A New Way of Looking at Stretching

This week only saw two ballet classes but it included a trip to San Francisco to see the San Francisco Ballet perform Onegin so I think I came out well. I learned a short but sweet and incredibly important lesson in my ballet world, week 5.

This week I got some interesting corrections while stretching. That was a little unexpected because it’s, um… stretching!? What does form have to do with stretching other than don’t overdo it and tear something that you’ll want to use later. Awesome Ballet Teacher corrected my form while stretching on the barre, he put me square, made sure that my leg was under me, and made sure I was out of my hips. Holy cow! I could plie, releve, lean over in any direction, slide both ways and look ma – no hands! I thought it was all about just being able to put my nose on my knee but with correct form, that is the same correct form that we use for everything else! stretching is a whole new ballgame. Awesome Ballet Teacher revealed the big secret about stretching – it’s not just about flexibility… stretching is strength work, its core work, its balance work. Sure, it can feel great to get a good stretch going especially after some deep, sustained barre work. But stretching is a workout in itself when done with purpose. When we keep our correct form and hold our positions with strength and intention, stretching not only makes us more flexible, it also helps to build strength in the positions and movements that we want to be able to dance in center!

Ballet is truly amazing in that everything we do in class has a purpose and it’s not terribly varied but it’s always important – it’s all about being able to dance by strengthening and lengthening our bodies. Walking, running, jumping, even stretching at the barre while in ballet class – it’s all balletic movement, all of it. And it all needs to be done with correct form, all the time, every time. And there you have it.

Stay tuned for my review of Onegin!


6 thoughts on “A New Way of Looking at Stretching

  1. That is so true!!! I remember one of the first ballet classes I had, the teacher was very focused on how we were stretching and at the end of the class she explained exactly what your Awesome Ballet Teacher said- it’s not just about flexibility, I am glad that my teacher (and your teacher) pointed that out, posture, core and balance are so importanrt while stretching!

    Great post, great way to spread the word!

    • Thank you 🙂

      I ran cross-country and played tennis in college and this is the first that I’ve heard of proper technique in stretching and using stretching as a tool for more than just flexibility. Ballet for the win!

  2. Yes, yes, yes! That’s why our stretches (or jambes sur la barre) are almost always supervised. Our teachers give us the exercise, the port de bras, the counts and the music. Proper alignment is the key to everything! This is what we did today:

    Stand facing the barre – developpĂ© onto barre – pliĂ© – relevĂ© – pliĂ© – relevĂ© – on flat foot big cambrĂ© forward, while holding hips square, and cambrĂ© to the back. Switch to a la seconde (pivot on ball of foot), and the same with cambrĂ©s to both sides. Keep foot on barre but turn facing center, with leg in arabesque. Again, pliĂ©s and relevĂ©s plus cambrĂ© forward, nose to knees, back up, lift back leg off, attitude, passĂ©, developpĂ© to the front then into split on floor. Hands stay off barre the entire exercise. This is impossible to do unless you are placed right.

    Streches are always active work. And sometimes they are a pain in the *** 🙂

    Yay for your milestone!

    • I enjoyed the stretch part before but I actually like it even more now. It burns like crazy but I love doing the pliĂ© relevĂ©. I’m having fun not using my hands 😀 I can’t really do the leg in arabesque very well yet and I definitely can’t drop into a split on the floor 😀 not yet anyway! Where do you have your arms when you do pliĂ© relevĂ©?


  3. This jambes sur la barre is a bit different. You take a couple of steps back, stand en face to the barre, and do a developpĂ© like you would in center – only onto the barre. You stay at this distance for all directions; in seconde you are “in profile” to the barre, and with the arabesque you are en face to the center. The port de bras for pliĂ©-relevĂ©: arms stay in seconde, in pliĂ© they “breath” (elbows softening down) and in relevĂ© they allongĂ©.

    With the back leg in arabesque the relevĂ© is an absolute killer. Thank god our barre has two rods. I would have no hope in hell hoisting my leg on the upper barre! As for the split, it’s a controlled slide – not a “drop” 🙂 And I can do no split with my right leg in front. I go as far as I can, with the back knee bent.

    Glad you are enjoying your stretches! 🙂

    • I like the sound of it! I am the only one in the class doing hands free stretching right now so I think my arms are a little modified for me to learn how to do this properly. We don’t have the second lower barre, so perhaps that’s why we don’t even attempt arabesque at the barre. My teacher did it and it looked wickedly cool but also crazy hard. I also try not to use the barre for lunges, I do keep my fingers on the barre though – just in case.

      What you said over on your blog about getting mentally ready for center while at the barre made a lot of sense. The more that I stop holding onto the barre, the more comfortable it becomes to discover my own balance and rely on that rather than on the barre! Thank you, Johanna!

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