hyperextension, and notes on ballet

***More detailed information in this more recent post!!!***

My ballet teacher told me yesterday that I have hyperextended legs, which makes it difficult for me to close my feet in fifth position. hyperextensionarabesque

See how their legs bend back at the knee? This is good and bad. It’s good in that hyperextension is considered aesthetically pleasing in that it elongates the line of the leg, and like having beautifully arched insteps (which I sadly do not also possess), it’s part of what gives ballet dancers that ballet “look.” It’s hard to find a professional ballerina who is not hyperextended. However, it also means that it’s much easier for me to injure my joints because they’re naturally extra-stretchy.

It’s good to know also because it explains why it’s so damn difficult for me to keep my feet in fifth position. And I thought it was leg chub this whole time.

Must be more diligent about warmups now. A girl snapped her achilles in class the week before last. You could hear the loud pop! and then a heavy thud as she crashed to the ground. Once you snap your achilles, that means surgery and 8-9 months of no dancing. And no walking without crutches, for that matter.

Overall, though, I am very pleased with my progress so far. Most people at the studio now assume that I had danced intensively as a child or teenager. But the greatest pleasure I’ve been getting out of ballet lately is the fact that it’s not academia. In reflecting on my what–3rd full year? in ballet, I realize what a relief it’s been as a stress reliever. Dancing is a wholly separate system of thought; it uses completely unfamiliar parts of the ole noggin. I can focus solely on breathing, movement, muscles, and music; there’s none of the achey immobile processing that rules most of my day.

It usually takes 3 hours for me to get to ballet, dance, and go home. I enjoy every second of the process, from the moment I climb onto the bus to my teacher’s corrections (“do it again”) to climbing off the bus a few hours later. Next term, I hope to up classes to 4 a week, with pointe preparation classes.

I realize that I will never be “good enough” at ballet. To some degree, I will always suck. But it’s a refreshing reality check, because I don’t have to worry about perfection, as I do in my writing and academic work. Since I’ll never be good enough to be a professional, I can really just enjoy the challenge without the massive expectations of my adolescence (which hover now over my graduate studies).

Vive la danse!

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12 thoughts on “hyperextension, and notes on ballet

  1. Lindy

    I feel very much the same way about yoga. I’m an inflexible klutz and I’ll probably never be able to do that pose where you balance your knees on your forearms (see http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/crow.htm). But the stress relief aspect is amazing and I love being able to live in my body for a little while instead of just in my head.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Hyperextension and ballet « wandering apricot

  3. lisa

    I just reread this post after your recent one, and I want to say for Lindy if you ever come back here, I never thought I could do Crow either until I went to an alignment-based class. The teacher taught us how to get into Crow from Malasana and after one class I got closer to Crow than I’ve ever done. I’d always thought of Crow as a strength/flexibility pose but now it just seems more like strength/balance. Now, after six months, I can do Crow for a few seconds at a time. 😀

    Reply
  4. Enid

    I am at the exact position right now! I only just began taking ballet lessons about a month ago, everybody assumes I had taken lessons previously (which I havent) and they just told me I have hyperextension. At first I thought I could never dance as well as the others because of that, but now that I am researching about it I realize it’s only a matter of being careful and not hurting my joints! 😉

    anyway, just passing by! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Domenico

    Hello!

    This is a great and enlithening article about hyperextension. I was once told that I had hyperextension on my knees but I never figured it out completely… util now.

    I started my Ballet studies quite older then I expected (25), and only for the last (and first) 8 monts of activities I realized what hyperxentension trully means to ballet dancers.

    It´s amazing how hard is to hold and perform some positions; like to hold the 5th, to do a simple balanced pirouete, maintain yourself in balance while performing an arabesque or an attittude, etc.

    My teacher told me that I have a beautifull body line, still, as counter-point, it means that I have a difficult to work-with body, because of my hyperextended knees, elbows, etc.

    I seeked over to learn about this matter, but was never fully sucessfull in finding such good explanations and interesting tips on how to care about such knees.

    In my case I can´t take ballet at professional level; in fact, it is a form to complete myself, to do what I allways wantedf to do, to enjoy the benefits and the hapiness that is to overcome yourself day by day, practicing an activity that combines pleasure and pain, in form so… undescribable. 😉

    Congrats to you all, good to know that we, “hyperex knees” are not alone ;o)

    And let´s dance people!

    Reply
  6. georgie

    Hey!!! Im alot like you – at uni and doing ballet on the side – I only recently found out that my hyperextended knees were actually a good thing!!! pity my arches are pretty dismal!!!

    thanks for the post!

    Reply
  7. Katrina

    I studied ballet for 16 yrs in my youth and yes I’m hyper extended (everywhere) and great turn out. I was great @ adagio dancing (slow sustained movement) always my favorite but could never gain the strength for jumps and turns off balance and off beat. As far as 5th position try very slighty relaxing the muscle (gluts) and try to find the muscle at the inner thigh. Its hard to recongnize mentally because we hyper girls tend to use the thigh muscle more then non hyer girls its almost the fegel muscle. A good instructor should be able to guide you. I got most of my initial training from Washington School of Ballet. Their style was based on the french who have beautiful arms and legs. Perfect example look up Sylvie Guillem she very hyper extended but the complete package. Keep dancing there is nothing better.

    Reply
  8. Crystal

    Hey, how old are you now?
    I started pointe when i was 10
    I usually have 4-5 classes a week about 2 hours each lesson.
    I wish i was hyper extended, my teacher just told i have X legs, when you’re in first position, both my heels cant touch each other, does that count as hyper extension?
    Btw im 14 🙂
    Good Luck!

    Reply
  9. Marty

    Not a dancer, but All my dancer friends love my (very) hyper extended legs and High arches. Kinda strange to see my friends turn into foot fetishers for a moment when they see my feet.

    Its always been a problem while I was in cross-country. I now almost exclusively try to run barefoot style. so much better feeling.

    Reply

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