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Ballet Talk for Dancers

extensions


balletstar811

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Good day to Ms. Leigh and Sir Mel,

 

I have an inquiry to make about extensions. All of mine on both left and right are at only 90 degrees, and I absolutely must have them higher, and I have but two years left! What can I do? Is flexibility the key for higher extensions? Also, I need them to be more rotated, and is it possible to achieve perfect or very near perfect rotation in two years? Thank you very much.

 

~Carli

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Hi, balletstar811, and welcome to the Young Dancers' forums here at Ballet Talk here at Ballet Alert! Online!

 

(BTW, I've not been knighted yet, only commissioned, Major or Mr. Johnson will do fine.)

 

Certainly improvement in extension and rotation is possible over the next two years. It's just a long slow process. Sometimes, for some dancers, it can happen in only a few weeks, as it did once for me, when I suddenly developed a six-o'clock arabesque and 120º front and side extensions when I was a little over eighteen. And I'm a guy, so I didn't really need them what with the type of men's work going around in 1966 (see, I even told you how old I am - talk about your candid moderators!;) ). Before then, I had had respectable just-above-the-hip extensions, but this was unexpected.

 

Flexibility is certainly one phase of extension, but the strength to make the extension and hold it is certainly another. Just keeping up with normal classwork will help develop more flexibility, but you may want to pay special attention to a slight pre-class warmup (gentle stretches)and a postclass warmdown(more vigorous stretches, but not forced!), just to help with that phase of extension.

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Thank you Mr. Johnson, I really am sorry about calling you Sir before! My deepest apologies. Well your story certainly is inspiring, as I have been feeling a bit pessimistic on these things actually getting to where they need to be by the time I need to audition for companies. Do you think that stretching against a wall laying on your stomach, like in a "middle" or straddle split so to speak, can improve rotation? Also, is stretching splits with one leg on a chair good for flexibility? I have found that since I can already do my right and left splits, I do not feel the stretch anymore, I need something more vigorous. Well, thank you again!

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Balletstar, I don't believe that "over splits" (like with a chair) are a terrific idea. If you already have that much extension and flexibility, it sounds to me like you need to develop the strength to use it more than you need to increase it. Also learning to release it when you développé and not grip the quad muscles. Sometimes this strength and ability does not happen until the last couple of years of high school, so give yourself some time, it may well still happen. Stretching is good, but over stretching is counter productive.

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The straddle split with the back against the wall can work to improve rotation, but you have to hold that rotation against rolling forward when your torso goes forward. You can do a straddle split facing the wall, and the legs are less likely to rotate inward.

 

As to the chair, I'd leave that strictly alone! Unsupported weight is dangerous to joints and other living parts!

 

As to titles, I don't really care, but we do try to keep "classroom manners" here on Young Dancers. Mr. Johnson, as above is just fine.

 

And I also agree completely with Ms. Leigh!:)

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Thank you both. I understand that gripping your quads is very bad and it does seem that that may hinder the leg from going as high as it can, yet I try and try but I cannot find how to NOT grip them. Any suggestions?

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Okay, try this. Take a retiré position, ready to do a développé à la seconde. Lift your knee as high as you can without displacing the hip. Take a breath. At the moment that you are ready to open your leg all the way, exhale. Try to feel that the release of energy, the breath is like a force that is going underneath your leg and lifting it for you, like you are are not even doing anything. I know, it sounds very simplistic, but it CAN help. We tend to hold the breath on hard things, and it should be just the opposite.

 

When you practice grand battements to the front try to feel that the energy is moving in a circle, forward up over your head to down and underneath and back up in the front, like a ferris wheel. Use the release of breath to help you with this too. For the side imagine the ferris wheel moving around you from the side. What this is doing is trying to get you to use the hamstrings more and the quads less. It makes the extension more free. Movement is circular. It's a use of circular energy from under the leg instead of thinking of lifting from the top of the leg. The quads still work, but not as much.

 

Hope you can figure this out. It's one of those things that is very easy to show and teach, but definitely not easy to teach in this format! :)

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I will definately start thinking about that in class, I know I tend to hold my breath alot! Thank you!

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Ms. Leigh, I just wanted to say that I tried your above advice in class yesterday and found it to be very helpful in battements, they feel like they swing more freely and without tension. As for extensions, however, I am still trying. I feel the gripping still, no matter what! Oh well, I am sure it shall take time.

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I am having a problem like that too, Im not sure If it's the same because I didn't really understand what you guys were talking about so I hope Im not repeating anything. OK I can do the spilts and everything, but when it comes to devalples (sorry, I really have no clue how to spell that), I can't get my legs high at all! No higher than 90! My teacher has been saying not to use my quad, but use the inner muscles. I didn't really understand how to change it when she explained it, so I was wondering if anyone would explain it to me? (It's Ok if you have no clue what I'm talking about)Thanks so much!

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Sugarplum, I know what you are talking about, but there are a few things you need to realize. One is that front is generally harder for everyone. Two is that one does not always reach their full extension by 13 or 14. It takes time. Three is that your teacher is already on the right track with what she is telling you, and it is FAR easier for her to show it to you than for me to try and explain it, although I have already done that above. And four, if you read above, you will see the spelling for the term you had a problem trying to spell ;)

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OK thanks, Ya, I read the above, but I thought it was mostly about 2nd position, and I don't have any problems with it, so I thought I'd just ask. I think I will ask my teacher to explain it in a different way. Thanks anyways!

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Ms. Leigh,

 

I am still trying for higher extensions... I just wanted to ask you something. I went to a dance conditioning class last night, and we did alot of really neat things and made use of several items such as pool noodles and towels! One of the things we did, since there were only about 5 girls, was while we scrunched a towel with our toes for strengthening, the teacher brought us to the barre one by one. She had us developpe to the side and she held our leg, lifted it up higher, then she turned it in and we had to "engage our turn-put muscle" to turn it back out and lift it higher. I definately felt it, but how should I engage these muscles on my own? When she was ready to let go of my leg, it just fell back to 90 degrees and I felt like I was back to holding it with my quads. Grrr, I am getting so mad at myself.... I can't get higher extensions!!! Any tips for more flexibility?? What kinds of vigorous stretvhing can I do?? Thank you very much, sorry this is quite lengthy.

 

~Carli

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Carli, you can't force it and you can't rush it. If she got it up there, turned out, with the hips in place, then it is possible, but it will just take a bit longer for you to be able to do it by yourself. Patience. Vigorous stretching is not the answer. Getting the leg up there and holding it up there are two different things. The first is flexibility, the second is strength. That comes later. Relax. Don't force it, or it will just get all displaced.

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