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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Barre stretches- arabesque? Help!


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Hi dancers!

One of my teachers has been making us do a barre stretch where our working leg is extended in arabesque at the barre (we face away from the barre). We then are supposed to cambre forward on a straight leg from that position, and recover to arabesque with arms 5th end haut. I find this very painful and my inner ankle/lower leg is always bruised after this exercise. I also struggle to get all the way down on a straight leg ... I start losing my balance and my foot reflexively sickles to hold on to the barre. I'm so lost on this one, but am scared to ask for help as she is rather intimidating and can even be mean at times. If anyone is familiar with this stretch, I would love to hear your thoughts on how I can improve. We usually promenade into this stretch from a standard stretch where the working leg is extended on the barre to the front or side, if that makes sense. 

Thank you!

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It's important to know your body and work with what you have, not what you wish to have. This stretch is a difficult one and may be out of your range for now. If that is the case, you could be heading for injury...not fun and totally not worth pushing beyond one's abilities. It is difficult sometimes to know when to push and when not to. Teachers can be intimidating. As an adult dancer on the beginning end of the long, challenging, ballet spectrum, you must communicate with teacher. If she makes you feel embarrassed or otherwise less than a worthy human being, chalk it off to her down side, not yours. Don't take it personally and don't get mad, just talk to her about how you can modify the stretch to accommodate your level of flexibility. Even though you are in this class thinking you, alone, are struggling with this torturous stretch, you are joined by lots of us out in ballet cyberspace struggling with various steps and stretches as well. I am five feet tall, old and not as flexible as I used to be. My ballet studio doesn't have the lower barre and I can't get my legs up to the standard barre, so I put the wood stool right under the barre and use it instead. It works. I'm the only one doing this. Sometimes I have feelings about that, but on the other hand...I'm the oldest one and that's something too.

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Unfortunately,  there are teachers who do not take into consideration the abilities and limitations of their students. I agree with Hummingbird that you need to take charge of what works for you and what does not. There are a number of things in ballet that are simply not advisable for beginning students, of any age.  Try to not allow yourself to be intimidated. You are not there for that! You are there to learn and enjoy, not to feel badly about yourself and intimidated by the teacher. Maybe think about trying a different school.

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Thank you Ms. Leigh and Hummingbird, for your replies. I love my school and would only switch if they stopped offering classes! The caliber of instruction there is excellent, and there is strong emphasis on technical precision. Most of my instructors (I take several classes a week) are wonderful, and so is the one in question, but she is rather old-school and can be rather authoritarian at times. Although I wish she were a bit less harsh, I find that her classes really force me to work with precision as nothing escapes those eagle eyes. I am very sensitive by nature and this is something that doesn't mesh too well with her particular teaching style, though I know several individuals who thrive in her classes.

I'm not sure why it was assumed that I am a beginner level student.... Although I may not go through with it as I am considering stepping away from ballet, I am currently preparing for my RAD advanced one exam (just started a month ago). I obtained 79% on my previous exam, if that helps at all.  I was blessed with high extensions, a supple body and a school that provided me with a solid technical foundation. However, where pointe is concerned, I am basically a beginner and can only do basic things such as those required in RAD advanced foundation and advanced one. The other young ladies prepping for the exam can do much more en pointe than is required for the exam. 

My issue with the stretch that I mentioned is the pain that results from the medial aspect of my tibia contacting the barre in that position. I always end up with a big bruise there. I know most others in the class also find this painful as we have talked about it and compared battle wounds outside of class. I see everyone else struggling to cambre all the way forward and recover (usually only two counts are given for each). I was talking to one of the pre-professional students today, and she said that she does it with ease as she uses a towel or folded over legwarmer as a cushion. Perhaps I will try that next class. Another issue I have with this stretch is that I don't understand the goals associated with performing it. Perhaps if someone could enlighten me on this point I could better focus my efforts?

Any tips or insights would be gratefully received.

Thank you!


PS. I just noticed my profile says "male" I am actually female... I will attempt to rectify this! 

Edited by Aurora's3rd
I am not male as my profile says!
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I never give that stretch because I really don't know what it is stretching. What does it accomplish that other things can do without putting that kind of pressure on the leg or foot?  

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Ms. Leigh, I agree.... The lower back, core, and hamstrings can be conditioned in many other ways. Those are the only potential benefits I could associate with this exercise, so its utility puzzles me. However, I will remain humble and try to modify it to make it more comfortable by placing some sort of padding on my barre next class. If my instructor questions it, it might serve as a dialogue opportunity, in that I could then express to her in a non-confrontational manner the fact that it hurts! :)




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