If you’re trying to improve your penché, the first thing you will want to do is look at your flexibility. To achieve a 180 degree penché (where your arabesque leg is pointing absolutely straight to the ceiling), you have to be able to sit in a split and then some. If your split is far off or you’re barely able to sit in it, you will find that penché is even more difficult. Try some of these tips for improving your splits. If you’re able to comfortably sit in the split, you’re on the right track for a better penché.
A 180 degree penché may look like a split, turned on its side, but it is in fact much harder to do. You not only need the flexibility, but also the strength. Both are equally important, but all too often, a dancer will only focus on flexibility because it easier to sit into stretches. Here are a couple tips to strengthen your muscles for a better penché.
Keep your Back attached to your leg
The relationship between your upper body and your arabesque leg is what makes a penche beautiful (and correctly done). This means that you should always try to avoid detaching your upper body from your arabesque leg, leaning your upper body more forward in an effort to try to get another inch towards the ceiling. Your leg may move a little further, but in reality, the angle between your back and leg is larger making the penche less impressive.
Lead with your leg as you move
Remember what a proper penche looks like. It’s your best arabesque position, just tilted over 90 degrees. So, you can’t begin a penche until you’re at your best arabesque. From there, try not to lead with your body. Move your arabesque leg to the ceiling. Because you’re in your best arabesque, your torso will naturally move forward, but maintain the curvature from your arabesque.
Start in a relaxed first position, holding the barre with your right hand. Bend at your waist, keeping your legs straight and grabbing your left ankle with your left hand.
Next, lift your right leg into a retire while staying stretched over. Now, try to left your right leg into an attitude over your head.
Hold this position for four counts. Then, extend the leg upwards, aiming your feet directly to the ceiling. Make sure to feel and look that your leg is as straight as it can possibly be.
From there, try to keep the penche leg in the exact position as you arch your back to meet the leg, and hold this position for four counts. This is what your actual penche is because now you’re not stretched over your leg, but maintaining an arabesque position.
Bring your leg back to the attitude. Repeat the set 4 times.
When doing this exercise and you find yourself in the attitude position with your leg not directly towards the ceiling, don’t worry! That’s the point of this exercise, to improve your penché, and it will help you get there. It’s important to do this exercise after you’re properly warmed up, so after you’ve finished a ballet class is a great time to try and improve your penché.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of this exercise, you can make it a bit more difficult by adding one extra step. Once you’ve straightened your leg to the ceiling, arch your back while trying to keep the working leg in the same position.