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Splits and waist flexibility?

Guest tipo'thetoes

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Guest tipo'thetoes

Hello. I have a query about the splits and wondered if anybody could advise.


I was under the impression that when doing the splits, the hips ought to stay square. My daughter was told that at the vocational school she will be attending in September, the pupils are encouraged to do both "gymnastics splits" (this is the school's terminology) with hips square and "ballet splits" with the back leg turned out.


At present my daughter seems to be able to do both gymnastics and ballet splits. When doing gymnastics splits her hips stay relatively (but not fully) square, her pelvis is tilted over her front leg and her back leg is facing the ground i.e. her knee is in contact with the floor. To some extent this back leg is slightly turned out, but she doesn't seem able to avoid that.


However, when she does ballet splits, she pulls up her pelvis such that it is perpendicular to her legs (i.e. not tilted) and turns out the back leg. This results in her pelvis/hips being somewhere between a 45 and 90 degree angle from her front leg (i.e. it is sometimes close to where it would be in a box split).


My query is really two-fold:

1. Ought the hips to be more square than this? When I see pictures of dancers in positions like split jetes, their torso appears to be facing the front leg. Is this because their hips and pelvis are square to the front leg or have they also twised their hips in order to turn out the back leg? The physiotherapist at the school my daughter will attend told me that what they are looking for in a gymnastics split is really a physical impossibility. I assumed she was saying that doing the splits with your hips square is a physical impossibility. Gymnasts seem to do it, but is this because they tilt the pelvis?

2. If it really is impossible to do a ballet split with your hips square and professional dancers turn their hips/pelvis when they do the splits, does the ability to face the front leg depend on flexibility in the waist? I have noticed with my daughter, that whilst her hips are not square, she is more or less able to face the front leg by twisting at the waist. If this is the case, are there exercises that could be done to increase flexibility and mobility in the waist?


Sorry that my query is complicated, but I hope there is somebody who could give me some advice. My concern is really that before long my daughter could be expected to do positions like back bends whilst in the splits. It seems to me that this could be dangerous if the pelvis is not square.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, tipo'thetoes! :lol:


I don't think one need worry too much about these things at such young ages. If you trust the training your dd will be getting, then relax and don't worry needlessly. :)

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Guest tipo'thetoes

Thank you for your response and for welcoming me to the forum. I understand your point of view, but my daughter attends associate classes at the school she will attend full time in September and her associate teacher has told her to practise splits at home, but I am not fully clear on exactly what is expected. I am hoping somebody will be able to provide me with a clearer understanding of exactly what a ballet split is supposed to be in order that I will be able to supervise her such as to avoid injury. Is she supposed to be working on holding her hips square or is it ok not to? If people are able to respond to the broader queries in my original post it would really help to increase my understanding.

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Well, the problem is that we don't advocate kids practicing things like that at home, especially young children. They are ill-equipped to know when the body is ready to do active stretching, as in the 'splits'. Active stretching is to be done when one has had a good warm-up, as in the barre section of class. Only then is the body really ready to work a stretch like that.


Passive stretching, like calf leans and ankle circles, are ok for kids to begin doing in the hallway prior to their ballet class. But active stretches like splits and hand-on-heel pulls are generally reserved for in between barre and centre in a normal ballet class.


A ballet split would be with both legs rotated in a turned-out position; abdomen pulled in; ribs lifted up equally in back and front; and feet pointed. The hip joint is a round object (the software won't let me use the proper word) & socket. In order for the legs to be lifted up over 45 degrees in a standing position without lifting the hip as is required in ballet, the legs must be rotated from the hip joint. This will necessitate the slight turn of the hips outwards towards the back leg. It is safer for the legs to be rotated than not when working on splits.


The gymnastic split with the knee facing down can be dangerous to the knees. Having said that, just doing splitz without an understanding of the complexities involved can cause injury. This is why we do not recommend kids 'do them' at home.

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Since the associate teacher has asked for this practice and Clara has explained why it is unwise to do these stretches unsupervised, how about asking your daughter's home teacher to supervise these stretches at the appropriate point in her home ballet classes (before, after, during, whatever makes sense)?


That way, she is getting the practice the associate teacher wants away from her classes, but she is doing so under the watchful eye of a competent teacher who will help her do them correctly, at the right time to ensure that muscles are properly warmed and without injury. :)

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Guest tipo'thetoes

That would be lovely and I'd be really pleased for the teacher to supervise these stretches instead of me, but it is not a school where the pupils get individual attention. Classes have approximately 25 pupils and run to a tight schedule. My daughter frequently comes home from class having had no corrections. To be honest it is only very occasionally that she gets an individual correction from her teacher. I know that the teacher wouldn't interupt the class and the other pupils to do stretches with my daughter and there is no time before or after class as classes run consecutively with no break and they frequently overrun. They do have some brief stretching time in class where they could do the splits, but it is very brief (there is time for about one or two splits, tops!) and it is left up to the pupils to choose what to do, so they all do different stretches at this time and the teacher couldn't possibly watch all 25 of them at the same time.


It is really expected that associate pupils do their exercises in their own time. Several different exercises are given out by the associate school. It is a very prestigious school and I really don't think they would recommend exercises that are not safe for the pupils to do at home. However, I do want to be sufficently well informed to be sure that there is no risk of injury, which is why I posted my original post.

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tipo'toes--we've had two moderators address the issue as it will be addressed on these boards. We appreciate that your teachers may be too busy (although that seems odd), however, both a teacher moderator and a parent moderator/administrator have given information regarding to your request. I would suggest that since we do not advocate young students working on their own on these boards and since you would like to be sufficiently well informed to be sure to avoid injury that you make an appointment with the teacher in question or your child's teacher who told her what you've stated below:


My daughter was told that at the vocational school she will be attending in September, the pupils are encouraged to do both "gymnastics splits" (this is the school's terminology) with hips square and "ballet splits" with the back leg turned out.


We thank you for your question, but since we do not think young dancers should practice on their own without some additional direction from their own teachers, I will close the thread to allow you time to seek their guidance first.

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