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Problem engaging back of inner thigh muscle


Tulip
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Just wondering if anyone has got any suggestions regarding this problem my daughter is having. Her teacher has pointed out that she is not using her muscle in the back of her inner thighs, that is the only way she has explained it to me. The problem is more significant during arabesque (sorry forgotten how to spell it) The muscle is not in the back of her thigh but more moving to the middle but not quite. Very difficult to explain. She is using every other muscle including squeezing her buttocks, except this one. After trying lots of different exercises, she says that she can't feel this muscle. My daughter is also very concerned about building her muscles up in her thighs too as she thinks that they are too muscley, they are not in anyone elses oppinion. I am hoping Anjuli may have some suggestions.

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Well, I don't think it is possible to be using all the surrounding muscles and not using this one particular muscle. I don't see how that can happen. :)

 

An interesting thing to try it in tendue - extend foot to the front, step on the extended foot, now put some weight on it and draw it back into fifth position - put enough weight on it to make it difficult. The effort to draw the foot back to fifth whlle there is weight on it will give the student some sensation of where those back/side muscles are and how they feel. This can be done to front/side/back.

 

About arabesque: The arabesque is held in the muscles of the back - on either side of the spine. It helps to visualize the spine being connected by a string to the toe of the leg which is in arabesque. An interesting thing to do is to extend to tendue to the back and now using those back muscles lift the leg by envisioning a string going from the back to the tendue toe and drawing it up into arabesque.

 

Another way to feel it is to get into arabesque through a backbend as I described in another thread. Backbend over the tendue to the back, but NEVER put any weight on that extended leg/foot. Now as the torso is straightened out of the backbend bring the leg up - locked into the back muscles - into arabesque - never losing the contact of spine muscles lifting leg.

 

If the arabesque is achieved through developpé, then as the toe is drawn up the standing leg begin to feel that inner thigh and then as the leg is straightened into arabesque, lift it by lifting the knee, then slowly extend into arabesque.

 

Another thing to try......while in arabesque enveloppé slowly to attitude by lifting the knee and keep bringing the foot in to the standing leg and on down to the ground in 5th position.

 

It can also help to try these things in other positions such as first position. Different muscles - and/or the same muscles are used differently.

 

Remember - never, ever, to pull on the barre. The hand on the barre should be held lightly - the thumb on top. And, it is very important throughout barre work to lift that hand OFTEN from the barre to test balance and to make sure the barre isn't holding the dancer up.

 

This element of the relationship between hand and barre (both where the hand is placed on the barre, how it is placed on the barre, and how often it is lifted from the barre) is crucial to the development of the dancer. This particular relationship/element is all too seldom taught.

 

I hope something I've said here helps.

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As a teacher who knows a bit about anatomy and science, I am astounded at the amount of people who refer to the 'inner thigh'. An old colleague of mine used to go on about it all the time, and the poor kids didn't understand what she meant.

 

In parallel, the muscles on the 'inside' of the thigh are the adductors. However when in maximum turnout, the muscles closest to the centre line of the body (so the inner-most) muscles are the hamstrings. Hamstrings are designed for bending the knee (non weightbearing) or to move a straight, turned out leg closer to the centre line of the body (so lowering it down from 2nd en l'air).

 

Contracting, or 'using' a muscle usually has a purpose, and it's rare to just contract it for no reason, (unless you're a body builder!) so perhaps it would be more helpful if your DD could ask her teacher to explain whether its related to turnout, or the placing of her leg in arabesque - it might also be a good idea if the teacher could demonstrate what she wants so that your DD could see how it works, or maybe the teacher could suggest a way of visualising moving so that the muscle would engage - eg a feeling of extending the leg as well as lifting it,

 

One point I should make is that dancers should avoid 'gripping' the buttocks as they are so strong that contracting them tends to actually restrict the movement of the leg within the actual hip joint and dancers then appear to be 'lifting the hip' (which is really one side of the pelvis) to use the leg.Most ballet movements tend to require the smaller deeper muscles (iliopsoas, piriformis, gracilis and the deep external rotators) rather than the large muscles that are visible like the quads, hams and glutes

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My daughter is home at the moment and she read your comments. She understood what you were both saying (I didn't) she said her words, sometimes it is hard to feel the smaller muscles, because the bigger ones get in the way. I think at her stage of dancing there are soooooo many things to remember, pull up knee, high demi-point, what are my arms doing etc etc. It is just this one muscle she is having a problem with. Her fear is that by doing certain exercises, she will en up building her thigh muscles up too much. Is this a common fear amongst classical dancers, as my daughter is always going on about her thigh muscles. Thankyou both for your very informative feed back, my daughter very much appreciated it, she is going to talk further with her dance teacher tomorrow.

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Thanks for that explanation dancerbabe82, few people seem to understand this effect of turn out. There is a simple exercises dancers can do with a partner, either in class or at home, to help feel/strengthen this area. It's best to be a bit warmed up first, but simple jogging or similar is enough, you don't need to have done a full barre.

 

The dancer sits on the floor, straight back, with legs in a wide 2nd position, fully rotated, and the feet pointing towards the front corners of the room. Another person (not necessarily a dancer) stands in a wide second position between the seated dancer's legs. (It doesn't have to be very turned out.) The two people hold hands to help the dancer maintain a straight back. The dancer then pushes with his/her legs agains the lower legs of the standing person, trying to push their legs together.

 

Once the dancer feels this, the exercise can be done alone using a large ball or pile of pillows to act as resistance.. I daresay you could even be creative with a pair of resistance bands!

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She has actually tried that exercise Pas de Quatre, but she feels the muscle between her inner theighs when she does it. She had a similar problem a while back when during arm exercises it turned out that she wasn't using the right muscles there either, she thought that she was. It was when the teacher touched her arms she realised that some of the muscles were loose (bingo wings even though her arms are very thin). Now she understands and can feel what muscles she should be using everything right down to piroutes have improved. It seems the student assumes they are using the right muscles and only when the teacher touches certain muscles to see if they are engaged, the student realises and then can go on to feel and learn. This must be a reason for bad habits setting in. This is just one more impotant muscle that her teacher has discoverd she is not engaging with. We are so luck to have such informative people on this forum, and best of all my daughter understands what you are all telling her, me I haven't got a clue. Thankyou again everyone.

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OK Tulip, another exercise she can try is "Penguins". Stand in 1st position facing barre or holding the back of a chair. Extend one leg to the side to a few inches off the floor (think battement jeté height and speed) keep the foot flexed the whole time, and bring it back down to 1st position closing firmly into the floor, immediately transferring the weight onto it and doing the same movement with the other leg. It ends up a bit like Newton's cradle, but the closing foot should go firmly to the floor and not hit the other leg. Rhythm is "and a close, and a close". Posture and pelvis must be kept properly aligned - repeat a couple of dozen times and see if this hits the spot!

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Thankyou ever so much, she will practice at school. Never realised just HOW hard ballet really was. I knew it was hard, but breaking down all these muscles and engaging with them aswell as remembering everything else whew. Will they ever get there as the mountain sometimes seems so high to climb (my thoughts not hers).

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