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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Hyperextension and first position


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I have quite hyperextended legs and no one has ever told me to slightly bend my knees so my heels can touch in first position until the other day when a ballet friend suggested it.

Should I do this? Will it look messy to bend my knees? Is it that important for the heels to touch if they don't naturally?

I DID read that with hyperextension, if you give into it, more pressure can be put on the joints....is this true?

Have NO idea what to do!?

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BlleFille, absolutely do not bend your knees! That was not a good suggestion from your friend. There are two schools of thought on dealing with this. Some teachers will allow a very small space between the heels, so that the knees can be straight. The problem is that if the space is too big, that will push you into your hyperextension, and that is not what you want to do. Use only enough space to straighten, but not overstraighten, the knees, and keep them from overlapping.


The Vaganova method wants the heels together, and works with the alignment to make this happen without bending the knees. So, it will depend on what your teacher will allow. If the teacher will not allow a small space, and is teaching Vaganova, then he or she should know how to teach you what they want and how to do it correctly without bent knees. Do not ask friends! Only teachers. :)

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I must agree with Ms Leigh, bent knees is not a good way to go!


It is true that working the legs incorrectly in hyper extension can lead to overstretched ligaments and potential knee problems. If you are pushing back into the knees, instead of lenghthening up out of them you could be doing damage in the long term.


What your friend might have been trying to say, is what Ms Leigh suggests above, of working with the heels together which will initially "feel" like the knees are "bent". In reality they are actually straight, just not hyper extended. You would then need to retrain the way you stand and work so that you are not pushing backwards into the knees or sitting into them. I try and get students to think of pushing down into and away from the floor to make their legs long and strong, and lengthen the legs upwards instead of back into the knees. Work with your teacher until you can find the correct alignment and a new "feel" to work with.

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It is also important to find out just how much the legs are actually hyperextended, and what could be won through a slight change in pelvic alignment; that is sometimes actually quite significant, in my experience.

And that is something which only someone who can see you and knows what it is they are looking for can tell. :D


You (a person with hyperextended knees) will of course have to re-learn what "straight" feels like, as it could well be that for quite some time "straight" for was actually "over-stretched", so the muscle-memory has to be "reprogrammed", somewhat. :)



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