When it comes to flexibility, more isn't always better. Donna Flagg says that many of the dancers who show up at her Lastics Stretch Technique classes at studios like Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway are already hypermobile.
"They're so loose," she says, "they just yank their legs as far as they can." That's not to say that hypermobile dancers shouldn't stretch—they just need to take extra care to keep their joints safe. Flagg recommends a few guidelines:
Pay Attention to Your Alignment
Keep ribs over hips, shoulders over ribs, knees over toes, etc. Even when you're stretching, check your profile in the mirror to correct bad habits.
Don't Go So Far You Can't Control the Position
Work to hold the stretch with your muscular strength and proper alignment. Don't flop over or rest on your arms in stretches like second-position splits.
Only stretch as far as you can maintain alignment and control. Photo via Getty Images.
Balance Your Flexibility & Strength
Focus on creating more stability where you're loose and opening up areas that are tight. (Most dancers have flexible inner thighs and hamstrings, with tight hips and quads.)
Don't Push Farther Than You Need To
If you're never going to split your legs more than 180 degrees apart in choreography, there's no need to stretch further than that.
Give It Space
Think of lengthening when you stretch, rather than pushing into the joint.
Don't Give Up
When you first start stretching with proper alignment, you might not be able to go as far as you're used to. But if you keep practicing, you'll get back there.