The Secret to a High Front Développé
The secret to a high front développé is three muscles and awareness. These three muscles must be strengthened. How do you do that?
Flexibility for a high front devéloppé
To have a high développé front, it is assumed that you have flexibility in your hamstrings. That is a given. If you cannot touch your toes, your leg will never reach 90 degrees. Many students, both adult and youth have asked me “How do I développé without gripping my quads?” So if you are trying to get to 90 degrees at first, these exercises are helpful for learning to release the quads.
Let go of tension
Basically, you must learn to let go of tension where we do not need it as dancers. The quadriceps are the strongest group of muscles in our legs. Naturally, they will stay somewhat engaged in all positions. It is a matter of not gripping them and let the less strong muscles do their part. Keeping your rotation is the major task to avoid a grippy thigh!Keeping your rotation is the major task to avoid a grippy thigh! Higher extensions in ballet.Click To Tweet
Strength for a high front devéloppé
It is also super important to not flatten and curve the lower back. This is where the lower back and abdominals come into play!
The muscles to use are
- Iliopsoas (psoas+illiacus)
- Lower back
Conditioning exercises to do on your own.
Sit on the floor* with your weight resting back on your hands. You will have a slight tilt on your sit bones. This exercise can be done parallel and turned out.
Parallel: both legs are stretched out in front. Lift one leg up, slightly bent and pulse it four times as you lift it towards your body. Engage your low back and abdominals. Repeat for a set of 4-6. Change legs.
*I sat on a sturdy side table for the photos.
Turned out attitude:
Same exercise but start with both legs on the floor in a V. The objective will be to keep your back lifted and aligned (still slightly inclined back) as you decrease the space between your leg and chest.
- ~modification 1: lift the leg from underneath with the same hand as leg and hold it for four counts. Release the leg and hold it for four more counts. Remember to exhale with effort and repeat for a total of 4-6 times.
- ~modification 2: repeat all with no hands behind you or assisting the leg.
Other supportive exercises:
The V sit– classic movement, but difficult to do. I recommend starting in sitting posture, legs pulled into the body on demi-pointe, extend one leg and then the other slowly. Maintain extension for 4-8 counts. Repeat for a total of four sets.
Ease in extension occurs when you access the correct angle and muscles. It will occur when you discover where the location of these muscles and apply an image. Most importantly, you must also be aware of the muscles you do not wish to use.
Turn one on. Turn one off.
For example, if your hip consistently hikes up in the front extension, you are using the wrong muscles. High extensions only happen in combination with some relaxation and awareness of others. Condition your psoas and practice visualization and your extension will soar after a bit of consistent practice!
Isn’t it wonderful that something that looks effortless is easier than it seems? The next element to add is strength, and stance in the standing leg. That involves another set of muscles and a future post 🙂
If you are interested in higher extensions, a video demonstrating how to get higher extensions to the front, side and back are included in “The Ballet Toolbox“.