Extension is an English classical ballet term describing a dancer’s ability to raise and hold a leg extended in the air. Having good extension is particularly important for women in classical ballet, but is also increasingly important for men.
Having great and proper extension does not happen over night and is the final product of many different aspects worked on separately. Balance, alignment, flexibility and strength all play an important part with a dancer having proper and high extension. It is very important to train extension properly and not get into bad habits such as raising or hiking your hip just to get your leg higher. Like many things in ballet, the final quality of a step takes into account the look of the entire body.
Extension should not be confused with “line”, which it often is. Line generally describes the shape and overall quality of the body in a position where extension is simply referring to the height of the leg.
Proper Extension in Ballet
Extension should also not be confused with a quick jazz-style kick where the dancer is often hunched over and the leg is bent with an un-pointed foot. That is simply a high kick and is not considered anywhere near correct classical ballet. Proper extension is measured with a straight standing leg, proper alignment and placement of the upper body, an un-hiked up hip, and a correctly pointed foot all while being able to maintain the position in complete control without moving for roughly 4 seconds.