I have a dancer who has a very tight back. She can't even touch her toes. She says it doesn't hurt, but she feels no stretch. I am able to push her back down further (with no pain for her), but she just can't do it on her own. How can I help her? —Anna
Deborah Vogel is a neuromuscular educator and director of The Body Series. Here, she works with Mariah Aivazis. Photo by Jim Lafferty
Turnout—the outward rotation of the hips that dancers are constantly striving to improve. Yet few actually have the 180-degree outward rotation that is so idealized. In her 40-plus years of working as a movement analyst, Deborah Vogel has only come across a handful of dancers who have it. "That's structural," she says. "They have a shallow hip socket, so the head of the thighbone can move in a greater range. The rotation at the hip for the general population, though, is 90 degrees—about 45 degrees in each direction."
Although a dancer's range of motion depends on her structure, Vogel says she can still improve her turnout. "They're not going to get to 180. But if they have good muscle balance, they can improve their ability to stand in greater than 90-degree turnout."
I have, according my dance teachers, the "perfect dancer body." My legs are hyperextended and I have perfect turnout. If I have the "perfect dancer body," then why does my body hurt so much while I dance?
First of all, thank you for answering my question about how to get higher extensions to the front and side. Regarding the exercise you suggested, I have a question. When I tried it, I felt the bone that is between the top of my thigh and torso "pop out" and a lot of engagement in the area where my hip flexor is. Isn't the iliopsoas located more underneath the abs, coming around from the back? Shouldn't I feel engagement there more than in my main hip flexor? —Hadley
My 10-year-old daughter has a dance teacher who has the students stay in the frog position for a few minutes each class. My daughter finds it very uncomfortable. Does this position actually serve a purpose?
Like many dancers, I was taught to hold my hips square when standing in fourth and fifth positions. However, in a recent professional development course, I was told the following:
"The hips cannot anatomically be square in fourth or fifth. The dancer must not try to hold them square—it is neither possible nor desirable. For pliés and all other movements in fourth, the pelvis will rotate toward the back leg. Rather than squaring off the hips, allow the hips to swing toward the back leg and square off the shoulders from the upper spine."