Dancers, PLEASE Stretch Your Knees!

So it’s audition photoshoot season right now, and I wanted to just take a moment to talk about a common issue we seem to have with dancers in my studio: Knees!!!

You would be surprised at how often we pause a photo shoot to talk basics. Lately, the biggest offender in over 50% of my shoots have been unstretched knees.

The hyperextended leg line has always been desirable in a ballet physique (and of course dancers in general), but it can also leave the dancer prone to injury and instability en pointe. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a shift in dancer safety when it comes to hyperextension, but unfortunately some solutions in the classroom do not translate to the camera.

Dancer: Kaeli Ware, Photo: Rachel Neville

I have spoken with many dancers during shoots about the concept of microbending for combat the “sitting back in the knee” that often comes with hyperextention. Microbending sends up red flags to my dancer and teacher brain as this method can cause muscles to grip and fatigue easily from trying to maintain an unnatural position to get  a “straight look” instead of a lengthened leg. It also sends up red flags to my photographer brain; the line of the microbent leg will be broken and shortened, jumps will lack strength, and the ultimately result is falling short of capturing that perfect shot, you at your very best.

Dancer: Liza Arentsen, Photo: Rachel Neville

Of course talk to your teacher first, they know your technique best. But I do have a few suggestions from my own personal experience on the stage and behind the camera:

  • Avoid sitting back in your heels. This may “feel natural”, but your weight should be shifted towards your metatarsal.
  • Work on strengthening and lengthening the muscles around the kneecap to support and prevent injury instead of taking “short cut” solutions.
  • Remember that a photoshoot is different than a technique class. Always lengthen from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes.

Remember, the details are what separate a good dancer (and a good dance photo) from a GREAT one!



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