Sharing one ballerina's passion and experience to the next generation
We have all seen the photographs in Dance Spirit and Pointe magazines where the ballerina’s leg seems to extend past anatomically safe positions- jaw-dropping, yes, but a dancer should never justify their talent based on the height of their extension. Passion, and clean technique speak volumes.
However, extensions are important to maintain and improve in every dancer’s technique. The key to achieving optimal extension is not flexibility, but strength. Oversplits and forced stretches will not only damage your joints, but will not improve the height of your leg in adagio. Sorry.
When approaching extensions, the most important thing to keep in mind is to not grip, rather, activating the deep rotator muscles and inner thigh muscles of your leg instead of the front quadriceps- gripping can result in the bulking of the upper legs.
Try this exercise to practice engaging the underneath, inner thigh muscles (á la seconde):
*All of these exercises should be done at a low height with slow, minimal repetitions to increase body awareness and increase strength
Try this exercise to practice engaging/strengthening the poses and glutei muscles (devant):
Try this exercise to increase height in your arabesque:
Keep in mind
Stretching is insignificant without strengthening
Strength is best built in lower positions- which will lead to higher positions once established!
Consistency is key, not high reps
YOU know your body, be smart, be safe, and be kind to yourself
Make it a habit to do these exercises before class to wake up and feel the muscles so when développés and adagio come your muscle memory will be able to differentiate right/wrong when activating your legs
Strengthening these muscles will help prevent injury and ultimately optimize the longevity of your dancing
Do not justify your worth as a dancer by the height of your extension