Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers to close ×
Ballet Talk for Dancers

improving flexibility


Recommended Posts

Hi everyone, I'm new here and I'm hoping that someone can give me some advice/reassurance!


My daughter is just 10, quite small for her age and desperate to follow ballet or dance as a career. She has had some considerable success with auditions and is an associate of a couple of good vocational schools and has been selected to perform with youth dance companies. I believe that her luck is due to the fact that she is good technically and quite cute (can I say that, as her Mum?!) and I am concerned that when it comes to selection for schools next year her turnout and flexibility will let her down. When she lies on her back and does froggies/butterfly her kness are about 3 inches from the floor and she is flat in only one split, again being a few inches away in the others.


As she does work on her flexibility, within the time available and also, I hope, within sensible limits at home, I am concerned that she may have reached the limit of her potential. My question is: how much flexibility/turnout can increase beyond the age of ten and, indeed, how important they are at initial selection for dance schools? I have had conflicting advice from one teacher (who is not experienced with having pupils with such aspiration) and other teachers make themselves scarce as they do not want to be approached by anxious parents!


I do think that after a week of intensive training at summer schools etc, the issues do seem to improve slightly, only to regress when less time is available so hope that being at a school full time would definitley make a difference - but of course, the adjudicators do not know that!


I would really appreciate any thoughts or comments any of you might have, and apologise if this topic has already been covered elsewhere - just point me in the right direction!


Many thanks

Link to comment
  • Administrators

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, ifnotwhynot :P


At just 10 years old, there is a lot of time for improvement in both rotation and flexibility. At that age they will look for potential, not accomplishment. Way too early to be concerned about those things! Also, being able to go all the way down in splits is totally NOT a criteria! They are just a way of stretching for more flexibility and nothing more. The most important thing at this time is the quality of the training. :D

Link to comment

Ifnotwhynot - Are you talking about having your dd audition for very large ballet schools such as the Royal Ballet School's boarding program? If that's the case, Ms. Leigh - since these students audition at the age of 10 or 11 to enter the school at what we in the states would consider to be the 6th grade, does that change the situation? In that case, all other things being equal, would it be more important for this particular child to focus on developing flexibility and turn-out?



One reason I ask is because my 11 year old daughter went to an audition for a program in the SF bay area in which the teacher (also the director of the program and a former teacher at a very big name program) told the children that if they did not have perfect turnout by the age of 10, then what's the point in continuing? Apparently my dd's turnout "passed" since she was accepted, but I thought the fact that the teacher had said that was surprising!

Link to comment

Yes, my daughter would like to audition next year when she will be almost 11. I think the Royal Ballet is beyond her grasp, but there are a few other schools here with a good reputation. I am interested in your comment as I also thought that what you have by about this age is as good as it gets!

Link to comment
  • Administrators

I'm sorry, but I totally disagree with that teacher, LauraGG! A great deal can be accomplished well beyond 10 years old. If the school is looking for only THE most perfect bodies, and examining them the way they do at the Bolshoi or Kirov Academies, well then, that would be different. But if all schools were that limiting, they would not have a lot of students! What can seem "perfect" at 10 may well change drastically by 15, and what appears to be less than "perfect" can also change, with quality teaching, diligence and focus by the student, and patience. Nothing in ballet comes quickly or easily, except to a very, very rare few who are born with everything going for them physically. (And keep in mind that "perfect" does not exist!) :D


That said, a classically focused school, which auditions for acceptance, will be looking for certain things, even if not expecting everything. If a student has severely limited hip rotation and flexibility, flat feet, very long torso and very short legs, or some other problem that causes a lack of good proportion, or no coordination, then it would not be unusual for the student to not be accepted. However, at 10 years old, most will show enough potential for improvement to justify training them.

Link to comment

Thank you so much for your response, Ms. Leigh! I couldn't believe this teacher - who is American, by the way, but obviously "old school" in her thinking - would say that to a room full of 10 - 13 year olds! But she did. I hope that your point of view is the more common in the ballet world.


Good luck to your dd in her auditions, Ifnotwhynot. What Ms. Leigh has said is certainly encouraging, along with the great feedback your dd has already gotten from ballet teachers up to this point.

Link to comment

Thank you both, these comments are indeed encouraging and we will continue to work towards "perfection" as best we can! I believe that the Royal Ballet are very stringent (acceptance to their summer school, for example, is based on photos only and sadly my daughter has just been told she will not be offered a place this year!) but I hope that some of the other schools are more forgiving. Although my daughter does not have a "perfect body", she is slight and well proportioned so unless you would include the flexibility that I have mentioned as being "severely limited" perhaps there is a chance of her getting access to the quality teaching that could make all the difference. Part of the problem here, as I'm sure in most places, is that the sheer number of children that apply mean that it is only the most talented or suitable that get places as schools can afford to be picky.


A difficult question, I know, but if there were 2 or 3 things you could suggest to optimise her chances of improving in these areas, and therefore increase her chances of boing spotted, what might they be?


My main concern is to manage my daughter's expectations. She has a real passion but she knows it is tough and that there is a high chance of "failure" and to date this has not put her off. However, she is only 10 and if I seriously thought that she really didn't stand any chance at all I would certainly consider gently suggesting that she change focus and look towards a more attainable goal. It is hard to balance being supportive with being truly realistic!



Link to comment
  • Administrators

At 10 years old she just needs to keep taking classes, hopefully from a well qualified teacher. I don't believe that there is really anything else one can do to increase the chances of acceptance to a place like Royal Ballet School. If she has the right look for them, they will accept her, if not, many other very fine schools will. You must not base potential on one school. I would also not make decisions about her training or changing her focus based on one rejection at 10 years old! Keep in mind that many students might not be accepted one year, and then they will the next, or vice versa.


While it is possible for a 10 year old to really know what they will do with their lives, most will change their minds a number of times before the age of 18, and then possibly several more times before graduating from college. If her current passion and focus continues for a few more years, then it would be time to think about a career. In the meantime, the best possible training will only increase her potential, but all give her a lot of other benefits that will stay with her for life. Studying ballet is never a waste!

Link to comment

The flexibility question is interesting for me. DD was not flexible until recently. Two years ago, at age 9, she couldn't do a split on either leg, or a straddle (middle split). She was several inches away on her better leg and probably 6" on her other. What she had to do was simply work at splits every day, without fail, but only for a few minutes on each leg. It took a few months for her better leg, six months for her straddle, and over a year for her other leg. She does do a split or two each day to stay flexible, but that is actually a very small time commitment.


When DD auditioned at her ballet school this winter, the teacher commented on her natural flexibility. We knew that it was work rather than natural ability, but were happy for the compliment. :D

Link to comment

In the past few months, dd and I have learned more about body types, growth, strength, muscles, and flexibility as they relate to ballet as she progressed through an injury than I learned in the decades that I have studied ballet . Everyone that we have worked with, fortunately, has had the same viewpoints as Ms. Leigh in that 10 is still very young!


One thing to note is that there are different types of flexibility, and flexibility without strength really is not worthwhile. We have found that although my dd is very flexible when it comes to joint mobility, she appears to be very inflexible (especially in her legs) for a number of reasons right now, including having long legs, compensating for an anatomical irregularity and a recent growth spurt. In the past few years, as she has grown, her muscle/tendon flexibility has quite notably increased and decreased, and I would expect that pattern to continue at least until she hits puberty. The PTs we've been working with (including one who specifically has danced and now works with dancers) have stressed to her that because of her body shape (petite, but slight and long legged--apparently that trait skipped a generation) that she will always need to maintain flexibility in certain muscle groups regularly whether she dances for a living or not.


Flexibility is only one aspect of dance, and I have seen plenty of dancers with plenty of it, but there are so many other qualities that add to the entire package! :D

Link to comment

Ifnotwhynot: Flexibility can definitely be improved. My dd is flexible, but even she didn't have all three splits until this year - at 11 1/2. Like Sewlinda's dd, she just worked on doing the splits - mainly because it was fun for her. Splits are not a requirement at her ballet school.


I know we have had discussions on this board in the past about U.K. ballet training vs. training in the states. I recall that in the U.K., there were few high quality ballet schools, and it was quite competitive to get a place in one of those. Otherwise, there are many dance studios which teach all the dance styles, with some ballet thrown in - maybe 2 or 3 hours per week, for good measure. Is that the situation you find yourself in, Ifnotwhynot? I did get that you are not counting on the Royal Ballet School for your dd, but that her other more realistic choices for pursuing excellent training, and enough hours per week, are limited to schools which require auditions to enter. Is that correct?


I also had another thought regarding improvement of flexibility. Yoga is quite popular in the U.K. Could your dd take a yoga class for children to help her with flexibility? As far as exercises for improvement of turnout in a child your dd's age, just click on the Parents of Dancers under 13 link, and look at the titles of threads that have been produced over the years. There should be many there that discuss development of turnout, and tips to improve turnout in the under 13 set. I know we just recently had one such thread going. Maybe I can figure out how to link you to it.


O.K. Here's the link. This is just one of many threads on the subject of turnout. You might want to grab a cup of tea, and take a few hours (days, weeks), and start reading old threads here on BT4D. It is quite the education for ballet parents!



Link to comment

Wow, I am overwhelmed by such encouragement and support! I'll try and respond to comments in turn!


Ms Leigh - thanks for yet more encouragement. I would not consider giving up in the face of one rejection - indeed, I appreciate that if you can't take rejection, then you will struggle in the dance world. However, if I thought that there really, and I mean really, was no chance of success I would make sure my daughter was aware of the situation sooner rather than later. I know anything can happen! I believe she has a good teacher but she is just unused to a student who wants to go beyond recreational dance.


Sewlinda - possibly the most encouraging comment yet and proof that perseverence can pay off. We will follow your example and prepare for the long road ahead!


LauraGG - The school situation here is that there are 4 recognised residential schools that take children from the age of 11 and yes, these are very hard to get into. They equate to about 50 places for girls each year!There are many more schools that take children at 16, either to study classical ballet or other forms of dance. The problem with these is maintaining a high enough standard to gain a place at that age. There are "local"schools that teach many dance styles and provide enough hours of training to allow a child to compete but these are few and far between! Sadly, there is nothing like that close to us and my daughters local teacher has already said that if she doesn't gain a place at a school she will be unable to provide enough hours to allow her to keep up. She is the only teacher in the school! Despite, saying she is not used to students like my daughter, she is doing her best to help us at present! The options then are to move and upset other family members, which I am reluctant to do, spend hours, and I mean hours, travelling to classes each day, with the same effect, or do what we can and hope for the best! Hence my original question about how much she may improve!


Yoga - someone mentioned yoga. I haven't worked out how to see the whole thread while replying so sorry, don't remember who! My daughter does actually do a half hour yoga class once a week before school and loves it! Just yesterday she came to a one and a half hour class with me as it is the holidays and she loved it even more! I can see that it could be a real help but again, sadly there is nothing longer avilable on a regular basis in this area!


Many thanks again!

Link to comment

I do understand your problem,since the situation over here is about the same.Only do we have not more then 1 recognised residential school in Belgium.So if you don't get in,that's it.

But still for me the question stays,what if the child decides in a few years that ballet isn't realy what they wanted to do the rest of their life.So after looking at the studyprogram of the balletschool,in highschool I mean,I'm not sure I want my daughter to make that choise at such a young age.Because for instance,the hours of math they are getting,are far below what they need to go back to a high level of another highschool if for whatever reason they decide to quit.

Link to comment

Heleen, I understand your dilema! The academic study at the schools here is not very strong and that is a concern. The way I look at it, though, is that you can always go back and study Maths if you have to but by late teenage years it is too late to go back and study ballet if you want to be a professional. I have talked to my daughter about this and at the moment she is so passionate about her dance that she says she will do anything to make it work. She said that even if she doesn't end up being a dancer she wouldn't regret time at a ballet school as she will have at least tried to be what she wants to be. She even knows it might mean extra maths when she is older!


Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Link to comment
I do think that after a week of intensive training at summer schools etc, the issues do seem to improve slightly, only to regress when less time is available so hope that being at a school full time would definitley make a difference - but of course, the adjudicators do not know that!


I think they do know that training can make the difference! The selection staff have the experience to look beyond what they currently see, and select based on potential. That is their job!

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...