CriticalDance Forum

Soft Muscles
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Author:  rowan86 [ Sun Oct 31, 2004 6:38 am ]
Post subject:  Soft Muscles

Hi Guys,

I have recently started at a new school and in the past few weeks three different ballet teachers have told me that I have very soft muscles. All said that they are exceptionally beautiful to watch, but that I will have to work very hard to control them. One also added, that by the time she's through with me, 'you will have legs like Sylvie Guillem!'. :D Heheh... I wish!! This has confused me slightly. Has having soft muscles got something to do with flexibilty? (I am quite flexible and have very hyperextended knees) How do I have to work to learn to control them?
Any comments on the matter would be much appreciated!

Also, I would take the opportunity to thank all the knowledgeable people who contribute to this forum. It has helped me so much, and is a delight to read.

Author:  Gina Ness [ Tue Nov 30, 2004 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Soft Muscles

Hi there! I'm not certain what your teachers may be speaking of (soft muscles?), but I suspect you are right in guessing they may mean that you have a lot of natural flexibility. If you go to "search" at the top of the page and type in "hyperextension" or "flexibility", you will have access to a lot of discussions on the subject. There have been some good threads in the recent past. Good luck!

<small>[ 30 November 2004, 09:50 PM: Message edited by: GN ]</small>

Author:  spangles [ Sun Dec 12, 2004 3:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Soft Muscles

I too am not quite sure what is meant by soft muscle except that perhaps in relation to flexibility and extension. IE. it is one thing to be able to developpe one's leg a la seconde (extension/flexibility) but another to be able to use the muscles correctly (strenghtwise) and sustain. I would be extremely interested to hear if this is what the teachers were implying? Please let me know. I would be extremely interested to hear of their interpretation ;)

Author:  Guest [ Sun Dec 12, 2004 5:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Soft Muscles

Soft muscles, as used by your teachers, certainly could be related to your extreme flexibility. As with everything else, a balance is needed between flexibility and strength. You will need to work hard to increase your strength--you will need it!.

Find out as much as you can about how to go about it. Strengthening exercises can include weight training, jumping, and lots of slow adagio work, sustaining positions, holding them for a long time, etc.

Author:  rowan86 [ Mon Dec 13, 2004 9:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Soft Muscles

Thanks for all the replys, they are very useful. I asked my main ballet teacher/form tutor (who herself was a Principal with the RB) in one of our 'Body Conditioning' classes what she and the others had meant by 'soft muscles'. She explained that one has either soft or hard muscles to varing degrees, and that affects the look of our muscles and the quality of our movements. She suggested that she can tell whether a person has soft or hard muscles before even seeing them dance, just by looking at them! I was still unsure and asked her to clarify. She asked myself and another girl in my class to stand side by side, she pointed out that while I (and the teacher) have soft muscles, the other girl has hard muscles. I cannot accurately describe the distinctions, but the lines of our muscles were very different. I think this can be related to the pliabilty of our muscles because as I am very flexible (but lack strenght) the other girl is stronger but less flexible.
Sorry, this is confusing, I cannot explain it well. To explain this better, I searched the internet and found this information from another forum:
"About soft muscles....yes, there are several different types of musculature. You can divide it into "soft" and "hard." But there are all the gradations in between. It's not just the elasticity of the muscle itself, but the connections of tendons with muscles, and the ligaments that give stability and/or flexibility to the joints. If it's all too flexible it's jelly, if it's all to stable - it doesn't move. So we are some of each.

Most of us have some soft parts and some hard parts. I, for instance, have a nice loose Achilles tendon/calf muscle construction which gives me a good pliƩ and cushy landings from jumps. But the backs of my knees are tightly constructed so I am constantly having to work on that stretch.

Generally speaking, it's the entire structure that has to be considered: muscles, tendons and ligaments. When it comes to turnout you also need to consider the actual structure of the bone - how the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits into the socket of the hip. Some hip sockets face forward a bit more and/or have a tighter ligament construction - this gives a tighter less pliable turnout.

It is a disadvantage to be on either end of the spectrum to too great a degree. People with a loose construction can easily wrap themselves up in contortionist knots, but they have a great deal of trouble sustaining either elevation and/or balance. So, if such a person does a stretched out pose such as developƩe a la seconde - that's easy for them - but they have difficulty sustaining it in balance such as a promenade. I didn't say it's impossible - but it is difficult. It doesn't take them long to warm up - and sometimes that lulls them into complacency and leads to injury. The ice skater Randy Gardner had just such an experience. Makarova often complained that she had to be careful not to warm up too much. When she took time off, her battle was to get back her stability."
Hope this clarifys. If anyone can offer a better explanation, I would love to hear it, I am still slightly confused.
Sorry this is soooo long
R :p

Author:  Guest [ Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Soft Muscles

Wannabe, I really appreciate your research on this. It confirms everything in my experience with students, and also gives encouragement to all those who find they are either too "tight" or too "loose." In most cases, something can be done.

Keep on working, you are on your way to real understanding--and, probably, technique! :)

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