Developing strength and improving the height of leg in a developpé.
So many girls have good flexibility when stretching, but find it hard to use this when dancing, especially with a developpé. If you simply practise the step over and over, often the result is bulky thighs, with not a lot of increase in range. This will happen if you are trying to use the front of the leg to lift, rather than controlling the leg from the hip. Many girls try to improve the height of the leg by training with weights. This is not recommended, as the dancer simply learns to use the muscles that are already working more, rather than discovering the true turnout muscles, and the smaller muscles required to stabilize the leg en l’air.
Here is a simple exercise to increase the range of your developpé devant.
· To work out all the true muscles needed to work the leg devant, lie on your back, with your legs out straight and your hands on your hips.
· Slowly pull the foot up into a retire position (feel your inner thighs working!).
· Make sure that the hips stay square, and don’t hitch or twist!
· Slowly unfold the leg as for a developpé devant working on controlling the turnout from the hip, and lengthening the leg.
· You will not be able to cheat by tucking the pelvis in this position, but the leg will feel a lot lighter, so you can focus on correct placement!
· Slowly lower the leg, making sure you use your abdominals so that your back doesn’t arch!
· If you can control the leg and pelvis well with a developpé to 90 degrees without moving the hips, you will be able to achieve a much greater height of leg when you let the pelvis become involved (it has to begin to shift a little above this). However, if you are hitching and struggling to get to 90 degrees, you will find it very hard to improve beyond this point unless you really focus on your stability.
You can also do this for a developpé a la seconde (lying on your side), but make sure that your hips start and end nice and square. You do need to rotate the pelvis slightly towards the end of the movement, but this should be gradual, and only as much as you really need!
If you practise developpé in this position, your muscles will learn how to control the leg much easier, and you will find that your range improves quite quickly. Then, when you practise in standing, everything feels a lot more familiar.