Splits and forward bends are two important ways to increase dance flexibility; in order for them to have their ideal impact and avoid dance injuries, some variations take these stretches to a new level.
Dance Flexibility Stretch Tips
Whichever dance flexibility stretches you use to increase your flexibility, remember to practice them wisely. Stretching should be done before a good workout in order to warm up and loosen muscles, but the kind of stretching that is going to increase your dance flexibility is done after a workout, when your muscles are warm. At this point in your workout, your muscles are warm enough to make the stretches really count.
In addition, remember that stretching should always be done in a 'static' manner and not bouncing. Take your body as far as you can hold the stretch, and then hold it. Bouncing between an extreme position that you can't hold and a less extreme position that you can hold may feel as though you're taking your stretch to a new level; however, this is not effective. Relax into your stretches in order to increase your dance flexibility.
Target many different muscle groups in order to achieve your ultimate level of flexibility. While each and every muscle of your body doesn't have to be equally flexible, you will achieve better flexibility by working on global flexibility than on one particular muscle.
The following stretches target muscle groups important for dance flexibility. Take it slow and practice each stretch every day after your workout; you'll get better results from stretching 15 minutes per day (when your muscles are already warm) than from stretching for an hour and a half once a week.
The classic dancer's split is done with one foot in front of the other and sliding the feet all the way forward and back until both entire legs are in contact with the floor. Until you can reach a full split, put one hand on each side of you to catch the floor as you approach it, hold yourself with your hands at the height that feels like a good stretch (NOT an extreme stretch). Once you can do a full split, you can modify the arms by putting them in fifth position before you start sliding; controlling the speed of the split is also beneficial for your legs!
Once you reach the ground comfortably, you can hold your arms in fifth and stay there, or you can bend forward, keeping your back straight. Lift up out of your hipbones to keep your back straight and extend forward until your chest rests on your front knee. Practice this split alternately with the right foot and the left foot in front in order to gain full dance flexibility on both sides.
Dancer's Forward Bend
Lifting up out of your hip joints and extending your chest as you bend forward is the beginning of a forward bend. To help you lift up and keep your back straight, it's best to put your arms in fifth position before starting this bend (feet should be together, pointing forward). Once you reach a point where you can comfortably reach the floor, do so by curving your back and placing your hands on the floor. At first your fingertips might be all you can touch with, then slowly work your way toward putting your palms flat on the floor with your fingers pointing forward. Once you've achieved this milestone, two variations can take the basic forward bend a step further.In the first variation, lift your flat palms up off the floor and reach them behind you and put them flat on the floor behind you (to the sides of your heels) with your fingers pointing backwards. The second variation doesn't involve moving your hands; keep them flat on the floor in front of you with fingers facing forward, and then lift your toes up off the ground.
Another version of the forward bend, important for ballet dance flexibility, is to do it in each of the five positions for your feet (keep your arms in fifth position for all five versions). In this variation, don't touch the floor, concentrate instead on your back staying straight and lifting out of your hips.
Partner Forward Bend
This stretch is fun for dancers who need to catch up on gossip with each other while they improve their dance flexibility. Sit on the floor across from each other with your legs out to the sides and touch your right foot to the other person's left foot and vice versa. Scoot inwards until the leg stretch is comfortable and then reach out your hands and take each other's hands. One person leans backward and the other person leans forward; both should keep their backs straight. Good communication with your partner is essential so that he or she doesn't push you into a stretch that is too deep. A little practice should make you each able to recline all the way backwards with your back flat on the floor with your partner bent forward. Gently pull each other back and forth; never force the stretch.
Remember to practice frequently and safely, and set realistic goals for yourself - flexibility takes time to achieve!