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held extensions

Guest sdj3

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I am a former professional ballet dancer (for only 3 years before quitting for school) who took over five years off and started classes again 3x per week about 14 months ago. I have been able to get myself in decent shape surprisingly quickly. My jumps, turns, and general technique, while not quite as strong or perfect as before, have all progressed to a level that generally satisfies me. In fact, I feel that I have actually improved in some aspects, due to a more conscientious approach.


However, the one element that is still beyond my grasp, and actually seems to be increasing in difficulty, is my strength in held extensions. I am pretty flexible, in that I can easily perform splits, high grand battements, and high developpes, providing I don't have to hold the position for more than a second or two. This is very frustrating, considering I had NO problem with this before.


Here's what's worse: I feel like I have a pretty strong understanding of the mechanics of dance, i.e. I know which muscles should be working and when. And I am conscious of this while dancing. But, I can't hold my friggin leg above 90!!! It's so weird! I'm starting to think that it might be totally mental, so I'm asking for any advice. Perhaps a different perspective would help me here. Oh, FYI I am 25.




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sdj, I really don't know in this case, since you had it before, unless it is simply the fact that the muscles that hold it just have not yet reactivated since you started back. When you are off a long time, it can take about that long to get everything back again....or at least a lot longer than one might think it should. Some things come back quickly and others don't. I think just patience, and also realize that you are dancing 3 times a week now, and you used to dance for many hours a day, every day. So....you really can't expect it all to be there, even in 14 months. Patience :yes:

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As usual, Victoria is right on target. The only thing I might add is that there may be a mental aspect to it also. One is that often when we perceive something as a problem or weakness, our minds often amplify the problem, especially when we are aspiring to a high level of performance. Often you’ll find that when a person works on a weakness, his or her overall level of performance actually goes down. Not always, but often that happens.


Second, there is the matter of perception. How do you really know you can’t hold a high develope as long as you used to? All you have is your perception, and over time what you perceive can change.


Third there is the tendency we all have when starting back to let our expectations run away with our enthusiasm. Expectations almost always increase faster than our physical capabilities, which isn’t bad, but does create perceptions of difficulty or hardship.


Regardless of the source, the consequence is the same and the last word of Victoria’s response.

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Dear sdj;


This will get better with time and work. Holding a high extension is very demanding, requiring proper technique and a lot of muscle strength.


The best way I have found to improve any aspect of my technique is to give that area special attention in the form of some additional exercises above and beyond regular class work.


For instance, one thing that has really improved my extension is to put myself in a heel stretch and then let go and try to hold the leg at that hight for as long as I can and repeat a few times. For some reason starting from the heel stretch is more effective that developing into that position.


You can do this exercise anytime there is a break during class, as long as you are warmed up (between barre and center, while waiting for another group to do a center exercise, right after class, etc.)


Good luck!

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Thank you all so much for your helpful comments. I realize that my "problem" is likely a combination of all of the above. I guess I can't expect that my skills and ability will all come back at the same time. And it's probably a matter of mentality and perspective, as well. Yet, I can still work on increasing my current level. I guess I'll try the patience approach and see how it goes. Thanks to all!

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