Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Your second leg: the easiest thing you can focus on to up your technique!

Hello beautiful dancers!

While watching students in a class that was not my own, I was struck by a common element that seemed to distinguish beginner dancers from experienced ones, messy technique from clean technique:

The Second Leg

No matter what the student was doing - a glissade, a pique turn, chaine turns, pas de chat - the second leg, that is, the leg that follows, was an afterthought or placed incorrectly. The first leg - the lead leg - was fine! In some instances, it was great! But the second leg...

...not so much. Some problems I saw:

In a glissade, the second leg is turned in and placed into fifth instead of extending to second with energy and the toes melting into the floor before the foot closes.

In a pique turn, the second leg steps across the lead leg instead of cutting under it.

In a series of chaine turns, the second leg both turns in and crosses over the lead leg instead of staying in tight first position. 

In a pas de chat, the second leg doesn't propel the body to the side but instead lifts in place by the knee and turns in.

There are many, many more examples I could use so okay, let's talk about some of them too:

In a pirouette en dehors, the second leg - the standing leg - doesn't push up to a full releve but spins in place on the ball of the foot.

In a grand jete developpe (or saut de chat), the second leg doesn't actively battement off the floor but drags behind.

In a grand jete en tournant (or tour jete), the second leg doesn't kick higher than the lead leg and gets turned in.

In a pique arabesque, the second leg doesn't maintain its rotation and gets turned in.

And on...

Do you see where I'm going with this? 

**Focus on your second leg. 

**Focus on the leg that you're not actively thinking about. 

We spend a lot of time thinking about stretching the leg fully for a pique, and we brush the leg very high for a grand jete, but we forget about the leg that follows - the Second Leg. Where is it? What is it doing? How does it need to be activated? Is it staying turned out?

All of these things should become second nature to you and when they do, then your technique will be clean. Remember, it's not about height in a jump, not about the number of turns you can do, not about the speed of your traveling's about proper placement of the feet and and maintaining rotation. 

And it's also about safety! If your second leg isn't working correctly, if you're overcrossing, you will spin out of control on turns and run into other dancers or off the stage. If you're not kicking that back leg on a jump or pushing for a pas de chat, you can land badly and hurt your knee or your hip.

So next time you're in class, take a moment to focus differently. Learn to love your Second Leg!

Happy dancing!

(And don't forget to sign up for Gentle Ballet on Sundays at 11:30AM AND get your tickets to the streaming event of Hotel at the End of the Universe on July 9 &10!)

The cast striking a silly pose
With my 3 cheeky bellhops!

Friday, June 3, 2022

3 Technique Tips to make your Ballet Better!

Happy Friday, beautiful dancers!

It's been a while since I've posted some handy-dandy technique tips so to make up for that, here are 3 that I think will help you:

1. When stacking your boxes, watch that middle one! It could sink!

When we talk about aligning the body for balance, we often use the imagery of stacking your head on your torso on your hips, don't we? Well, that's not exactly accurate. That picture assumes all 3 boxes are the same size and shape, right? But in truth, a more realistic image is that your middle box - your torso - is solid while the lower one - your hips - is open. If you're not careful, the center box could sink right into it.

What does it look like when your torso drops into your hips? If you are en releve, you will feel your heels drop closer to the floor, your knees might buckle, and your elbows will collapse (if they are over your head, you will see the circle flatten and if they are in first position in front of you, the elbows will be lower than the wrists). If you are flat, you might notice it's hard to shift your leg out to a tendu without pulling your hips back behind your heels, and you might feel your ribcage soften and your shoulders roll forward.

How do we fix this? Engage the core! (I imagine Captain Picard from the Starship Enterprise) 

Engage the core! Make it so! (Getty Images)

If you activate the muscles of the torso - back, sides, and abdominals - you will keep yourself pulled up and feel a lift out of your hips. Your middle box will be balanced over the lower box and you will find it much easier to hold a releve longer and to do things like chaine turns and so on.

2. Use your small muscles to find your turnout and your big ones to hold it!

Do you ever feel a soreness deep in your hips after class, like your hip sockets are inflamed and sensitive? More likely than not, you are overusing your deep external rotators (the Deep 6 muscles are: piriformis, obturator internus, obturator externus, gemellus inferior, gemellus superior, and the quadratus femoris). These muscles are used to move the hip joint by externally rotating the femur head. Many dancers not only use these muscles to rotate the bones but then they use them to hold the turnout, especially when they are at the barre or center, balancing on one leg.

What does it look like when you're gripping your rotators to hold your turnout? Well, you might not actually see it but you will certainly feel it after class! A teacher looking closely might notice that your derriere is tucked under you and your hips are tilted when you are doing an extension; they might also see that you are sinking into the support leg and your torso might be collapsed slightly. Or they might see nothing at all!

External rotators (Courtesy Wikipedia)

 How do we fix this? First of all, you need to access those Deep 6 to rotate the femur but to hold the rotation, use your big muscles: your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. Your gluteus maximus is the big muscle of your behind and the gluteus medius is just above at your lower back and protecting your hip bones. These muscles are the ones that will help stabilize you when you are balancing on one leg in the center during adagio and turns, while the quads and hamstrings will hold your turnout once you find it. The key is to not grip: gripping is the enemy of smooth turns and big jumps.

3. Take jazz class for isolations!

One of the things dancers, especially ballet dancers, are known for is control. We control every muscle, every ligament and bone. We tilt our head just so, and we use the pinky toe to spring off for a pirouette or jump. When we start to lose our balance, we do an internal spot-check of every. single. thing. affecting our bodies. It requires us to isolate different parts of our body, even the very smallest of them, to make micro-adjustments.

Yet, we never do isolations! Jazz class is where dancers do this, not ballet. In jazz, we spend lots of time doing series of body isolations: head, shoulders, rib cage and hips, primarily, but we also do head rolls, shoulder rolls, hip rolls, and so on. We connect hips and head in different ways than in ballet. Our arms might move en dehors over our heads when we do a balance rather than in middle third or we might swivel our hips before we do a pirouette. These small movements give jazz its sharpness, its rhythm, and its style.

Dogs doing head isolations (photo InterMountain Pet Hospital)
So why don't we do them in ballet class? You know, I don't know the answer to that other than: it has never been done like that. In most classes, a ballet warm-up might include gentle shoulder rolls and head circles to smoothly warm up the neck and back. We might also do some forced arch releves but that's the extent of it. But how valuable would it be to be able to move a shoulder back or forward during an arabesque or to shift the hip from side to side while balancing? 

My recommendation: get to a jazz class and start working on those isolations. Not only will isolation exercises help you access muscles in different ways, they will also get your head spot sharp for turns - you know we are always looking for ways to improve our turns!

Happy dancing, everyone!

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

What's happening in June? Check it out!

 Please note: no classes 6/21-6/23!

June 2022 schedule - In-studio and online!

Sunday (Inspire Dance Studio)
10AM-11:30AM - Beg/Intermediate level
Tuesday (Live Arts LA) no class 6/21
7-8:30PM - Beg/Intermediate level
Wednesday (Inspire) no class 6/22
6:30-8PM - Beginner level
8-9PM - Basic Lyrical Jazz
Thursday (Inspire) no class 6/23
7-8:30PM - Basic level
Saturday (Inspire)
9:30-11AM - Beginner level
11AM-12:30PM - Intermediate level
12:30-1:30PM - Pointe

Please note before you come to the studio:

1. Masks are optional for all dancers inside both studios where I rent.
2. Students must show proof of vaccination to attend class at Live Arts LA.

Looking for something new? Try Jazz this summer!
My Basic Lyrical Jazz class on Wednesday nights, 8-9PM at Inspire is also available on Zoom. You can follow along at home or in the studio with energetic music and an easy "ballet-friendly" warmup with tendus, plies, isolations, etc. and some traveling combinations. Each week we work on a bit of cool choreography which I post on Instagram for reference. It's such a fun class - and we sweat too! Great for cardio!
SAVE $5 when you sign up for the Wednesday Beginner Ballet class at 6:30-8PM AND Jazz that same night. First sign up for the ballet class and get the discount code in your confirmation email, then apply that code to the purchase of the Jazz class.

New class (and weekend schedule!) coming in July!

Summer time is vacation time - take a break time - enjoy the days time - for me too! I'll be changing up the weekend schedule next month to give everyone access to their classes but still have time for themselves. STAY TUNED! I'll update mid-month and then again in my July newsletter! PLUS I'll be bringing you a brand new class: Gentle Ballet!


The time-traveling hotel has been taken for a joyride by three feisty bellhops determined to have fun. Join us at the Madrid Theatre on Saturday June 18 at 7PM and Sunday June 19 at 4PM for a 2-act ballet that will lift your spirits and send your imagination soaring. TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW!!

We'll be streaming it on July 9 & 10 too.

Click this awesome image from dancer Bill Reiss and you'll be magically transported to the LPBC website to get your tickets. If you've got a group, contact me for a discount code!

FUN LINK!! Check out this super cool trailer, created by Kavita Master and starring EVERY SINGLE DANCER who is performing in the show, including the remote dancers!

WANT A FREE SHIRT? Become a Supporter of the company at any level BEFORE JUNE 19 and you'll receive your choice of a Sweet Sorrow or Hotel shirt! Join today! And when you sign up at the Aficionado, Connoisseur or Virtuoso level, you will also receive a discount code for 15% off Hotel tickets along with several other cool benefits! MORE INFO HERE!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Are you a guest at my Hotel?

Hello beautiful dancers!

Today is my birthday and I know exactly what I want for a gift: buy a ticket (or 2 or 3) to my nonprofit ballet company's upcoming performance of "Hotel at the End of the Universe"!

On June 18 at 7PM and June 19 at 4PM, Leigh Purtill Ballet Company will be on stage at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park, CA. The show will be filmed and edited for streaming on the weekend of July 9 & 10 so whether you're in the area or not, you can catch our science fiction-themed time-traveling adventure.

Travel along with our 3 spunky bellhops as they take the hotel for a joyride through time and space. They'll visit Renaissance Italy, 40s Paris, and more - they'll even face down an alien attack!

So get your tickets now! You'll be glad you checked in!

Happy dancing!

Friday, April 29, 2022

Happy International Dance Day!


Hello beautiful dancers!

We're at the tail end of this International Dance Day (which must be new because I sure don't remember it growing up!) - how did you spend it? Did you take a class? Did you shake your booty in your kitchen while you brewed coffee? Did you read a book about dance? Or a review about a performance? Maybe you bought a ticket to a show!  

(Maybe you marked your calendar for June 18 and 19 for LPBC's "Hotel at the End of the Universe" at the Madrid Theatre!)

I'm fortunate to have so many wonderful teachers in my area. On Fridays I love to take class with Helen Nasillski in Eagle Rock at Live Arts LA. So this morning, I put on my best and fanciest leotard and skirt (a lovely hand-me-across gift from a friend) and danced classical ballet!

This afternoon, I spent prepping tomorrow's pointe class variation from La Esmeralda (get your tambourines out!) and sent out my May newsletter. Next up, choreography for this weekend's rehearsals for Hotel. 

A full day of dance! How lucky am I?

I'm also very blessed to be able to respond to my dancers' needs when it comes to classes. Over the years, many of my students have asked about a class that wouldn't be too taxing on their bodies. I have thought about it over and over and finally, I'm going to put it out there: 

Gentle Ballet

Are you interested? If you wouldn't mind, please fill out this form by May 15th and we can get something started. Why wait any longer?

Happy dancing, everyone!