Everyone in my dance class can get to at least 90 degrees in their développé with the correct placement, and a few of them can get to 120 degrees with the correct placement. I can only get my legs to about 45 degrees to the front and side before my teachers tell me that my placement is incorrect. How do I get my développés to consistently be at least 90 degrees and keep my placement correct?
Most dancers can maintain correct placement as they bring their knee to 90 degrees of flexion when the knee is bent, but once you straighten the knee, things can get tricky. The hamstrings stretch, while the hip flexors contract to bring your leg up. If the hamstrings are tight, they will pull your leg down as you straighten the knee. If this is the case, then you want to focus your energy on hamstring stretching.
Another thing that might challenge your développés is a tight iliopsoas. If you stand with a slight swayback, it's harder to keep your pelvis upright. In this case, you want to focus on stretching out the iliopsoas. That being said, the iliopsoas muscle needs to be strong enough to take your leg above 90 degrees. It's not unusual to find dancers with weak iliopsoas muscles who try to muscle the leg up by using the quads. Try some targeted iliopsoas strengthening to help this.
Lastly, what I would like to de-myth is the idea that dancers can keep their pelvis square without the hips lifting or tilting above 90 degrees. This is impossible! The hip must adjust for the change in leg height. The audience won't notice, though, if you can maintain an erect and upright alignment. Try imagining the spine lengthening upward as you lift the leg.
To your success,
Director, The Body Series
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