3 Tips To Improve Your Extension

by | Jul 6, 2015 | Technique, TIPS

It’s always impressive when a ballerina can lift her leg up to her head. How does she do it? Follow these 3 principles to improve your extension.

1. Activate your core.

Being uber flexible may look cool, but having bendy limbs is worthless if you don’t have the strength to support it. Perhaps you’re not really flexible, but you turn to jelly every time you try to lift your leg. In either case, consider taking Pilates to practice core stabilization. If nothing else, pump out a series of crunches before class starts. Whether you’re practicing slow movements like developpé or fast kicks like grand battement, engaging your core muscles will improve your balance and control.

2. Squeeze your butt.

Back view of young modern ballet dancer isolated on white backgr

While the abdominals are very important, they’re only a part of the machine that makes your extension work. Never neglect your gluteals, or buttock muscles. The next time you attempt to extend your leg in any direction, squeeze your gluteals. Feel them work in conjunction with your hamstrings to lift and stabilize. Imagine you’re a tree, and your trunk starts with your junk (ahem). The more these muscles are activated, the more likely your legs will extend into beautiful branches.

3. Nail your passé.

Portrait of the ballerina in ballet pose

Before you launch those stems into the air, take a moment to examine your passé. It is your preparation, your launching pad. A lazy passé can ruin your extension before you begin. As you begin to retiré your pointed foot up to your knee, look at your form. Are you turning out all the way? Are you attempting to extend your leg before your foot even gets to your knee? If you’re struggling in the center, focus on correcting these problems at the barre during class: From fifth position, retiré your pointed foot up to passe and stop. Without leaning in toward the barre, keep lifting your working leg as if you’re trying to get your knee to touch your ear. When you can’t lift anymore, then extend your lower leg out, shin, arch, and toe.

These are some basic principles to improve your extension. Ask your teacher for further advice and corrections.

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