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I am about to start teaching at a local summer program, and one aspect of technique that students often struggle with is using their turnout correctly. Usually, they either try to turn out too far and end up rolling (allowing their arches to collapse, the result of turning out the foot but not the entire leg) or they place the foot correctly on the floor but do not engage the most important turnout muscles and only rotate their legs in a vague, passive manner. It usually only gets worse when they raise their legs, especially to the side. I thought up the following exercise to help students both rotate their legs correctly on à terre and en l'air.

1. Put the students in pairs, one student standing with the left hand on the barre, the other student standing at his/her side.

2. Have the student at the barre (Student 1) raise his/her leg to about 45º and have the other student (Student 2) hold Student 1's raised ankle or foot so Student 1 can relax his/her hip joint.

3. Have Student 2 slowly move Student 1's leg as far side as it will go without distortion of the hips and without the leg turning in (that is, with the knee facing the ceiling but not turned forward).

4. Have Student 1 engage his/her turnout muscles and actively rotate the raised leg, again without distortion of the hips.

5. Have Student 2 let go as Student 1 maintains the position, then lowers the leg to first position, keeping the turnout muscles actively rotated. Repeat on the other side using the "active turnout" feeling on the supporting leg.

This would require a relatively calm and attentive class to actually do in pairs, although with a less well behaved class a teacher could take on the role of Student 2 and use one student to demonstrate the idea for the class. Obviously this would not work in every situation, but students (especially younger ones) love to work in pairs and one cannot go around correcting every single student individually on exactly the same problem (takes far too much time unless one is working with the students for a series of classes or an entire year). I would love to hear if any other teachers have additional ideas.

EDIT: I tried it in class and it worked! To read more, please click here for my thread on BT4D.


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