5th Position and a Long Leg

I have a problem standing in fifth position. I cannot straighten both legs and still maintain a closed fifth position, mostly because one leg is longer than the other one! I have to hem one pant leg up so I don’t keep catching my heel in it. My teachers tell me to straighten my legs and I’m working as hard as I can but I just end up gripping my quads and tucking under – and it still doesn’t look right. What else can I do?

It sounds like you have a true leg length difference rather than a functional discrepancy. A true leg length difference is when the length of the bones on one leg are significantly different from the other. A functional discrepancy is when the bones of the two legs are the same length but there is a postural asymmetry that is throwing your alignment off.

Let’s try a simple solution first. Stand in first position facing the mirror. Slowly lower into demi plié. Do you shift to the longer leg side at the bottom of the plié? Now put something small – between .5 to 1 inch in thickness under your short leg. Repeat your demi plié. Does it look more even? How does it feel? It’s not unusual to get an enthusiastic – WOW, that feels better when there is a true leg length.

I also look at how the spine lines up when looking at leg length. I’ve seen plenty of dancers who had a long leg and it was creating a scoliotic response in the spine. When I place the lift under the short leg, the spine straightens out. It’s lovely when you can easily balance how the weight falls through the whole body!

If it feels significantly better it would be worth going to the drug store and purchasing a pair of heel cushions and place one of them in your soft shoe of the shorter leg. It is an inexpensive fix. Take the other lift and put it in your walking shoes and notice if you feel more evenly balanced as you go through the day.

If it isn’t a true leg length, then further evaluation needs to happen. Is there muscle shortness in the lower back or lateral hip? Postural patterns that are affecting the spine? This is when a sports med doctor and/or physical therapist needs to step in and assess. In the dance world, balancing out the small differences can make a huge difference in your technique!

To your success,

2 replies
  1. Alaina Naylor
    Alaina Naylor says:

    I have the same issue because I’m more flat footed in my left foot, so I fall to that side and I’m bow legged with hypertension too. So my fifth doesn’t close all the way, legs look bent when they aren’t, my calf hits my other leg so it pushes it back or vice versa, and my legs struggle to fully cross, my hips aren’t square and it doesn’t help my extension. Ultimately it causes a number of complications. I started wearing arch support in my left shoe outside of ballet and it helps even out my hips and legs as well as lessen the pain, however I honestly need it in ballet class. I need it in my flats and pointe shoes but I don’t know if I should do that.

    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Hi Alaina, I would focus on not hyperextending your knees which will help you stay out of pronation. (being flat-footed) Sometimes that is enough to keep the foot more square. So many people’s 5th don’t close all the way so don’t get too upset by that and instead focus on even weight on the feet and keeping the legs in good alignment. I haven’t had many dancers wear an arch support in their soft slippers – but why not try it and see if it helps. Don’t put it in your pointe shoes though. Best, Deborah


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