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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Squared Hips in a Split


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My daughter is determined to get her splits (though I know from reading Ms. Leigh that they are not really an end in of themselves in ballet). She is quite close, but she complains that her hips are not square and that the rear leg doesn't go straight back but rather tilts slightly inward. I can see what she means, but I can't really find a better way to describe it. She seems to think this is a problem. I have no clue, as I have no idea 1) whether squared hips are necessary 2) whether not having squared hips is a bad thing in terms of injury or aesthetics or if this is the sort of fine-tuning you do once you have the flexibility. I'd appreciate insight from anyone who has any insight on this issue.

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Well, if one is doing the splits to stretch for their arabesque, then the hips should NOT be squared. Doing them with square hips turns in the back leg, which does provide a stretch too, for different muscles, but I prefer my students to use it for their arabesque. It is important to keep both knees totally straight, even if one is not all the way to the floor. The idea is to stretch, not so much to "do". :wink: With younger students the teacher should be supervising these stretches, and they must be done only after barre or after class, not before.

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Thank you Ms. Leigh. At least I understand the principle now. I always wondered, does ballet class itself ultimately gradually create enough flexibility or is stretching after barre or after class necessary?


A lot of the kids in her class are hyper-extended. She is not. She has great line without it just bc of the shape and structure of her leg, but she is definitely less naturally flexible than most of her peers. She is tight by nature, I think, and also one of those kids whose legs seem to grow another 2 inches every six months. She finds it discouraging that their are kids in her class who can do the foot in hand stretch (I can't remember the French term) and she cannot, though I sometimes think that given her current proportions (she's about 2/3rds legs it seems) it might be impossible.


Her school is well-regarded but intense and she'd be going to class almost every day next year, so I don't know if the expectations for flexibility will be out of line with where she is developmentally. There are some mixed messages in terms of what they expect at various stages. She wants to 'keep up' but I want to keep her healthy above all.

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I so wish they would not do that "foot in hand" stretch with younger students! Most of them are not capable of doing it correctly, maintaining alignment and weight placement and rotation, so they do it very distorted. This accomplishes nothing.


Sometimes flexibility gets a bit lost during the pre-teen years, with all the growth spurts and changes they go through. If it was there to begin with it, it will come back eventually, and if it was not it can still improve, generally somewhere between 14-16. Stretching is important, especially if they are not naturally very flexible. There are always things that all dancers will continue to do throughout their life in ballet in terms of stretching!

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