everything I do, but I can see it's getting better just by aiming to keep it in everything I do.

 

I know what you mean by the standing heel slipping when doing developes in the centre, especially in 2nd. I think it's about making the standing leg work just as hard to sustain turnout as the working leg, which is easier said than done. In fact, I had a teacher who says the supporting leg should be your main focus because that provides a base for your working leg to work against. I like this idea very much.

 

Also, I find it harder to control my looser leg. The same teacher has told me I maintain turnout better on my 'stiffer' leg, so my turnout is more likely to 'go' with my looser leg. She said that the more range you have with your turnout, the harder it is to hold/maintain. Or in other words, you would need to work harder to get the strength to hold that turnout. She also says that it's normal to have one leg looser/stiffer than the other.

 

I hope some of this helps.

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Though one side is usually more turned out than the other, how you use the turnout on both sides must be as even as possible.  If you are standing in the centre in developé a la second, your lifted leg should not be more turned out than your standing leg.  This is something you work on at the barre.  The test at the barre is to let go of the barre at frequent intervals.  Everything should be tested by letting go of the barre.

 

There is a difference in what turnout is "available" to you - how your body is constructed, and what is "useable" - how you use what is "available."  The challenge is to get how you use your turnout as close as possible to what is possible for you.

 

Are there exercises for this -- yes, of course!  Your entire ballet class is geared for this purpose.  

 

Talk to your teacher - ask her advice.   And, don't get upset - it's a slow process of learning how to use what you have and gaining the strength to use what you have - and the possibility of increasing what you have..

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@straceydor turnout should come from the hips. If it does then the whole of the dancers leg will rotate outwards. Ballet teachers and dancers train for years to know what correct technique looks like - some have a better eye for it than others too - I know you're only trying to help your DD but it's best to either trust your teacher or ask another one.

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Sometimes one can over turn out for ones current ability at the barre as the holding of the barre can sometimes give a false sense of security. So taking the hand off the barre every so often....as suggested by others is a good idea. If the muscles are not really strong enough to hold the degree of turnout you may set for yourself at the barre then it all falls apart in the centre. Sometimes it is better to work with less turn out that can be held in the centre until the muscles are stronger.......but of course anyone contemplating ballet for a career may need to do extra supporting exercises to accelerate this. I would have thought the Dance teacher should be able to help. Have you had any private lessons Swanprincess.......this is sometimes a brilliant way to progress as the teacher has more time to observe you more closely.

I do scaravelli yoga every Friday and a couple of weeks ago I was the only one who turned up ( the weather was pretty dire) so I had a sort of un arranged private session. Honestly I learned more about what I was doing(or not doing!) in certain poses in that hour with just the teacher than in several weeks of class lessons!!

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Clams is quite a good exercise but most replicates a plié or helps with a lifted leg, rather than helping with the support leg.

 

Swanprincess have you tried floor barre paying close attention to the side/leg that would be your support side? Also simply lying on your back turning your (stretched) legs out and back to parallel repeatedly will help. Also at MIDAS we use rotating discs to help train standing turnout - if you can get hold of those that would help you but they ought really to be used under supervision.

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Oooh great article Balleteacher! I was an intern with Megan Richardson in New York when I was finishing my undergraduate studies - she's brilliant. And although I don't quite know what she means about a fish face (although she's quite quirky so I can imagine her pulling some strange faces!) the 'turning out in socks on a slippy floor' idea was the same direction I was going with when suggesting turning out lying down on your back. It's all about finding and using the right muscles. I'm pleased my advice in this thread has been similar to hers in that article!

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Haven't read the article yet but B+ is with the back leg bent, also know as classical pose or preparatory position.

 

As I understand it - and I could be wrong - the B+ description of the foot to the back, bent at the knee, and crossing behind the front foot was derived from one of the dance notation methods in which that position's symbol is or looks like a B+.

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Hello Swanprincess :) I would recommend having a look at some of the articles in this blog (particularly the one I have linked to here), and possibly signing up for and carrying out the 4-week strengthening programme if your teacher approves: http://danceproject.ca/smarter-glute-training-for-dancers/. I would also really consider investing in some of Eric Franklin's books, particularly 'Conditioning for Dance', the exercises, imagery and kineasthetic approach have done wonders for strengthen my 'ballet muscles'.

 

One simple way that you can find out the turnout that is useable for you in centre work is to:

1. lie on your stomach with long legs in 6th (so all the way together)

2. Starting with your right leg, lengthen it all the way down from the top of your glutes through your hamstring, and flow that energy out through your toes. If you focus on lengthening enough your leg will lift off the floor (don't actively seek to lift it, though)

3. When it is in this fully lengthened state, 'allow' it to freely rotate in the hip socket. Keep the front of your hips relaxed and soft, let your lower back be free of tension and just focus on the energy that you have created in your leg and how it enables you to rotate it. Your turnout WILL be very, very small, so don't panic if it's minimal!

4. Let the leg go back into the hip socket and melt downwards towards the floor. You will find yourself back in parallel.

5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 on the right another three times (making 4 in total) then do it all again on your left side.

 

This is one of the most valuable exercises that my teacher Benoit Egloff taught me (he calls it 'Keyhole'). The range of movement is very. very small but gradually it will begin to increase as you learn to work with your body's energies. He made me feel better the first time I did it by recalling how professional soloists reacted the first time they did it, basically they cried because their 'usable' turnout was actually so much smaller than what was 'available' to them at the barre! 

 

As a balance to the releasing work, I also actively engage for strengthening by practicing simple exercises such as standing in seconde and moving from right to left without plie, fully transferring the weight so that I am completely on my leg. When I've found my center doing this I raise a working leg to 45 degrees and focus on reaching down through my supporting leg, reaching up through the crown of my head and engaging my upper back muscles so that the working leg becomes freer and I can start to open the leg more by pulsing it back (you can also repeat this with the working leg devant, but pulse upwards). I go through this type of routine a few types, starting with a relaxed turnout then opening and rotating a bit more and finally turning out to my maximum, all the while focusing on reaching and lengthening and feeling the connection in my inner thighs. If you have a flexible back really concentrate on letting your tailbone be heavy so that your spine is long and supported and keep your heart open. Then repeat on the other side! You can switch up the way you work too so that your body doesn't get used to it.

 

Hope it helps!

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Interesting post, Skydancer!

 

When I mentioned in my post above (number 6) the difference between what is "available" and what is "useable" - I was thinking of a different method for determing that difference.

 

Stand in your best, but not forced, first position.  Note where the heels are and make sure the knees are over the toes - one shouldn't be turned out more than the other and the body should be in balance.  Where your heels are now is  what is naturally "available" to you in turnout.  What your body's construction (shape of hip joint, etc.) will allow.

 

Now rise to demi-pointe and see where the heels are now.  They have probably slipped back a bit - this is the amount of turnout that is presently "useable."  This can be improved through careful work and strengthening (never forcing).

 

The difference between  doing this assessment standing up as opposed to lying down is that lying down is not weight bearing and the body is not aligned for balance.  It also doesn't show the alignment of the knees-over-toes.

 

Another way to think about it and perhaps other information to be gained.

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Thanks Anjuli.

 

I agree that working in first position to find and strengthen usable turnout is also a really valid and effective way of training. I think a mixture of all these types of approaches can work if you can easily clarify what the goals are for each approach.

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So far we have discussed the turnout which occurs within the joint as the head of the femur rotates within the socket - but there is another aspect to turnout - how the leg rotates around the body from front, to side to back while maintaing that turnout..

 

If you developpé the leg to the front and then take it to the side, you will notice a "bump in the road" as it transitions from front to side and then continues on to the back.  That "bump" upsets the smoothness of the trip.  At what point that "bump" occurs in it's trip around is very individual.

 

However, the cure for this "bump" is quite simple (not easy, but simple.)  After extending the leg to the front have someone hold the heel of the extended leg and carry it's weight for you to the side and on to the back.  Feel the "bump" as the leg passes from front to side to back.  

 

Now repeat it - but while the other person is supporting the weight of the lifted leg, you concentrate on lifting your torso out of that standing/supporting hip, and keep your alignment of the body forward.  Do not allow the weight of your torso to sit in the standing hip and do not allow your alignment to slip back onto your standing heel.

 

Now, suddenly, that "bump" disappears.  As long as you continue to lift out of the supporting/standing hip and your body is aligned forward over the standing/supporting hip - the lifted leg will travel smoothly from front to side to back.

 

The problem now is to learn to lift up out of that standing/supporting hip, keep aligned forward as you - yourself - support the moving leg as it goes around.  Once that is learned that "bump" will disappear.

 

Keeping the torso up and forward allows the standing hip to operate smoothly.

 

I hope this makes some sense. :)

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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