Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer with PNB (picture below) was guest teaching at my ballet school’s summer intensive when she gave me this correction:
When your leg moves in an en dehors motion during a rond de jambe or really at any time when your leg is to the back, don’t let your supporting inner thigh collapse backwards and lose its rotation.
I thought about the correction for a while, and came to the conclusion that this concept is one of the most important things to master to improve your technique.
Any time your leg is to the back, have equal rotation in the other leg and opposition will keep the position from collapsing and will help you maintain your stability as you perform your center work.
Let’s take a look at fouettés as an example. This is a classic mistake that young dancers lacking this concept make, and here’s how it goes down:
- The working leg moves out to the side to 45 degrees.
- The dancer attempts to get the leg completely to the side. The lack of this motion is a common cause for dancers to fall out of their fouettés.
- But, the lack of oppositional strength in the supporting inner thigh doesn’t allow the legs to maintain this position, so the body twists in the direction of the extended leg.
- Now the dancer is in a position where the leg is halfway between the front and the side, and the dancer’s body is facing the corner rather than the front.
- From this preparation, the dancer has no force or momentum to get back up onto pointe for another pirouette because their body has swiveled too far and the leg has no air to gather to gain force.
This entire downward spiral is lead by that same problem Elizabeth Murphy pointed out to me during class:
There is a lack of strength in the inner thigh and turnout to maintain an oppositional position of the body as the working leg moves.
If you really get deep, you can see this problem arising in many other ballet steps that are classically butchered by young dancers without control over their turnout (including me…yay).
For example, in arabesque. The dancer’s supporting leg doesn’t have enough strength to oppose the backward position of the working leg, and therefore the standing leg turns in. Or, even worse, the dancer puts all their effort into turning out the supporting leg, and therefore the working leg doesn’t have enough strength to oppose and turns in. This happens all the time.
How can you fix this problem?
Well, there are a few things you can do:
- Focus on maintaining rotation on an upward diagonal through the supporting inner thigh during steps at the barre such as rond de jambe en dehors and tendus to the back.
- Do some inner thigh exercises or isolation exercises with the working leg, and practice the motions that often give you the most difficulty during your floor barre exercises.
- Try this one: Lay on your back and extend one leg up to 90 degrees, keeping both legs turned out. Without losing the rotation of the bottom leg, move the top leg out to the side and back again. This is a replica of the oppositional movement in a fouetté turn.
- Focus on applying this concept during your center work as well. Often times we forget about the basics of your technique when we start dancing bigger.
- Remember that isolation is all about the core. If you want the stability in your supporting side to allow free movement of the working side without a compromise of basic placement, you have to lift up and find strength in the supporting hip and oblique.
I hope you learned something today. Please leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any advice, comments, concerns, questions, requests, etc. Thanks for reading and appreciating what I have to say!