Extensions in ballet are everything… Well extensions are also everything on social media, but social media is a whole different post. But extensions in ballet… truly are everything… It is the difference between getting a contract and not getting a contract, it is the difference between being cast as Odette … or not. You get the idea, or at least I hope you do. My original post about tilting your hips has kind of come under a lot of fire, which is totally cool… Everyone is entitled to their own pedagogy and ballet ideals. But a lot of you have asked some questions, so I am here to answer some of them. In ballet… a la seconde or side or perfect side or whatever your natural turnout decides what side is… well it is really confusing and quite difficult. And truth be told, I had no clue what any of it really meant until I became a teacher…
Side Action… first we have to determine what is side. For some schools- it is about the natural turnout and you draw a line from the second toe outwards (i)… Other schools teach that side is in line or slightly in front of your shoulder (ii) and some schools teach that side is behind your hip line (which only works if you are freakishly hypermobile or flexible, iii). This is all determined by turnout.
Okay, okay… Now onto the good stuff… Getting your leg up. You can just hoist your leg up, you have to use the back of your legs. If your teacher is one of those sticklers for being square, which I totally don’t disagree with, you only have to follow a and b.
a-b. From passé, you rotate slight forward to an attitude position and lift your knee as high as it can go while your hips stay square. You have to seperate your femoral head while rotating it to get to this position. then you just have to extend the heel forward till your leg is fully extended. Yes, you use your heel as the guide of your extension, not your knee. If you are focusing on your knee… you get massive quads and can grip. You have to really use opposition to achieve the back of your legs. The oposition comes from really pressing your psoas and core downwards.
c-e. I teach my students to start shifting their weight into their standing leg, and aligning the opposing hip. I tell them to use the full power of the backs of their leg to rotate forward, bring the leg even more slightly infront of their body allow the look of maximum turnout. Then bring the knee into the front of your armpit using your psoas, and pressing down through the student’s core to get the maximum stability and correct tension saving the hips. Then guiding through the heel, like the later part of a ron de jambe en l’iar. So instead of thinking of extension as a line, you have to think of it as a circular motion… like turnout… like everything in ballet. Use your hamstring to supply the support needed. But the higher your leg gets, the easier it should feel. It is simply physics, as the weight is now all shifted into your standing leg, freeing up your working leg.
f. Then, for those students who are hypermobile, and have mastered the ability to rotate the extension upwards, I let my students shift their weight even more into their standing leg, and then like a teetertotter shift their hips even more to get those last six inches of extension. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the lower back, so you have to be strong and pretty advanced to achieve it.
more notes: Tilting your hips on the plane of turnout is not the same as lifting your hip. Lifting your hip usually reffers to your booty and pelvis tipping forward. You have to understand your hip anatomy in order to really understand turnout and a la seconde. You never want to lift from your quads. Again work from the back of your legs! If you don’t know how, read my notes on how to work from the backs of your legs. Your hips have to be really warmed up and stretched out before your attempt this… Don’t be one of those kids sitting in their room reading this and then just go try it… It is why barre is structured.
Follow me on on social media @aBalletEducation