The Cost Of Flexibility





As an adult ballet dancer it's easy to get caught up in the desperate fight to become flexible. Look on any adult dancer's IG account and you'll see a lot about their splits progress. Becoming more flexible was never a concern for me until about 2 years into my ballet journey. Whilst we had flexibility exercises in class, it wasn't something I ever thought to do on my own. It was only after I started to see ballet as something I was really serious about that flexibility became something to strive for, since being flexible produces much better lines. So I stretched and I managed to achieve the splits at 40 years old, for the first time in my life, and I reached a fairly nice 90 degree arabesque. 

However, I have had a bit of a u-turn about this flexibility stuff as 44 is looming ever closer. I've started to focus on joint and muscle health and over stretching ligaments and muscles, especially at this age, just isn't a good thing. A stretched ligament is a weak one. Every time I did the oversplits in class I got a niggling feeling that this wasn't a good thing to do, especially with hyper-extended legs like mine. I could feel my hyper-extension get more pronounced every time I did it, which in turn was making my knees weaker and weaker. 


The oversplits

The oversplits

The next day after stretch class I can barely walk because of my knees. I have to get Prince B to help me walk down hills as I wouldn't be able to walk without him holding me. I started to think about that and what that would mean for me when I'm 60, or 50 even. Do I want to damage my joints for the sake of a higher leg extension? I've realised the answer is absolutely no. I will never have a 180 degree turnout but I feel that being able to dance beautifully is a far more important goal. So now I focus my attention on the quality of my movements rather than trying to get the highest grand battement. I close in on the position of my hands instead of pushing for the widest turnout. If I can one day achieve a beautifully executed adage, with soft flowing movements then I'll happily take that over the middle splits.