3 Essential Stretches to Improve Your Turnout

Whether you’re trying to improve your flexibility, warm up for class, or just relieve some muscle soreness, stretching can be extremely beneficial. For this tutorial, we’ve picked our favorite basic hip-opening stretches inspired by our favorite yoga poses and in-class exercises.

Each of these poses can be modified to be either more or less intense, so choose the best variation for you. As always, listen to your body and keep in mind these tips for safe stretching:

  • Repeat the stretch on both sides. Don’t give up on one side when it can’t quite do what the other can. Symmetry makes for good alignment!
  • Breathe. It seems obvious, but it’s a natural tendency to hold your breath during a deep stretch. Taking deep breaths sends oxygen through your blood and to your muscles, which both feels great and helps your stretch.
  • Move slowly in and out of stretches, and never force yourself past the point of pain. Protect your instrument!

Drop-Second Plié

Stand in a wide second position, turning out only as much as your hips will allow. Hold onto a barre, table, chair, etc. for support as you bend into a deep grand plié. This stretch will be wider and lower than a proper grand plié, and you’ll want the weight of your pelvis to drop between your heels. Be careful of over-rotation — always keep the arches lifted, with all five toes rooted into the floor.

If you feel stable enough to balance in this position, try lifting your hands off the barre and placing them at your chest, palms together. Place your elbows at the insides of your knees and push your hands downward to push the knees back and open. Remember to breathe! To recover, gently take your elbows away from your knees, place your hands back on the barre, and use your glutes to rise and straighten your knees.

DROP 2nd

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Ballerina Profile: Deborah Novak


Deborah Novak returned to ballet over ten years ago at the age of 47 after having danced ballet professionally until the age of 23. Read her incredible story below!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I returned to ballet in the fall of 2003 at age 47.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

In 1960, I began to study ballet at age 5. I danced throughout my high school years with the Jebedon Ballet theatre, a local company in Huntington, West Virginia. For college, I went to NYU, where I studied with Nenette Charisse, and also at the American Ballet Theatre, with teachers such as Leon Danelion, Patricia Wilde, and Madame Swoboda. After college, I danced professionally in national touring companies, regional theatre, and summer stock, playing such roles as Maria in West Side Story. I danced until 1978 and stopped when I was 23. Funny, I saw that many of my friends quit ballet at the same time.

 Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I was at the gym one day, listening to that horrible pounding music they play, watching the stupid daytime sit-coms on the TV bank, and it suddenly hit me that I can do better than this. I was trained as an artist, and I might as well do something artistic. So I went to one of the Nautilus machines, used it as a barre, and began a slow developpe a la seconde. And then it happened: I saw that I could still do it. I let go of the “barre” and guess what . . . I balanced. Was it a perfect developpe? Far from it. But my extension was still there and my placement was still there.

Where do you take classes?

I’m currently with the Charleston Ballet in Charleston, WV, but I am cast as the “Russian Dancer” in the Huntington Dance Theatre’s 2014 Nutcracker. Here, I am working with choreographer Robert Royce, and taking his company class with numerous 16 year-olds.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Believe it or not, I enjoy barre-work. I love to work on my body, developing fine motor-control, getting in touch with little-used muscles, and improving my technique. Barre-work is like a journey into the self. I’m constantly checking my body, and trying to discover what I need to do to get better. On another point, what I love about ballet is melding movement to music. I feel that music has been de-emphasized in much contemporary dance–indeed, many choreographers can’t even read a score. But in ballet, the music still holds a primary place. And I love moving to classical music.

What is your least favorite part?

My least favorite part is what most people love: performance. I have done over 1000 productions (not just dance, but theatre, film, and television), and I’m not thrilled by putting on a tutu and a tiara. I’ve been there and done that. I do, however, enjoy rehearsing and developing a role in order to make it my own.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

About 3 years ago, I directed a PBS documentary entitled STEVEN CARAS: SEE THEM DANCE. This program, which won an Emmy, centered on Mr. Caras, a former New York City Ballet dancer who became a world famous dance photographer. In the course of doing this show, I interviewed many of the Golden Age Balanchine dancers, such as Jacques d’Amboise, Patricia McBride, Kay Mazzo, Peter Martins, among many others. These were the dancers I grew up with in the 1960s, and this group is my inspiration to this day.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I have worked in the performing arts for many years, and I feel that I have something to say in dance. Since I know the balletic vocabulary and am a musician as well, I would like to try my hand at choreography.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, I only take ballet classes. The so-called Modern or Contemporary vocabulary only appeals to me insofar as it is applied to a basic ballet technique. (I do, however, cross-train with yoga.)

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I love college football. On Saturday afternoons, after morning classes, I park myself in front of the TV and switch channels from game to game. Interestingly enough, many of the girls in my company are football fans as well. When we are backstage in our pointe shoes, I get a kick out of the big burly stage hands, who can’t believe we’re talking about a quarterback’s completion percentage.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

For a person returning to ballet, I recommend going very slowly. Don’t try to do what you did at 16. Ease back into it. You will get a number of aches and pains, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a little physical therapy and TLC. If you are just starting out as an adult, you must have enormous patience with yourself. At each class, find one thing that you did very well. It might be a simple port de bras, but that’s fine. Just try to master one element and focus on what you did very well.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to encourage adults to take ballet. The rewards are great: anything from taking the fatty deposits off your thighs to working at a high level of artistic expression. Get a good teacher, who knows balletic technique, and go to class as often as you can.

Do you have a blog?

No, but since I’m 60 years old now, and still dancing on pointe, I’m considering it. Some very interesting situations have developed with the 16 year olds I dance with, and I think others might find it interesting, and perhaps, amusing.


Thursday’s are for Thinking Out Loud #5


Check out the link up at runningwithspoons.com!

Admittedly, it’s been pretty hectic around here. HQ started a new job last week (yay!) meaning I’ve been doing a lot of this blog work solo (if you notice more typos or grammar mistakes, that’s why).

Dancing with the Stars

10.01.2014 Ice Dance Championships SDI’ve actually never watched this dance TV show, but I tuned in on Monday to catch Meryl Davis and Charlie White. While I’m far from the biggest fan of the show, I imagine I’ll keep tuning in while the two of them are still on the show.

Talenti Gelato

Talenti Fudge Brownie GelatoEarlier this week, I was really craving gelato, and really wanted to get some from one of the gelato places in Philly. Unfortunately, that’ll run you about $5 for a teeny tiny cup of it. Although this is fairly expensive compared to other store bought ice creams, this stuff is delicious.

Yoga Time


My dance studio is running a “Yoga for Runners” class on Sunday that I’m super excited for. Not just because I’m a runner, but because usually yoga classes made for runners give my ballet muscles a good stretch, too!

Do you watch Dancing with the Stars? Have you taken a yoga class recently?


Houston Metropolitan Dance

2808 Caroline
Houston, TX 77004




Classes offered: Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Contemporary, Modern, Hip Hop, Broadway, Theater, Yoga

Description via Website: “Founded in 1995, the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center is arts and educational organization. Located in Midtown, the center is committed to the development of dance using movement as a learning tool. Through our training center, Educational outreach program, scholarship program, and Professional Company, Houston Met strives to contribute to the vitality and diversity of Houston’s dance community in order to enhance the quality of life of individuals as well as make significant contributions to our greater society.”

View Larger Map


Metropolitan Dance company moved into its new studio space this month (June 2013) and although there is still some dust and a few kinks need to be worked out, this place shows promise of being a 10-star studio once everything gets settled.

Conveniently located in Houston’s Midtown, the new facility includes four spacious studios with excellent lighting and drop floors that are friendly to a variety of shoes. There are two ample waiting areas for hanging out before and after class, and the large restrooms even have shower facilities.

This is a big improvement over their previous location, which was unique and quirky, but outdated and not up to handling the volume of students, which increases with each passing year. Space in the children’s classes is highly coveted, and promising students have a pipeline into the Met Too Youth Company. Adult classes include a cohort-based intro classes for beginners, and drop-in classes in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, and hip-hop. The atmosphere is friendly and supportive, with all ages, backgrounds and dance goals welcome.

Anyone who loves to dance can find their niche at the Houston Met!

8 out of 10


(Almost) 30 Day Yoga Challenge

EDIT: Oops. It appears I can’t find today’s (May 7th) yoga video anymore, so pick one you’ve enjoyed so far or try a new one! (I did yesterday’s since I was in a yoga class yesterday). I will find replacement videos for the other times this one appears in the schedule.

I’ve decided to go with a yoga challenge for the month of May, since it’ll help with my general flexibility (and for those of you who voted for splits challenge, I focused on a lot of leg yoga stretches). They’re all beginner level videos, so feel free to participate no matter what skill level you are at!

Here’s the challenge:


All the videos can be found on my favorite yoga website, www.doyogawithme.com. Just do a quick search using their search tool and you’ll find the video. I still think I’ll try to post photos of my flexibility throughout the month for motivation.

How are you challenging yourself during May?

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