Improving your contemporary technique: Part 2: Parallel
It's easy to think of parallel and turnout as warring factions but their relationship is far more cordial than that, explains Susan Bendall.
You have spent years training your body into as perfect a turnout as your hips will allow. Then contemporary comes along and asks you to do the opposite – work with feet in parallel. Although logic tells us that this should feel more natural, it can often feel very strange. Just as you have had to work on your turnout, using and maintaining parallel requires conscious effort, technical precision and an understanding of how your body is working to hold your positions while executing training exercises or contemporary phrases.
Historically, turnout was developed to facilitate side to side travel and later allowed for the development of higher extensions and increased range of movement from the hip, especially a la seconde. The use of parallel in contemporary dance styles was, in part, a rebellion against the rigidity of classical ballet technique and a search for a less indoctrinated way of moving. The use of parallel also breaks the confines of the five fixed classical positions, freeing the body to explore a more flexible range of shapes and movement.
Anatomically, rather than being alien to one another, parallel and turnout are interdependent and assist one another in terms of strength and placement. The crucial starting point in working both in parallel and turnout is to understand a little about the anatomy and functioning of the hip joint, since this is where the rotation in and out occurs.
Want to know more? Read the rest of this article in the Feb/Mar issue of 'Dance Australia', before it goes off the shelves!
Photo above is of New Zealand School of Dance 2017 graduates Holly Brogan and Jill Goh. Photo: Stephen A'Court.