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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Back Flexibilty


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Let's clear up some terminology here before we try to answer. When you say "back flexibility", what do you want to be able to do? We've had questions like this before, when what was actually needed was FRONT flexibility!

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Ah, that's the sort of answer I was hoping for! The issue is not so much back flexibility, although that's involved. You need to be able to understand the matter of line in arabesque. "Arabesque" is not simply a stick figure with one leg perpendicular to the vertical.


To properly envision arabesque, you have to imagine a large SPIRAL with your head as the starting point. In a perfect world, with perfect bodies, we'd be able to do a quatrieme derriere with the supporting leg and body forming a vertical, and the working leg making a right-angle intersection with that vertical. The only problem is that while our legs are unimpeded in extensions to the front and side, when we try the back, there are the original factory-installed seat covers, and they have to go somewhere when you do a developpé or other extension to the back. Therefore, what you have to do is lift out of the supporting hip, and allow the working hip to open very slightly, at the same time placing the leg to the back, which will cause the torso to want to go forward. Resist going into an allongée position, unless that's what's called for. The torso goes mainly in a diagonal up direction when you take the arabesque. Try that, and see how it looks and feels.

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  • 3 weeks later...

i have some exercises that you can do to improve your arabesque

my teacher tought it to me and it really works


1. stand with your back facing the wall (about a feet from the wall) and cambre back and reach the wall with your hands

then slowly go down while making sure that your hips are square and you are not leaning to side (doing with mirror wall instead of regular wall helps)

go down until you reach your hand to the floor

when you do this try to keep your knees straight as long as possible

do it once more


-> this was to increase the range of motion of your back

eventually you will be able to do this without the wall


2. then lay flat with stomach on the floor preferable mat because it can be painful on your hip bones,

then arch back by pushing your hands on the floor

when you feel secure, let go and put your arms fifth high and hold the position for 20 counts

then before you come down allonge your arms and reach back as far as you can

repeat this one or twice more


make sure after this exercise that you stretch your back in childs pose




It is a good exercise to do after class

It really helped me improve my arabesque

it is going to give you sore backs the first couple of days you do them

but if you just do this everyday after class it really really helps!



I hope this helped!!!!! :blushing:

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Don't do the first one without a spotter. Even with the wall there, you can easily fall out to the side. It's an old gymnast's exercise called "the bridge". (Also, wipe off the mirror after you're done!)


The second is called "the Cobra" in Physical Culture circles. It's good for building the muscles which hold your back up in arabesque, and also for stretching those front structures which keep a lot of people from achieving a good arabesque line.


It's best to phase into a new exercise gradually. Don't try for the full arch right away, don't hold the second for a long time at first. We don't want you to have "unfamiliar movement" pains that would put you off your class schedule. Remember, class is most important!

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Also a tip that works well for ME, is to think of touching my shoulders with my feet. It doesn't happen, of course, but it helps to think of it.


Another exercise. CAUTION!!! USE SPOTTER!! Is to go into a 'bridge' (make sure it is fairly wide) and try to straighten out your legs. You really get a good stretch, helps flexibility. Be very careful!

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  • 1 month later...

I've been told that I have good lower back flexibility but not upper back flexibility (or front flexibility, I guess). I feel like I don't really have either...do those stretches (like doing bridge) help increase both?

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  • Administrators

I prefer just doing cambré back. Face the barre and do it that way, straight up and then back from the top of the head, taking the chest back. You don't even need to turn out, just stand in parallel.


Another simple and not dangerous exercise for the chest muscles is to stand parallel with your back to the barre. Place hands on top of the barre, as close together as possible, arms straight. Maintain placement and don't lean out from the barre, just allow the stretch of being in that position to work. :shrug:

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Would using a foam roller work the same way? I often put mine under my back just because it feels good, but I guess it's kind of the horizontal version of the stretches you recommended.

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  • Administrators

I have not worked with a foam roller, so I can't answer that. Sorry.

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