Stretching in adult ballet: tips and tricks from teachers

Evgenia Budrina
6 min readOct 16, 2020
Lilya Kosyreva, adult ballerina, ballet wear brand co-founder.

It seems pretty straightforward: the more you stretch, the more flexible you will be. It’s easy, right? Just stretch every day for a couple of hours. Oh, and don’t forget to warm up before that.

Let’s face it: there’s proper stretching and there’s real life. If you do ballet as an adult, you do not have time for working on your splits for an hour every day. You have a job, business, kids, family. Also, if you get to choose between a Friday night with a bunch of friends and a glass of wine and an evening of stretching… Well, the choice is obvious :)

In this article I decided to approach stretching in a very practical way. And to find out how to do stretching so that it fits our busy adult schedule all the while making us progress at ballet classes.

The expert who helped me answer this question is Mariana Gomez — The Bolshoi Theater ballet dancer and an adult ballet teacher. I also added some very useful video tutorials on stretching from Sol Kim, an adult ballet teacher in Dance Secret ballet school, Moscow, Russia.

General approach

Evgenia: You really don’t need to be able to do a split to start doing ballet, right? I know that many people who are planning to do ballet, think they need to be very flexible for that. Is that true?

Mariana Gomez: Being flexible is not necessary to start doing ballet. Moreover, your level of flexibility doesn’t define your future progress. If you happen to be flexible, it might be easier for you to do certain things, like, big jumps. But it is definitely not necessary.

Evgenia: Do you need any specific type of stretching to progress in ballet? Or you can just use any stretch-at-home video tutorial on YouTube?

Mariana: “The main thing here is to understand that stretching is a very individual thing. The more you stretch the more you become aware of your own body. There’s no secret formula of stretching that works for everybody. You can only understand what kind of stretching you need by going to as many different classes (ballet, stretching, barre au sol) as you can.

Evgenia: What’s the minimum you need? Adults don’t have all their time for stretching. So the question here is: what’s the absolute minimum that really will help you progress?

Mariana: “The absolute minimum I recommend is stretching before class or even stretching at home before you come to class. The more you stretch, the more flexible you will be. Be careful not to overdo it though.

Very important: do not invent stretching routine yourself, but do repeat what they showed to you at your class. This is the best way to avoid injuries.

Let’s go into detail: stretching for a higher leg and straighter back in adagio

Evgenia: How to stretch to make your leg go higher in adagio? I know that a high leg (like real dancers have)is a dream of many adult ballerinas. Does a split have anything to do with this?

Mariana: “A high leg in adagio or in big jumps is not only about stretching. It’s about several things: which muscles you use and how, and even the ability to listen to the music! Yes, that’s right, a jump on the right music accent can have an absolutely different effect. It also has to do with a strong core and a strong foot.

The truth is, your leg has to look beautiful, not high. It’s all about your correct posture.

Sol Kim, ex-ballerina and ballet teacher, has a special video tutorial with exercises that help lift your leg higher.

Evgenia: How to stretch so that you back always stays straight when you lift your leg? It often happens like this: you’re trying really hard to lift your leg as high as possible, and your back is losing its position at the same time. It stops being straight and it doesn’t look nice. How do you lift your leg and at the same time keep your back straight? Does stretching have anything to do with this?

Mariana: “Before you lift your leg (let’s say, in grand battement), the first thing you need to check is if your posture is correct. Shoulders in one line, hips in one line, very straight back and long neck. Then lift your leg as high as you can do it WITHOUT losing that posture. Do not try try to lift it high, it’s not the goal here. With this approach, your leg will be higher and higher with practice, while your back will remain straight.

If you’re really struggling with your back and your shoulder blades are “sticking out”, here’s a very good video tutorial from Sol Kim. It’s easy and short — just 10 minutes.

Let’s practice: concrete steps, tips and tricks

I asked Mariana Gomez to give some tips on stretching, that will be useful specifically for adults. She recommended these 3 basic exercises

  • Basic stretching. Sit on the floor, legs straight, feet in 6th position. Try to stretch your body forward as if trying to put your head on your knees. Keep your back and knees straight.
  • “Butterfly” position. Lie down on your belly or on your back, open your hips very wide. Keep your heels on the floor.
  • Cobra pose from yoga. Lie on you belly and push your upper body up with the help of your hands.

Mariana: “Stay in these positions at least for1 minute. Then you can have a small break and do several more repetitions. Do not bounce while stretching. Bouncing can lead to a pulled muscle, especially in not so flexible and unprepared adult bodies”.

DanceSecret ballet studio teachers, Sol Kim and Ilya Kuznetsov, have a whole series of video tutorials with short stretching sets. They made these tutorials specifically for adult ballerinas of any age and body type. Some of them you can do even in bed in the morning or before going to sleep. Very handy for our busy adult schedule:)

Advice from Mariana Gomez

“Can you imagine that only 40 years ago ballet looked absolutely different as they didn’t put so much emphasis on stretching as they do now. My teacher, Svetlana Adyrkhaeva, even said that in the middle of XX century the teachers of Vaganova ballet academy didn’t allow the student to stretch too much. They figured that too much flexibility makes your performance be less agile and artful, especially the big jumps.

I’m talking about first soloists in the Bolshoi Theater, that performed there a couple of dozens of years ago. And they were brilliant, even though their legs were not as high as any ballerina‘s legs are now.

Do not focus too much on stretching. Enjoy the music and the process of dancing. Do not overdo things. That’s the only way to reach your goals at the right time.

Author — Evgenia Budrina. I am a dance enthusiast from Russia.

I started doing ballet at 32. In my blog I write about and for those who started dancing as adults and take it seriously. Personal stories, failures, life-hacks and thoughts.

My Instagram@_a.dancer_



Evgenia Budrina

Dance enthusiast from Russia. This blog is about dancing as an adult: starting out, keeping up, motivating yourself. Personal stories, failures, lifehacks.