A peculiar week. I only could go to class on Monday evening. On Thursday, I had to attend a happening at my work, one of my colleagues celebrated his 40th jubilee.
In the Monday lesson, Lyda talked about an article she had read about stretching in Dance Informa, Australian Edition (DanceInforma.com). A study at The Australian Ballet delivered some surprising results as to what works in stretching and what is actually damaging to the body and increasing the risk of injury. Muscles shouldn’t be passively stretched, that’s what the article says. I’m interested to know how Lisa Howell thinks about this. Maybe I’ll look into this another time.
Lyda started with a new series of exercises. One of them is développé. That means trembling muscles, perspiration running down my cheeks. I described this experience as “the walls of Jericho came tumbling down” in one of my earlier blogs, number 13.
To understand and practice the développé, I did some research. And I found some answers in the book “Ballet beyond tradition.” It is one of my favorite books about ballet, written by Anna Paskevska, former ballet teacher and scholar at the faculty of The Chicago Academy for the Arts and Columbia College. She died at the age of 69 in 2007. You can find more specifics on her on tallskinny.com. She manages to precisely describe and motivate the movements in ballet. She thinks, analyzes, and explains, using words and examples that fit precisely into my kind of thinking. In a way, I feel fond of her. But stop, that’s weird. I’m growing sentimental about a person I’ve never met before.
She helps me to pierce this intriguing exercise, the développé.
You don’t contract the leg muscles, specifically the quads when lifting the leg. That leads to the overdevelopment of the quads. By that, you overlook the role of the hip flexors. You have to maintain an elongated spine and an aligned pelvis to facilitate access to the iliopsoas and to enable it to utilize its function of lifting the leg. In a développé, all the muscles of the leg that need to be used will be engaged when the starting position of the body is correct; the muscles of the torso and deep muscles of the hip joint will support the motion. The movement’s action depends on the direction of the extension. To the front, once the leg has been lifted to a high retiré, the inner thigh and foot lead the motion outward to the full extension. The iliopsoas muscles carry the weight of the leg. To the side, the thigh is lifted further upward from the retiré position before the leg begins to unfold. To the back, the thigh again leads the unfolding, and the pelvis tilts forward in response.
You have to train the inner muscular strength to make these controlled, intentional movements possible. And here is the tantalizing thing: it takes time, a lot of time.
Four times to the front, 4 times to the side, 4 times to the back. I felt torn.