By Avery Smith
A common misconception about ballerinas is that we are more flexible than we are strong. In reality, ballet takes a balance of strength and flexibility; when one is weak, the other can falter. It is important to condition all aspects of your body, which may mean taking a step back from your flexibility to strengthen the muscles needed to sustain it. It’s a give and take.
To apply this mindset in class, think about every muscle it takes to do something as simple as a tendu. That strength in your foot comes from doing releves and working your intrinsic foot muscles, and the beautiful shape comes from stretching. These things work together to make you a strong dancer both physically and visually. It’s great to be able to pull your leg up to your head, but if you don’t have the strength in your muscles to hold it there, then that flexibility is of no use to you.
Next time you’re preparing to do a grand-jete, think about how much power comes from your plie to lift you into the air, and the flexibility it takes to get your legs to glide into a straight line. This is the balance of strength and stretch in ballet! It takes both to create the “effortless” illusion that ballerinas know so well.