Common Misunderstandings About Ballet Stretches and Doing The Splits

March 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Stretching

Article by Dianne M. Buxton

I am flabbergasted at the misunderstandings being perpetuated about doing the splits. Ballet stretches taught properly help with muscle flexibility. Ballet exercises in soft shoes and pointe shoes all require the correct posture and alignments. Doing the splits for a jete or a penche does not come naturally to many dancers. So how do they make it look right?

One of the biggest reliefs I had when I went from amateur to professional training was that hips do not have to be square in a derriere (behind you) position. Including doing the splits.

I started my training in the R.A.D. system. I had natural turnout. It looked great except when I did a tendu (French word for stretched) derriere. We had to keep our hips square. In more advanced classes the developpe to the back, and attitude positions still looked terribly turned in. Naturally the students would go for height, which opened our hip. Our teacher would correct our hips, placing them back to a square position, and both the height and turnout looked miserable.

When I got into classes taught by teachers from The National Ballet of Canada, I was elated to find I could open my working hip. The waist, upper back and shoulders had to stay square, but not the hips. I finally and instantly had a professional looking line in arabesque, attitude, etc. When I explained how I had been taught they said “no one can do that!”

Another absurdity is that some people will never do the splits due to hip deformity.

Doing the splits depends on overall hyper-mobility. Not only hamstrings and quads need to be extremely flexible, but your postural muscles, the iliopsoas, needs to be very flexible. Hyper-mobility of the joints is an extra blessing for doing the splits, but creates a lot of problems too.

A professional ballet dancer will do whatever it takes to get a good line in a split jete or penche. Those who cannot do the splits perfectly open the hip more, and sometimes slightly bend the leg so that their foot lines up with the hip, and even though the entire leg is not lined up, the illusion of the splits is seen.

The hard and fast rules of ballet technique are for safety – for prevention of dance injuries. Getting the right line allows for accommodations that skilled teachers know how to teach.

Stretch after your ballet exercises when you are warm. Relax your muscles first. Use a rubber ball to knead out the worst tension. Then stretch gently in correctly aligned positions. You will improve your muscle flexibility, and you may end up doing the splits. But if you never do, it is not going to kill a dance career.

Get more safe technical advice found here in professionally written ballet manuals.

Click here for free articles on ballet shoes, pointe shoes, The Perfect Pointe Book, The Ballet Bible, how to get exactly the right fit, details about turnout, pre-pointe, dance books and DVD’s and more.

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