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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Flexibility and Feet


Guest kirovboy

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Guest kirovboy

I was just inquiring to see how guys felt about this issue. Guys are much less likely to be flexible then girls due to gender as well as the later starting age of their serious training. I, myself, always considered myself flexible being a guy, until I went away to my first summer intensive, and felt like I was extremely behind. I stretch at least 2 times a day other than in class and although improvement is seen, you always feel behind. Now when it comes to feet, its hard to improve on these...Ive learned from experience. My teacher tells me everyday I need to elongate my lines...and stretch my feet...sooo...well I took it to an extreme and started putting barres on my feet as well as people. Bad move...dont try it....but Im still working on the feet with different resources and other things....ok I know Im sorta rambling...but tell me if you feel the same way or what your situation has been like. Its good to hear from people that are perhaps in a similar position.

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I'm not really sure what you mean about "putting barres on your feet besides people". Do you mean that you used the bases of moveable barres as resistance to attempt to stretch your feet, or have people stand on your insteps? You're right, bad idea, been there, done that, spent time in rehab.

 

I don't know that the relative late starts that boys get are as important as the basic hormonal differences in how men's muscles and connective tissues form as differentiated from women.

 

My first teacher always said that perfect placement and correct positions were more important for a man than great flexibility. If that shows up along the way, fine, but not at the expense of those first two things.

 

My advice to you would be to keep plugging along, regular and gentle, one day at a time. (Gee, it sounds like we're starting a twelve-step program here;) ) Things in ballet come only after a lot of diligent work, and rarely, if ever show up bang, all at once. This is a long road you're on - don't stray off it!

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Guest kirovboy

thanks mel! Just to clarify... I was putting the portable barres(extremely heavy..not lightweight ones....like you need two guys to move them) on my feet......I was also have friends sit on my feet. and knew it was bad at the time, but was desperate to improve upon myself.

 

I understand how boys are genetically different than girls, but in this day and age....to be at the top of this profession, even boys are expected to have tremendous flexibility, nice feet, and bodies that are suitable to ballet. I dont think people realize that it is becoming much harder for boys in the ballet business. Everyone always says girls have it so hard due to the numbers of girls, which is still quite true. But there are also many good boys, leading for more competition and the allowance of directors to be more choosy for fine talents. If you go to top schools in the country, you are more likely to find boys with great extension, great feet, hyperextension, long legs, and many other attributes that define dancers with great bodies. And if you are not graced by god with these attributes, even as a boy, it is much harder.

 

For instance, I have mediocre extension, ok feet, negative hyperextension(they say bent if I am correct), short legs, and very bulky muscles. I have received more than a few comments from schools that I need to work on all of these. Just sometimes it gets frustrating when you hear people say....its so easy for guys....because its getting harder and I have seen it in action. people are less willing to settle for just saying guys arent supposed to have this or that

 

I hope you understand what I am saying

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Gee, you sound like me, except for the hypo extension. That's a real bear, because it's almost always a skeletal thing, and you're stuck with it. Funny thing happened to me, though, when I was about 18, suddenly I loosened up, and my extension went where I only dreamt it could go! I asked my teacher, and she just said, "it was time for your body to do that!"

 

You're right, pursuing a professional ballet career for a male dancer is no cakewalk, and the modern emphasis on variety of vocabulary and multi-purpose dancers makes it even more difficult.

 

But my purpose here is to encourage you. You seem to have a good attitude; don't be frightened off; press on! You know what needs work, now put your teachers to work and ask them for advice and help after class. You'll probably be surprised at how many will eagerly offer it!:(

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Guest kirovboy

thanks again for the encouragement! You are very lucky that your body did loosen up, perhaps it was in you at all times. Yes I do utilize my teacher whenever I have the opportunity. And he is extremely responsive. I was at a loss in Jan. when one of the directors of a company I auditioned for told me to elongate my legs and feet. That had been my main focus since June, and I obviously hadnt come anywhere close to what I thought was elongating my line. So I asked my teacher for help because I was desperate to change these things. He reminds me every day, quite often "you dont have the longest lines or most flexible feet you know......so you need to really think about this!..." And me knowing it is meant for the best, sometimes its hard to get past the same comment every day. And you just wonder when things will change. But Im not going to stop working on it. Its definitely a struggle though.

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Kirov boy, there are some roles that actually call for your body-type --

 

I'm thinking of Billy the Kid, which is a GREAT part in a great ballet.. the last time I saw it performed, b Michael Myers at the Oakland Blallet -- he;'s not famous, but it was a fantastic performance, he was WONDERFUL in it -- well, he's a chunky American guy, built like TOny Danza, and when he took off his shirt, he looked like the young Marlon Brando in that part --

 

It's a great role for an interpretive dancer -- there's a tragedy in there if thdancer can bring it out-- and hte movement is fascinating, not just steps, , but work for he back, a body roll up htrough the spine that's key to the part...

 

Prodigal SOn is also a role that short stocky dancers can make a big contribution in....

 

BAryshnikov himself was basically short and stocky -- but with his FEET, and his immense understanding of how to pull his legs out of the hips, to pull his lines, how to "dance turned-out," and how to think through every transition so he was never seen from an unthought-out angle, and on top of that his immense gift as a mime, he made himself extraordinary.....

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Kirovboy, I don't think it's easy for guys or girls. One must work hard to become a great artist, period.

 

You can improve your feet by soaking them in warm water and then rotating them gently (doing circles) and trying to get as much range as possible. You can also do the same with stretching. It's always good to do this in the warm bath tub, or in sweat pants. But not forcing is the best policy, do it gently, take your time.

 

For getting rid of bulk, you can reduce your carb in take and eat more protein. Ask a nutritionist about it.

 

I hope these suggestions help.

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Thanks, glebb - I knew that you would have good input on this topic. Especially that last part about checking with a nutritionist, or registered dietitian with experience with dancers. A special program tailored especially to your body and metabolism can help maximize performance!:(

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Guest kirovboy

thank you for all of your advice everyone. I will consider the nutritionist thing, I never thought of going that route. The only problem is with a lack of money, it will be tough to find someone in that department, but it is wortha try. People often have said that I have a very similar body to Baryshnikov, aside from the fact that Im a little taller. Ive been battling the last few months to relearn how to use my leg muscles(you have 4 quadricep muscles, hence the name, and I overwork the two largest that bulk up the most) and it has been a struggle. My legs have improved with intense stretching and relearning, but it is hard to see results when you see yourself every day. A physical therapist also told me that all of my weight(lbs.) is in my legs.(we have a scale that you should be between this weight for this height in ballet) and Im 3 over for my height, but Im generally thin. Its just not pleasant to see a thin body with massive legs. But yes, I will try to speak to a nutritionist and see if this is even a possibility considering that our school maintains a low fat- no fat- diet. So its hard to check what you are eating when you are only being offered one thing every meal that is already well proportioned and overly healthy.

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We're skirting the edges of a topic we generally don't like to address here - that is to say, diet and weight. Suffice it to say that raw numbers on a chart are really not binding, but only reflective of general trends which to which you and your metabolism may or may not conform! There may be a staff nutritionist able to give you guidance on this matter, or at least make a referral to an outside specialist.

 

As to the matter of the bulging quads, only long patient stretching, without forcing, day after day, is going to make a real difference. Just take it easy, and rely on the "eyes outside yourself" - that is, your teachers, and eventually yourself, when you've attained the ability to be impartial about your own situation. It's not simple, and it takes awhile, but it does provide favorable results in a respectable number of cases of this sort.:)

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  • 3 weeks later...

kriov Boy,

 

I have friends who own the mechanical arc strecher thingy, it is like mucho money! They claim to like it. I personaly find a low overhang (like 3-4 inches ie: space between the floor and a desk,couch, anything stable), i then slip my feet inder while standing and sit down. The directions are sort of vague but i dont know how alse to say it, i like it becuase it doesnt take someone alse tugging and pushing on ur foot and is esay to do while watching TV. I also dont know if this is bad for you in any way. I assume not. hope this helps

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Guest kirovboy

Thanks for the advice Mr. Mcpherson. I have done this exercise plenty of times. The only thing is that I got so used to conventional stretching like this that I started to go into other exercises that were most likely detrimental instead of complimentary. It is most likely either because I wasnt seeing results fast enough or because the feet are almost unable to be stretched out after a certain age due to the bone structure of each persons individual foot. THanks for the idea, but I would probably suggest from personal experience that it is not a good idea to do that exercise anymore. My physical therapist has given me an alternative to stretch my feet where I do it with my foreare as well as my hands, therefore I am using my own weight and not putting dead weight on the foot or having some other individual sit or press to hard on my feet. Although I dont get as much stretch as I would wish to achieve, it is probably the safest way for me to go about the issue with which I am dealing with

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I'm glad you are being supervised by a physical therapist, Kirovboy.

 

Take it from someone who improved his feet. The process has to be gradual to stay injury free and to gain lasting results.

 

As Mr. Joffrey used to say to me: "Patience is a virtue".

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I cannot add anything to the advice that kirovboy and glebb have offered. Using furniture or other dead weight as a resistance is risky, because it can't react to excessive strain and you can't react quickly enough to relieve the pressure in order to prevent an injury!

 

So, nice going, fellas!:)

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