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 Post subject: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 2:11 am 
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I have been reading some of the postings on turnout with interest, and I wondered if anyone can advise me regarding turnout in children. I have an eight year old daughter who is studying r.a.d. grade two level. She has been doing really well in class and has achieved high marks in exams.She intends to audition for the Royal Ballet school junior associates this year and her teacher says she should "have a go" but that I should be aware that they measure turnout very carefully and that she didn't think my daughter's turnout out was enough for them. I am upset as I have been told by other teachers that she has good turnout! To be honest,I don't think it's even been explained to her what turnout is all about to begin with. Can anyone tell me if there are simple exercises that an eight year old can do to understand what turnout means and how to improve it?


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 3:37 am 
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To understand (and assess) how much turnout you have, you need to lie down on a table (face up) with your legs (from the knee down) hanging down... <BR>Take one of the leg up to your torso (the hips should stay square at all times. If one sinks or the other sticks out, it's not good. Although, the back should be flat on the table. There will be a little gap in the lower back, near the bottom, but not that much. A hand or two on top of each other is all you can pass in-between the table and the back. I suspect for an 8 y o with not much forms, one hand max) then open the leg (again, hips stay square) as flat as possible. The turnout is this: the ability to turn your leg as near as possible to the table. A knee which is half way open should be the minimum angle. More than that is great, less is not as good, but can be (slightly) worked on. <BR>What is important to remember is that turnout is not all! If they assess your daughter according to that (it's true, they will!) it's not the only factor. If the rest is superb, they won't let her go! If the rest is just ok, and she has not such great turnout, then it may play a greater role, but don't think it's only a physical assessment. Unless she really has NO turnout at all, they're likely to take her anyway, regardless of her poor turnout, as they can rectify it. <BR>If they tell you that it's the reason for rejecting her application, I suspect they say that to spare your feelings... Not all great dancers have a superb turnout (and not at 8 anyway!)


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 4:23 am 
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Thanks for your reply. I don't suppose you know their method of testing at audition do you? Would it be the same exercise you describe above but on the floor or would they just assess from watching them do the regular class exercises to music?


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 5:58 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Welcome to the board Aude, it's a pleasure to have you join us. You mentioned that you have read some threads here on turnout, but not knowing which ones you are referring to, let me supply these in case you have not seen them:<P><A HREF="http://216.97.99.198/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000499.html" TARGET=_blank><B>Turnout - A Ballet Basic</B></A><P><A HREF="http://216.97.99.198/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000080.html" TARGET=_blank><B>Turnout</B></A><P>There are a few different ways of thinking of turnout. At its most basic it is certainly circumscribed by the structure of the skeleton - how the bones are shaped and how they fit together. That can't be altered. What can be altered is how it is used.<P>With proper nurture (and very carefully in children) the muslces can be stretched to some extent to allow the maximum allowed by the skeleton to be accessed. Then the body can be strengthened so that the amount of turnout available is also useable. <P>Envision of barrel of water. The amount of water in the barrel is what is available. But you can't reach the bottom of the barrel to use all the water. So you learn to stretch over the barrel to get at the water. Then you need the strength to lift out the water in your bucket. <P>The most important thing, I think for a parent to be aware of, is that turnout can't be forced - at all - and that it must come from the hips. If it is forced it will endanger everything else - spine, knees, feet. <P>There are some simple exercises that she can do to understand it. If she stands in first position and points to the front, have her turn her leg inwardly and then outwardly - that will give her a simple illustration of how her leg turns in and out. <P>But of course it is much more complex. Her hips hare to be aligned, her spine lengthened. That's way working with a qualified teacher that nurtures rather than pushes turnout is imperative. And that is why I don't recommend her working by herself.<P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 6:15 am 
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In a word, I think the audition process you're about to face is just a little bit ridiculous. The single most important factor that will determine whether your daughter embarks on a professional ballet career is an overriding desire to dance and a willingness to work hard for it. Most eight-year-olds don't know what they want to do with their lives, making this factor impossible to assess at age 8.<P>Ballet academies naturally want to accept students who will go on to make fine professional dancers. But for the reason indicated above, this is nearly impossible at age 8. At SAB (School of American Ballet, maybe the top ballet academy in America), for example, very few of the students who enter at age 8 go on to professional careers with NYC Ballet. Most SAB students who go on to NYC Ballet trained elsewhere for many years, and then attended SAB during high school.<P>In the face of this reality, I think it makes sense for ballet academies to accept as many students as possible at an early age. Later on, in their teens, after students been there a while, it's easier to assess the essentials to success: desire to dance, good work habits, and demonstrated progress. For whatever reason, many ballet academies do not see this point of view.<P>Instead, they continue to limit enrollment even at young ages. Once you've decided you're going to limit enrollment, you have to figure out some test to decide who comes and who doesn't. So schools say they look at a "variety" of factors, including how a student moves, and some physical factors as well, such as turnout. Turnout is an especially appealing factor to add to the decision-making process because it can be measured numerically. Unfortunately, none of those factors really contribute much success. My movements as a child were terribly stiff and I had no turnout, and yet I'm dancing professionally now.<P>Not only do I think the 8-year-old audition process is arbitrary, it can also set up psychologically unhealthy patterns in the young dancer's life. Ballet is infamous for the intense sense of insecurity instilled in generation after generation of dancers at a young age. This has serious health consequences later on: anorexia and smoking are just two of them.<P>As for the technical issues of turnout itself: I have seen pictures in books of ballet academies measuring turnout using methods similar to those described by balletowoman. Unfortunately, even this seemingly objective measure does less than you might expect as far as measuring useful turnout goes.<P>Why? There are two kinds of turnout, not just one! How much of each kind of turnout you have depends on your bone structure, the loosness of certain muscles, etc. People can have a lot of one and not much of the other, or vice versa; they are really quite independent.<P>The measurement balletowoman described measures only one kind of turnout. The other kind can be assessed by going onto a high releve and keeping your legs completely straight. Then gently rock back and forth from one foot to the other. Each time you do that, stretch the leg you're not standing on a bit longer and turn it further out before you put it back on the ground. In the process, "climb" up onto the top of your standing leg in the hip socket. After doing that for a while, you will discover your maximum rotation. This exercise is relatively safe: as long as you keep your legs straight, you cannot twist your knee, even if you don't know what you're doing.<P>Proper use of turnout requires a balance between the two kinds of turnout, and skill at transferring your body between the two types (that's called "holding" your turnout, although it's often quite an active process). Getting this action down properly is much more important than how much of either kind of turnout you start with.<P>As far as explaining turnout to your daughter: ballet training is too often short on explanations. Traditional training methods involve getting a bunch of similar bodies in the studio together and telling the children to move their bodies through certain positions. It's quite possible that your daughter's body understands turnout better than her mind.<P>I wouldn't worry too much about the upcoming audition. If your daughter wants to dance, she will find a way regardless of what the Royal Ballet School does with her. If she doesn't want to dance, she'll never amount to much as a dancer, even if she has 180 degree turnout. In the meantime, it's important for you and your daughter to keep a healthy outlook in life and not get too wrapped up in its ridiculous aspects.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by citibob (edited March 18, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 6:43 am 
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..hmmm....I don't feel quite so negatively about it. It is true that anything can be taken to a 'ridiculous aspect'...for sure. But there is nothing negative about wanting to be part of the Royal Ballet's program.<P>I would suggest, however, that you prepare your daughter for the possibility that she might have to seek another door, if this one is not open to her. There are many doors into the room. Not being able to go through a particular door, is not failure. She will be matching her response to yours, so I would urge that your response should be positive toward her and her dreams, no matter what the outcome. Have Plan B ready.<P>As was discussed before on the "Keefer" thread in the Issues Forum, whilst some of the rules for entry to a particular ballet school may be stringent - they do have the right to have those rules.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 6:56 am 
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How exciting to think your your daughter's teacher thinks she'd have a chance of getting in to the Royal's program. I'm sure that their screening process is fairly thorough, and that they will only accept children with bodies (as well as minds and musicality and other factors) that they feel will be able to withstand the training required.<P>Two thoughts -- if she auditions and does not make it, that does not mean she can't be a dancer. As already discussed there are many roads to a dance career. <P>Regarding turnout, there are schools that cram the kids into a 180 degree fifth position even if they are not properly aligned. (I do not know how the Royal approaches this.) The assumption is that if you stand that way, eventually everything else will line up on top of that. Unfortunately this can lead to a weak technical foundation and injuries. Some students do get through this kind of training without major problems. And if they are thrown out of the game with injuries, there are always enough eager dancers to take their place. There are risks to every physical pursuit. But with turnout and ballet, I prefer a school that helps children develop their turnout slowly and carefully. It lessens the risk, creates strong dancers and seems much more humane to me.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 7:43 am 
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Certainly, there's nothing wrong with wanting to train with Royal Ballet; I'm not being negative. I was trying to head off the sense of panic at an early age. I'll repeat: most NYC Ballet dancers who came through SAB did not enter SAB until late in their training.<P>I know nothing about the Royal Ballet School, but the above fact may hold for it as well. There will likely be many more chances to audition for the Royal Ballet School. The older your daughter is when she auditions, the better they can evaluate her based on the most important factors: her desire to dance, her hard work, and her demonstrated progress.<P>I've mentioned elsewhere that slightly different training methods are needed for different bodies. Some methods, for example, seem to work well for people with a lot of natural turnout but can be dangerous for the rest of us. In that case, it would only be responsible for a ballet academy to carefully assess turnout (or other important factors).<P>Too often, the message of "our training methods are not right for your daughter's body" is heard more like "your daughter doesn't have the ballet body". I believe it's possible to train just about any body/mind combination for ballet, you just have to find the right methods. "Plan B" type of training does not necessarily produce a better or worse result than "Plan A" training, it's just harder to find.<P>Oh yes, I am excited for your daughter Image<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 8:00 am 
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It would be very interesting, Aude, for you to tell us what the audition is like. What you thought about it and what your daughter thought about it.<P>And what you decide to do.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 12:28 pm 
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Citibob, regarding your "second kind of turnout." I understand you are describing the active aspect of turnout. That is very difficult to apply to young children, which is why they apply the passive form of testing. I don't think the only reason is to exclude children with "imperfect" turnout. In many cases, as the student progresses through training,there will be a tendency to try and force more turnout, in spite of good training. This is just a fact, unfortunately, and frictional resistance of the floor makes it nearly subconscious oftentimes. Back to the reason why only the passive test is used. It is not necessarily because the children could not understand, although they may not, but because they haven't reached a level of neuro-muscular development that makes it possible. I think the exercise can be used to help them to begin to develop an awareness of using muscles for turnout, but shouldn't be used as a measurement of the degree of their muscular abilities.<P>Here is something useful that I have found that can address what you are talking about in regards to using/developing turnout within the anatomical parameters. It is also good for showing discrepancies in the two sides. <A HREF="http://www.dancemedicine.com" TARGET=_blank>http://www.dancemedicine.com</A> <P>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited March 18, 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited March 18, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 2:07 pm 
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Maggie, that's very interesting, now I have more questions.<P>It seems to me that "active" vs. "passive" is not the only difference here. The bones are in a fundamentally different geometry. In one, your leg is bent, in the other it's straight. It uses different muscles, stretches different muscles, and is ultimately limited by different muscles. Would you say this is so?<P>Also, simple rotation is of course used at some level, as soon as students stand in first position. How does that fit with what you're saying?<P>I suppose lack of frictional resistance en pointe helps put an end to forced turnout?<P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 2:42 pm 
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Those are good questions. In the first, I'm not sure what you mean about the bent leg. If you are talking about the passive test, the leg is bent at the knee of the leg being tested. (Subject lying on back on table) It just facilitates the manual rotation of the leg in the hip, and since it is passive, no muscles should be active concerning the movemnt in the hip. The thigh coming out of the pelvic joint is not flexed, or bent. That is how the skeletal/ligamental turnout is determined. Yes, when the hip is flexed, the femur can revolve more, but that is not the true, effective turnout, for when you straighten the leg (this would be standing up) with that amount of turnout from the flexed hip, it won't be the same with the hip exended, and the knee gets torqued.<P>The second point that simple rotation is used, in a child, is correct. It is "simple" rotation. Skeletally, the child may be capable of more turnout. Functionally, she can only use as much as she is capable of, which will be considerably less than a maturely proprioceptive muscle will be capable of. Children can't use their muscles to the degree that an adult "knows" to "work" (the effort) them.<P>The third point. Yes, you are right. It is difficult to force turnout en pointe. The muscles need to be well developed for turnout to do pointe work. The dancer isn't on pointe all the time, and the configuration of a pointe shoe makes it easier land from pointe with a knee-in rolled foot alignment. Additionally, a dancer may try to make up for lack of strength in turnout en pointe, in attempting to turnout by tilting the pelvis, which is bad for the lower back, and for getting that "pulled up into the center" effect.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 2:47 pm 
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It seems that both types of turnout you discuss are what I call "rotation".<P>The other type, which is what I THOUGHT Basheva described but maybe is not, involves flexion at the hip. That's what you get, say, in pas de chat in the air.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 4:01 pm 
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Yes, you are right. This is also rotational because the thigh is rotated in the hip, even when the hip flexes, which, of course it is allowed to do in dance. The thigh can rotate further when the hip is flexed. This is not a problem so much in non-weight bearing movements. However, if you try this in a weight bearing situation, like a grande plie in first (I'm with Basheva, I'm not crazy about grande plies in any position but seconde, at least in much repetition.)At the bottom of the plie, you may notice that you can take your knees wider in turnout, even slightly, if you started correctly with the true turnout. Now, if you tried to hold that amount from your foot up as you straightened from the plie, you will find that there will have to be some forcing. Of course, it is possible to do this, and just allow the legs to return to true turnout as you straighten without forcing, and I have seen it done, but I don't recommend it typically.<P>It is very important, because, especially standing on one leg in turnout, if the hip is flexed, then the knee must be bent (unless you're bending over at the waist) This is a position of great instability, which which requires great strength within the ability of true turnout. <P>How many dancers have you seen put their feet in fifth, knees slightly bent, hips flexed, and then straighten their knees and hips to "get more turnout." They seem to have more turnout in the bent knee, flexed hips position than in the straightened position, and they use the floor in this movement to cheat.


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 Post subject: Re: turnout in young children
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 6:56 pm 
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I've seen the forcing you describe. But now that I think of it, I haven't noticed it where I train now. It seems that that such action would end up with butt sticking out. We're told it's mot important to be HIGH on our legs.<P>When bending our knees, we're told to "move the knee side", rather to think of any type of rotation. Develope side, we're told to do with the knee pointing straight towards the ceiling, even if we can rotate the knee towards the back wall.<P>It seems that if you move your knee in a certain path to the side when going into grand plie, then you should certainly be able to reverse that movement on the way up without forcing your turnout, and it shouldn't involve any "rotating in" either. Moreover, if "knee side" action is applied correctly, it stretches the muscles at the front of the hips in a way that simple rotation with the knees straight does not.<P>What I've described seems to work well for adults, at least. How well do you think it works for young children?<BR><p>[This message has been edited by citibob (edited March 18, 2002).]


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