Resource Papers and Fact Sheets
Turnout for Dancers: Supplemental Training
Aligning the Lower Limbs and Standing Work
While the focus of alignment discussions is often the pelvis and spine, the organization of the lower extremities is also important for dancers. The foundation supports of the body, the lower limbs, need to be aligned so that the weight of the body is supported evenly throughout the foot, not rolled to the inner or outer border. The following exercises address muscular recruitment and awareness of the lower limbs, and considerations in transferring this work to standing and traveling.
Begin lying on the back (supine) in hook lying position. Maintaining neutral pelvis, bring one leg to parallel attitude, heel above the sitz bone. Observing that the lower leg and foot have the potential to rotate when the knees are bent, draw an imaginary line from inside the ASIS down through the center of the hip joint, through the mid patella-mid ankle joint and continuing out between their 2nd and 3rd toes. Perform a series of points and flexes, using full ankle range of motion. Commonly, you will see that the feet turnout, and do not stay in line with the mid-knee and hip, so continue this exercise slowly until the correct alignment can be maintained. Repeat on the second side. After it is clear how to point and flex in good lower leg alignment with legs parallel, turnout at the hip, keeping this imaginary line constant through the leg and foot. Repeat the points and flexes, maintaining this line from the center of the hip joint, through the mid patella-mid ankle joints, and continuing out between the 2nd and 3rd toes.
Once it is clear that turnout comes from the hip joints as much as possible, stand and integrate all of the above images and experiences. First, review the neutral pelvic alignment in standing, including the motor control of the abdominals. Then, starting in a parallel position, begin to turnout. The upper thighs should move before the feet. Good alignment in stance is important to protect the health of the joints of the spine and hips. It is usually easier to begin in 2nd position as the anterior hip muscles are slightly slackened and the hip joint is freer to rotate externally. For an additional challenge, elevate the arms into 5th position, repeating the process of going from parallel to turnout. Does this change the alignment? It is more difficult to maintain a neutral pelvis with the arms elevated as it naturally extends the spine slightly.
Now assume an open 4th position parallel. Turn out both legs, keeping the pelvis neutral. Note that the leg in the back is harder to turnout due to the extension at the hip joint as compared to the front leg. Repeat on the other side to assess if one hip is easier to turnout than the other. Note the importance of both internal and external rotation at the hip joint for healthy hips.
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.