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Ballet Talk for Dancers

how high can that leg go?


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I searched the archives and hope I didn't just miss something... there is a lot back there so it's possible! Sorry if I am being repetetive.


One thing I've noticed mentioned is that there is a limit to ones natural flexibility and even though you can get more limber not everyone going to risque getting their earing caught on their tight during grande battements. Now I was just wondering if it was possible to tell (at least in the general ballpark) what were realistic goals for ones body flexibility. Can some teachers look at a student and see the future potential? Part of what got me wondering about this is the other day my teacher made a comment that if you could lift your leg a certain height with bent knees with work one should be able to reach that height with straight leg (she could have just meant this more as a reach for the sky concept or as a fact... not sure as I forgot to ask her).


I am also trying to set some realistic goals for myself. I know focusing on where I have come from is all good... but it seems such glacieral progress that I was thinking if I set some goals it would motivate me to actually stretch outside of classes. I tend to look at people and think oh I could never do that, so knowing that I might be able to or at least get close to helps motivate me. Then again maybe there is no way to tell what you can do with out putting the work into it?

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Yes, everyone has a limit, however, the younger one starts the further one is likely to push those limits. Starting as an adult, or even hoping to make drastic changes as an adult, can be somewhat frustrating. Everyone can improve, but how much is the question. Seeing ones potential is relatively easy for an experienced teacher, but not always obvious to a student.


Having said that, I cannot say that I have not occassionally been surprised by more progress than I expected. So, I never say never when it comes to individuals who have the desire, the focus, the commitment, and the work ethic. But I will say it is NOT going to be a walk in the park! Someone who has to struggle for flexibility will never have the same extension as someone who is born with it, however a certain amount can be developed and sometimes that can be quite good. But, it's all in learning how to do it, and then making it happen. It won't happen just because you appear in the room and take class! :thumbsup:

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Guest milky

amatol, did you dance as a child? I can remember always being less flexible than the other girls in my class (although much more flexible than today, yikes!). But, I do remember thinking, "I'll never get my splits", and then I did, after lots of stretching during cartoons and after dinner. I suspect that if you were very flexible as a child, that you've probably got more potential for getting some of it back now. I know that I'll probably never be super-flexible, since I wasn't even back then, but I do have a goal of "getting my splits" again. [i'm awfully far away at the moment].

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wow thanks for the fast reply!


"It won't happen just because you appear in the room and take class! "

ah unfortunately this is sooo true! :thumbsup: though I do need to remind myself of it from time to time!


I guess the awnser is just to give it my all then. I am trying to be less instant gratification oriented and ballet certainly teaches you to be patient in that aspect. Maybe I should ask my teacher what she thinks... and if there are particular stretches to work on my problem areas.

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i've only been dancing for three years and my flexibility has improved tons. when i first started i had less than 90degree extension and was only about half way down in any of my splits. now i can do all splits, including center. have a past 180degree penchee and generally around head height extension. i may be an exception but stretching really helped me.


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Sounds lke you are certainly an exception, balletboyrhys.

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balletboyrhys... wow I'm impressed! So how were you at your 1.5 mark?? and how often do you stretch & take class? very inspiring suppose maybe there is hope for me!



milky... I took some ballet classes as a child but was not very flexible ( I wasn't the worst, but certainly nothing exceptional)... it is hard to judge though as I wasn't very serious and this is at around 8 to 11. Also had some health stuff at that age. I took some martial arts in HS as well as ran cross country and during that time I was decently flexible, I could do splits except for center though I was a lot closer than now! However I never have actively stretched (other than as part of warm up/cool down) until now so I am not sure what I am capable of. Good luck getting your splits back :unsure:!


I just had ballet class and as luck would have it we worked on our extensions. When pulling our legs up with our hands I can get my left to about 145 and my right a bit higher (around shoulder heigth). For some reason when I try to go higher my achilles of all things starts hurting. Don't have the strength to hold it there yet. I can't do the splits in any direction but am about a hand span to both sides...center is just horrid. I don't really understand that as my knees touch the ground during butterfly and frog is pretty easy for me too. (my turn out is pretty decent, just have to remember to maintain it).

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Amatol, I have the exact same problem as you (although I don't think anyone can be less flexible than me :unsure: !).


I also took ballet classes as a kid, but even back then I was not particularly flexible. Now, at 28, things have gotten worse. Even though my technique is improving day by day, I can not for the life of me make my developpe higher than 90 degrees (and maybe less).


Nevertheless, I have a question about that (Mrs Lee maybe??). Once the teacher came close to me and pulled my leg up high (as I was doing a developpe a la seconde) and it went much much higher than normally. Does this mean that I could have the potential to do higher developpes and what is missing is the strenght to keep the leg up?

Thanks a lot for reading me...

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i have noticed a significant improvement recently - i have been stretching every evening - whilst watching tv ( see - tv is not all bad!! lol)

i have also noticed that i can raise my leg higher when bent and this is higher than to begin with. I feel that if i keep working at it - i should eventually be able to stretch my leg out at this height!!

Maybe practice and patience is the key?


Miss Leigh - what do you make of this statement about being able to lift the leg to the same height - as when bent?

Hope this makes sense!!! :unsure:


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I see a big difference the weeks when I'm stretching at home, and the weeks when I'm lazy and don't.


My extension's been improving very slowly, but steadily. It gets a tiny bit higher every couple of months. The girls with even, open, and somewhat wide hips seem to have an easier time. I think it has a lot to do with holding the supporting side really over that standing leg, and lifting out of the hips If I'm a tiny bit toward "center" ie...off my hip, it's laborious and hurts that flexor tendon. I have small hips and I think it's a bit harder for me to have that solid "base". But not impossible, for sure. There's plenty of professionals built with small hips.


Personally, I think most people are capable of improving thier flexibility much more than they think they can. You really have to relax and do it slowly, and feel the muscles "release". Relaxing and breating and really feeeling what's going on with your muscles is helpful. I even try and figure out which hamstring exactly is tighter, and what the glute muscles are doing. Actually, my chiropractor helped me understand how one group affects another. Sometimes a tightness in one area will create the sensation of tightness in another. So you can be working like mad to fix one muscle, and the underlying tightness is somewhere else. It's all very intricate.

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How much does childhood flexibility factor into adult flexible? Obviously, naturally flexible people will be more flexible at any age, but can an adult hope to regain the flexibility they had as a child? I particularly wonder about this, because I did have flexible hips as a child - my center splits were better than my side ones. But now, after years of running, I have horrible hip flexibility - 90 degrees of turnout - perhaps 100 on a good day.

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Part of what got me wondering about this is the other day my teacher made a comment that if you could lift your leg a certain height with bent knees with work one should be able to reach that height with straight leg



I've often wondered about bent leg-vs-straight leg flexibility, too... On a bench, I can sit flat in both front splits with my front leg bent over the end, but with the front leg straight I'm still some way off (a long way off on the right!). Some books I've read suggest that with the necessary work I'll be able to get them flat with straight legs, but if that's true I'm obviously not working hard enough! Any ideas?

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Flexibility has three limiting basic components: bones, ligaments & tendons and muscles. Mucles are the only factor significantly malleable after puberty. Fortunately, in majority of cases the limiting factor is muscles. :(


Flexibility you had after puberty can probably be mostly regained with slow, careful work. Your bones and ligaments/tendons have not changed significantly, and your muscles, while they have gotten stiffer, can still stretch.


On the other hand, flexibility you had before puberty might or might not be regainable, depending on how much your bone and ligamentous structure have changed during your growing years. (And, obviously, your muscles also have a lot more stretching to do than if they had already had the necessary length in adulthood.) How much puberty changes you is affected by two factors: genetics and environment. If you did not work for flexibility during your growing years, it is then pretty much up to genetics.


If you were a naturally flexible child, chances are moderately good you are genetically predisposed towards flexibility and the dormant facility is probably still there to some degree. If you were a flexible child because you stretched a lot, then chances are you might not be genetically predisposed towards flexibility and therefore your likelihood of regaining it is much less good.


There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and this one has more than most. :D I've personally seen some pretty amazing flexibility gains in adults who were very stiff children. Remember, adult muscles still stretch, and muscles are usually the biggest limiting flexibility factor!



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With respect to amatol’s teacher’s comment about bent leg flexibility compared with straight leg flexibility, I think the word “should” needs to be replaced with “with lots of work, patience, and time might possibly.” To me the teacher’s words suggest that you can always improve your flexibility to some degree.


With respect to stretching outside of class, let me give my personal experience. I have a classic mesomorph physique—athletic and muscular. Mesomorphs are pretty inflexible and generally hate to stretch. That certainly characterized me at the beginning of my dance life. I knew I needed to stretch, but would get so bored by it that I rarely could stretch for much more than 5 minutes. My mind just wasn’t wired to spend time stretching.


What I found was that over time those five minute stretching sessions lengthened. I would go to class and people would be waiting outside the studio and stretching (at least in the jazz and modern classes I took). I would join in, chit-chatting as I was stretching. Perhaps because it was social, I found myself going to class earlier and earlier and doing more and more stretches before class. Over time, my resistance to stretching decreased substantially.


I also found myself adding stretches to the exercise sessions I would do outside of class. Stretching when nice and hot and sweaty felt good, and again over time the time I spent stretching increased. As I became more flexible, I began to notice things like feeling more free and loose as I did simple things like walking or working around the house. That reinforced my desire to stretch more.


I also employed some tricks. I decided that when watching TV, I would get up and stretch during commercials. I don’t do that religiously, but wish I did. Well, I don’t watch much TV either. I did the same while at work, trying to get up at least every hour.


What I’d like to say is that dancers seem to be drawn naturally to stretching and that with time they do more and more stretching, almost as a consequence of dance.

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''What I’d like to say is that dancers seem to be drawn naturally to stretching and that with time they do more and more stretching, almost as a consequence of dance''


Garyecht - this is very true to me, i hated stretching as a child and never understood what a difference it could make!! :)


now i try to stretch every evening, just gently and im being patient and hoping it will pay of in time. As you say i think it is a consequence of dancing, us dancers know it will improve our dancing and technique :thumbsup:

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