I was taught to consistently squeeze my gluteals when dancing, to assist in turnout, and have encouraged my students to do the same. Recently, though, I experimented with relaxing these muscles and have discovered immediate relief from chronic hip pain. Have I been teaching my students incorrectly all along?
What you have discovered is that, when the gluteals are held in a chronic state of contraction, the joints and hip area begin to complain. There are no muscles in the body that were designed to be permanently contracted. Muscles were designed to turn on to create movement in their special direction, and then turn off when the movement no longer requires their assistance. (Or contract and release, if we keep to terms that dancers use.) A chronically contracted muscle is much more prone to injury, and can create a muscular imbalance by pulling the bone in one direction, potentially shifting it from the center of the joint.
The job of the gluteals is to move your leg into extension, thereby assisting in rotation. Assist is the operative word. Engaging them is necessary, but should be done in moderation. Don't keep the gluteals totally relaxed or flexed, because they will both have negative consequences. Focus on efficient alignment and finding the deep outward rotators for your turnout.
To your success,
Director, The Body Series
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