Forum: Ballet / Ballet - Adult Dancers

Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By LeahStars
On Sun Aug 02, 2015 01:42 PM

Hi guys,

I'm in this ballet class and I have some concerns.

My gut instinct is telling me she is wrong - but she is the teacher and I'm a beginner - so maybe I don't really know what I'm talking about?

In class at the barre - we are going through all of the positions - doing plies, etc. and she notices that my turnout is not a perfect 180.

And she tells me to fix my feet - heels together - so that they are at 180 degrees - and to do my plies that way. But it is so hard to do them that way... I mean I feel twisting in my knees - it hurts a little bit. It is not what I thought it would feel like.

I thought the idea of turnout was that there is no tension in your knees - to rotate only from the hips and not the knees.

She told me that if I wanted to improve I need to stretch the ligaments in my knees to get a comfortable 180 degree turnout.

I always thought that you are not supposed to stretch ligaments - that it might even be dangerous? I mean she walks around class in pain complaining about her "bad knees and back".

What do you think?

I'm thinking about quitting the class... I don't want to risk injury.

She got really mad when I asked her about it. : S

But it is really disappointing because I'm in a small town and this is the only adult ballet class I can find.

9 Replies to Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?

re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By majeremember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Aug 02, 2015 01:55 PM
I'm with you on this. If it hurts then don't do it. You should just be working with the turn out you have.
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By Serendipity42Premium member
On Sun Aug 02, 2015 07:41 PM
If she has been Russian trained then she has been trying to expect 180° turn out at all times. She obviously does not understand that an adult beginner will not have that unless they have hypermobile hips.

Instead of questioning her methods, you might want to say that at this time you are unable to do a full 180° turn out. Since you do not want to be injured and want to remain in her class, you will work with the turnout you have at this time. Explain that as an adult, your bones and ligaments have already been formed and may not get to 180°.

If she continues to insist on 180° turn out, then I strongly suggest that you find another class. I did have this happen with two teachers who were from The Vaganova Institute in Russia, and had to tell them that I could not go for 180 degrees due to prior injuries. They did not insist after that.
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By hummingbird
On Sun Aug 02, 2015 07:52 PM
I agree, find another class, people need to understand what they're dealing with developmentally to be able to teach safely, this sounds like she has little understanding of safe teaching practices.
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By Ballerina_Bunny
On Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:48 AM
There are many different takes on turnout and what is safest vs what is most pleasing or wanted and what different teachers expect will certainly vary. However, especially since you are an adult beginner and (but I am assuming here) probably have no aspirations to become a professional ballet dancer, 180 degree turnout isn't something you really want to force, nor is it necessary. Stretching the ligaments in your knees really isn't going to help you much with anything but faking a 180 degree position and you're probably not going to be able to work effectively in that position, not to mention all the potential knee and foot injuries you could acquire from doing so.

Anyways, you mentioned that your teacher got mad when you tried mentioning your concerns and she insists on you stretching your knees; what exactly did you say to her? Did you mention the twisting you feel in your knees and the pain you experience? Depending on how you phrased things you might've come off (unintentionally) as disrespectful to question her teaching methods as if you knew better which may have made her mad. If you decide to mention your concerns again to her, carefully think over how you're going to phrase things in the most respectful manner possible. Don't pester her about it, though.

Do all the students in her class force 180 degree turnout?

Ultimately it's up to you whether to stay in her class, of course, and it's a shame that it appears to be the only adult beginner class available to you. But working with forced 180 degree turnout can lead to injury, and if you really feel like your knees are twisting and painful then it probably isn't in your body's best interest to stay in her class.

Comment #10226846 deleted
Removed by majere (186163) on 2015-08-03 17:02:56 Double post

re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By LeahStars
On Mon Aug 03, 2015 05:58 PM
Thank you for all of your input, I really appreciate it.

I suppose it is a huge red flag for me - because in the past - over and over again I have had other coaches tell me to never ever stretch ligaments/knees - but this is ballet so I thought maybe it is different?

There are other things... Like she tells me my feet are really really bad "the worst she has ever seen" and has me doing a few very painful stretches for them. Like wedging them under a bench. But my other coach who does rhythmic gymnastics tells me I have great feet. So now I keep looking at my feet and comparing to pictures and to me I think I look ok. Not the best - not the worst. I can point my toes to the floor unassisted when sitting in a pike.

I've been thinking about it a lot. And to be honest the teacher makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don't know why.
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By Ballerina_Bunny
On Tue Aug 04, 2015 01:13 PM
While ballet certainly is unique, what is bad for your knee is bad for your knee no matter why you're doing it. If stretching the ligaments in your knees is bad for them in other activities, why would it be OK in ballet? It's not.

It sounds like you have fairly good arches if you can point your toes to the floor in a pike position (assuming your knees aren't bent) and it fails me why your teacher is treating you like this. I mean, working to improve your turnout and feet is always something beneficial to do but having you force your turnout and cram your feet under a bench while telling you that you have the worst feet she has ever seen seems a bit harsh and doesn't sound like the actions a responsible teacher would do.

I would very strongly consider not taking her class anymore. It doesn't sound like a positive environment and it seems as if continuing to practice using her methods will lead to injury.
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By Serendipity42Premium member
On Tue Aug 04, 2015 07:55 PM
These are very unsafe practices you are describing. I think it's time to find a new teacher...
re: Ballet Teacher Wants Me To Stretch My Knees?
By Storm_Trouper
On Wed Aug 05, 2015 04:10 PM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:14:39
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:15:17
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:22:39
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:26:02
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:27:52
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:29:15
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:32:42
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:37:02
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:37:40
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:39:18
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:42:32
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:50:54
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-08-05 16:51:48
It has been observed that some people try to teach things to others in the same manner as how they themselves were once taught the skill, even though the approach or methodology that they (mis-)apply might actually be inappropriate, inadequate for the particular learner, harmful and injurious, less efficient and effective, or is just a plain OUTDATED or outmoded practice in light of more recently validated research and understanding.

The reasons for foisting and perpetuating disreputable methods vary: teacher may be incapable or ignorant of doing anything more progressive and informed (doesn't know any better, or doesn't know what she/he doesn't know); or may be unwilling to consider alternative approaches (rejects them, not open minded) due to her/his ingrained attitudes, deeply held beliefs, arrogance and superiority self image, personal insecurities, narrow experience, delusional, prejudice, too cheap or can't afford to upgrade one's qualifications and knowledge, vested interest in maintaining the status quo or power ... the reasons can go on and on... and don't apply to only just ballet!

I am not saying your teacher suffers from any of the above shortcomings or attributes. On the other hand, it's 2015 and forcing turn out, forcing arch bending and providing negative feedback to a recreational, late starting adult doesn't sound overly enlightened, does it?

It would be interesting to know this teacher's qualifications and if she is subject to any quality control systems. Does she have an established record for developing outstanding practitioners and a recognized reputation among professionals in the know I wonder.

PS my understanding is that a small percentage of overall turn out can be attributed to the knee joint; and that up to a certain stage of growth development within the younger age range overstretching can gradually and safely lead to increased range of motion, more gentle coaxing and facilitating physiological adaptation up to a point than outright harmful abrupt forcing.


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