Bent Knee in 5th position

I have a big problem standing in fifth position. More specifically, I can’t straighten both of my legs when my right leg is in front – which I found out is longer. My teacher keeps telling me to straighten my legs but I can’t figure out how to do that and keep a square and straight 5th position no matter how hard I grip my quads. She says to lift up and turnout more so I don’t grip – but that doesn’t work. What can I do?

There is a simple solution to this problem. That is to get a lift to put in your soft slippers of the short leg. I have seen this problem before when the dancer comes to see me and is having some knee, hip, or ankle problems on the long leg side.

In fact, I just did a recent zoom assessment on a dancer with a chronic ankle injury and we think it is from an undiagnosed leg length difference. Time will tell – but I’m encouraged with the positive short term feedback from wearing a lift in ballet class. Working at the barre is most often where these undiagnosed leg length challenges happen.

If there is enough difference that you cannot easily cheat your 5th (I’m not encouraging anyone to cheat anything) that tells me you are standing unevenly between the two legs even in open positions.

There are only so many ways to try and make 5th look normal in a situation like this. Pronating the foot on the longer leg is one, standing on the shorter leg and shifting the the longer leg slightly forward, or bending the knee on the longer leg.

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 – less than a half inch in thickness under your short leg. Repeat your demi plié. Does it look more even? How does it feel?

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. 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.

To your success,

2 replies
  1. Linda T Gioscia
    Linda T Gioscia says:

    Hello Deborah!! I never thought to do this in ballet shoes because there isn’t much room in them, do the lifts/ heel cushions fit in without lifting the dancer’s heel too much out of the shoe? Or do they need to get a large shoe to be able to fit them?

    Thank you!!

    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Hi Linda,
      Sorry… didn’t see your comment right away. I have had many ballet dancers put a heel lift in their soft slippers (not pointe shoes) It generally worked well – although they needed to get the right shoe that the back went high enough. If it didn’t, there were a few dancers who would open up the back and put an elastic across and then it worked for them. When something makes a big difference you have to be creative sometimes!


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