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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Guest alpusachni

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Guest alpusachni

What are some good ways to work on improving flexiblity. I stretch as often as I can but I dont think it's enough. Are there any tricks I dont know about :)

As I said in an eariler post I took a few years off of dance adn have now restarted. Even when I was dancing, I went to a not so good studio, so I danced(tap, jazz and ballet) about 10hrs a week but without real good teaching, so I never learned good technique to begin with(coud that be why i'm not really flexible)

Just to show you my flexiblity when I strech foreward(legs straight) I can reach to about my ankles. But you know how some people can touch thier nose to their knee, or the floor? I cannot do that.

When i'm in the(I belive it's the straddle strech) I can reach my toes, if I really stretch, but that doesnt always happen.

WHen I was in HS and for a couple years after I played soccer very seriously, does that also have an impact on my not being as flexible? Or is it something I just need to work on?



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Hi alpusachni


well if there was a magical pill that I could say "take 2 a day for a week and you will be totlaly flexible", then I would. But there isn't I'm afraid. The only thing is perserverence and hard work. It may be boring having to stretch, but if you really want to, then that is the only way. I could give a whole list of exercises to do, but some work for some people and some don't. You really have to go through trial and error. If you stretch doing one exercise and that hurts you too much,then you have to stop that exercise and find another one that doesn't. You have to be careful doing some exercises depending on whether you have any weaknesses joint wise or any history of muscle injuries. I don't know if you have looked through the archives here for stretching, but if not, then that is a good place to start.

Football, gives you tight hamstrings, which you have to stretch regularly and carefully, just like cycling which also tightens the hamstrings and builds strong quad muscles.

Pilates and yoga are good places to start for good basic flexibility exercises, and they could possibly motivate you to increasing your flexbility.

Stretching has to become a habit and at the start it seems more like a chore. But once you do get into the habit then it is easy to progress pretty fast.

The natural reaction for your body when you stretch is to actually tighten the muscle that is being stretched. This is a natural reflex and is done to protect that muscle or the tendons/ligaments/joint that the muscle is around. Breathing out when you go into a strecth pose actually helps relax your muscles as is the reason why some stretches should be held for 10 seconds + depending on how flexible you are. So when you go to touch your toes, do not inhale but exhale into the stretch.

Even just wrapping a towel or belt around your feet and holding onto that when you lean towards your toes can help, but you have to lean forward from the hips, not the top half of your body, and your back should be straight. Doing these will probably not let you get as far down to begin with, but it is the correct way of doing this particular stretch. Of course, if you have any lower back or knee problems then this stretch is probably not a wise idea, and precautions should be taken, such as bending the knees slightly to take the pressure off your knees and lower back, or even rolling a towel up and placing that under your knees.

The place to start would be pilates classes, either for real or on video, and of course that invaluable source..your ballet teacher:D

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In addition to the wonderful info above, my experience is that it has improved slowly over time with continued classes - I'm taking 4x per week, sometimes 5. My flex is definitely improving, although slowly and steadily, and by pushing myself in class carefully. Just keep doing ballet - you will notice that you are getting deeper and deeper flexibility over time.

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Guest Tibbit

I just wanted to mention that it is very important to only stretch warm muscles. Stretcing cold muscles can lead to injury. Dance around first, do some easy jumping jacks, go for a walk, something, anything, before you stretch. This will help a lot.

Like xena said, you want to hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds. 10 seconds is about the time it takes for the muscle to relax into the stretch.

One method you could cautiously try is to stretch and hold till you feel your muscle relax, then release the tenstion a little bit then go back down, this should take you a bit further than you just were, after the muscle relaxes, relase again and then go back into the stretch, a little further. This may help you some. Just be very careful not to push your body too much, it is no good if you pull a muscle.

When stretching, you should feel it, perhaps even a little discomfort, but not pain. If you feel pain something is wrong.

You could talk to your doctor or your ballet teacher about some good stretches for you to try. Also, you could search the web for some stretching tips, just be cautious in what you try. If the method described sounds bad for you, it probably is. You don't want to bounce or force anything.

Hope this helps some.


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Actually, for me the time that it takes for the stretch rexlex go away and the muscle relax is *way* longer than 10 seconds; more like 30 or 40. I didn't realise this at first and thought stretching pretty useless for me - that I was hopelessly inflexible.


After I have realised that I have to stay in the stretch longer, until I feel the muscle really relaxing, I have improved some (though not as much as I'd hope :D).


Consequently, I really hate the "quick stretching" we sometimes do in the middle of the class after barre. The time is way too short for me to accomplish anything else than make my muscles crampy from the too short stretch...

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About 30 seconds is the time it takes my muscles to relax too - more if they are really tense, or if I'm not concentrating fully on the stretch itself. (Like if I'm chatting with somebody. ;) )


So the time is probably pretty invidual. :D


I think the stretches after barre are not meant to increase flexibility as such, but to loosen and limber the limbs. The only longer stretch I usually do after barre is calves, since we do the latter part of the barre almost entirely on demi-pointe. Sometimes I massage my calves/feet instead. :D



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yes, I think you're right about the purpose of stretching after barre. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work for me that way either; just makes my muscles more likely to cramp, if there's not enough time to do it well. :D


(That's also why I always try to answer quickly when Ms. Satu asks if we want a quick stretch. She usually always listens to the first answer, unless the rest of the class objects loudly. ;))

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I also have to hold stretches for quite a while - a good 10 slow breaths. And breathing is critical!!! Try a few yoga classes and ask the teacher for tips on breathing technique. I usually do the "in for 3 counts, out for three counts" thing, and imagine filling up my lower belly, middle of abdomen, then chest with air (to a count of three), then release the breath in the opposite order (again, to a count of three).


It might help also to do some reading up on stretching and yoga. Often tightness in one area requires stretching a number of different muscle groups. Your tight hamstrings are probably not just the result of tight hamstrings (if that makes sense ;) ), but you may find that you need to do some "warm up" stretches for the hip rotators, quads and calves in order to get the maximum flexibility in you hamstrings.


I have a whole ritual of stretching before and after class - I don't feel like I'm ready for class without it! See if there is a stretch or yoga class in your area. It will help you find new stretches to try and can help with the boredom issue :(

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