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More Turnout, Pirouette Preparation



I think I have finally, at long last, got my students to begin to understand turnout and how the legs move to the side. It has taken a while, but last class I used some ideas from the Teachers forum on BTfD to help them understand. A yardstick was very helpful.

First, I repeated something I've done before: have the student stand in 1st position, place the yardstick on the floor in front of him/her so it forms a horizontal line just touching his/her toes, and have the student tendu side along the line formed by the stick. This gets them to understand that the leg needs to move directly to the side. Otherwise, when they go from 1st to 2nd position, the legs will not be in line, glissades will move slightly forward, échappés will be a problem, &c. Also, it forces the student to use the appropriate muscles. A tendu that moves along the line of the foot will, in many cases, end up somewhat forward of 2nd, and it will not improve turnout, just reinforce what the student already has.

Second, once the student had established pointe tendue à la seconde, I held the yardstick vertically at his/her working toe and had him/her raise the leg as high as possible without moving the leg forward and without losing the turnout of either leg. To do this, they had to keep using their turnout muscles (which often get relaxed when the leg is held too far forward).

For a few weeks now, I have had my less advanced class do the following exercise:

Beat 1: Plié in 5th

Beat 2: Relevé to pirouette position

Beat 3: Hold the position

Beat 4: Close 5th on demi-pointe

Last class (after having them practice battement tendu and rond de jambe par terre en tournant) I modified the last two parts so that it went like this:

Beat 1: Plié in 5th

Beat 2: Relevé to pirouette position

Beat 3: Remaining on demi-pointe, turn 1/8 en dehors

Beat 4: Hold the position, or if necessary, close 5th on demi-pointe

It was not perfect, but they made a good start. Once they get stronger at that exercise, I can have them learn pirouettes, but I will continue to have them work on learning tour lent on demi-pointe. Having that control is very good for pirouettes, especially as the study of tour lent on demi-pointe will instill muscle memory of correct position.


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i do the exact same thing with the yardstick Hans. I enjoyed reading this. What do you advocate if the dancer is so lacking in turnout that when the leg is in the a la second position they are unable to rotate the working leg and get the heel forward. Some teachers have them bring the leg forward. I am not confortable with this as I do not feel that the forward position makes any sense if they put the heel down they are not in second so it is confusing to the dancer.

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In that case I have them keep the leg fairly low until they have developed more turnout. It is not really a popular solution, but I feel that having the correct position is more important than a high leg, and I entirely agree with you about the more forward position not making sense. I think that if they work to improve their turnout with a lower leg, eventually they will get the rotation and height, or at least it will get better.

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