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Flexibility and 6th form auditions

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Guest Autumn days

My 15yr old dd has been working on her flexibility for years and although she has made some improvements she is not one of these really bendy types so I have a few questions!

 

 

Does anyone have any anecdotal evidence to suggest that flexibility can still be improved at this age and beyond?

 

Does anyone kinow of anyone that has been offered a place at a 6th form at a classical based school if they don't yet have all three splits and flat froggies/butterfly?

 

Generally speaking, do contemporary schools demand greater flexibility than classical schools?

 

Can you tell I'm getting worried now?  ;)

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I can't answer either but I'm also interested in the answers you'll hopefully get, as my DD hopes to go to Vocational school at 16 too. :)

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My DS was accepted to vocational school aged 14 with no splits of any kind (even after he had completed the 6 weeks summer intensive). Within a term of being full time at the school he had all sets of splits with no difficulty (he has inherited my natural flexibility, but just had never done enough ballet prior to this). Because he is inherently flexible and has natural turnout this may not be particularly helpful to your situation but certainly it shows it is possible to improve at an older age.... I appreciate it also may be different for boys Vs girls though, as they are expected to be more flexible naturally. And the school in question is not a UK school so may be different. In fact I may not have helped in any way at all... sorry!

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Ive known students get into 6th form,both male and female who did not have all splits. Ive also had very flexible advanced students who were unsuccessful.

 

I did not seriously begin to stretch until 15 or 16 and couldnt touch my toes at that age but was down in splits by the time I danced professionally. Never quite achieved box though.

 

So there is hope but your dd has to be consistent and safe with stretching. Flexibility is not the only thing looked at in auditions, the ability to dance is more important!

 

Incidently my professional ds is not in full box either..

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I can't answer your query but had been thinking of booking dd into a dance screening test with Trinity Laban as I thought no point in forking out all this money on dance training to find there is a limitation that would have been better to recognise earlier. I've no experience or knowledge of it other than what it says on the website- I've attached the lnk in case its of interest  http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/study/dance/dance-science/products-services

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My DD is also looking ahead to sixth form auditions - I dont think there is an answer which is why nobody can give you one.

Hyper-mobility / ultra flexi is can also be viewed as a weakness as these dancers need so much more strength/control to support their bodies so I dont think being flexible or not can be a completely deciding factor.

 

I am taking the approach of you will never know until you try - good luck, sounds like we will be meeting sometime soon!!

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Guest Autumn days

Although my questions are really quite black and white! I know that no one knows if my dd will get more flexible or if she will get into a school with what she has, but those with direct experience that were in a similar position may well may well be able to provide an answer that at least applied to them!!

 

Bankruptmum, where will your dd audition for? 

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Just to add to the above, I remember Mr Kelly at Elmhust saying that he knew many a 'famous' dancer who didnt have 180 degree turnout etc., many other attributes form the package of a professional dancer. You dont know until you try.

 

Will send you a PM mum in a spin x

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My two dd's have also struggled with flexibility and have had to work hard. Eldest managed to get down for yr7 audition after a lot of intensive hard work. She needs to be warm to go into front splits nowadays and is still not totally down in box. She is the same age as your dd and splits was not mentioned at her recent royal appraisal. Youngest is 12 and was not down at all in royal appraisal so was asked to work on it! Has done them everyday over summer and is now down on all but left front. Exceptional dancers will be taken on with weaknesses but every weakness makes it harder to compete with others who may not have them. My answer would be does your dd work on them everyday? What is she doing to improve if this is what she really wants? I have seen from experience that they only improve with regular practice and you can go backwards when u stop this! Eldest has weaknesses to work on and needs to improve these to the best of her ability to stand a fighting chance next year. Core strength, turnout, extensions, performance and physique all just as important. Get working and good luck!

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I think obsessing about flexibility is rather misplaced.  Whilst it is true that nowadays it is expected that legs will be raised high, a strong well-placed turned-out leg to the side at 150 degrees is better than a distorted, hip lifted, turned in leg somewhere round the ear.  Dancers are not artistic gymnasts - the right physique, strong pointe work, well held pirouettes, beautiful lines, sensitive arms, dance quality, musicality and presentation are what's important.  And just because a girl can descend into splits, doesn't mean that she can hold the legs in the air at that height - you need strength to hold legs high.  And you know even if you do a million tests, they can't prove conclusively if one dancer will get chosen over another, because at the end of the day it's all about personal opinion and what each school or company is looking for.  I remember that for one company I was too small and for another too tall!  Go figure!

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Very much agree with above post. Many famous dancers from past I'm sure couldn't do box splits etc....which I know doesn't help as we're now in a different century!!

 

Work hard at everything as another poster said is the best thing but personally strength and dance quality are paramount above flexibility in my books! Good luck to your DD let us know down the line where she plans to audition for etc Linda x

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I totally agree with Dance*is*life but for my eldest who will be auditioning this yr feel splits is one of the few things she can work on regularly at home. She can also do turn out and core strength exercises. Dance quality, pirouettes etc can only be worked on by her teachers in the studio but anything she does at home on these aspects can only help! Mind you, when she finds time/energy to complete these exercises is a totally different matter. :)

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Have you taken her to a physio? If not I'm sure they would be the best people to judge how much further improvement she could make & give some good exercises.

As an adult my flexibility has improved since starting ballet again so I definitely don't think it is purely an age thing.

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I've dances since I was little, but u didn't start to actually focus in proper technique, strength, flexibility etc until I was 16(!) which is late. I turned 18 this year. Before I realized how much of a demand ballet is I wasn't flexible at all. My whole life I've got natural turnout and open hips, but my back, hamstring etc have always been inflexible. Suddenly with more classes, focus on improving and stengthening my body started to get more flexible it self. No I think I can describe myself as a quite flexible. This without any stretching routines etc. I've been lucky and got some natural flexibility, but also I think this proves that you can improve your body after the age of 15/16 :)

 

At last, I really enjoy all the posts and interesting topics!

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This question:

 

"Does anyone have any anecdotal evidence to suggest that flexibility can still be improved at this age and beyond?"

 

 

I can definitely answer "YES."  Both as a teacher and for myself personally - I have both seen and experienced improvement at almost any age clear into and beyond middle age.  I found it was not age so much which hindered flexibility but dis-use.  Use it or lose it really does apply.

 

I have had any number of adults 20-50 yr olds work on and acccomplish flexibility beyond anything they thought possible.  There's no quick trick - just slow, careful steady work under good supervision.

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I would have to say yes that flexibility can be improved upon. As someone who is hyper extended even down to my toes being hyper extended which is a whole set of problems in itself when it comes to pointe work and pirouettes - it has taken three years for me to be able to do a double pirouette due to my hyperextension and finding the right centre of balance, and that's en demi pointe - I think with correct training the body can always be improved upon. Being hyper extended actually makes ballet even more challenging so I would say having a degree of flexibility which can be improved upon may be the better position to find oneself in!

 

I take classes at a place called the Barre in Newcastle which at lunchtime runs a class called re-flex which helped me immensely in terms of improving - or more precisely controlling - my flexibility. Flexibility training is also incorporated into the regular barre classes along with building core strength. These classes are for adults but I know that Pineapple in London runs regular body conditioning classes, is their something similar in your local area? The training technique is also referred to as LA Barre or Barre Core.

 

Also I always think of auditions as looking for potential rather than a finished product far better to have someone who has room for improvement than someone who believes themselves to be a finished product who has picked up lots of mistakes along the way in training. And always far better to try than never to try at all because everyone brings something different to the table it would be a poor school indeed that had carbon hyper flexible student copies. Some students may be masters of the pirouette, others speed or height in jumps. Some rare breeds may have everything and be the whole package and there are a few dancers in the world who are currently at this level and also have that elusive IT factor but they all have the same thing in common: they all went to audition and they all tried their best and that's all that can ever be asked.

 

Good luck to your daughter and to everyone going to auditions in the future!

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Guest Autumn days

Thank you, everyone for the replies and messages - I will reply soon as its hard on my phone!

 

The thing is, though, that my dd does work on her flexibility almost daily so it is not a case of not yet using it or finding what her limits are! I'm hoping that there is still room for improvement! She will audition regardless for the experience but it is good to be realistic too!

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Thank you, everyone for the replies and messages - I will reply soon as its hard on my phone!

 

The thing is, though, that my dd does work on her flexibility almost daily so it is not a case of not yet using it or finding what her limits are! I'm hoping that there is still room for improvement! She will audition regardless for the experience but it is good to be realistic too!

 

It is not unusual for one to reach a plateau when working on flexibility - or most things for that matter.  That plateau can make it seem as if progress is not happening and the plateau can last for months.

 

Being realistic is always good - but that is only tested with time.

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Flexibility has been the biggest challenge throughout my DS's training and he is now at the beginning of his final year! His ballet has continued to improve every year but flexibility remains the area he has to work on which he does by stretching at home and in the Pilates room at school. Growth spurts have occasionally set him back.

 

He was successful in gaining places at both sixth form schools he auditioned for two years ago despite his lack of flexibility.

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I know I do mention it far too much but Lisa Howell's fast front splits flexibilty program does help in a large number of cases. It's due to the fact that she is introducing a different way of thinking about stretching in terms of releasing tension in neurofascial system. I am someone who is hyper mobile but not as bendy as I used to be when dancing professionally. I observed with interest how there was a huge difference in my flexibilty after I went to my osteopath complaining of headaches due to tension in my neck. She never manipulates me but just massage of my neck and upper back resulted in a huge shift in my flexibilty in my hamstrings.

 

I thing flexibilty is a constantly evolving concept with so many factors which can impact and alter this over time even due to overtraining. I worked on flexibilty training with a group of youngsters a couple of months back who do a lot of musical theatre and it was clear that by mobilising the hip area there flexibilty improved. I assume because of the different way to working in terms of the turn out used in ballet.

 

Contemporary would probably be more accepting about turnout etc but more mobility in the spine may be something that is useful. In short, I don't think there is a hard and fast rule. I think we can only work to enhance and engage what we have naturally. There are some things that we cannot change greatly but learning to use the correct muscle groups to enhance what we have ie turnout etc can only help. The frog test is actually not hugely reliable as an indicator of turn out from the hip.

Even with hyper mobility, I became more flexible at vocational school as I was doing things which I had not done before and the intensity of training. If you are talking about selection for dance schools- it can be good to introduce relaxation exercises in addition to stretching and vary your training load and focus to balance out overuse of certain muscle groups.

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