How to get your Legs Higher in a Développé

So many dancers have great flexibility when stretching, but find it hard to use this when dancing, especially with getting legs higher in a développé. If you simply practice the step over and over, often the result is bulky thighs and tight hips, with not a lot of increase in range. This will happen if you are trying to use the front of the leg to lift, rather than controlling the leg from the hip.

Exceptional control of the leg en l'air is only possible when there is excellent segmental stability in the deep lower back, coordinated activation of just the right amount of muscle at just the right time in the hip of the gesture leg and good endurance and control of standing leg turnout as explained in this video.

Our 'How to get your legs higher in a développé devant' goes through all of these elements in detail to give you a customised program based on your own anatomy and current level of control. 


This exercise is also fantastic to practice if you have a serious foot injury and are not able to stand in class or put load through the foot. You can even do this if you are not able to point the ankle, by keeping your ankle flexed throughout. This means that you can continue to strengthen your body and improve your technique, even when "not dancing" due to injury. To work out all the true muscles needed to work the leg devant, lie on your back, with your legs out straight and your hands on your hips.

  • Slowly peel the foot up into a retire position (feel your inner thighs working!)
  • Make sure to keep the foot flexed if you have any issues at the back of the ankle (i.e. Achilles Tendinopathy or Os Trigonum Pain)
  • Make sure that the hips stay square, and don't hitch or twist!
  • Slowly unfold the leg as for a développé devant at 90 degrees working on controlling the turnout from the hip, and lengthening the leg.
  • Focus on not cheating height by tucking the pelvis in this position, but focus instead on correct placement of the leg
  • Slowly rotate the working leg in and out in order to master control of the hip in the socket
  • Slowly lower the leg back to the floor, making sure you use your abdominals so that your back doesn't arch!
  • Repeat just a couple of times on each leg
  • Watch the video below for the three variations of this exercise


If you can control the leg and pelvis well with a développé to 90 degrees (or above) without moving the hips, you will be able to achieve a much greater height of leg when you let the pelvis become involved (it has to begin to shift a little above this). However, if you are hitching and struggling to get to 90 degrees, you will find it very hard to improve beyond this point unless you really focus on your stability!

If you practice your développé in this position, your muscles will learn how to control the leg much easier, and you will find that your range improves quite quickly! Then, when you practice standing, everything feels a lot more familiar!

For more exercises to help improve your adage, please check out our  'How to get your leg higher in a développé devant' program. This covers all the assessment techniques, fine retraining, and functional conditioning that you need for effortless extensions. 

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