i have hyper extended and kind of bowed legs so when i stand in first, its hard to get my thighs to not have gaps, and if i do i usually have to squeeze them so much i lose the right placement of my lower back, do i just need to strengthen?

First I’m going to direct you to basic info on bowlegs.

Then I’m going to say that the short answer is YES! You need to strengthen! And you need to be as aware as you can as often as you can. The best way to improve will be slowly and diligently by practicing correct placement in the classroom.

Dancers with hyperextended and bowed legs tend to have a “swayback,” so it’s possible that when you squeeze your legs together and feel like you’re losing your placement of your lower back, you may actually be right on, as weird as it feels. This is a good video about correct ballet posture. Normally I would say she tucks her pelvis too much, but she’s overcompensating for a swayback. Look in the mirror, relax into your hyperextension, and see if you have a swayback. You may need to overcompensate!

Hyperextended and bowed legs generally need strengthening in the hamstrings (inner thighs), glutes/rotators, and supinators/pronators (ankles and lower leg muscles). You may also need to work on using your psoas rather than your quad muscles. Here’s a post on using your psoas that should be helpful. It includes exercises for the inner thighs (hamstrings). This post and this post on turnout will also be a big help, and include exercises for glutes/rotators and ankles.

Do you have any pain associated with ballet turnout and posture? Specifically in your knee and hip joints? If so, you should see a physical therapist and speak at length with a teacher that knows your dancing. They will be able to help you with more specifics than I can!

my teachers are always slamming on me for having horrid ballet walking/running in variations. i never thought walking would be so hard but i absolutely can not get this! any advice for how i can fix it?

Yes, ballet runs/walks are quite challenging! (Keep it a secret from the Muggles!) We used to practice walks and runs every day after grand allegro. Watch any videos of professional ballet dancers, find the spots in Classical variations where they are running or walking, and study study study!

I’m not sure what specific corrections you’ve been given, but the main things to think about in ballet walks and runs are:

  • High demi pointe!!!! Lift those arches! You should be walking around in your highest possible relevé. Exercises and pointers for demi pointe.
  • in walking, make sure your weight is forward over your big toes and medial metatarsals (ball of the foot) and your torso is lifted with good posture (let your head float up like a balloon)
  • belly button to spine for better control of all your limbs, especially when running
  • always present the heels forward as you would in a piqué arabesque or a tendu
  • avoid shuffling the feet (you know what I mean!)
  • Fully extend the legs out in front of you all the way to a pointed toe when you run…like you would when you take flat-footed ballet steps not up on your demi-pointe. When you run, your torso isn’t forward like a normal human running. Your heels and toes lead, not your torso. If you watch professional ballerinas running, notice how their legs actually flit out and extend fully in front of their bodies. It feels really bizarre and awkward at first, like you’re doing some weird mazurka step kicking your feet out in front…but look at how they do it, and compare it to how a normal person runs. Pay attention to how the ballerina’s legs extend and point out in front. It’s almost like that one part in the dance of the Little Swans where they do those funny little kicks out in front and behind. They’re constantly switching weight between feet, but each exchange is a quick extended kick out to the front. One foot continuously replaces another, there is no dwelling in between. Does that make sense? Start out slowly until you’ve mastered the motion before increasing your speed.
  • EDIT: I forgot to mention the importance of a soft plié in running/walking as well as the importance of articulating the feet as they peel off and on the floor into a point. Think pas de cheval and flic-flac for the articulation of the feet. Keep a soft plié so you don’t look like the Tin Man, but keep your weight and momentum constantly traveling forward over your toes. Keep the head light and lifted.

I hope that helped. It’s difficult to explain ballet runs in typed words. I tried to find videos but all that came up were pre ballet students and non-dancers trying to look graceful in ridiculous shoes. I’m going to keep trying to find good examples and see if I can make a good slow motion gif of runs and walks (eventually!)

Let me know if you have a more specific correction that I didn’t address here.

im at a summer intensive and i cant turn for my life. i can on my right, but my left is just terrible and my teacher is getting pretty frustrated with me. she told me i could do a single.......i was furious....

Cheer up!

Multiple pirouettes are simply sustained single turn balances with multiple spots!

Once you’ve mastered a single pirouette, the multiples will come…it’s all mind over matter. Since doing multiples on the left doesn’t seem to be working for you, your teacher’s tactic may be to try to encourage you to perfect your singles and boost your confidence in them before you start adding more turns. If you keep doing multiple pirouettes in frustration and fatigue, your body will learn inefficient and incorrect muscle memory. Even worse, you will lose confidence, and pirouettes are all about confidence! Better to build correct muscle memory on the singles before adding more spots.

Or maybe she is just trying to light a fire under your ass… ;)

Take your frustrated energy and turn it into something positive! It will do you no good to direct it at yourself or your teacher.

If you feel like she’s getting frustrated with you, remember that your teacher is only human. Maybe she feels like she’s been giving you the same correction over and over and doesn’t feel like you’re taking her advice? Just a thought. I don’t know if you’re still at that intensive with that instructor, but something you might want to do is ask her after class to give you a couple of pointers. That will show her how dedicated you are.

Chin up! Pirouettes are about confidence! Multiples are simply extra spots added to a sustained balanced single turn. Be okay with returning to the base in order to improve on the more advanced. Professional ballet dancers still have to do pliés and tendus every day. And it’s okay to get frustrated and upset, but don’t let it fester. Turn that energy into a positive and use it to your advantage!

Stumbled on your blog recently and I swear it's one of the most helpful and inspiring dance tumblrs I've come across.

Thank you so much for the tips and advice, I've a competition coming up and your posts are just heaven sent :') MUCH LOVEE!!!

Much love to you! I love hearing that you find this blog helpful! Merde on your competition (if it hasn’t already happened!)

07/08/2011
14:07
if youre going to an SI is eating 1200 calories still ok? or should you be eating more if youre trying to lose weight when youre there

NOT RECOMMENDED!!! 1200 calories a day is what you burn WITHOUT doing ANY extra exercise (i.e. a regular day at school sitting, typing, and moving around a little bit)! A summer intensive is the OPPOSITE of no extra exercise Xp

Better to eat small healthy snacks like yogurt or a handful of almonds throughout the day to keep your metabolism rolling. Then eat smaller portions of healthy meals at meal times (leave a couple bites on your plate and skip dessert and soda pop). Add a little exercise in the morning, like a short walk or some jumping jacks and crunches to start the day with a higher metabolism. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast (protein and/or fruit) to get your metabolism up in the morning. (Skipping breakfast and depriving yourself of food puts your body in “starvation mode” so that it tries to retain any calories you eat rather than burn them). Eat when you’re hungry.

Bear in mind that you might actually GAIN muscle mass during the intensive, so you might even gain weight. Don’t panic. Look at your body and how your clothes fit. Numbers on a scale don’t really mean anything.

Go here to calculate how many calories you need to function in periods of high activity and how many calories you need to cut per week to lose a couple pounds of fat a week. BUT REMEMBER MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT and you will most likely gain muscle at the SI.

Oh yeah, and drink lots of water and get lots of rest! Health = good.

i have a friend ( and this isnt one of those im saying its my friend but its really me moments its really my friend, hahaah ) who dances and she absolutely couldnt ever lose weight just dancing so when she went on break from it she didnt wanna gain anything so she .. i dont think this qualifies as an eating disorder but she cut waaaaaaay down and just eats like two small healthy meals a day and she lost like 7 pounds in two weeks. is that just water weight or actual weight?

Hmmmm…I’m just speculating, but a good chunk of her weight loss probably IS water weight. The first few pounds of weight loss are almost always water weight, especially when you lose the weight by cutting back on caloric intake, and especially when you lose those first pounds fairly quickly. And 7 pounds in 2 weeks IS pretty quick. A healthy, natural, sustainable weight loss rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week!

It’s definitely NOT healthy to only eat two small meals a day. That’s water weight loss and weight loss from your body “eating itself” because it’s not getting enough calories to function! On average, women need something like 1200 calories a day just to sit and sleep and breathe and perform involuntary body functions! (At my age, height, and weight, I need 1700 a day if I don’t do any exercise). And in the long run, dieting like that doesn’t do any good. When you lose weight from suddenly switching to a diet that can’t and shouldn’t be maintained long term, you’re just going to gain it back eventually! It’s better to simply eat healthier, diverse foods and add cardio exercise to your lifestyle to form new habits that can be maintained.

So short answer: yes, probably a good bit of water weight :) Knock some sense into that girl!

EDIT: You can calculate things like what a healthy weight loss rate is for you and how many calories to burn a week to achieve that by clicking here. And remember, it’s not best to lose weight by simply cutting back on caloric intake. You should also BURN some of those calories by adding some cardio exercise!

i have being doing modern dance for 11years and ballet (flat) for 7 years. (btw i'm 15 years old). i want to be more intense with dance than i normally have been, and get more in shape. i've been thinking about starting pointe and taking some weekly yoga classes, but my current dance school (modern base) offers neither, and i cannot afford the prices of any other groups/organizations within my area. i really feel like my financial situation is restricting me from developing more as a dancer. is there any way i can get around this?

Hi! That is so wonderful that you want to push your dancing to the next level through yoga and pointe! You’ve got the right idea!

There’s always a way to pay for classes! Many schools and organizations offer both financial-need-based and talent-based scholarships/financial aid. Some schools will even negotiate a trade, like offering you free/discounted classes if you volunteer to do things like clean the bathrooms a couple times a week, or assist in teaching classes for younger students, etc. You might even be able to apply for a job, with free dance classes as a benefit!

The difficult part is going through the schools and speaking with them about your situation. (Or at least I find that kind of stuff difficult). You might face rejection or confrontation from some, which can be embarrassing and disheartening, but you just have to plug away and talk to every studio that interests you. There’s bound to be one out there that can accommodate you, and it’ll likely have a healthy and positive philosophy!

My suggestion is to research all the places you could take yoga classes and more ballet and pointe. Contact them first via email or phone call and say you’re interested in their programs and would like to speak with them. Set up a time, show up a couple minutes early, and speak to them in person. Tell them about your dance background and your love of dance and drive to take it to the next level, but that you aren’t getting everything you need. Let them see how passionate and dedicated and excited you are about dance. (Just the fact that you took the initiative and appear responsible and reliable will earn you huge bonus points). Be very interested in what they are saying. Then tell them you haven’t been able to increase the amount of dance classes due to finances etc. Ask them point blank (and politely and gracefully) if they offer financial assistance or if they are willing to work out a trade or payment plan of some kind.

Speaking in person is key. It’s harder for people to say no to you when faced with your personality, smile, and passion for dance. People are much more open to you if they can actually see you and get a feel for you. Emails and phone calls make it easy to just say no! But seeing your desire up close and personal will make people much more open to finding a way to help you! You by yourself will have more luck than if a parent comes along and does all the talking. They’ll see just how important this is to you and how much you want it!

Also, have you spoken to any of your instructors about this? I would talk to a trusted teacher about your desire to take more ballet and start pointe and add in yoga. You never know what could come of that conversation. And maybe get a feel from the other students about whether or not they’d be interested in more ballet. Who knows, if enough students would want it, maybe the school would consider expanding!

In the mean time, find some guided yoga routines on YouTube or instant Netflix to start doing on your own. It’s never as good as a live instructor, but it’s better than nothing. Give yourself flat ballet barre (and some center if you have space) at home as well. Just recycle whatever your instructor gave you in class! Even just doing some pliés, tendus, and relevés on a daily basis will make you stronger. After all, they are the foundation for every single step in ballet!

Since you want to get more in shape, make sure to cross-train with some light cardio as well. Make a 10 to 20 minute walk part of each day!

Finally, work on strengthening your feet, ankles, and lower leg muscles to prepare yourself for pointe. Even if you don’t get to start as soon as you’d like, you’ll at least be on your way to an excellent foundation! Here’s a post with exercises for the knees down.

You can make this happen, it will just take some leg work and dedication. Don’t be discouraged and keep trying! Good luck!

I just wanted to thank you for all the information you post, especially with finding and strengthening the psoas for extensions - I've felt the difference, and while I haven't seen anything yet, it does feel easier on my legs to hold my extensions without using my entire leg.

In short, you're very informative and I'm very grateful, thank you!

Anon, you just made my day! I am so glad to hear that you can feel the difference already! You’re right, it will take a little longer to see the difference, but feeling the difference is the most important first step!

And it’s always nice to feel appreciated, thank you! XD

Hi, I'm sure this been asked before but I'm a 18 year old slightly unflexible male.
Can you give me tips on getting my splits? I feel like no matter how much I stretch I lose whatever progress I made within 10 minutes or the next day.

My best is my right split though I feel like my hip/groin area is the reason why I can't get to the floor completely. My left is not that great but I got a tight left leg and my straddle is....not that great-(though I try to stretch in as straddle position whenever I can). -___-

Any tips? Oh and I LOVE your blog!

Hello dear! And thank you!

Well, it CAN be more difficult for men to become as flexible as women. It’s not an absolute because each body is different, but it’s a generalization.

That said, you are lucky because, in general, it’s easier for men to gain dance strength and flexibility at your age than women at your age. Men pick up the physicality more quickly and their muscles and muscle memory develop more quickly than women by that age.

I recommend trying out a few extra stretches, in addition to splits, specifically targeted at the groin, psoas, and hamstrings. Have you considered yoga? Beginning with gentle yoga to slowly increase your overall muscle elasticity makes a huge difference. Here are some gentle, beginner’s guided sequences to start with. Also, the gravity-assisted straddle can do quite a lot. Here’s a post with the assisted straddle and some explanation on proper side splits stretching and here’s another one with some hamstring and psoas stretches (just scroll down to the bullet points on both of these posts).

Also, make sure you do flexibility stretches while your muscles are warm. After class is ideal. Stretching the muscles after they’ve worked not only prevents them from getting stiff and sore, but is the safest and most effective way to increase your flexibility. Also, make sure you are holding stretches for 30 to 60 seconds and breathing like crazy the entire time. Send your breath into the tight areas and tell those areas to soften. Imagine your tight areas are jello, or a bag of sand pouring out through a tear on the bottom, or barbecued meat dripping off the bones…anything to help you soften and breathe. Relax your other muscles too. Holding tension in other areas, like your shoulders, or your jaw and face, will affect other parts of your body. Remember that everything is connected! (Guided yoga will help you with this).

Finally, make sure you are stretching opposing muscle groups! This is so important and so often neglected! And by opposing muscle groups, I mean that if you stretch your hamstrings, you should also stretch your quads. If you arch your back one direction, arch it the other way. Etc. Stretching opposing muscle groups makes both muscle groups more elastic. If you only stretch one muscle group, you’re selling yourself short!

And don’t give up. It can take time. The only way to increase flexibility is to stretch and keep stretching, so you’re on the right track! I hope these helped! Let me know if  you have different questions.

how can i strengthen my extensions without building bulky legs?

Hi there! I’ve actually addressed this pretty thoroughly in this post. The trick is to learn how to use your rotators, hamstrings, and psoas to lift rather than your quad muscles! Then to practice doing so in class! Stretching and strengthening outside of class is key, but it does nothing if you don’t practice using it properly! Please let me know if this didn’t answer your question and provide me with some more details!

i have tried absolutely everything for my turn out whether its stretching, or sitting in the frog and pressing down into the floor to strengthen it. ive used ankle weights to strengthen my inner thigh and nothing is working. i dont think its a hip rotation restricton because my teacher can rotate my legs to 180 for me i just cant get it myself. do i need to go to a ridiculously small first and start over? i dont want to come off as a bad dancer when i start my SI though

Hmmmm. Well, it’s good that you’re working on hip flexibility and inner thigh strength! These will help you use your turnout to its full potential. And that is very good news that your thigh bones don’t seem restricted by the shape of your hip socket!

But you need to strengthen your external rotators, first and foremost! I have pretty thorough posts on turnout here and here if you haven’t already checked them out. If you are looking for different information, please let me know with more specifics!

But yeah, the best thing is to start from scratch and practice using your turnout correctly in class. The only real way to increase turnout is to practice and work with it constantly in class. The stretches and strengthening will help it along, but ultimately it’s your work in class! Think about initiating everything from the top of your inner thigh and allowing your turnout to spiral all the way to your heel like a barber’s pole.

To find your natural first to work from, stand tall with your feet together in parallel. Lift one leg in front of you with a flexed foot, rotate it in the hip socket without making adjustments in your other hip and keeping your spine long, and place it back on the floor. Repeat with the other leg. This is your true first position, and if you start working from here, you’ll be able to naturally and correctly increase it, and it will be much more useful to you and have positive effects on everything else in class!

Better to worry about improving yourself correctly than worry about what others think of you when they look at you! Dance for yourself, not the other students or the teacher :)

Hello!
I really like your blog! So helpful!

Anyway, I wanted to know how i can get better control of my leg extensions. I have the flexibility but it is hard for me to hold my leg very high a la seconde. Any tips are useful! Thanks!!!

Thank you so much!

Holding your leg high à la seconde is a tough one! Are you having trouble getting it high in the first place, or do you get it there and it drops?

One quick fix is to bring your leg physically more forward (devant) in space. A lot of times we make the mistake of trying to have our leg flat side in 180 degrees, but we don’t actually have a true 180 degree turnout, so it’s really difficult to hold it there! If you are standing in your true first position, look at the angle your toes are pointing. Your tendu should extend along that diagonal, as should your à la seconde, but for some reason we always put our leg directly to the side! Drop and rotate your hip down in the socket and bring your leg forward into your true turnout and see if that helps at all. You’ll probably find that you can get your leg higher…the higher it is, the closer it is to your body…the closer it is to your body, the easier it is to hold it there! (And people won’t be able to tell that it’s not at a flat 180 degrees).

Either way, you should increase strength in your hamstrings, rotators, and PSOAS! And practice using them in class. I actually have a pretty extensive post on psoas/exension here if you haven’t already checked it out. If that doesn’t help you or you were looking for different information, please let me know with some specific details :)

How would someone who barely has any flexibility improve significantly? In my case I have casually taking classes for around 11 years (temporarily stopped due to other commitments), am extremely stiff and can't even touch my toes! Please help!

Yes, you can always improve your flexibility! It might be more difficult for someone that isn’t naturally flexible, but all it takes is time and dedication and doing it right. There’s no QUICK way to significantly improve your flexibility, and the older you are, the longer it takes if you aren’t naturally flexible. I recommend starting out with a gentle beginner’s yoga routine three to five times a week and working your way up week by week as you feel yourself loosen. Be slow, breathe, be patient, be gentle, don’t force anything. Pain means STOP. There are tons of guided beginner yoga sequences on instant Netflix and YouTube. You want a video with an instructor that thoroughly explains how to properly execute each stretch and guides you through them, reminding you to breathe and relax your shoulders and all those good things. Here are some really gentle, thoroughly guided sequences with Lillah Schwartz. They might be a good starting point, but find something that works for you!

In dance classes, take an extra deep breath in any stretch and try to deepen it a bit further just before coming out of it. Always do that one little extra deepening stretch with a big inhale-exhale, nice and relaxed. (Unless it’s painful, of course!) Come up with your own stretch routine for after dance class when your muscles are nice and warm, which is safer and will prevent them from stiffening up after working. Make sure to stretch opposing muscle groups. Stretching muscles in all directions will have the most benefit on your flexibility. If you neglect opposing muscle groups, you aren’t achieving optimal flexibility. (By opposing muscle groups, I just mean if you arch your back one way, arch it the other way too. If you stretch your inner thigh/groin, stretch your hip rotators. If you stretch the top of your ankle, stretch your calves/achilles. Hamstrings? Quads! Etc etc etc…)

NOTE: Stretching after class when your muscles are warm increases flexibility! Stretching before class when your muscles are cold simply warms up your muscles.

Never ever force stretches. Stop if there is “bad” pain (we all know the difference between a nice stretch discomfort and our body telling us “DON’T DO THAT!” right??? There’s a reason for nerve endings and pain receptors, people!) The last thing you want to do is OVERstretch stiff muscles and connective tissue and wind up tearing the soft tissue (or worse). Tears, even the little microtears that we commonly get in our hamstrings and ignore, create scar tissue. Once fully formed, scar tissue can’t be stretched to the same elasticity as muscle. You can also wind up more seriously injured. You can actually dislodge your connective tissue if you force too much overstretching. It’s not fun. Don’t do it.

So yeah. Be slow, be patient, listen to your body, do yoga, stretch after class, and breathe! Oh, and make sure you ice anything that gets sore! Don’t expect sudden and miraculous results! Allow your body to change naturally and at a healthy pace. In the long run, you will be more stable, have better habits, and be better able to maintain and increase your flexibility!

I'm having trouble getting my switch leap. I can do normal leaps, practically anything else besides switch leaps.Any pointers?

First, I’m going to refer you to this post on switch leaps. It’s mostly about the attack and the battement.

Second, here is a video that breaks down the switch leap. The video doesn’t go super in depth on the technique/approach, but the demonstrator is doing it technically correctly. If she had more space to gain a little more momentum and pushed even harder off the floor in her takeoff to really battement her front leg, she’d have a higher, 180 degree switch leap.

After you check these out, please let me know if you have something more specific you’d like me to address!

Hi, how do i improve my point ? I know arches play a huge role, but im not too sure how to improve the flexibility in them. I guess my main goal is a floor point like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxpvyVF9sNk <--- this

Sorry, I’m going to copy and paste:

Your feet are unique and built the way they are. There are ways to get to your maximum potential, but you won’t necessarily be able to get Sylvie Guillem feet!

Here’s a recent post on arches

05/21/2011
22:34