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



Recommended Posts

Should stretching be done before or after ballet class?


I have heard conflicting views on this and just wonder what you think.




Link to comment

Teacher mods with expertise can advise in detail, but I think there are several different types of stretching with different purposes in class. Before class you need to warm up -- get things going a bit in preparation for the rigours ahead! I think sports medicos say a warm up is trying to get the blood moving faster and literally starting to raise your body's core temperature in preparation for strenuous exercise.


I've read recommendations from physiotherapists and exercise scientists that a warm up should consist of the kind of exercises you're going to do in training, but at a lower intensity. That might mean that a good start before even gentle stretching is to do something gently and slightly aerobic -- a bit of running on the spot maybe? or doing the working through the feet "prancing" exercise at a fast rate, which is like running on the spot.


For me, as an adult dancer who goes to class after a long day in the office, that initial warm up with a gentle stretch, is the most important stretching moment -- I try to get the working-at-a-desk kinks out of my body, stretch and lengthen out my spine, get my breathing steady and useful for the exertion, and just gently stretch the large groups of muscles I'll be using in class. For me, "gentle stretching" means just to the point of a slight feeling of stretch, but not to the point of pain. It's quite a nice feeling, as I feel like I'm "waking up" my muscles.


Then there's the kind of stretching to extend flexibility that we traditionally do between the barre and centre -- that's when we're thoroughly warmed up and flexible from the barre. I also stretch afterwards to make the most of the literally warmed up muscles.

Link to comment



Thanks for sharing your experience.


My usual routine is to warm up first, e.g. prancing, running on the spot, as you suggested, which is then followed by a series of exercises to stretch my tight muscles after a full day's sitting at the desk.


The type of stretching I do include the lunge for the psoas; downward dog and runner's stretch for the hamstring, calves and back; calves stretches for the soleus and gastrocnemius; golf-ball massage of the feet to loosen up tender/tight spots; some seated rises to warm up the ankles and big toe joints; as well as some toe exercises, etc. If I have time left before class, I would also do the clam exercise to prepare my piriformis muscles for turnout, and an exercise to strengthen the transversus abdominis (deep ab muscles).


Someone has suggested that doing these stretches after the class would be more beneficial. But my purpose is to prepare the muscles gently through these stretches so they are lengthened enough for the class. Am I doing anything wrong here? I mean, I am not doing any stretches that would cause pain or anything. I am not even doing the split before class. Just really targeted stretches for specific muscle groups and functions. I would like to hear your opinion on that.



Link to comment

My opinion is not an expert one -- just another adult dancer like you! But all those exercises you mention could also be done after class in a much deeper way, maybe? Push for a tougher, deeper stretch, plus deep lunges into splits etc.

Link to comment

Usually, the "setting-up" stretches done before classes are the passive ones, the ones where gravity is doing most of the work. More vigorous ones are done between barre and center, and the really active stretches come after class, and go into a sort of "cool-down" mode, working from the most vigorous back to the easy ones.

Link to comment

In my school we have a little warm up together before class. We all sit in a circle and have some light stretches of the big muscles groups, sometimes we do some easy barre en terre exercisese, flex and pointe feet (especially in winter) to loosen up a bit. This is more about breathing to loosen up and prepare the body for the barre. Then we have between barre and center a couple of minutes for individual stretching (sometimes all together the same) where the teacher is walking around, giving corrections and telling people what they should stretch (so that everyone gets what they need the most). I really would like to have in the end some stretching again but usually people run out of class to go home. Usually I cool down at home with a nice cup of tea besides me and some light stretches (my class is late in the evening).

Link to comment

Yes, I think "loosen" rather than "stretching" is a good name for what you so before class - gently getting the body ready for the barre. And if you do a hard stretch, if you do it right at the end of a class, you need to do a "warm-down", which is not a cup of tea, but light movements to keep the blood flowing through the muscles for some minutes longer, which will aid recovery and reduce any soreness afterwards (though gentle stretching after, as Claude Catastophique says, helps too).



Link to comment

When to stretch? My answer is any time you can. Up to a certain point, the more you stretch, the more flexible you become. That’s probably the only real rule when it comes to stretching. When it comes to asking questions about what’s best, the answer is pretty much it varies by individual. You will find that true with most questions about optimal training methods.


Personally, I’ve never liked stretching much, so I try to do things that make me feel good. At least that way, I’ll keep stretching and not give in to my natural tendency to postpone stretching until tomorrow.


I do the easy stretch approach before class more as a ritual than anything else. I never stretch after class, not because I think it’s bad, but rather because it’s late at night and I’m in a hurry to get home. If I had lots of time, I’d probably stretch a little after class. Most of my stretching is done in my regular noon exercise where I work it in with other exercises I do. I most enjoy stretching when I’m sweating.


My advice is my second sentence. Try different things and see what seems to work for you. Not all of our bodies respond the same to training methods, so you have to become an expert on how your body reacts to different approaches.

Link to comment

Thanks for all your suggestions. However, I need more specific instructions and wonder if someone can give me a list of exercises as examples of what I can do before class. And can you take the examples I have listed and tell me when is the best time to do those?




P.S. I posted this before I saw Garyetch's reply. Well, I guess no one's stretching regime would be exactly the same. But wouldn't it be nice if teachers include the pre-class warm-up/loosen-up stretches into class time? I have one who does that and it makes a big difference in how I feel during the rest of the class. Most teachers don't lead any stretching at all.

Link to comment

It's next to impossible to give the kind of detail you're asking for over the internet, because we can't see you! As Garyecht says, you need to work out what works for you. I'd also say think about what goals you have. What's your aim in stretching? What do you want to achieve?


But in my opinion, the list you gave, in your earlier post, of what you do before barre sounds a good routine and thorough.

Link to comment

I always start my adult classes with a simple warming-up stretching exercise, such as this:

RELEASE work- Feet in 6th position facing barre. Prep is simply to place fingertips on barre on ct. 7, inhale on count 8, then, 2 count down plié while dropping head gently to chest and rounding back, exhale at demi-plié position. Inhale while uncurling, standing upright, and straightening knees. End in lovely long neck, long lower back, lifted-off ballet position, exhale. Repeat 4 times.

Notice how I said, "RELEASE" work? That is because there is a difference between releasing and working a stretch.


From there, I will have them do calf RELEASES; sliding right foot straight back from 6th position with no turnout at all in either leg. Just a simple straight-forward gentle release, front knee is bent back knee straight, pelvis and upper body still in lift-off, shoulders relaxed, hips square and parallel. Inhale & exhale while in this position focusing on the breath rather than working the stretch. Then, I have them scoot their back leg in a bit and bend that knee, straighten the front leg and flex the front foot. Repeat on other leg.


Then, ankle circle RELEASES holding leg still devant about 45 degrees, and rolling ankle gently, loosening the ankle, not WORKING it.


Then, a short quad stretch- I keep this short because it can be hard on the knees, but I also find it helps stretch the front of thigh. I am careful to make sure that they keep their knees together, and only pull the heel into the center of the same side of the derrière as the foot, not the outside of the hips.


Now I usually move into some actual stretching of the insteps, either by placing the foot and knee of the right leg across the left knee/foot with the right foot overpointed, top of big toe completely on the floor, knees bend, stretch instep (also stretches IT band), switch sides. OR, just remaining in 6th position and overpointing etc. stretching insteps only.


Hamstrings- Feet apart in parallel, only slight rotation, reach both arms up towards ceiling, looking up, knees straight, then bring gaze down as plié and lower your arms and continue the head moving to chin towards chest, as you continue bending *****knees tracked right over toes- NOT coming in towards your center, nor heading out past pinkies******placing hands on the floor. Now you are in a squat position, chin still dropped towards chest with both of your hands on the floor in front of you about even with your toes. Now slowly try to straighten your knees (hands stay on the floor) but not to the point of hyperextension- just straight. (Those who have tighter hamstrings can walk their hands farther forward until they reach a comfortable place to be able to full straighten the knees with hands still on the floor). Plié again, then straighten knees (hands stay on the floor), repeat, then, staying en plié, begin to uncurl your upper body bringing it upright again, then straighten your knees and find your alignment.


Here, one could have the option of doing an ab exercise like Plank, or 100's, or crunches.


I might go from there to a simple tendu exercise facing barre, using a rotated position (1st), something like this: Rt. Tendu devant, plié flex (heel on the floor), straighten knee and pointe foot, fermé (8 counts- 2 each). Lt. same. 2 tendus a la seconde R, 2 left. Gentle corps penché de côté Rt. Gentle corps penché de côté Lt.


I might go into a plié combination here, using corps penché en avant, and maybe a gentle cambré.


Other examples of RELEASES to do before class would be:

I/C/O- sitting on the floor, bottoms of the feet together, knees bent to the sides (making a sideways diamond shape if you look down) back straight (I), inhale then bring chin towards chest rounding back and rolling back off sitz bones keeping hips released (don't pull your knees up away from the floor) ( C ), then roll all the way down nose-to-toes (O). Uncurl and repeat.


Knees to chest- self-explanatory- lay down on your back and gently bend your knees and hug them to your chest.


After doing some of these other things, you could do some small marches working up to prancing and then gentle joggin in place.


NOW- some examples of more active stretching done IN BETWEEN barre & centre-

Splits- obviously, in a split you are working it trying to get closer to the floor. In between pushing it, try releasing and breathing too to see if that doesn't help achieve more.


Heel stretch- Standing upright, bend knee, take hold of heel with arm in front of leg cupping heel in the palm of your hand with thumb facing back and straighten your leg in a high développé devant or a la seconde

Link to comment
  • 1 month later...

My current class is an evening class, and it only lasts 45 minutes. So there isn't time for stretching before or afterwards. Luckily, I am in the habit of stretching lightly throughout most days and always at the end of the day. Sometimes there is room in the changing room to stretch a bit before the lesson.

Link to comment

I've been studying with/being mentored by Tricia Kaye (Dienhart) for the last year and a half. She was at one time ballet mistress at Oakland Ballet, as well as a sought out teacher/coach in NYC in the 90s/early 2000s. She begins each class with about a half hour of gentle stretching floor work. I've never encountered her method anywhere else, and I've studied with several teachers. I've also never had the extension, nor range of motion in my hips that I've gained since working with her. She also encourages us to stretch after class on our own. It's a marvelous set of exercises. I'll see if I can't record it and post a link.

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...