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,