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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Importance of Splits


Hjete

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I may be remembering wrong, but I think I recall Ms. Leigh saying that the splits aren't as important to classical dancers as they are made out to be. Is that what you said, Ms. Leigh? I can see how this would be true in some areas, but isn't a good split pretty important for grand jeté, saut de chat, and the like? Sorry if I'm misrepresenting your information, and thanks for any replies. (I'm pretty close to having good splits, but was curious about this.)

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Hjete, I think both Mr. Johnson and I have said this, primarily in response to young dancers who seem to think that being able to "do the splits" is the main criteria for a dancer! It gets out of proportion to their role in the classical repertoire. Yes, one needs to have a good grand jeté and saut de chat, however, I just don't think that being able to do a split will guarantee that at all. One must also have the jump, the ability to move through space, and of course a good line of both legs in the air. Yes, dancers must have good flexibility, exceptional flexibility, actually. But "doing the splits" is just not as big a deal as they want to make it. ;) (Most people with the type of body needed to become a dancer, especially females, will have this ability anyway. It involves both hip and hamstring flexibility plus rotation. Many people do not have all of the above. Some can achieve it, some can't. Working on splits is just a means to an end, like all other stretches.)

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Ms. Leigh, thank you for that clear and enlightening reply. It was exactly what I was looking for. (Both you and Major Johnson really have a knack for that...which is why I love this board so much! ;) ) I can just hear some uneducated person asking a dancer if she can "do the splits" as if that means she is a good dancer. Of course, as you said, the splits are just one element of ballet and aren't more important than all the other elements. Thanks again for clarifying your previous statement. :)

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If anybody asks you, and you're feeling sensitive about your flexibility that day, you can always answer, "Oh, yes, BANANA splits are very important! Especially after a performance when you've had nothing to eat all day! I can do one then in under a minute if the brain freeze doesn't get me!";)

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When non ballet people ask me to do a split, I never demonstrate! Why? I'm usually in my street clothes, and can't do a split without ripping my pants. When I demonstrated for a friend, he said "argh," as if to say that splits look like torture.

I had a ballet teacher who seemed to over-emphasize the importance of splits. He said that we should practice them several times a day, even the people who can do them comfortably.

I don't do splits everyday because I have other stretches, including some from yoga.

I also wondering why some teachers give jambe a la barre (or sur la barre) and not other teachers. I never asked them.

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Putting a leg onto the barre and stretching to and from it are not bad things in themselves. However, when the exercise involves sliding down the barre, and so forth - that's downright dangerous, as there is so much unsupported weight bearing on the knees. It is especially bad for people with hyperextension!

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