My daughter's ballet teachers have been telling her to straighten her legs more—particularly in arabesque—but she swears they're as straight as she can make them. Do you know how we can help this?
Sometimes knees won't straighten due to injury, like a meniscal tear or swelling caused by trauma or arthritis. To test if this might be a problem for your daughter, have her lie down on her back with her feet and legs relaxed in a straight line underneath her hips. If she has hyper-flexed knees because of muscular tension or injury, her knee will be lifted toward the ceiling, putting a large amount of space between the floor and the back of her knee. If there isn't a significant amount of space between her knee and the floor, straight legs aren't the problem.
Because she's getting the correction in arabesque, I think it's more likely that she isn't working her turnout properly. If the kneecap of her working leg is dropped toward the ground in arabesque, her leg will appear bent when it's straight.
It's also possible her body type is causing the illusion. Dancers' legs will seem bent if they have naturally knobby knees that protrude forward.
No matter the reason, make sure her teachers are careful with her knees, and never push down on them to encourage length.
To your success,
Director, The Body Series
Got a question for Deb? E-mail email@example.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.