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 Post subject: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2003 12:23 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 06, 2003 11:01 pm
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Location: Hamilton, MI
I am not a student, but I am the mother of a nine year who has been taking ballet since she was 4. Her current teacher seems to get very excited about the fact that my daughter has "perfect turnout."

I have an idea of what that means, but I'm not sure what to do with the information. My daughter loves ballet and has every intention of sticking with it (much to my pleasure). My question is - does having natural turnout ability increase her chances of becoming an accompished dancer?

Also, at what age does one start to consider going on pointe? I think I heard it has more to do with strength, but is there anything we can do to get her there quicker? Or am I rushing things a bit?

I would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2003 12:38 pm 
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Location: New England
Turnout is used for stability in ballet --- basically, so you can stand on one leg and wave the other around in the air without falling over. What is most important mechanically is that you use the turnout you have all the time. This is very hard and takes a lot of careful training; plenty of dancers have lots of natural turnout, yet fail to use it consistently.

In general, the more turnout you have, the fewer compromises you will have to make in presenting a good line to the audience, and the easier time you will have gaining stability. A 180-degree turnout is termed "perfect" because that's the model upon which ballet is constructed. But remember that perfection is relative to the task at hand; if you're a runner, you want to keep your legs in parallel. Martial Artists train to sickle their feet so the feet don't break on impact.

Back to ballet, I suspect that often form follows function, and then the function is forgotten. The function of turnout is stability. If we forget that, we chase after turnout for its own sake, and can end up falling off of even on highly turned out legs.

Turnout is one of the many, many factors that goes into making a great dancer. Very few people have all those factors naturally; those that you don't start out with must be trained. For that reason, ballet is still very challenging for almost everyone, including people with 180-degree turnout.

Some professional companies will not hire dancers who do not demonstrate a certain degree of turnout --- no matter how well they use what they have or how accomplished dancers they are. Having 180-degree turnout will help your daughter's chances of being hired by such a company.

In general, I think the healthiest attitute to turnout is to develop what you have, use it consistently, and then don't worry too much after that. Especially once you've passed puberty, there is nothing you can do to change your bone structure.

So you must accept your lot in life and the ramifications that has for your position in the ballet food chain. If you have to dance, you'll dance anyway even with lousy turnout. But it's a hard profession; if you aren't really driven to dance, just having lots of turnout won't be enough to keep you in it.

Others on this board will answer your questions about pointe work, I am sure.

<small>[ 07 May 2003, 02:51 PM: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2003 1:04 pm 
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Location: North America
The consensus at the better schools seems to be that pointe shouldn't even be thought about before the age of 10, and twelve is the standard. Some teachers want a physician to do an xray of the foot, before allowing a younger student (pre-puberty) to go on pointe. (Maybe teachers can post details on why it's a good idea?).

If your school is pushing a nine year old to do pointe, be suspicious. Be extra suspicious if the ballet class only meets once a week.

<small>[ 07 May 2003, 03:11 PM: Message edited by: Mom_of_dancer ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2003 3:26 pm 
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Location: New York
tll042866,

If you do a search on this forum, and the Studio forum, there are a lot of threads about pointe readiness. I'm not a moderator here, just a student, but I'm sure someone can figure out how to link to past forums.

To sum it up, the medical reason for not putting someone on pointe before the age of 11 or 12 has to do with the degree of ossification of the bones in the feet. Before age 12, there is simply not enough bone structure to safely support the bodies weight, without permanent damage to the feet. The xrays can determine the degree of ossification that has taken place.

It's a funny age to put girls on pointe. It's necessary to keep them on track (although that's debateable). It's the age when menstration starts as well as a ton of growth spirts. So many changes in the body so quickly...can lead to a lot of frustration as your center of gravity shifts. Many young women actually quit ballet at this time because it gets very difficult.

I don't think you should worry about rushing your daughter to go onto pointe. There no real disadvantage in waiting until she's technically and anatomically ready. Most girls start around age 12 so she'll be right on track if you wait until then.

Lucky kid with her perfect turnout :D

<small>[ 07 May 2003, 05:27 PM: Message edited by: lampwick ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2003 5:29 am 
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There is more to turn out than the rotation of the upper leg (thigh) in the hip socket. Does your daughter also have relatively straight legs? By this I mean, are the bones straight? I am not discussing how they sit in the joint, I mean the actual bones. That is also something that needs to be examined. Many dancers have great rotation in the upper leg but due to various circumstances do not have the necessary rotation from the knee down. This could be due to bowed legs or knocked knees. I am assuming your daughter has neither of these? It is possible to dance with both of these leg types, in major companies as well...Diana Vishneva(Kirov)is very bowlegged, a student of mine is in the corps of ABT with very bowed legs as well as a student of mine who is knock kneed in the corps of NYCB. They were both in the same class in school receiving the same information about turn out but with very different leg shapes. Turn out of the upper leg is a great facilitator of line but also the lower leg must be workable in order to give the dancer the ability for classical line.

Age nine in any school in the US is too young for pointe work. In Russia, where they do put young girls on pointe at 10, they are already studying ballet 6 days a week. Age 10 is the youngest one might be able to study pointe work but only with the most careful and precise training in a six day a week program. Only 10 to 15 minutes of pointe work is given 3 days a week at the maximum. Is your daughter studying with a certified teacher of Vaganova by any chance?


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2003 8:14 am 
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Location: Hamilton, MI
Thank you all for taking time to reply. We live in a rather rural area and really don't have access to probably the better dance schools. This is our third dance school and I really like my daughter's instructor, but I doubt that she'll progress much beyond basic dance. I really don't know what style she even teaches. I sometimes wonder if I should try to do more for her.

She really seems to have a natural grace and ability (although I wonder if I'm just partial). Her instructor has not pushed pointe - my daughter watches the older girls and is anxious to be able to do what they do. The last thing I want to do is damage her feet so I appreciate the info on that aspect.

My daughter does have straight legs - I do notice that other girls aren't so fortunate and I'm sure that must make it more difficult. She is built rather slightly - long legs and quite tall and thin. Her pediatrician guesses she'll end up around 5'10". Does that make it more difficult?

Only problem Christine has sometimes is being able to keep her front leg completely straight in a turned out fifth position. Her teacher is encouraging her to start to focus on her turnout since she has the ability and that the leg will straighten in time and if she lifts up more. Do you agree?


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2003 10:25 am 
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Location: New England
I agree on the straight leg business.

Your daughter seems to have a lot of natural desire as well as an easy body. Yet good training is hard to find, and you recognize how important that is for a dancer.

What you want to do about it ultimately depends on how much you are able/willing to turn your and your daughter's life upside-down in pursuit of a dance career for her. Are you willing to move closer to a school that could train her? Are you willing to send her away to boarding school at the age of 14? Are you willing to commute hours on end six days a week to a ballet school that's far from your house? Are there other pursuits in which your daughter is interested?


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2003 2:21 pm 
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Vrsfanatic - Why do you ask about the teaching method? I'm curious now.


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2003 8:35 pm 
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I ask about the teaching method mainly because I do not know of any program that recommends the study of pointe work at age nine. The reasons have been discussed repeated on this and many other websites. It is generally accepted that age 9 is too early. If a student is training in the Vaganova program 6 days a week with a certified teacher of this program then the pointe work does begin at age 10 1/2, however if the student is not studying in this fashion then it is not recommended that the student begin pointe at such a young age.

I hope this has clarified your question! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2003 1:57 am 
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One of the reasons that you cannot push pointe is that bones are not develop enough until at least the age of 11 for a young body to take the strains of doing pointe. It can lead to bone damage if someone is put on pointe too young.

Even then if a child is to be put on pointe at age 11 they need to have been studying ballet for at least around 3 years in my opinion and be taking a couple of classes a week at least.

What you and her teacher can do to help her if she is displaying talent at a young age is work on strengtheing ankles and also on getting all her demi-pointe work firm and well placed so that when pointe work does become an option she has all the best preparation possible.

Hope that helps.


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 Post subject: Re: Perfect Turnout?
PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2003 1:59 am 
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Sorry Lampwick I hadn't read your earlier post - but basically we agree!


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