Building Awareness to Improve Your Leg Extensions in Class

In and out of class, it’s very common for dancers to get frustrated with poor leg extensions. Perhaps several dancers in your class are able to get their legs so high that it almost reaches their ear. Some dancers can even feel ashamed to be in the same room with their competition due to their extensions being so low. One example of this is when a dancer is able to hold their leg up by their head but is unable to keep it high without holding it. Whether a dancer stretches or is flexible, this problem can still occur, making dancers long to have higher leg extensions. Whenever it’s time for your developpé or grand battements, make sure to stay aware and apply these three important microsteps to improve the height and stability of your leg extensions:

Engage your core

Being flexible may look and feel great, but having flexibility will only take you so far if you don’t build the strength to support your movements. Perhaps you’re not really flexible, but you get wobbly when you attempt any extension. In any case, remember that a strong core will help lift and sustain your leg – which, keep in mind, is incredibly heavy in proportion to your mid-section – so make sure to engage the necessary muscled before you start your movement. This will help your posture as well. If you need help strengthening the core, consider taking Pilates to practice core stabilization. To activate your core and help you build awareness for class, a quick set of crunches right before hitting the barre might help too. Whether you’re practicing slow movements or fast kicks, engaging your core muscles will improve your balance and control.

Tighten your glutes

Tightening your glutes will not only help you activate your turnout muscles and improve the line of your leg, it will also help create stability
your leg line, it will 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 glutes. Feel them work in conjunction with your hamstrings to lift and stabilize. The more these muscles are activated, the more likely your legs will extend to create higher, more graceful lines.

Perfect your passé

Beautiful, solid extensions stem from the correct placement of your passé or retire (the difference between passé and retire is that passe is the actual movement in which the leg passes the knee of the supporting leg from one position to another, and retire is the position itself. … Retire derriere is when the dancer’s pointed foot is placed behind the supporting knee). Before you start your extensions devant (to the front) or a la second (to the side, 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 positionretiré 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.