I don't have very long legs, but I want to maximize my line. Is it okay to create an illusion, or should I just work honestly with what I have? —Amanda
There's nothing wrong with a little smoke and mirrors, as long as you're not compromising your technique or hiding behind excessive layers of warm-ups. Very few people are perfectly proportional—I find ways to lengthen my short arms by experimenting with my port de bras and through my leotard choices. (For the record, you'll never see me in a cap-sleeved leotard. Ever.)
Since I have long legs, I asked Colorado Ballet principal Dana Benton, who clocks in at 5' 1", how she lengthens her lines. She is very conscious of how and where she initiates leg movements. Rather than gripping her thighs, she uses her hamstrings and inner thighs to lengthen the legs from underneath. “Over time that has helped lengthen my quad muscles," she says, “making my line look longer." Daily Pilates exercises, done slowly on a reformer, help her reinforce the proper muscles. “I put my hands on my hip flexors and if I start to grip them, I stop and start again."
In addition, be conscious of keeping your legs very crossed in croisé devant and croisé derrière positions—as soon as they drift out to the side, the line shortens. Without distorting your technique, practice different positions in the mirror to find the most flattering angle.
Certain wardrobe choices help, too. For instance, Benton usually doesn't roll her pink tights up. “I keep them around my foot to give my legs a longer look," she says. If black tights are your thing, try ones with stirrups. European-cut leotards, which come up higher on the hip, also create length.
Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at email@example.com.