Have you ever looked back at your aerial videos from practice or performance and noticed your back leg in skills similar to splits, arabesque or music box was a bit forgotten? Yep, it happens!
This week's technique tip is brought to you by pro dancer, aerialist and Master Trainer Christine Wunderlich. She put together some at-home exercises that will help you improve your back leg extension.
Arabesque line is shared with many different art forms; gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming and yes, aerial arts too. Upside down or right side up, an actively engaged back leg in splits, arabesque and other similar skills, not only looks beautiful but helps keep your joints safe & healthy.
Watch the video below for at-home conditioning, stretches & ballet exercises to improve your back leg extension!
Exercise 1: Prone Leg Lifts Laying face down on the floor, fully engage your leg – don’t let the knee bend. Pointed foot. Lift one leg without arching your back or lifting your hips off the ground. Repeat both sides & then together. Then try with turned-out legs. You should feel a booty engagement but not pain in your lower back. Draw your belly button in away from the floor to protect your lower back.
Exercise 2: Active Leg Lunges Keeping hips square, go to your deepest lunge where you can maintain a fully straight back leg. Keep your front knee above your ankle. Holding your balance, bend the back leg to tap the knee on the ground. Stretch & straighten the leg & actively drive the heel back behind you. Repeat. Both Sides.
Do you sit often? Frequent sitting can cause tight hip flexors & weak booty muscles. The next 2 exercises are perfect to activate.
Exercise 3: Hip Flexor Stretch Kneeling with both legs at a 90* position. Tuck your pelvis under. Maintaining the pelvis tuck, lunge slightly forward. This is small & not a deep lunge. Keep your hips inline & avoid twisting. For an extra bonus, reach your opposite arm up & over the front leg. Keep the hips tucked under.
Exercise 4: Tendu Derriére with Turn In & Out In a turned out in Ballet 1st position, brush & extend a straight leg directly behind you until the foot is fully pointed. Now actively turn the leg parallel & then back again to turned out. Maintain your straight leg & pull up your kneecap. Often if we cannot see our leg it is hard to find that engagement. Try your Tendu Derrière in front of a mirror or make a video to check! Is that leg REALLY straight? Is it REALLY behind you? Out of sight, out of mind!
Exercise 5: Low Arabesque with Mini Attitude Extend a straight leg backward to Tendu Derrière and lift it 45* off the ground to Low Arabesque. Now slightly bend the leg to a bent or attitude position. Give power to your leg & straighten. Feel your active engagement.
Exercise 6: Arabesque Arabesque is a position where a dancer stands on one leg and extends the other leg straight behind with elongated arms extending in the opposite direction. Sounds complicated? Think of it as an extension of a Tendu Derriére.
Finally, from your Tendu lift your leg towards 90*, parallel to the ground. This requires active engagement & balance & is challenging but with oh-so-beautiful results.
Well done, you did it! If engaging your back leg in the air is a challenge for you we'd recommend adding these exercises to your warm-up repertoire 2-3 times per week until you start to notice progress!
P.S. Did you know Christine offers virtual 1:1 coaching? Have aerial-specific goals you'd like guidance in achieving? Putting together an aerial act? Christine can help! Click here to check out her Aerial Edge program!