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Technique or Flexibility


pointyfeet
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HI ,

Just wondered if anyone could enlighten me and a few other dance moms on when auditioning or taking exams if technique comes first or flexibility .  Our local RAD dance teacher seems to concentrate on the girls within the class with  hypermobility and wants everyone else to achieve the same flexibility and yet other teachers they have want technique base dancers and not bothered about how high their legs go.

It is so confusing on what big dance schools are looking for and worries some dancers who have strong technique but are not hypermobile .

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Welcome to the forum, pointyfeet. In my experience, for exams, technique is key. Technique and performance. Many students who take RAD exams have no aspirations to train full time or dance professionally, so will all have varying physiques.

 

For auditions, I think the schools look for a whole combination of factors, plus their particular "X Factor", whatever that may be. Flexibility is important - of course - because aspiring ballet dancers who cannot work turned out will struggle - but to many schools, so is strength.

 

There is a difference between flexibility and hypermobility. There is also a difference between having some mildly hypermobile joints and having Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. Teaching a student with extreme hypermobility or JHS is tricky. They do need to be taught differently in some respects, to ensure that they are using the correct muscles and strengthening the ligaments around their lax joints. They may have "flat" turnout but not the strength to maintain it, for example.

 

The upside of hypermobile dancers is that they can and do have the most beautiful line, and be aesthetically very pleasing, especially the taller dancers with long limbs and long necks.

 

A shorter, physically strong dancer with an excellent technique should not worry about auditions. Comparing different physiques is like comparing Natalia Osipova and Sarah Lamb - pointless. Both are wonderful dancers and very very different to watch. The teachers you mention should not be asking non-hypermobile students to emulate the hypermobile students, of course. And the hypermobile students should not be encouraged to sacrifice control for leg height. But wanting each student to be the best they can be *within the limits of their body* is not unreasonable.

 

My advice to the stronger dancers is this - be grateful for your strong joints and muscles. Be grateful that you can "feel" which muscles are engaging, because many hypermobile dancers cannot. Be prepared to do your exercises for flexibility - safely, of course - and make the best of what nature gave you.

 

And my advice to anyone auditioning is to enjoy it and not fret about what anyone else looks like. :-)

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Just to say that our last RAD examiner made a point of telling us several times that there are no extra points for high legs!   On the contrary - if the legs are high at the expense of proper placement and turn-out, the candidate will get a lower mark. 

 

However, I do think that good flexibility is very important - not necessarily over the top flexibility - ballet is not gymnastics - but for better lines and movement.  If a dancer is hoping for a professional career - 90 degree extensions are just not enough nowadays.

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I depends what it is for and many different teachers believe different things. I think that technique should come first but then more flexibility is good too have too as once you can do a 45 degree kick with good technique you can then make it 90 degrees and all the way up to 180 degrees if you can still keep the good technique you have previously developed. Sorry if that is a bit confusing but I hope you understand my point

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Natural flexibility can a 2 edged sword. It is a family trait for us (DS's grandmother at 70 can still touch her toes and has never done any exercise or sport which enhances flexibility). DS, who has inherited this, has naturally highly arched feet and amazing turnout but although he's not hypermobile (and I personally rather disagree here about lovely lines- I find hypermobile knees make me wince) he has such flexible feet he has constant problems with injury. I think he would prefer not to be *quite* so blessed! I guess the grass is always greener....

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Me too - it's very easy for those with good natural flexibility to stick their foot up by their ear, but there isn't much point if it is done with poor technique! ;)

My dd is only just getting this message now unfortunately!! We've heard this so much lately so I thought I would comment to just reinforce this :)

 

Not that her technique is poor it's just that it isn't as good as it could be had she focused as much on that as increased flexibility (at the risk of injury and strain on different areas of her body)

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Sometimes you've also got to question why someone wants to 'stick their leg by their ear'! If they can only do it by yanking it there then that's not only potentially damaging for the hip and spine, but also functionally useless as I've never seen anyone do that in a ballet! You've got to have the strength to use what flexibility you have, or have worked for. That's where technique comes into play. Balletmum13 is right in that dancers definitely do require a certain amount of natural flexibility, as joint structure cannot be changed, but it's got to be flexibility that they can use, and use in the right way.

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This is an interesting subject and one that I am currently discussing with my daughter. She is naturally flexible but still growing and developing at age 11. I encourage her to stretch properly but very much discourage her from over stretching and wont let her have all the stretching implements that her friends have. Unfortunately her previous dance school had a big thing about flexibility and encouraged the children to twist and bend their bodies in a way that I had concerns about. In one ballet lesson I observed the teacher practically wrenching at the girls legs to get them higher during a barre exercise. The girls with banana feet and hypermobility were seen as being the best dancers whereas I often thought that some of them lacked musicality and presence and spent too much time showing how flexible they were which wasn't always pleasurable to watch. She dances at festivals and I have noticed that more and more the dancing is becoming more about gymnastics and less about dance which I feel is a shame. Quite frankly I get bored by that type of dancing. I try to encourage my daughter to develop her core strength which is her weakest area rather than pushing her legs etc to extremes, unfortunately a lot of her dancing friends are of the mind set that the more bendy you are the better dancer you are and this is further encouraged via pictures on social media etc of girls looking like contortionists.

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My dd has recently asked me to buy her a flexistretcher. IMHO she is quite flexible already and really needs to focus on core strength (but as a parent what would I know lol). Does anyone have experience of this gadget and just how safe are they for unsupervised practice by a teenager? They only seem to be available to buy direct from the US.

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Totally agree Joyofdance. And schools that encourage that I find dubious. Also, the prevalence of social media accounts showing this sort of thing is a real problem. Not least because a photo is just that a photo. It gives no real indication of how good a dancer the person in it is! And how many attempts they took to achiebe the position for long enough to take a picture etc.

 

Of course flexibility is important, but it should be developed carefully and never at the expense of technique and strength to use it.

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Sometimes you've also got to question why someone wants to 'stick their leg by their ear'! ...

 

Competitions! At least American-style ones :) Because she could do it, she has been encouraged and pushing herself to do more and more and more.

 

We've had NO idea until recently just how much she has been focusing on the wrong things but hey ho.. live and learn :)  Thankfully I've been able to speed read on this forum and listen to some advice to get my head around this change in focus. 

 

Blooming Dance Moms! :)

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....Unfortunately her previous dance school had a big thing about flexibility and encouraged the children to twist and bend their bodies in a way that I had concerns about. In one ballet lesson I observed the teacher practically wrenching at the girls legs to get them higher during a barre exercise. The girls with banana feet and hypermobility were seen as being the best dancers ..

 

I try to encourage my daughter to develop her core strength which is her weakest area rather than pushing her legs etc to extremes, unfortunately a lot of her dancing friends are of the mind set that the more bendy you are the better dancer you are and this is further encouraged via pictures on social media etc of girls looking like contortionists.

 

We must have been at the same previous dance school! :D  My DD was seen as one of the 'best' when actually that is so misleading and it gives a false sense of achievement. She has now come down to earth with a bump. Similar to your DD she is concentrating on core strength and finally get's it after a few strains in ankles, hips, knees etc. She had PE today and her and classmates had to plank. Everyone else gave up after 1 min and after 7 mins the teacher had to stop her so they could move on with the rest of the lesson. She is finding ways to show off her core strength in the same way as she would have done with one of the photo types you mention on instagram. Unfortunately a plank is a bit less dramatic than one of the other poses she would usually have done but at least I suppose it shows she is listening :)

 

I wonder if it's because some of the teaching bodies now have 'acro' syllabus (IDTA? Don't know about others) that more and more dance teachers are encouraging this so much. I see so much on my facebook timeline from teachers sharing videos of their students. I can imagine how our DD's see this bias coming through from social media. And Amos73, you're right it's just a snapshot photo rather than any indication of movement or expression.

 

My dd does have a flexi-band if that's what you mean mnemo. It's a Gaynor Minden band on a continous loop. I'm pretty sure that she is sensible with it (because of all the conversations we have had recently) but be warned there are some really scarey tutorials on youtube that some kids might decide to just 'have a go' at themselves.

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We must have been at the same previous dance school! :D  My DD was seen as one of the 'best' when actually that is so misleading and it gives a false sense of achievement. She has now come down to earth with a bump. Similar to your DD she is concentrating on core strength and finally get's it after a few strains in ankles, hips, knees etc. She had PE today and her and classmates had to plank. Everyone else gave up after 1 min and after 7 mins the teacher had to stop her so they could move on with the rest of the lesson. She is finding ways to show off her core strength in the same way as she would have done with one of the photo types you mention on instagram. Unfortunately a plank is a bit less dramatic than one of the other poses she would usually have done but at least I suppose it shows she is listening :)

 

I wonder if it's because some of the teaching bodies now have 'acro' syllabus (IDTA? Don't know about others) that more and more dance teachers are encouraging this so much. I see so much on my facebook timeline from teachers sharing videos of their students. I can imagine how our DD's see this bias coming through from social media. And Amos73, you're right it's just a snapshot photo rather than any indication of movement or expression.

 

My dd does have a flexi-band if that's what you mean mnemo. It's a Gaynor Minden band on a continous loop. I'm pretty sure that she is sensible with it (because of all the conversations we have had recently) but be warned there are some really scarey tutorials on youtube that some kids might decide to just 'have a go' at themselves.

Wow! 7 minutes is a long time. Dd's record is just over 5 minutes. She is working on core strength a lot more recently so she has been going to the gym. She is quite flexible so needs to be strong to maintain it.

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Wow! 7 minutes is a long time. Dd's record is just over 5 minutes. She is working on core strength a lot more recently so she has been going to the gym. She is quite flexible so needs to be strong to maintain it.

I think it might have been her new record helped by the fact that she doesn't actually like PE very much haha :)

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. She had PE today and her and classmates had to plank. Everyone else gave up after 1 min and after 7 mins the teacher had to stop her so they could move on with the rest of the lesson.

That is really funny as my daughter had a similar experience in P.E. I don't know how long she lasted but she out planked the rest of the class. All of this over emphasis on flexibility is buying in to the whole flips and tricks thing around dance particularly at the festivals. I would much sooner see a dance with musicality and passion than over splits and back flips.

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These times make me so happy to read! Nearly 10 years ago, when doing my PhD, I worked with the (then) physiologist of two of the 3 big UK ballet companies. Part of his job was fitness testing the dancers, and the core strength test was to hold the plank for as long as possible, with 2 minutes being the pass/fail standard. It was shocking how many professional dancers couldn't manage 2 minutes! I like to think that the importance of strength training has become clearer in the last 10 years and so one would hope that those times would be longer!

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