The strong, graceful body of a ballet dancer is the reward for proper exercise that relies heavily upon stretches. Much focus is given to inner-thigh stretches, as these groin muscles, called adductors, enable smooth movements to the side. Turned-out feet, the common position of the feet of a ballerina, engage the adductor muscles and assist inner-thigh stretches. The ability to turn the feet out varies from one person to another and should never be forced. Eliza Gaynor Minden, author of "The Ballet Companion: A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions and Joys of Ballet," advises work with what you've got. Increased flexibility comes with time and repetition.
Barre Inner-Thigh Stretch
Stand with one side to the barre. Place your leg closest to the barre on the barre, a la seconde, or in line with your shoulders and slightly in front of center, instructs Minden.
Keep both of your feet turned out, including the foot on the barre. Flex your foot on the barre, pulling your toes toward your leg.
Plie, or bend the knee, of your supporting leg. A demi-plie, or shallow bend, is appropriate for this exercise.
Lean toward your leg on the barre, a movement known as cambre. Extend your arm on the side of your supporting leg in a graceful bend over your head toward your leg on the barre.
Hold this position for 30 to 120 seconds. Keep your hips level at all times.
Stand with your legs together and your feet turned out.
Bend your knees slightly and take a wide step to one side in a side lunge position. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Return to your starting position and repeat this stretch with your opposite side. Perform three to four inner-thigh stretches on each leg.
- A blood-pumping, muscle-loosening warm-up is essential before ballet stretches. Deborah Vogel, neuromuscular educator and founder of New York City's Center for Dance Medicine, recommends five to 10 minutes of light jogging, skipping or jumping jacks before engaging in ballet exercises. Light stretches such as toe touches and gentle stretching movements are useful in the cooldown phase of your exercise routine.
- If it hurts, don't do it. Stretching to the point of pain is counterproductive, as pain causes muscles to contract. Furthermore, painful stretching can cause small tears in your muscles and weaken your muscles instead of strengthening and lengthening them. Consult a physician if you have a medical condition or injury or if you have not engaged in routine exercise for some time.
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