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Classical ballet is a centuries-old art form that relies on highly-stylized and graceful movements. Professional ballerinas begin each day at the barre, warming up and refining their technique. Before attempting relevés, sautés, or advanced moves, you'll need to stretch properly to avoid dance injuries. If you’re not a ballet dancer, ballet stretches will still help you improve your flexibility and range of motion.

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6 Ballet Stretches to Improve Your Flexibility

In ballet, stretching and warming up are considered separate activities. Always stretch before doing warm-up exercises.

  1. Barre hamstring stretches: Use the barre to stretch out your hamstrings and other leg muscles. Stand at arm’s length from the barre and lift your right leg up to meet the barre. Rest your foot over the barre and hinge your upper body forward to lean into your leg. Then, switch and stretch your left leg.
  2. Tendus: The term tendu is French for “stretched,” and it is a fundamental move in ballet. However, you can also do tendus during your stretch regimen. Begin in a standing position and extend your working leg (the leg you’ll be stretching rather than standing on), lift the heel away from the floor, and point your toes to the ground. You can do this with your leg pointing forward, sideways, or backward.
  3. Lunges: Standard lunges stretch your hips, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs. Stand with your back straight and your legs hip-width apart. Step forward with one leg, keeping the foot flat and the knee at 90 degrees. Lower the back knee, allowing it to hover above the floor.
  4. Standing quad stretch: Stand with one leg planted firmly on the ground. Lift your other leg up behind you, bending at the knee, and grab the ankle with your corresponding hand, guiding your foot in toward your body. You should feel this stretch in your quadriceps and hip flexors.
  5. Kneeling quad stretch: Begin this stretch in a lunge position, with your front leg bent at 90 degrees. Rest your back knee on the ground, then grab your back foot with the corresponding hand. Pull your foot in toward your glute, and hold for a deeper stretch.
  6. Front split: Front splits stretch the hip flexors, groin, glutes, and hamstrings. Start with a half-split: Extend your body into a low lunge position, then rest your back knee on the ground and straighten your front leg. Sink deeper into this stretch until you’re able to straighten the back leg and do a full split.

4 Tips for New Ballet Dancers

If you're new to ballet or it’s been a while since you've performed, consider these best practices for warming up:

  1. Invest in good footwear. Find a ballet shoe that fits your foot. Whether you choose full sole or split-sole ballet shoes, make sure they have grips at the balls of the feet.
  2. Don't overstretch. Overstretching puts you at greater risk for injury. Stretch until your body feels warm and flexible enough to complete barre exercises.
  3. Stay hydrated. Dancing is a sport, and you're likely to sweat a lot, even if you're just doing barre stretches. Hydrate well before you start, and keep a water bottle by your side.
  4. Listen to your body. It takes time and practice to master proper ballet technique and choreography. Don't push your body into any pose that makes you uncomfortable.
Misty Copeland Teaches Ballet Technique and Artistry
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Practice ballet with Misty Copeland, the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to put individual barre techniques together to create powerful performances and introduce artistry to your choreography.

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