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Ballet Talk for Dancers



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Well, that topic title says it all. Is this something that's possible to re-gain?

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I think that it depends on the individual. Muscle tone of dancers not dancing for awhile does decline from a high not achievable by Ordinary Mortals. Stretching slowly and carefully, while well-warmed-up may just return the splits to you. Or maybe not. With your experience, you know now that the splits are really not an end in themselves.

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"you know now that the splits are really not an end in themselves."


Sigh, yes, and yet...


...there's something about being able to relax there gracefully that's so much more appealing than struggling half bent over to hold yourself up.


I did just come off of 5 years of teaching yoga and am more flexible many directions now than when I was a teenager dancing every day, so maybe there's hope.

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Except for my left front split which has come out suddenly and on its own (I wasn't doing ballet back then and I wasn't practicing or doing something else; one day I woke up and tried and managed it...(I was 19) I don't know how (My right front split was there like forever)) and I'm waiting my fingers crossed to wake up one day to do a 180 degrees side split =P


Other than that I have a question. I generally relate side-splits with extensions and turn out and even with arabesques and I think "If I manage it, if I have a 180 degrees side split I can do them all better" but my teacher doesn't think so and she says that it is not related with the degree of my side split and I'm confused. Thinking logically, it's got to be related to these?

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It IS related to the amount of rotation of the femurs in the hipjoint. In that way it relates to all the others.

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About side splits, turnout and the rest - having puzzled for ages about this - particularly stretches to improve turnout - it seems to me that the hip joint is so complicated, and has so many ligaments and muscles going in so many directions, that no one stretch will stretch them all. Even though a straddle, or a frog, etc, will stretch some of the muscles and ligaments needed to get good turnout, and each one will stretch a different spectrum of them, they will all leave some of the ligaments you need for good turnout unstretched.


That is why some people can have a phenomenal range in some of these stretches, but not in others - eg they can have a good straddle but tight hamstrings, or good frog but poor turnout, good straddle but poor turnout, etc.


And if there was a good stretch for everything needed for turnout, we would all be using it and there would be nothing to discuss.




PS "...there's something about being able to relax there gracefully that's so much more appealing than struggling half bent over to hold yourself up."


Yes, there is something to be said for the aesthetics of taking the body easily and gracefully to any of the positions that hope and/or logic would suggest that it should be able to get into....

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Yes I agree with jimpickels because I have a completely flat butterfly stretch (with knees and everything on the floor) (what's a straddle by the way?) and a very good frog with feet touching the floor but I just can't do a 180 degrees side split :angry: I don't know much about which muscle does and which muscle is where so I can just say this; when I do a butterfly stretch, my teacher says "No don't do that, you already can do that, do it in a demi plie" and I straighten my legs a bit (still turned out), that's when it hurts the most. My teacher says that "Now , that's why you don't have a perfect turn out".


And when stretching for side splits everyone else has "joint pains" but I just have a pain in the back of my thighs. So it's not about the mobility of my joints I guess. But what stretch can I do to loosen that area (what is that area called?) enough to have a perfect side split? I'm asking this under this post because Pirou said "re-gain" and I had a perfect side split before I quit ballet.

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By straddle I was meaning the same thing as side split.


Pain in the backs of the thighs in a side split? I think that is odd. Is that an area being stretched? If not, it suggests that it is a response to pressure somewhere in the hip joint - eg a nerve being put under pressure.



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That could easily be the biceps femoris, one of the hamstring muscles, which is often one that stiffens up with age. And I don't mean Methuselah here, say about 16, if it's not kept stretched regularly. It's also one of the rotators, as it is asymmetrical in configuration, and favors rotation of the femur outward when the knee is slightly bent.

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It seems to me that what's coming into play for people who can do stretches and end up completely flat, but can't achieve the same effects standing, is the role of gravity, and also passive muscles and tendons. When we do passive stretching, it is just that. We are not engaging anything, and we are letting gravity do the work for us. When we stand, we no longer have gravity helping us with turnout, and we need to engage muscles and tendons to try to achieve the same effect. Well, some of these muscles and tendons might be strong enough. Some might be but, when engaged, might get in the way of others.

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Ms. Leigh, Ms. Schneider and I have been saying this for literal years, before there even was a Ballet Talk for Dancers. You've just put it another way, but it bears repeating.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am more or less in a situation similar to Pirou's - just with less years of non-split activity! To be true I am bothered by two thing mainly:

1- I miss feeling as stretched as I used to when in a split!

2- My turnout has grown worse over time and I dunno why. I know i have had an inflammation in my hip joints a couple of years ago, and that i quitted ballet for three months and did yoga. But it can't be that, can it? I used to have 180 turnout, now I don't anymore (I've never had front splits though, I guess my bum stays in the way...) and this is a huge trouble for me. Is there anything I can do to gain it back? Some specific exercises?


It is funny, tonight I observed something like what is discussed in this thread: a friend of mine has got beautiful frogs and front splits, but always seems poorly rotated when her legs are straight.


I also noticed that, on me, it is easier to rotate when I'm actually standing/active rather than lying/passive - does it mean I am doing something wrong?

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Hip joint inflammation causing rigidity of soft tissue? OH, yes! Happens all the time and not just in the hips. I have a friend who had to go in for heart surgery because they found that an old infection had caused, well, like callus to form on his pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart) and the hardening had spread to a valve. He is presently recovering thanks to modern surgery, but don't be surprised if old injuries you thought were done with ages ago still haunt you!


And better rotation when weight-bearing? Survey says, probably a good thing!


As with any stretch, slow and easy while well-warmed-up is the way to go. If the splits don't come back? Eenh! :rolleyes:

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Just an update on my splits situation. About a week ago, when I went down on the left side, I found that I just kind of slipped down there much more easily and with some of the old feeling. Was still several inches in the air, but was much more comfortable. As of yesterday, I am only about an inch and a half off the ground on the left side. I have not been putting any special effort into them, just doing the requisite 30 seconds or so on each side when it comes up in class.


One thing I HAVE been doing is holding onto the bar so I don't have to hunch over to hold myself up, and so the result is that during that 30 seconds I incorporate a backbend (which for me in my case is nothing more than sitting up straight, I don't know why I've lost so much flexibility in my back. This is the first thing I lost when I stopped doing and teaching yoga.)


Anyway, I feel like if things keep up at this rate, it seems I will eventually be down again. That's the front/back split. As far as side/straddle is concerned, I don't think I've been able to do that since I was about 3, so I'm not really expecting much in that department.


P.S. On the turnout issue, I just watched Deborah Vogel's turnout video (rented it from dancingflix.com) and it explained that the structure of the hip joint allows for different (more) outward rotation when the legs are in a plié position. I, too, have a completely flat frog (actually sleep that way, sometimes) (actually, "flat frog" sounds like some kind of rural highway unfortunateness) but this "turnout" isn't reflected when I'm standing with straight legs. Yes, it's partially having the muscles to hold it, but it's also the structure of the hip itself. Vogel's method of finding one's true turnout is to lay on your stomach with your legs together and parallel. Then bend one knee so your foot is pointing to the ceiling, then let that foot drop over the extended leg as far as it will go. That, she says, is your actual turnout angle when you're standing up. It's a good video and explained to me why I have arthritis in my knee and why I have extra tibial torsion in my lower leg on that side. Faulty turnout training in early years. Bummer.

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