Beginning: Positions of the feet
In ballet, everyone is a beginner. No matter how many years you’ve been studying ballet, you’re always going to be coming back to the basics–working on turnout, alignment, strength, flexibility. Don’t underestimate what seem like simple moves. Misalisgnment now can cause injuries later on, so pay attention to your body. And don’t feel bad about not knowing something yet–you’re a beginner. In fact, we all are.
Place your feet next to each other on the floor parallel to each other. (What my teacher used to call sixth position.) Lift up your toes and rotate both legs out from the top of your hip and put them down. Now your heels are together and your toes are apart. This is first position. Do you feel work in your hips rotating to keep your feet in this position? That’s good! Your turn out comes from your external rotator muscles deep in your hips–not from your feet! Maybe your feet are closer to a 90 degree angle than the 180 “perfect turnout” that you’ve heard of. Don’t worry–and don’t move your feet! The only way to get better is to start where you are. If you force it, you may injure yourself.
Now, keeping your hips right over your feet, bend your knees a little (demi plie). Your knees should go out right over your toes. If they do not, bring your toes in a tiny bit and feel the turnout from your hips. Now you’re in the perfect place to start.
Slide your right foot to the side opening your heels about a foot and a half or so. This is second position. Just like first position, when you bend your knees, open your inner thighs so that your knees go right over your toes. Feel the work in your legs and hips to maintain your turnout.
Slide your right heel towards the center of your left foot so that your right heel intersects the left foot at the arch. Put your weight evenly on both feet. This is third position. Honestly, this is the least used position of the five. It is helpful to use third when first coming to ballet to get your hips used to the more challenging aspects of turnout when the feet are crossed, and as a preperation for fifth position.
Slide your right foot in front of the left foot so that the heel of your right foot is about 6 inches in front of the bunion of your left foot. Just like the other positions, the weight is even on both feet and to keep the turn out in your feet, the muscles in your legs should feel like they are wrapping from the front around to the backs of your legs. You may find turn out is more challenging to hold in fourth position. Challenge is good! Just make sure you are feeling working sensations, and not painful sensations in your back, knees, or ankles. Lift your lower belly and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. It is important in third, fourth and fifth positions to make sure your hip bones, like headlights on a car, stay heading along the road, and do not veer off to one side.
From third position slide your front foot across your back foot so that the front heel is in front of the bunion of left foot. The tips of your toes of your back foot should be visible unless you have a lot of turn out available in your hips. Again, if you bend your knees, keeping your spine straight and tall, and your knees do not go out over your toes, bring your toes in a smidge. Your ligaments will thank you. As you develop the turn out in your hips, more turn out will be available to you. Be patient with yourself. Just like the rest of us, you’re a beginner.