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PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2002 9:47 am 

Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 75
Location: Thorpe Bay, Essex, UK
“Improve Your Turnout The Natural Way”
White Lodge Sunday 17 November 2002

For the Franklin Method Institute
Principal Lecturer
Eric Franklin
Assistant Lecturer
Erich Walker
Morten Dithmer
Amos Pinhasi
Associated Web Site

For The Royal Ballet School
Principal Outreach Programme
Jacqui Dumont
Outreach Programme Co-ordinator
Heather McCubbin
Associated Web Site

10.00-11.30 Junior Students Sessions
11.45-12.45 Practical Session 1 for Teachers
13.30-14.30 Practical Session 2 for Teachers
14.45-16.45 Senior Students Session

This was the third in a series of workshops on the use of imagery as a tool for ballet teaching held at the Royal Ballet School. Having attended the previous two and been highly impressed by how well the knowledge gained fitted into my own teaching I was eager to come to another session and pass on the experience to a greater audience. I hope the following article will give readers an insight into what I feel is a valuable adjunct to contemporary balletic education.

10.00-11.30 Junior Students Sessions
The workshop began with the introduction of Eric Franklin and his team by Jacqui Dumont, Principal of the Outreach Programme at the Royal Ballet School. The large group of junior students was then split up into two, with half going with Erich Walker to the Pavlova studio and the remainder, approximately 35 girls and boys between 11 and 13, staying in the Fonteyn studio.

Eric Franklin started with a series of simple warm up exercises performed in a circle
1. Lifting and lowering shoulders to release them
2. Swinging arms freely with hands attached in the circle then detaching and reattaching to feel the weight of the movement
3. Stepping up on the balls of the feet and back on the heels both in parallel and turned out. Here he emphasised the importance of having strong “turn in” muscles as well as turn out ones. This exercise was repeated speeding up with the students trying to avoid expressing tension.

In the next stage he questioned the students on why turn out is used in ballet and what they considered the term “natural” to mean. The response was relatively patchy but one young girls comment that natural movements were easier struck a chord, as anything unnatural will, in Eric Franklin’s description, be strained and more likely to cause injury. He also outlined how turn out improves balance, range of movement in the hip and gives ballet its aesthetic line.

Getting the students to stand in second he then encouraged them to squeeze their gluteals as they went into a plié and see how the knees roll forward and the hips push back. In contrast the instruction to knit together at the front and widen at the back of the pelvis as the knees bent produced a softer é with a much greater degree of turn out. The opposite action, drawing the back of the pelvis together and widening at the front occurs on the way up. He further developed the image of movement in the pelvis by encouraging the students to touch and become aware of how the structure works.

A feature of Eric Franklin’s teaching is how positive the atmosphere is he creates around the class. This has a practical function, as in encouraging the students to enjoy the sensation of turning out he demonstrated how this reduces patterns of tension that inhibit the very action the students are struggling to achieve. This tension, he pointed out, often exists in the shoulder and he gave another series of exercises to relieve this problem.
1. Rolling the shoulders, breathing all the time
2. Lifting and lowering the arm to see if it is holding tension
3. Performing port de bras a feeling to see where tension may be exhibited

What became apparent is how the relaxed arm not only allows more mobility in the shoulders, but also how the release of tension from this part of the body allowed the students to utilise more of their natural turn out.

Asking the students to point to their hip joints turned out to be a revealing exercise. The typical teaching instruction to “put your hands on your hips” is usually interpreted by actually placing them on the upper side of the pelvis and this is what most of the students did. It is revealing that a common terminological inexactitude can have a considerable affect on the perception of how the body works amongst dance students. As he got them to slowly rotate inwards and outwards at the correct point of the hip Eric Franklin described the action as akin to a “dance” in which the leg is just moving at the joint. The result was that most found it that in extensions to both front and back they had increased mobility and improved use of turn out.

The class then went on to use small soft balls in exercises to help strengthen and stretch the turn out musculature.
1. Lying on the back with one ball under the hip and another on the outside of the thigh rolling the leg up and down and turning it in and out, massaging the various muscles.
2. Lying face down with one leg in retire and a ball under the inside thigh opening and closing the hip to massage the inner thigh muscles.

Many of the students found it problematic getting the balls into the correct position, but once they had done so they discovered how the exercises improved their hip flexibility.

Finally he introduced them to the use of Therabands as a way of encouraging dynamic stretching. These exercises start with the students tying a loop at the end of the band, something they did have problems with, placing this around their foot and wrapping the band up and around their legs. They then did the following
1. Chassé to second with port de bras and close
2. Relevé in second
3. Combining these two movement
4. Lifting the leg in attitude devant, second and derrière

After each exercise the movements were then repeated without the band to allow the students to feel how the muscles release and interact more efficiently than before. By the looks on their faces it was clear that they were surprised by how effective these series of exercises could be. After what had seemed like initial reticence both the efficacy of the teaching and the atmosphere of the class made a positive contribution that, it is to be hoped, will benefit their dancing in the future.

11.45-12.45 Practical Session 1 for Teachers
In the first session for teachers Eric Franklin emphasised the need for students to learn by experiencing how their bodies work and becoming aware to their own possibilities. The association between tension and strength is one that needs to be broken and replaced with a dynamic strategy that allows muscles to accomplish the kinds of movement they naturally perform.

Eric Franklin also described how the complexity of muscular interaction makes it difficult to relate in the form of imagery and rather than emphasising specific groups of muscles the focus shifted to how the bones move in relation to one another. In this approach the movement of the pelvic half is balanced by the rotation of the pelvis, creating correct patterns of muscular action.

13.30-14.30 Practical Session 2 for Teachers
The second teachers session started by Eric Franklin describing how the angle of the femoral neck changes in children up to puberty. It is the recognition, that the shape of bones does change that is central to understanding the use of turn out in young students. In young children this angle is relatively large, which restricts external rotation in the hip, whilst towards puberty it increases allowing for a greater degree of turn out.

In highlighting some of the muscles that accomplish turn out what became clear from his description is that no one muscle group is solely responsible. The deep periformus may act a turn out muscle when the leg is extended, but once it is raised the muscle tends to internally rotate the leg. The sartorius rotates the leg outwards at the higher elevation whilst the psoas rotates it inwards at this level but outwards when the leg is lower. It is the strength and relative balance of all these and other muscles in action that accomplish turn out through the full range of movements in the hip.

To encourage this the teachers were taught the exercises using the balls and therabands previously utilised by the junior group. The lesson here was well met, that watching and doing are two very different activities and taking part does encourage a much deeper understanding of what such exercises are trying to achieve.

14.45-16.45 Senior Students Session
In the final class of the day around 40 students over the age of 13 were present in the Fonteyn Studio, working with Eric Franklin and his full team. Much of the material covered was a repetition of the previous sessions, so the interest was two fold. Firstly to see how Mr Franklin related the material to a group more mature than the juniors but without the analytical perspective of the teachers. Secondly it gave the opportunity to revise both the theoretical basis and practical application of his method.

What continued to be obvious is the way his light and positive manner influences the groups learning experience. As with the juniors this was an experience that many of the students may not have come prepared for and one that was beyond their previous experience. Enthusing such students in a way that gets them to participate in an unfamiliar activity is in itself a talent and one that was once again fully exhibited.

The class started with the swinging and ball/ball-heel/heel exercises, before the students were asked why turn out is used and why do dancers perform pliés. The response to such questions is possibly more interest in this older group, as it demonstrates that whilst balletic training focuses well on motor skill development there seems to be a lack of cognitive understanding amongst ballet students of the reason they do things. It is arguable that these sessions are as valuable for how much they make the students think about their dancing as for how well they may affect their technical progress.

One feature of this session, in comparison to the earlier one, was the greater emphasis Eric Franklin put on the demonstration of the way the bones move through the use of anatomical models. He encouraged them to develop their knowledge of the structures of the body, where the hip joints actually are and how they operate, partly through these visual props but also through touching and feeling the various structures in action.

Once again he stressed the importance of the movement of the pelvic half in relation to the femur during a plié in order to allow for the natural use of turn out. Once again as the students performed a plié they were told to think of the sitting bones moving apart whilst going down and together on the way up. Similarly they were encouraged to feel the femur rolling out at the start of the bending action and in on the stretch. Encouraging the students to perform the same action with the arm reinforced the visualisation of this movement.

At this stage Eric Franklin introduced the use of a “touch demonstration” with a volunteer female student. By placing one hand on one pelvic half and the other on femur he encouraged her to feel the contrary rotation of the two structures. The results were almost immediately apparent in both the depth of her plié in second and her use of turn out. Once he had worked on both sides it became clear that she had a much greater degree of facility then she had previously been aware of or had used.


Unfortunately, due to teaching commitments, I had to leave the workshop early and was not able to see the conclusion of the senior class. However it had the benefit that I was able to almost immediately try to apply this new knowledge in working with my own pupils.

In essence it is the applicability of his ideas within the balletic teaching environment that makes Eric Franklin’s work so valuable. Ballet education benefits from teachers with a knowledge of the working of the body that translates the basic information of what the various structures are into practical understanding of how they work and, most importantly, how they can be encouraged to operate in a fashion that maximises each students individual potential. It is to the Royal Ballet School’s great credit that its outreach programme is encouraging teachers to embrace this progressive approach.

I would like to express my gratitude to Jacqui Dumont and all her staff at The Royal Ballet School for the organisation of such a valuable course and their invaluable help on the day.
Deepest thanks to Eric Franklin and all his assistants; both for the course itself and all the extra information they kindly provided, which has been used in the preparation of this article.

Franklin, Eric (1996) Dance Imagery For Technique And Performance, Human Kinetics, ISBN 0-87322-475-2
Franklin, Eric (2002) Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery, Human Kinetics, ISBN 0-87322-943-6
Franklin, Eric (2002) Relax Your Neck, Liberate Your Shoulder, Elysian Editions ISBN 0-87127-248-2

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2002 5:24 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 05, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 3602
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Thanks Tuk for your thoughts. It certainly seemed like a very interesting day. I have a couple of Franklin's books and your insight have inspired me to have another look at them. are they planning any more seminars like it do you know?

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