Both the ballet beginner and the adult in ballet class want to learn and understand the best stretching exercises. Everyone wonders “what is the best for me”? Those in love and already watching ballet up close can see that high leg extensions, long curved back push-ups, springy knee push-ups and jack-jump landings, and high splits jumps, they are the mere norm in classical dance. A difficult task for most!
After training hundreds of ballet students, I tell them, we are all different, and almost all of them wished they had one more physical attribute, the one that everyone but them had. You may be a ballet student with high arches, flexible hips, and yet you have a lousy turnout.
You can be a dance student with a long neck, elastic shoulders, a slim back, and high arches, but with a tight pelvic area. Believe me, it seems that even the most talented dancer has an area that needs a lot of stretching exercises, just to catch up on the rest of her physique.
Ballet is easy for practically anyone, only in this sense. However, if you learn some functional anatomy, and if you KNOW what your least flexible muscle group is, you can do it with your most flexible muscles.
Don’t despair if you don’t have the flexible and easy ankle joints, but you do have a deep, stretchy demi plie. Your long, springy calf muscles will provide you with a range of motion from the depth of your plie to the highest point of the foot, giving you a strong leap upward.
If you have a shallow demi plie, but more movement in the ankle joint, that movement will give you strong foot lift. Either way, you can work on the other, to get more movement, as well as a more modern look in the result, which as we all know, ballet is very demanding.
If you have a small range of motion in both the ankle and the demi plie (calf muscles), you will have to work patiently in both areas. The good news is, no matter how slow you are, you will improve, with understanding your muscles and joints, and not just pushing them hard.
The Essential Arabesque: It should be flexible at the hips, psoas, or long postural muscle that runs from the thigh to the front of the spine and from the upper back to the shoulder girdle, for truly fluid movement. Some dancers are tighter at one point, which is very annoying … but can still be corrected.
Understanding myofascial release
Releasing tension in the fascia, the enveloping tissue that surrounds and binds all the muscles from head to toe, will release tension and also lengthen the muscles. Returning to lower leg and ankle joint flexibility, a relaxation technique can be performed for myofascial release of the shin muscles BEFORE stretching the ankle joint. You will feel more flexible if you do it in this order.