The développé is one of the most common and, probably the most beautiful moves done on a dance floor today. Even though it looks relatively simple, every girl would agree that they are not easy to do.
A développé is no Ordinary Kick
Kicks can be very fast and involve momentum. Développé are typically slower and always require muscular control not momentum. The defining feature of a développé is the highly controlled elevated unfolding of the leg to a full extension.
Ballet to Ballroom
The move was adapted from ballet to ballroom, but has the same basic structure. The foot of one leg trails up to the knee of the other. With the knee elevated, the leg unfolds to an extension without the knee moving. The dancer in a ballet développé typically maintains a fully vertical posture. The ballroom développé leverages the advantage of a partner to enable more options including a diagonal, horizontal or V-shape.
Hip to Knee to Foot
There is a very specific sequence to the unfolding of the leg. The first point of elevation is the hip. Then the knee is raised and is is slightly turned out to create the look of a number four. After that, the heel is extended upward to unfold the leg to a full extension.
It’s ALL in the Technique
With the proper mechanics in the hip and knee the développé will give the illusion of a higher extension than is actually the case. For a truly exceptional développé with true height, the last step – lifting the heel – is typically the most difficult and requires training. A flexible hamstring helps enable stretch, but for anything more than a 90 degree elevation, it is not enough. For a higher lift, the inner muscles of the pelvis that extend to the inside and top muscles of the thigh are key. These are the muscles that provide the power to raise and hold the leg in a slow extension at a higher elevation. These muscles also help you to lower softly and slowly, which is beautiful and elegant.
Strength through Simple Exercises
One of the simplest is to stand vertically on one leg and raise the other 90 degrees. Hold this perfectly still then repeat (just a reminder that I said it was simple not necessarily easy). The truth is that this is much harder than it looks, so it will take practice to build the strength, flexibly and balance that is needed. When it becomes easy, hold it longer, do more reps and aim for higher than 90 degrees. Also continue to do separate exercises to stretch the hamstring and ensure flexibility in the hips. Keep doing this regularly to keep strong and supple. After all, strong, supple and gorgeous is the exact look you want in a great développé.