Q: Some teach that a tendu à la seconde should align across from the toes on the supporting side, whereas others teach that it should be directly across from the heel. I feel aligning with the heel is ultimately correct, but I prefer to teach dancers to align with the toes because it’s safer. What do you think?
A: I applaud you for being so aware of the nuances of tendu à la seconde. Wrenching in tendu happens when a student with less-than-ideal turnout tries to take the tendu leg truly side. With this action, they end up rotating their pelvis away from the standing leg, and toward their gesture leg, effectively turning the standing leg in. One of the major challenges in training turnout is to keep the two hips working equally, and the pelvis square.
Aligning your gesture leg more to the toe of the standing leg is a good goal. Beginning dancers initially may even need to take the tendu in a straight diagonal line from their established first position instead of a true side. Then, as they improve their range and strength of the rotators, the trajectory of their tendu will line up more with the toes on the standing leg.
Too often I see dancers force their first position and either pronate their feet or create a torque at the knees to stay in this forced place. This compromises the health of the ankle and feet, as well as the knees over the long term.