Photos by Kyle Froman, modeled by Gwen Vandenhoeck of Ballet Academy East

Try These 3 Smarter Hamstring Stretches

Throwing your leg onto a barre is one way to stretch your hamstring, but you're cheating yourself out of a full stretch of the muscle, says Jennifer Green, owner of PhysioArts physical therapy clinic in New York City. "You might start stretching the back of the knee and feel it more in the ligaments there," says Green. "But you really want to feel the stretch in the middle of the back of your thigh."

Since ballet dancers ask a lot of their hamstrings, it's important to learn to stretch the area thoroughly and safely. The muscles' main role is to bend the knees (think fondu, passé, développé), but they also assist in extending the hip and eccentrically controlling hip flexion (like stabilizing your standing leg when you penché). Green offers these three stretches that target the muscles' entire range while protecting your knee joints.


Before Class: Lying Leg Press

Kyle Froman

1. Lie on your back with both legs in parallel and your left foot on the floor. Interlock your hands behind your right knee to protect the joint from hyperextension throughout this series.

Before Class: Bottoms Up

Kyle Froman

1. Stand in parallel with your feet slightly wider than your hips, and bend into a squat. Rest your elbows on your thighs to support the weight of your upper body. Keep a flat back with a slight forward tip of the pelvis to isolate the end of your hamstrings near the pelvis.

After Class: Seated Passive Stretch

Kyle Froman

1. Sit with one leg stretched in front of you in parallel and the other folded in. Place a rolled-up pair of tights or a small towel under your knee to protect it from hyperextension. Sit up tall, directly over your sitz bones.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Coming Back to Ballet After Years Away Has Saved Me During the Pandemic Shutdown

I was 4 years old when I took my first ballet lesson. My mom had dressed me in a pink leotard with matching tights, skirt and slippers. She drove me on a Saturday morning to a ballet academy in downtown Caguas, the town in Puerto Rico where I grew up. I don't remember much from the first lesson, but I do recall the reverence. My teacher Mónica asked the class if someone wanted to volunteer to lead. She was surprised I—the new girl—was the one to raise my hand.

I made up most of the steps, mimicking the ballerinas I had seen on TV and videos. At one point, Mónica stepped in and asked me to lead the class in a bow. I followed her directions and curtseyed in front of the mirror with one leg behind me and a gentle nod. I looked up to find myself in awe of what I had just done.

This was the same feeling I had when, after years away from dance, I finished my first YouTube ballet class at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks