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Resource Paper: Turnout for Dancers - Supplemental Training - Page 6

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Turnout for Dancers: Supplemental Training


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  1. If the dancer has tilted the pelvis as described above to try to increase turnout incorrectly, the low back (the lumbar extensor muscles) might also become tight. Lumbar stretching can be done sitting on the floor, hanging forward, or lying on the back hugging the knees to the chest. For a more intense stretch, one can sit in a chair and hang forward with the legs separated, but this should not be done if there is low back pain. Lumbar stretching can also be done standing in parallel position in plié, holding onto the barre, or kneeling over a physioball. If there is excessive tension, the dancer can lie on small balls, placing them in areas of greatest tension, and then breathe and release the weight into the balls. Sometimes by doing the hip flexor stretches and allowing the pelvis to drop to neutral, the lumbar extensors will begin to release tension without doing stretches for this area.

It is important to remember that even after the muscles have been sufficiently strengthened and stretched to allow for good alignment, the neural patterning must still be addressed. There is literally an infinite supply of images and the key is to individualize the image for the dancer. Some dancers work better with images that focus on the diamond formed by the tailbone, pubic bone, and "sitz” bones, visualizing this diamond remaining parallel to the floor during movement. Another image using bony landmarks is for the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines, or the two bones that protrude on the front of the pelvis) to line up vertically over the pubic bone. Other dancers relate more easily to images of the pelvis as a bowl of water, and not spilling water in any direction. Still others can use the image of the elastic bands from the pubic bone to the low back, and adjust the length of those elastic bands to arrive at neutral. Dancers carrying tension in the lumbar extensors or hip flexors can benefit from images of water pouring down the low back or the front of the hips softening and opening like taffy. Teachers should provide a variety of images so dancers can choose the one(s) that work best for them. Often the best images are the ones the dancers create themselves.

Addressing Muscular and Neuromotor Components of the Hip Joint

The most obvious muscles of the hip are located in the buttocks. The large gluteal muscles act as hip extensors (taking the leg to the back) and external rotators. In contrast, the muscles that are more important for turnout, the deep lateral rotators, are small and are buried under the gluteals. These six lateral rotator muscles are attached to different parts of the pelvis. They all then run laterally, spanning the back of the hip joint capsule and the ischiofemoral ligament. Finally, they all attach behind the greater trochanter of the femur.

The function of the six deep rotator muscles is to laterally rotate or turn out the leg, relative to the pelvis. They achieve this goal by pulling the greater trochanter of the femur backwards, toward the back of the pelvis. It is often difficult for dancers to isolate contraction of this muscle group. It is not necessary to tighten or "clench” the gluteals to activate the deep lateral rotators group. The following series of exercises allows for recruiting and experiencing the external rotation at the hip first without weight bearing, and in conjunction with a variety of hip movements, including flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction.

  1. Begin lying on the back (supine) in hook lying position, that is, with the knees flexed, legs parallel, and the feet on the floor. Open the knees fully, and flex the feet, placing the heels together and just off the floor so that the body is lying in what would be a grand plié when standing. Imagine that there are two magnets on the inner thighs that are drawn together and roll toward the ceiling as the legs slowly extend along the floor, pelvis staying neutral. Image that the legs are being pulled by a partner and that the outer thighs are soft and silky and long as the feet move further out in space. At the end of the extension, imagine that the heels are glued together, and slowly flex the feet. This is now standing first position, turned out.

Page 1Page 6Page 11
Page 2Page 7Page 12
Page 3Page 8Page 13
Page 4Page 9Appendix and References
Page 5Page 10

This paper may be reproduced in its entirety for educational purposes, provided acknowledgement is given to the "International Association for Dance Medicine and Science."

Copyright © 2011 IADMS, Virginia Wilmerding, Ph.D., and Donna Krasnow, M.S.

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