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Proper Split Techniques

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How does a young dancer know when their splits are where they should be?


Here's the DD's typical class scenario: DD is ten

The teacher has the girls do barre work than has them stretch and do splits before center work begins and afterwards they do across the floor work.


DD is able to do complete splits on either side (left/right) and is 1/4" from the floor on center splits. She's the only one in class who can split well on both sides and down center, so Dd felt confident in abilities.

After splits, the teacher has them lay down, with back to floor, and has each student slowly lift one leg at a time to see how close they can get their foot to their ear. (I remember doing this in dance class too)


Here's the dilemma:

DD can't reach her leg back as far to reach ear. Teacher said this was her true split. Is this true? Now DD's confidence is waning and she's stressed over the fact that her foot can't reach her ear. I told her it takes patience/practice. But, I've been unsuccessful in my atttempts to alleviate her anxiety. Dd loves her teacher, is serious about ballet, and takes eveything to heart. Dd feels as though she's disappointing herself and her instructor. The teacher has also told the girls splits would come in time, they just needed to keep practicing.


Here's the fear, I don't want her to practice this at home, as she could injure herself. Are there any other kind of safe stretches she could do at home or would stretching without the teacher's supervision be bad?


I'm not a ballet instructor and don't feel qualified to give her advice. How can I help my DD? :shrug:

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  • Administrators

You can best help her by letting her teacher do her job. No one should be helping her with anything at home. She is too young to know what she is doing on her own, and needs supervision. The best thing you can do for her is to just support her efforts, and tell her she will get there with time and patience. Ballet is a slow boil art, not an instant fix. Stretches can't be forced, and doing splits is SO unimportant anyway. It's simply a stretch. That is what a split IS. Therefore, doing them, under supervision AND when properly warmed up from barre, IS the stretch. Being able to put your leg by your ear is really so irrelevant, and telling them that is the true split is misleading and unnecessary. She was probably just trying to encourage them to stretch more, but still, you have to be very careful what you say to this age group, and they take things to heart and can so easily misunderstand or overreact, in terms of the importance of things.

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And of course, it is very important with a pre-teen especially to avoid the mixed message. If you were to try to explain something, and the explanation differed only subtly from the teacher's, confusion would be inevitable. She needs single-point refueling here, and not input from different sources.

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Yes, Yes, yes, great advice...Mom will keep her mouth SHUT and stay out of it - I promise, no mixed messages here! Phew, that takes the pressure off...Letting nature take it's course with the teacher's help is definetely the right thing to do!


Thank you for help Ms Leigh and Major Mel! :shrug:

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If I may add another question to this thread....


This past year my dd didn't have just one teacher, but 4 ballet teachers. One in particular happened to be the school admin and he is really big on crunches, splits, etc. He tells the girls every week that they should be doing splits at home all the time and even told them that they can't get to level XYZ "until you get your splits".


As a parent, that really drive me nuts! The main reason is that practicing splits at home when one is not sufficiently warm does not seem very productive and possibly harmful. My dd is very inflexible, and I don't want to discourage her from stretching, nor do I want to go against what the teacher says, but I'm not quite sure what to say here.


As a side note, her flexibility has improved so much after one week of SI, but she still doesn't "have her splits". Nevertheless, she's so proud of herself! :(

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Good for her. She should feel good about herself.


As for the splits, they're not a technical achievement. They're just a stretch, and of course, we, none of us, should ever do active or large stretches while cold. What you say is, "Don't do any splits until you've done at least a barre."

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  • Administrators

"Getting your splits" is, IMO, a very poor criteria for advancement. :( I wish teachers, and therefore their students, would just realize that splits are just stretches, and that is their purpose. As long as the students are working on them in class, when warmed up, that is all that should be encouraged at this age. Being able to "do" or "get" them is not nearly as important as being able to stand correctly, learn how to rotate the legs correctly, articulate the feet, place the body weight and learn how to move freely and efficiently, and, the most neglected of all, everywhere, learn how to carry the arms! Port de bras these days is ghastly and it's not the students fault. They are not being taught in a vast majority of schools. :) [Yikes, don't get me started on this one! I've been on this bandwagon forever. :devil:]

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I have a question somewhat along the lines of this thread.


My daughter is growing fairly rapidly at the moment and she feels very "tight" when doing splits. Am I remembering correctly that this is common during pubertal development and that flexibility returns eventually? How should a student stretch during such growth phases so as not to injure themselves? This growth in itself causes soreness, coupled with an increase in intensity due to her summer program, so she is feeling tighter than usual. I just want her to be careful, over all, so that she can run around, swim, bike, etc., safely this summer, aside from dancing.


I apologize if this has been asked/answered somewhere else. I didn't know exactly where to search.

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  • Administrators

During this period of time she should stretch, but perhaps a bit more gently. When the body is going through a change of any kind, whether growth spurts or puberty, it is not a good idea to force it or push too hard. Still do what you do, but listen to your body and if it resists, don't force. Be sure to be well warmed up when working on any flexibility stretches.

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I am intrigued by comments I have read here and elsewhere that say that splits are just a stretch and not technically necessary for ballet. How does this relate to, say, split jetes and head-high extensions? Are these moves not in effect splits themselves?

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No, except in an extrapolated sense. Open positions which demonstrate a highly extended line are said to be "à grand écart". But they are still grand jeté, developpé à la seconde, etc.

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this will probably be a stupid question,so i will appologise in advance,but don't they have to be very flexible to do those things?And how do they work on their flexibility if splits aren't the "tools" to do so?

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  • Administrators

Splits ARE one of the tools to do so, heleen. But that is what they are, tools. Our argument is that some teachers and students put way too much emphasis on being able to "do" them, as opposed to just using them for the purpose of stretching. People write all the time and ask what stretches to do to "get their splits". Our pointe is that splits ARE the stretch, or one of them.

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