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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Holding leg to the side


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In many of my classes... in fact, maybe all of them at one point or another we have to hold our leg up to the side in a stretch. I can get mine to a respectable height but not any way close to how high the pros get theirs though.

But when I see everyone else in class with their legs to the side very high, their feet appear to be all the way turned in which makes me think that they are not turning out in the hips while stretching this way.

Would that be so? Anyhow it seems weird to me to do this exercise if you are not turning out correctly or are they turning out but I just don't see it?



This is the stretch I am referring to but she seems to be doing it well?

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Ah... the famous and often dangerous "jambes a la main" or pied a la main stretch. I believe there's an entire thread about this stretch and how to not do it wrong, moreover, why one shouldn't do it if not in pretty decent control of their own physical facility/placement. Let me search for it and see if it helps you out.

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I would just like to make a comment on this stretch from a "teacher stand point". I don't use this stretch in my classes. I find that beginning students or, for that matter, more advanced students with limited flexibility, will distort their bodies into all sorts of useless strange positions in order to keep that foot in their hand and get both knees straight. On the other hand, the dancers who can do the stretch properly seem to use it to show everyone how flexible they are, rather than to seriously increase their flexibility and warm up/prepare for centre. That hour and a half flies by so fast when I'm teaching that I'd rather devote the time to something else. Just my opinion.

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Haha! Willimus that is funny! I DO notice very flexible folks showing off with this stretch!!! For me it feels uncomfortable but I can get the leg to a decent height.... at least a respectable height ;)

But it never feels like there is much point to it. ALL my teachers do this one though.. and they are super teachers!

Are you meant to keep the hip down all the way when doing it or is some lifting allowed?

And how is the foot supposed to look? Would this be determined by level of turnout?

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"Are you meant to keep the hip down all the way when doing it or is some lifting allowed? And how is the foot supposed to look? Would this be determined by level of turnout?"


These questions could open a serious can of worms. I had a roommate when I was in my 20's...we were both dancers...and we are still friends and still debating these questions. (I am in my 50's she is in her 60's...we are no longer roommates but very close friends till this day). When I say still debating these questions...I mean STILL...FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS.


There are many different opinions and we both firmly believe that there is no one right answer. We are both teaching at fairly well recognized schools, and both teaching the same things when it comes to these questions...but we fully recognize that there are different opinions on these questions...and there are many "RIGHT WAYS OF DOING THINGS".


In my opinion the working hip should not be down completely square with the standing hip. You should pull up as high as possible on the standing side, and with that pull up as high and strong as possible, the working hip will be slightly higher than the standing hip. SLIGHTLY. This is the position that the hip should be in during the stretch. As far as the position of the foot...it depends on the turn out, but ideally it should be with the instep toward the head...not the sole of the foot facing the mirror...but I am guessing that many people will disagree with this.

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Wouldn't the sole of the foot to the mirror be MORE rotated than the instep to the head? Are you saying that you feel a dancer should limit the rotation if they are capable of more?

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And here we go...

This is why we have been discussing these things for the past 30 years

And...this is another reason why I don't use/like this stretch


There is no one right way.


I like the feeling of the stretch with the instep facing the head. If you stand in first position...assuming you are perfectly turned out...and take a tendu side, knee facing the ceiling...and then lift the leg straight up to 90 degrees, knee still facing the ceiling, and continue to lift straight up, the instep will be facing the head. This is how the stretch feels good...TO ME. I'm not saying there are no other ways to do this stretch. I prefer not to use this stretch to try to increase the turn-out. If it works for you...great. It just doesn't feel good to...or work for me. So I don't teach it that way (actually...I don't teach it at all...any more).


I prefer it this way. If you prefer sole of the foot toward the mirror and that works for you...go for it!


I have a friend that teaches at Steps that has said in class that "that weird stuff they teach at SAB is wrong". Really? SAB? Wrong? I choose not to argue. When it comes to these things I prefer to believe that there are many roads leading to Rome. I prefer to take the road that keeps the instep of my foot facing my head.

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I personally hate this stretch, as Willimus has noted! It causes so much distortion. Even for the really flexible, their ribs tend to be all over the place. Tell me, when will you be that distorted in any type of dance performance?


(Okay, maybe those who dance some of MacGregor's choreo - but that's not any of us!)

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I cringe and want to shrivel into the corner whenever this stretch comes up in class. Im not that flexible sadly and trying to do it often hurts my neck/shoulder from trying to pull the leg up, not to mention my pride is hurt from every other person in class being able to do it. Sigh. (Ive also found I get pyriformis pain on the left because it feels like its squashing the leg down into the hip joint.

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Then don't do it apple blossom. As I said , I don't use it when I teach...and I don't do it when it is given in class. I simply take a tendu side, or stand in retire, and use the moment to be sure I am straight and aligned. Do not let it hurt your pride. When it comes to extensions, "Long and strong" and properly placed is far more important than "high" and any teacher will tell you that.

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What an interesting discussion. I quite like this stretch if I'm feeling flexible, and IF I can find the "sweet spot" where I can use this stretch to help me feel the turning of my femur in my hip socket. But that doesn't always happen. And as I've aged :yucky::blush: (now in mid-fifities -- yikes when did that happen???) I've lost flexibility. But if I can find the right balance I really like the way I can feel the various bits of my body in balance with each other. I like to try this stretch standing in the centre to really get that balanced feeling.


As for "showing off" -- oh well, people do it, and good luck to them: I like seeing their wonderful flexibility. I think we should try not to attribute motivation to others because I know I do things before and in class which could be seen as "showing off" -- it's not, it's just what I need & like to do for my body.


I find that in ordinary Pilates/fitness/whatever classes at my gym, I sometimes feel a bit constrained to do what I need & like to do for my body, because others migfht think I'm "showing off". I need to stop thinking that, just as we should try to ignore what we think might be others' motives. (If that makes any sense at all!)

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It does make sense. I can't even remember what it feels like to be able to do that stretch. I am also in my 50s but I didn't dance at all from 34 till about 46. Perhaps I have pointed the "show off finger" a bit too capriciously.


Thank you Resbookish.


Excellent point.

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Oh, I wasn't accusing anyone of pointing the show off finger (great expression!) Willimus. I think your point about the many roads to dance is such a good rule.


And to be verrrry honest, :shhh: I haven't tried the side-mount stretch for about 4 months ... But term starts next Monday, and I'm doing extra long gym visits this week, so we'll see. I think I'll be lucky to get my foot above waist height.

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