Flexibility: Facts and Fictions

Interviews
Published in Dance Studio Life November 2015 Volume 20 Issue 9

Three experts explore the latest thinking on safe, effective stretching

Dancers have always prized flexibility—and the bendier they can get, the better. But technique has gotten more extreme in recent years, and today’s choreography seems to require a contortionist’s malleability. Young dancers strive to emulate Miko Fogarty’s 180-degree penchés and Maddie Ziegler’s ultra-arched back, while audiences and judges have come to expect show-stopping feats of flexibility. Social media only fuels the frenzy; an online search for “ballet stretch” turns up thousands of eye-popping images of oversplits, curlicue feet, and tilts that lean far past vertical.

Dancers are also notorious for their methods: pretzel stretches before class, settling into splits in front of the TV, and tugging limbs with resistance bands are age-old strategies. In the short term these techniques seem effective. But over time, stretching without a good strategy can lead to joint impingement, cartilage wear, and lax ligaments that don’t support dancers’ hardworking joints.

The latest angle on flexibility is a two-pronged approach that combines muscle-friendly lengthening with protective muscle activation. Here, three leading dance-medicine professionals share their techniques for balancing aesthetic ideals with the realistic needs of individual abilities and potential. Whether your students are high-level competitors, aspiring professionals, or casual participants, they can all benefit from this body-positive program. …

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