To an untrained eye, fifth position might look simple and easy. But the iconic crossed position of the legs and feet proves to be one of the most challenging classical ballet positions for dancers to do correctly, and for teachers to introduce properly.
At Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, teachers take a hands-on approach. "We rotate the tops of the backs of the legs forward, so students understand how those muscles should work," says Darla Hoover, associate artistic director. "We put their body in the right position while pointing to areas they need to hold. It's a constant narrative. You can't just slap them into fifth and call it a day."
Some leading schools differ in their philosophies about how and when the position should be taught. But they all agree that dancers need strength, good alignment and careful guidance to ensure that they find their best fifth.