LAST EDITED ON 13-03-02 AT 09:16 AM (GMT)
The great professor Enrico Cecchetti was wont to say - not an exact quote, but a paraphrase - "a ligament is like an elastic band, with one critical difference: it does not bounce back. Once it has been overstretched, it never will regain its previous elasticity."
An over-stretched ligament allows you to do something YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING. An over-stretched ligament will shorten your career, perhaps by as much as a FIFTEEN YEARS.
Each individual joint in the body, as Trog has just explained, in each individual person, has its own peculiar range, or "ambitus" as the doctors call it. Ambitus can be scientifically determined, and once that has been done, one should never attempt to go beyond it. Children are highly flexible, but as they build up muscle strength in adolescence, their ambitus becomes reduced. In other words, natural ambitus alters with age.
Olympic gymnasts and circus acrobats are a poor example for a ballet dancer, indeed, the worst possible example, because their bodies are a shambolic wreck by the time they are 30, whereas ballet dancers should only be hitting their artistic stride by that age.
The notion of ideal flexibility has greatly altered over the last century, althought the human body has not altered, in its essentials, at all. If you watch a Bournonville (1805-1879) class or ballet, you will note that the emphasis is on strength, speed, firm floor contact, aplomb, placement, and correct use of the head, eyes and upper body. If you watch a typical "Balanchine", "Russian" or "Forsythe" class/performance today, you will note that the emphasis is 100% on hyperextensions (picking up the leg as high as possible), extreme flexibility, and very light floor contact.
One of the greatest problems we face in the ballet world today, is an irrational demand from instructors and from choreographers, for ever-greater flexibility. It is more "commercial".
Dancers can of course force themselves to do it. But that is precisely why most now retire before reaching the age of 30. They are as worn out, as used up, as a circus acrobat.
Keep an eye on your child's professor; if you find that he is demanding excessive "stretching", react.