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We've talked about hyperextensions: how about underextensions?


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#1 canbelto

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 04:17 PM

The topic of hyperextensions is frequently brought up on this board, but have you ever seen cases of underextension, meaning the dancer didn't have the required flexibility/mobility for a role? And did it bother you?
The most prominent case I can think of is Miranda Weese. I've seen her both live and on video, and she has a very uneasy arabesque -- at times, it seems as if she has trouble getting it to 90 degrees, even. I saw the video of her Swan Lake (when she stepped in last minute for Darci Kistler) and I felt that her body (upper and lower) simply wasn't pliant enough to be a convincing swan.
I also thought the ABT corps had trouble with Sylvia, and when I saw the Royal Ballet video I realized what was missing: a kind of easy fluidity of the upper body that really flatters Ashton's choreography. Don't think the ABT got the look right, maybe they will when this year.
These are two cases I can think of, but can anyone else think of bad cases of underextension?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:35 PM

Hyper- and hypo- extension, in the anatomical sense refer to things skeletal where the joint reaches full travel at behind or in front of, straight, respectively. There's nothing much can be done about hypoextension. The knee comes to a locked position while it still appears bent. The only fix is surgery. Incidentally, having the ability to stick one's leg high up in the air is a different issue entirely from the technical term "hyperextended".

#3 saritachan

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 08:25 AM

Hyper- and hypo- extension, in the anatomical sense refer to things skeletal where the joint reaches full travel at behind or in front of, straight, respectively. There's nothing much can be done about hypoextension. The knee comes to a locked position while it still appears bent. The only fix is surgery. Incidentally, having the ability to stick one's leg high up in the air is a different issue entirely from the technical term "hyperextended".


Hum... interesting... So has there been any cases where dancers have had surgeries purely to add more "extension" to their legs? or any other parts of their bodies for that matter? surgery for more strength, more flexibility not for injury.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 09:41 AM

Yes, but they certainly don't dance after. Such surgeries usually are undertaken after the patient has reached full stature, or nearly so, and before a surgery like that, the patient wouldn't have been hireable, or in some cases, even trainable, as a dancer.

Remember, "extension" when it comes to joints has little or nothing to do with "sticking the leg up in the air."

#5 Hans

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 08:50 PM

Canbelto, I think not being able to raise one's leg high enough is a different issue from fluidity of movement. Even if a dancer is not particularly flexible, if s/he moves well, it won't matter.

#6 omshanti

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 11:12 PM

Nureyev when he was really sick or Plisetskaya recently might be like that. But the height of the leg was not the issue really. The issue was that they could not do the positions properly any more. For example their arabesques were not arabesques any more regardless of the height of their legs. That is why Margot Fonteyn was so amazing. Her arabesque was arabesque to the very end.

#7 canbelto

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 07:03 AM

One dancer I've noticed that doesn't have an easy, solid arabesque is Miranda Weese. She has the flexibility, but I've seen her several times and her legs all of a sudden lock at the strangest times.

#8 Paul Parish

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 09:30 AM

Canbelto, you raise the interesting issue of the upper back as extendable-- Americans have tended to thing of extensions as meaning LEGS, and the back has had to lose pliancy as the legs were raised higher and higher -- or viewed another way, the back has been trained less and less as the attention went to the legs.

It's partly a choreographic difference -- Ashton really was interested in making the torso dance. Sometimes I think of it as being an interest in the middle chakras -- the waist and the heart and throat chakras are very active in his ballets, which produces a more emotional (naysayers would say sentimental) effect than the cooler American manner, which mostly concentrates on keeping the center Pilates-stable and quiet. The best example i could cite is the way Antoinette Sibley dances Princess Florine in the Royal Ballet's old 1-act Sleeping Beauty -- she's flying along in the finale and doing double ronde-de jambe-pas de bourree with the upper body sweeping along at DRASTIC tilts as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

Violette Verdy danced like that in Emeralds, too -- so it's not just an English thing, and not something Balanchine did not use on occasion or value. but he used it more for volupte than for sentiment.


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