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Hans

Hypermobility in Ballet

45 posts in this topic

I agree about the Guillem syndrome, Alexandra, but wasn't Balanchine promoting high extensions before she became famous?  I remember a passage from "Choura," by Danilova in which she says something to the effect that her students at SAB are always stretching--"they tear their legs apart"--and that she would say, "How high can you do developpé?  Higher than your head? 

Hans, yes I think so too. When I first started to go to ballet, me and my friends would watch Allegra Kent and in our obnoxious teenage way say "She could stick her toe into her ear"

You can see this(not the toe-ear thing though!) in some of the clips of Kent, most recently I was playing Dancing for Mr B and you can see these kinds of extensions, in the Symphony in C clips.

Although I followed her career much less closely, when Mimi Paul left NYCB to move to ABT (late 60s? 1970?) , she also had very extreme extensions, at least as far as I remember. People would tell her "you're overstretched"

In a sense they were looked at as something atypical.

Strangely, on some of the Bolshoi tours of that era we stated to see that kind of thing from them too. Again, a memory, when I first saw Pavlova, I thought "isn't this harmful?" It's funny how we didn't make the association with the American ballerinas, I guess they must have used them in different ways.

Syvie was still a tiny girl at this point

I guess the jury is still out on at , at last stylistically

Richard

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Ballet now favors the long, lean body type, which is sometimes an indicator of Marfan's Syndrome. At the risk of turning the discussion into a medical topic, and without naming names, I'm wondering if, by a sort of unnatural natural selection, Marfan's (which may be undiagnosed) explains some of the hyperflexibility we see these days.

nlkflint?

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According to the website's list of characteristics, "Other skeletal abnormalities include a sternum (breastbone) that is either protruding or indented, curvature of the spine (scoliosis), and flat feet."

I think these would make it difficult to become a professional dancer.

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Some symptoms may not manifest, or manifest to a small degree, and scoliosis is definitely not unknown in dancers. For example -- both Heather Watts and Wendy Whelan have mentioned theirs -- which may or may not be related to Marfan's -- in interviews.

Edited by carbro

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carbro:Actually, Marfan's Syndrome is quite complicated, but suffice it to say that there are probably few dancers with it. However, there are indeed dancers with what are considered disorders of connective tissue, often of the mild Ehlers-Danlos type (EDS). Most extreme flexibility is not "out there" enough to fit an actual disease process--more likely an extreme "variation of normal" that a ballet dancer uses to her/his advantage.

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I'm learning so much. Thanks Hans and nlkflint for your distinct professional perspectives. Thanks Old Fashioned for the stunning photographs.

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Recently the Mariinsky ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina addressed this issue:

"On the subject of technique, can I ask you about the controversial 6 o’clock extensions? To throw a leg so high was unacceptable until quite recently, and now almost everyone’s doing it. What do you think about this?

It seems to me that there have to be some limits. The teacher’s and the ballerina’s taste is very important here. Six o’clock is appropriate only at certain special moments, if it helps to express something and – what is most important – if it doesn’t ruin the line. When a ballerina does it, she shouldn’t cross the line of the arm with her leg. All diagonals must be kept intact. There must be harmony in the lines of arms and legs. Beauty is paramount. One mustn’t mix sport with ballet. "

The link to the full ballet.co magazine interview may be found in Dancers, Ulyana Lopatkina

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Thank goodness--a dancer with taste! Yes, yes, yes, I entirely agree with that wonderful quote. Thank you drb!

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When can I see her? :D When can I see her? :huepfen024:

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When can I see her? :shake:  When can I see her? :huepfen024:

Well..........How far are you willing to travel?

Preliminary casting for the Fall Kirov tour of the US has her as the Lilac Fairy.

The whole tour is Sleeping Beauty but the closest it comes to NYC is Detroit. The other cities are LA and Berekely

Here's the link but it is several months old.

http://www.ardani.com/kirovballettour.htm

This was on a thread here back in April

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=19238

Richard

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For a good description of high extensions and how they relate to style, see the reviews of the Kirov on Ballet.co's message board.

Also, has anyone noticed this type of high extension taking over other companies? I'd be surprised if the Kirov were the only one doing it.

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sorry for not doing this right. i'll keep trying. your format is a bit different for this old dog...

i wanted to respond to the pt of guillem's balance.

my kiddo has become a ballet fiend, after yrs of soccer, and before that some gymnastics. i was involved in dance teaching for a number of yrs, and so i'm profoundly interested in her development, esp. from a research viewpt.

anecdotely(sp) it seems to me that sylvie g. has uncanny strength to go along with that flexibility from her gymnastics training, as much as anything. the "will" to do things in gymnastics is particularly developed, as well as holding your leg in develope while your supporting foot is wiggling on a soft, cushy mat. as pilates instructors use balance boards more frequently with ballet dancers, i'm sure the level of technique, and legs!, will continue to rise...

another example of early gymnastics training is cojocaru.

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For a good description of high extensions and how they relate to style, see this post on Ballet.co.

Also, has anyone noticed this type of high extension taking over other companies?  I'd be surprised if the Kirov were the only one doing it.

Whole companies? It would depend on what they'd be willing to sacrifice to get a whole female contingent capable of both the six o'clocks and a reasonably high level of technique, plus expressive and musical qualities. But I don't know of any company that discourages it.

Re: The Ballet.co thread, post #17 includes a photo that shows two columns of Kirov corps girls with pulled-back knees. Kirov dancers! :beg:

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I meant more along the lines of dancers actively distorting the classical line in order to raise their legs higher.

Re: the Kirov's knees--isn't that how hyperextended knees always look? If you look closely, you can see that the knees are not relaxed and "locked back;" rather, the kneecaps are pulled up and the lower quadriceps are engaged.

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It's not something I see at ABT or even NYCB. It looks awfully dangerous. I hope it's an optical illusion.

I once had a discussion with a ballet-trained modern dancer and a non-dance medical professional. Medical guy kept insisting that hyperextended knees were accidents waiting to happen. Dancer and I tried to explain the difference between pulling the knees back and straightening by lengthening. I don't see that lengthening in this pic.

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In that case, I suppose it may be yet another disturbing Kirov trend...does anyone know if they've always stood that way? I have to admit that I have a tough time believing they'd be let out of the Vaganova Academy with such an obvious flaw...besides, wouldn't they have to lengthen in order to do pirouettes/generally dance en pointe? Perhaps they only lengthen when en pointe? :beg:

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I think the photo is like that partly because of the position they are in - with the body and pelvis tipped slightly, it's easier to slip back into the hyperextension. While most of the Kirov dancers have those legs, from what I've seen they know how and when to use them!

Just saw the Forsythe bill here in London yesterday, and am still thinking. I think an entire bill of Forsythe becomes a bit insipid - lots of similar steps, and oh, how tired did I get of seeing secondbesque! Ugh. And then there were those grand jetes where the front leg was thrown up so high that the girls' torsoes were also skewed backwards, so the back leg never gets up, you don't get a clean line, and the leap collapses on itself rather than really getting any elevation. But really, it was the secondbesque that I couldn't take any more of.

But, all this has me thinking, that more and more perhaps hypermobility is required in ballet. One needs to be extremely flexible to do Forsythe obviously, but what about Ashton's Monotones? So much requires this flexibility, and so many dancers now seriously work on extreme flexibility from a young age, that the chances for a dancer with less flexibility to be hired are limited. Obviously the Kirov cast accordingly for the Forsythe bill, but nonetheless - I felt like all the girls could easily do a 5 past 6 penchee.... And some of the men with their legs in front of their noses...

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Well, I've never seen Monotones, but I've also never seen a ballet that absolutely requires a dancer to do anything involving more flexibility than a split on the floor (and that's rare). Are the positions in Forsythe's work truly so extreme that it would be entirely impossible to perform his ballets without exceptional flexibility? One certainly doesn't have to raise the legs much beyond 90 degrees to dance Petipa, and even in Balanchine, while higher extensions are more desirable, one could still dance his ballets without being unusually (for a dancer) limber.

What you describe regarding the grands jetés is exactly what I noticed in Le Corsaire, and it bothers me that such sloppy dancing is now going to be what people think of when they hear "Russian technique," "Vaganova," or "Kirov." :rolleyes: I suppose anyone who wants to see Vaganova technique anywhere near properly done is going to have to go to UBA.

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