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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Beautiful Arabesques and Attitude Derrière


Guest joodiff

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Guest joodiff

Hi All,

 

Was wondering if anyone has any tips/stretches for improving an arabesque or attitude derriere. Right now, the leg I lift when doing these tend to be held a little more sideways than completely to the back cos I find that if I try and rotate my leg completely to the back, my lower back aches.

 

(And how important is that winged foot when doing an arabesque?)

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The leg must be behind you, joodiff, however it is possible that you are not moving the body weight forward enough to allow this to happen. While it's not a particularly comfortable position, it will be a lot more uncomfotable if you try to remain placed the same as if you were lifting it to the front or side. To improve your arabesque you need to also improve the flexibility in your back, so stretches for both legs and back are needed.

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You don't mention which technique you're studying (RAD, Cecchetti, Russian, etc.), but with Russian, we're allowed to rotate and lift the hip towards the back. This helps to keep the leg to the back and get a better extension. However, we're not allowed to lean forward. Instead we cross-harp our shoulders to the hip and slightly extend the ribcage forward. Hope this helps!

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Actually it is flexibility in the psoas muscle that most affects how high you can raise you leg to the rear be it in arabesque or attitude, not the back. As an aside, back flexibility is largely affected by mobility of the joints in your spine and is extremely difficult to improve. It’s a whole lot easier to improve muscle flexibility than joint flexibility. Perhaps safer too.

 

Stretching a lot (the psoas, that is) I think helps. I think such stretches have helped me improve both my arabesque and attitude derriere. Another thing that has helped me is a little simple barre exercise that a teacher I had gave. Facing the barre, tendu derriere on one, raise the leg on count 2, lower on count 3, close to 5th on 4. When doing the exercise, think brushing straight back in the tendu, and when raising the leg, think lengthening it as you raise it rather than the height of the leg. Also as you raise the leg, think of lengthening the spine. Facing the barre or some stationary object like a wall makes it easier to think of lengthening the spine. A very simple, but extremely effective exercise in my opinion. And there are countless variations you can invent to create variability if you so choose.

 

Yes, if you do this exercise correctly you will feel it in the muscles of your lower back and top of the tush. Those are the muscles lifting the leg to the rear. As these muscles get stronger, the feeling of them doing work will not bother you so much.

 

Doing a lot of tendus and degages to the rear also have helped me I think. Just be sure to think lengthening both the spine and working leg while you do them.

 

To find stretches for the psoas, just look at any yoga book and find backward bending poses.

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I think that all systems allow the hip to rise a bit (a bit!) in extensions to the back, because the human body just doesn't allow the leg to travel that way while keeping the hips perfectly square. The days of allongée in arabesque are pretty much done with in all schools, except when specifically asked for. It was quite all right back in Maestro Cecchetti's day, but even people who studied with him still living back in my student days were teaching arabesque with erect torsos. The torso does make a slight allowance diagonally upward in a plain old arabesque and this diagonal becomes more pronounced in a penchée until there's nowhere to go but into the penchée aforesaid.

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Guest joodiff

Thank you so much for your replies!

 

Gathering the info from all your replies, I guess I should be working towards lifting my leg directly behind me with my torso upright and ribcage extended a little to the front while placing my weight a little forward?

 

The trouble right now with me is that I find that I don't have the strength to raise my leg fully to 90 degrees and above. Is that because of my lack of flexibility or the lack of strength or even both?

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Moving the body weight forward and upward is NOT leaning forward, nor does it have anything to do with pushing the ribs forward.

 

Gary, I'm not going to argue with you, as you are obviously an expert on human anatomy, kinesiology and physiology, however, I am quite sure that the back muscles are certainly involved with getting the legs up in the back in attitude and arabesque. The stretches for arabesque also involve the stretches for the back, including flexibility of the spine, and I do think this can be improved.

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Victoria, I’m not sure we have anything to argue about. As I said in my post, the muscles of the back and tush are the muscles that raise the leg from the back—big time. Everyone feels those muscles contracting in arabesque in particular. Strengthening them through tendus and degages to the rear will help one raise the leg. But a muscle cannot contract and extend at the same time. That’s why flexibility of the back muscles is not a factor is raising the leg to the rear. Inflexibility in the muscles that oppose the back muscles, generally the abs, psoas, and hip flexors will prevent the leg from rising as much as is possible, so improving flexibility in those muscles (as might be done with the stretches on the barre in arabesque position) will help.

 

Moving some bodyweight forward is necessary to counteract the increased bodyweight that is back as a result of extending the leg back. Actually, you are just maintaining your body’s center of gravity with respect to the foot of your supporting leg. If you don’t do that you fall.

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Okay Gary, then can you explain to me why, with aging, :D, I still have total hip flexibility and front and side extensions, but my back has stiffened seriously and I cannot get my leg up in arabesque at all anymore. I had, until fairly recently, a rather exceptional arabesque. My extension and rotation are natural and have always been somewhat exceptional. Losing the arabesque appears to me to be totally back related.

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Guest mizunotenshi

To me, it sounds more like strength in the back muscles in extended ranges of motion, than static flexibility. Also, that tension could impede your ability to contract the muscles enough, maybe even opposing each other. A tight back doesn't necessarily mean the leg can't have a full range of motion. It just means you can't get a controlled arabesque up.

BTW, Miss Leigh, I suggest you try and find a good chirocpractor if you haven't done so. Get some massage therapy as well. That should help.

 

Tenshi

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Been there, done that, Tenshi. Nothing helps. The back has stiffened and that is it. It is not responding to anything :D

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Guest mizunotenshi

Only other thing I can think of would be ultrasound... have you seen a orthropedist specializing in sports? There was this one other treatment that UFC fighters had received with great results, and my high school athletic trainer had heard good things as well. If I can find a link for it, I'll post.

 

Tenshi

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Have not done the orthopedist yet, that's next. I'm in the middle of audition season, and no time to deal with regular physician to get referral, then orthopedist, then tests, then back to ortho., etc. It's going to have to wait until at least spring break. But this is not new, in terms of limitations, only new (like a month) in terms of pain. Have been seeing the chiropractor for a month. Not helping. Also had massage. Not helping, but of course I cannot afford regular massage either. Insurance mostly covers chiro., but not massage.

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Guest mizunotenshi

I found that treatment I was referring to earlier. It is a system called Active Release Technique, and it focuses on healing by manipulation of the soft tissue, fascia, etc. I first saw in in an issue of Black Belt magazine, where it was referred to as a treatment that has allowed Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters heal fast and return quickly.

Here's the website, and you can do a provider search there:

http://www.activereleasetechniques.com

Well, only thing I can suggest is try it. Ask your physician for a referral, or call them up, or whatever you can do when spring break hits.

Best of luck!

 

Tenshi

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