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!

Hi can you please give advice and stretches on how to imrpove an arabesque that is at 90 degrees?

Hi there! I’m glad to hear that you’ve achieved 90 degrees! Time to push it, eh? Continue with any stretches or exercises you are already doing, pushing yourself to do more reps, hold things longer, stretch a little further, etc. Push yourself to lift a tad higher and hold a extra few seconds in class, etc. It will come in time!

Additionally, check out these posts on penché. Then check out this post on back flexibility.

If you still have questions or something more specific than I’ve addressed in those posts, please let me know!

And remember that not everyone’s body has potential to be a contortionist!

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!

How can I get to be able to do things like this? * sorry I know its a RIDICULOUSLY long url,

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40230000/jpg/_40230243_gymnast_legs144.jpg&imgrefurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sportacademy/hi/sa/special_events/gymnastics/newsid_3762000/3762241.stm&usg=__aeXhyJmNzneOK4ITpE8tR_ug4z4=&h=167&w=144&sz=10&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=dIlTOWtGZ9QqIM:&tbnh=130&tbnw=114&ei=q672TcD5GIbUgAfpqLSUDQ&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dgymnastics%2Blegs%2Bover%2Bhead%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1680%26bih%3D858%26tbm%3Disch&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=450&vpy=114&dur=711&hovh=133&hovw=115&tx=87&ty=73&page=1&ndsp=52&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0&biw=1680&bih=858

Hello darling!

Those darn gymnasts! Let me know if you get there, because I’ve never been this flexible, that’s for sure! Part of it IS natural, some people can’t ever be quite THAT bendy. Looking at the picture, you can see that it’s pretty much all lumbar spine, abs/psoas, hamstring, and hip socket flexibility. Her neck is pretty whacked, too (too much IMHO).

YOGA! Yoga is absolutely the best way to increase your flexibility. Yoga increases your overall soft tissue elasticity, which will greatly enhance your ability to push your ballet stretches! Start with a guided beginner’s yoga routine that has a focus on low back and hip/pelvic girdle flexibility. Search YouTube and Netflix until you find a routine that you like with an instructor that you like. Slowly work your way up and allow your body time to change and adjust. It’s always best to start out low key and pain free. Stretching should feel GOOD.

Here are stretches to eventually work your way toward in yoga:

Here’s a fun little gravity-assisted stretch you can do using the back of the couch while watching TV:

EDIT: I should also refer you to this penché post. Scroll down to check out the stretches for back, hamstrings, and arabesque!

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 think dancers have the best bodies but for those of us who are not great dancers, what exercises do you recommend to get the toned lower body and stomach?

Pilates Pilates Pilates!!!

I recommend any guided beginner’s Pilates routine, which can be found on Netflix and YouTube. Do not try to do too advanced of a routine without a live instructor. It’s too easy to do the exercises incorrectly, which can snowball into other problems.

Moira Stott-Merrithew is very good. An excellent beginner’s routine is “Stott Pilates: Pain-Free Posture.” It’s gentle, it’s not crazy difficult, and it’s a really nice, well-rounded workout that will tone your body and improve your posture (which makes you LOOK thinner too!)

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!

sorry I disappeared!

you guys! I am SO sorry I disappeared so much and took so long on answering your questions. I was a bad blogger XP Things were crazy, I did some travel, moved, etc! And tumblr queue never works properly…

You are loved!!!

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!