December 8th, 2013 Dancing Smart News
“I have been searching for a turnout case like mine on the internet, but found nothing. Hopefully, you can help me. When I’m dancing and I do the butterfly my knees are almost touching the floor (more than most students that have good turnout). When I do the frog, my feet are shy of 2 inches from touching the ground. I was told that these positions are a good indication of your natural turnout. The weird thing is: If I’m standing pulled up in parallel position and then in one shot open up my legs, the most my feet open up is 90 degrees. Also, if I am sitting on the floor, legs extended in front in a parallel position and I let my feet drop to the side, again the most they drop is only 85 degrees, when I see most of my friends drop around 120 degrees naturally. Essentially, my turnout in first position is 90 degrees.
What do I do? I don’t think it has to do with flexibility because I can almost do the frog, butterfly and splits. I don’t think it’s muscles either because I can hold myself turned out (at the 90 degrees). It’s like my body doesn’t want to go more than 90 degrees no matter how much I use my muscles to push. I didn’t think this is a bone structure issue because my frog is so good. What do you think is preventing me from turning out more? Can my calf muscles be too tight? (Half joking). I don’t know what to do. Can you help?”
Olivia, your question is a common one for many dance students. the butterfly position and the frog stretch is a part of their normal routine before class. Unfortunately, the butterfly and frog positions aren’t the best indicator of your turnout in first position. Like you, I have a good frog and butterfly and get within 3-4 inches of the ground – but when I stand up my first position is 45-50 degrees on each leg. There are quite a few of us, in fact, that share this particular pattern. Why?
There are ligaments that hold the thigh bone into the hip socket and they become taut when the hip is in extension (such as when you take the leg behind you in a back tendu) and lax when you flex the hip as in a front tendu. Both the butterfly and frog positions have the hip in a flexed position – so you can turnout more when in that position.
The frog position won’t tell you about your hip structure but testing your turnout with the hip extended should. Below is a picture of how to see what your turnout range is. Lie on your stomach and bend one leg and let it fall over the other. Don’t let the hip lift away from the floor as you bend the leg which would indicate some tightness in the hip flexors. This picture is of a professional ballet dancer in a regional company. Lovely dancer… and as you can see her turnout range is right around the 45-degree mark.
Bottom line… you can be a beautiful dancer even if you test with a normal range of rotation at the hip. There are other structural reasons that influence your range of motion at the hip, its angle, the length of the neck, depth of the socket, but I wouldn’t worry about those influences at this point in time. What I would suggest is you train for maximum strength and flexibility of the turnout muscles and always working your range from the hip rather than increasing your first position by rotating the foot out further.
You are becoming a smart dancer by asking questions and trying to understand better how to create gorgeous movement within the anatomical dictates of your body. Keep up the good work and know that a 90-degree first position is not going to make or break your dancing ability!
To your success! Dancing
“Education is the key to injury position.”