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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Training: Special needs of Tall dancers


marigold

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My DD is long limbed and 5'7", possibly with another inch to go (or more). Repeatedly she is told that her very long legs and arms are her greatest challenge and asset, though her technique training has been excellent. At this point, as she is approaching 16, finding a summer program where there are faculty familiar with the requirements of developing extra strength and skill for using long limbs to their potential is most important. Building core strength and using the right muscles while in class - and time... we know this advice. But if there are any teachers known to have worked with tall dancers who may be known for this, I would love to learn where they are! :)

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Marigold, I would have to think that most teachers, or at least most professional teachers, today would have worked with many, many dancers with this body type. Actually, 5'7 or 8 and approaching 16 is really not at all unusual any more. :)

 

I have certainly had a lot of students with this body type, and I was one myself, although ended up not quite that tall. It just takes a bit more time to build their strength, and takes patience. But the wait is worth it!

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Oh well, you know the mind of a MOB - is that the word here for mother of ballet dancer? Always trying to find out what might be out there that we might not know!

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  • 6 months later...

I just happened upon this topic and am very interested. My daughter at 15 is now 5'10", and she has struggled with basic steps when the growth spurts have struck. I have often wondered if there is some place more suited for her training, as she has been very frustrated over the past two years. I think she is done growing and hope that she is now able to start building on things instead of struggling with things she already knows how to do.

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As the mother of an extraordinarily tall DD (6 foot) I disagree that all teachers can teach tall dancers equally. In our experience it was a struggle for my DD and while her teachers were all excellent, I truly do not feel many understood the lack of strength and control thoroughly. She lagged behind in those areas with her same age peers. Over time she was certainly able to overcome much of it but I really believe it takes a special teacher to take interest in developing and working with very tall girls. She has beautiful lines, phenomenal extension and grace but it is through much hard work on her part and being able to work past some biases. I definitely think it is an uphill battle for the very tall girls.

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The teachers we have had who understood this consistently refer to the need for core strength and pointed to pilates as a big help, with a reminder to be sure to go to a certified and classically trained pilates instructor. I think it helps, also, if there are other tall dancers in the class who need the same kind of reinforcement. I agree that it does take longer for these dancers to develop the strength needed and believe it comes with time and extra hard work. There is nothing like having a teacher who understands these needs and speaks to them when giving training advice! A student may not understand what is going on, unless the teacher explains it and may feel very frustrated. Reading interviews with tall principal dancers is even helpful.

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Thank you for your insight taxis. The average height in my daughter's class is about 5'4" and I know it has taken her longer to develop some of the movements that the other girls have picked up easier than her. At the same time I have wondered if a little bit of insight would have helped her along. I am curious if your daughter has worried about finding a place to dance after her training? I know it is something my daughter is looking to with some anxiety.

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I do so agree about core training and that was unfortunately absent from my DD's training until she started at SI's and then went away. We did the best with what was available locally- unfortunately it wasn't enough. Truthfully, when she started pilates on a regular basis and taking more technique classes is when the most improvement was seen. I do not mean to infer that teachers do not understand tall dancers only that they have specific needs and as marigold stated, these need to be expressed to the dancer clearly so they understand why they need this specific help and extra training and then the patience to work on that with them. I am so drawn to tall dancers when I see performances, I know I am biased! My DD left the pre-professional track this past year but did continue to dance back home on a regular basis. It has not been without regret on her part that she has chosen another path.... I am hopeful she will find the opportunity to dance in college although it will involve some travel. We saw her perform one last time this past June in a piece she choreographed. It was so poignant and bittersweet- I cried- which I have never done watching her before. My eldest daughter was patting my leg in reassurance. At the very least she will always have a true appreciation for it, enjoy taking classes when she can and remember all the wonderful friends she has made and places she got to travel to over the years.

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Teachers we know have reminded us that there are more options for tall dancers with companies that perform contemporary ballet and Balanchine ballets. DD has been aware of this for a while and, while enjoys contemporary ballet very much, loves classical. So she knows it will be an extra challenge to find a job. She has also been told that taller dancers need to be good enough to be hired at soloists. She figures she has a LOT of work to do!

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taxis, your daughter must be beautiful on stage! We have had a dancer in our school who is the same height and has been featured frequently. I am sure whatever your daughter is doing will not leave dance far behind and there is definitely a spot for her with the right company if she would return to it and loves to perform.

 

DD still hasn't had regular pilates classes and hopes to make sure she does, soon. But if a school doesn't offer it, our AD swears by the Bender Ball ("As Seen on TV!) ... if DD would just use it.

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  • 1 year later...

I am not a mother of an extremely tall dancer, but I am only 13 myself and am 5'8! One of my teachers said to me that my greatest challenge is actually using my long legs and arms to my advantage. She pulls me across the room, when going across the floor, so I can get the feeling of how far I'm supposed to travel. It's hard to deal with it because I'm so "long" I'm expected to go farther, but I just don't/can't!

Edited by Victoria Leigh
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You will when you grow into those long legs and arms! :wink: At 13, that probably has not happened yet.

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  • 2 months later...

My DS is 6'4" at 16 years old and strength does seem to be his biggest challenge. Shorter dancers seem to develop strength sooner. He spends a lot more time in the gym than other people at his school. He has also needed to learn how to use his size on stage. Fortunately he has some excellent teachers who know how to work with tall dancers. When he develops the needed strength, he will have a good time partnering all the tall ballerinas.

Edited by Alan
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He will be a very desirable asset to any company my dd hopes to be in! We'll look for him! :D And what you say is quite true and applies to any tall dancer, male or female. You are lucky he has a faculty with skills and interest to help him develop into his full potential. Sounds promising! Think of all the tall ballerinas out there waiting for him!

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  • 1 year later...

My daughter is 13 and tall with very very thin long legs. She has struggled with control too! Funny enough she was told at 11 by Stephanie Spassoff that her legs were her "greatest asset and her greatest weakness" and to "Make them strong" . It takes a while to happen but when it does it is beautiful!!!

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