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Ballet Talk for Dancers

splits


shea

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I am trying to get a little ahead of the game and have been stretching every night to catch up with the rest of the class and have been doing other stretches to prepare for what we will learn in the future. I am trying to get my splits (The ones with one leg in front not the ones with the legs out to the sides) and was wondering what the correction positioning was suppose to be? Where are my hips suppose to point?, where are my knees suppose to be?, how are my legs and back suppose to be aligned? Any help will be great. I just want to start doing them right instead of having to correct them later. Thanks guys!!

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  • Victoria Leigh

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  • Clara 76

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  • Holly Golightly

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  • skyish

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First of all, splits are not necessary for classical ballet. If it is just something you wish to be able to do, that is another thing.

 

To begin to stretch the muscles necessary for splits, you need to be warmed up- very warmed up. You should have reached a point where your hamstrings easily allow you to touch the floor from a standing position with straight legs, and you should easily be able to touch your toes while in the L position sitting on the floor.

 

If those things are in order, then, you would start from a sitting-up straight position on the floor, with your legs stretched out in front of you in a V shape (not the side split). Now bend one knee and bring that foot to rest on the inner thigh of the straight leg. Next swing the straight leg (it will bend while moving) around behind you keeping it rotated/turned out, but getting as far back as you can. Now, both legs are bent, one leg behind, the other in front, and from an aerial view you would look a bit like a 2-pronged pinwheel. Breathe and relax and feel the stretch.

 

That may be enough for the first day, but be sure that whatever you do on one leg, you must also do on the other.

 

From there, if that is fairly easy for you, you can try straightening the back leg, but you must keep it rotated so that your knee is not facing the floor. If that is easy and you're able to do it and still sit up, try slowly walking your hands forward until your chest is on/close to your front leg. (Your front leg would still be in the bent position, and you are breathing into the stretch and relaxing with your head dropped, not holding tension in your neck.) Walk your hands back up and do the same with the other leg.

 

Eventually, you should be able to straighten both the front and back leg, but you must maximize rotation in the legs, and work on keeping shoulders down and keeping ribcage lifted up.

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First of all, splits are not necessary for classical ballet. If it is just something you wish to be able to do, that is another thing.

 

 

Clara 76, I would like to ask something about this if you don't mind :D

 

I have over-split on my both front splits but I have an only ~170 degrees middle split which tends to get closed quickly when I don't work on it especially (only ballet does not help to keep it stretched enough). Anyway, the thing is, I work on it so much because I believe that it directly effects my side extensions, turn-out and therefore, even my pirouettes. For me, you are an expert on balletic anatomy and alignment, and when I read that I was surprised to see that it may have no connection at all? Did I misinterpret it?

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I hope you don't mind my answering for Clara 76, but I happen to be here early and thought I would explain it for you, as I know that Clara 76 and I think alike on this subject.

 

Yes, I think you misunderstood. What we believe here is that, while splits are a perfectly good stretch, and do need to be worked on for the purpose of stretching, being able to "do" them, or "get" them, is not the point. You do not see them used in classical choreography. Too many people seem to think that once you can "get" your splits you are "there", like, now you are a dancer. They are just an exercise for stretching, not a step in the classical vocabulary. There are dancers who can "do" all of them but still don't have great extension when vertical. In other words, our point is that there is a misplaced importance on being able to do splits. :D

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Oh OK thanks for explaining Ms. Leigh=))

 

By the way, I've always wondered, are there also dancers who have very good side extensions but not very decent middle splits? I mean, bringing the leg a little to the front can do the trick, can't it? Or is it physically difficult to balance when the leg is not completely on the side as the degree gets bigger?(I cannot really try and see that for myself because my side extension after a calm developpe is only 140 degrees or so... things would be different when it hits 170 degrees (especially on pointe) I guess :D)

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If one learns how to place the leg correctly for their rotation, and it is not TOO far forward from true side, then it is possible to have a very good à la seconde position. It depends a lot on the flexibility and the degree of rotation. If the leg has to be really forward to achieve the rotation, then it will not be good. For instance, in you are standing in a clock, facing 12, with the supporting leg turned out, the working leg, (right leg) ideally, would point directly to 3. However, most people cannot do that with it turned out. BUT, there is a HUGE difference between 2 and 3! The leg needs to be as close to 3 as possible, to the extent that from the front view it looks totally side. Two o'clock would not do that.

 

That said, if a person, especially an adult student, does not have the ability to go beyond 2, then forcing it can be dangerous. Forcing it can also mess up the alignment and cause rolling in on the supporting leg and foot. Naturally, one does not ever stop working for that 3! :D

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What we believe here is that, while splits are a perfectly good stretch, and do need to be worked on for the purpose of stretching

 

that's so true - and I was wondering, does working on side splits help stretching the abductors? :D Mine have grown increasingly tight and I can't really find an effective-and-safe way to stretch them - has anybody any useful suggestion?

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Thank you Victoria!!!! :D

 

And to Holly-

I find that a good way to stretch mine is to lie down on my back, keep my backside in contact with the floor, and use the weight of my legs and breath to stretch (side split on your back). Also, still on my back, the reverse frog (because you're on your back).

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To add to what Clara said, if you find that side split on your back difficult, you can do it up against the wall. I like to put a few pillows or phone books under each ankle so I can completely relax my muscles and get a good stretch, then pull out one of the objects to go a little further. Of course, I only do this at home when I'm completely warmed up, like after an hour of pilates or yoga. I don't usually have phone books on hand in the studio. :wub:

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I always stretch my "splits" (if you can call it that) on the wall too, but under the barre. I can then use the barre to pull myself just a tad closer.

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Absolutely use the wall!! One of those times I thought it in my head, but it didn't make it down to my fingers!!! :rolleyes::thumbsup:

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you mean lying on one's tummy and pushing with legs a la seconde against the wall, keeping your hips on the ground? I dunno why I have a hard time finding stretches that actually make me feel stretched :thumbsup: and I miss the "feeling" so much... it's like I generally either don't feel any tension at all - or in certain cases I simply cannot DO it. Does this make sense?

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Holly, I think they are talking about lying on your back, with your derrière against the wall. Put the legs straight up and then open them and let them hang against the wall as far as they will go. Gravity is doing it for you. :thumbsup:

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Well, I was talking about sitting straight up with the soles of my feet against the wall but it seems the other method works just as well. I just wouldn't do it in public but I'm funny like that.

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