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Backstage Experts

Kick Higher by the New Year: 3 Stretches to Increase Flexibility, FAST

Kick Higher by the New Year: 3 Stretches to Increase Flexibility, FAST
Photo Source: Shutterstock

Showing grace, strength, and flexibility, the high kick has represented high-performance quality since the mid-1800s, when the can-can emerged in Paris and took the world by storm. To this day, if we see someone kick high, we assume they have great technique.

As we know from my program, Don’t Dodge the Dance Call, a great technical foundation plus some smooth fake-it-til-ya-make-it maneuvers can get you a job. So in order to achieve that elusive kick-your-face move in auditions, we’re going to get you flexible...and fast. All it takes is three simple stretches.

These stretches will increase your kicking flexibility by stretching the hips, hamstrings, and quads, and strengthening the core. By January, you should have much more impressive height on those high kicks.

Warm up.
Begin your stretching session by warming up your body with some moderate cardiovascular exercise (jogging, taking the stairs, jumping jacks, etc.), and a few sets of squats and lunges to activate the legs and get blood flowing. Then get ready to limber up.

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Stretch #1: Wide-legged forward fold
Get those hamstrings, inner thighs, and hip stretched out with this move.

Stand in a wide parallel second position (feet pointed forward, legs about three feet apart). Put your hands on your waist and roll your shoulders down your back. Tighten your abs, and while keeping knees straight, bend at the hips and bring the top of your head toward the floor. Place your hands between your feet or on a stool/yoga block if you don’t reach the ground (yet!). Hold for 30-60 seconds before slowly returning to stand.

READ: “The Dancer’s 5-Minute Workout”

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Stretch #2: Standing split. 
Don't let the name freak you out! This stretch elongates the inner thighs and hamstrings while working on your lower body strength an stability—both of which are very important for kicks. 

Stand tall with your feet together, abs engaged. Bend forward at the hips and bring your hands to the floor next to your feet. Use a yoga block or books for assistance if you can’t yet reach the floor. (It’s more important to keep your legs straight than for your hands to touch the ground since the aim here is flexibility.)

Engage your thighs by pulling up above the knees, then shift your weight onto your right foot as you lift your left leg into the air behind you, raising it as high as possible. Keep the hips square by internallyyour raised leg. Hold for 30-60 seconds (don’t forget to breathe!), then lower the left leg and repeat on the other side.

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Stretch #3: Hip-opening lunge.
Wake up your hip flexors, inner thighs, and quads with this low lunge.

Come into a low lunge with the right leg bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor, knee over ankle, with the left leg extended long behind you. Lower your left knee to the floor and relax the left foot. (You may want to place a mat or towel under that left knee if you have an injury or sensitivity.

Take both to the inside of the right foot and lower down so your elbows and forearms are on the ground. Drop your hips as close to the ground as they’ll go and hold for 30-60 seconds. Slowly return to standing, and repeat on the other side.

If you do the bare minimum, this whole sequence only takes six minutes. If you do these stretches four times a week, you’ll see a huge improvement. The more often you stretch, the faster those kicks will look fierce, so it’s up to you. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Erika Shannon is a choreographer, movement coach, creator of Don’t Dodge the Dance Call, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Shannon’s full bio

Want to practice more of your moves? Check out our dance audition listings!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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