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Right now in this time of quarantine, there are many things we cannot do at home as dancers, due to confined areas and non-dance surfaces. However, there are a multitude of conditioning exercises which can be done daily to maintain and even improve muscle-use in terms of strength and flexibility. The hamstrings are one of those important muscle groups.

The hamstrings are muscles which cross more than one joint; making them susceptible to frequent muscles pulls, tears or strains. These injuries can be caused by a variety of reasons which include but are not limited to: improper technique, muscle imbalance, incorrect stretching techniques or a single gross motor movement; particularly when improperly warmed up.

It is essential that dancers take the necessary steps to ensure that these muscles are given some love and stretched properly with lengthening exercises which are held for a minimum of one minute. Making sure that both the muscles have the stretch and the flexibility to perform required movements will ensure a safe, effective approach to dancing and maintain the well-being of the hamstrings and the surrounding muscles they are connected to.

Below are three of my favorite, simple hamstring stretches to start your dancers off with and instill proper technique and solid stretch practices!

Good Luck!

See you in the dance studio,


Exercise 1: Stand with legs hip distance apart in parallel position. Lengthen arms straight above head, relax shoulders and proceed into a long, extended front flat-back position. Pull belly button back to spine. Hold one minute. Continue the stretch all the way over the legs with hands touching the floor. Release the back of the head and neck so dancer is looking through the legs. Slowly extend arms behind you, clasp hands together and stretch up and away from center. This will increase the stretch of the hamstrings as well as provide an opening stretch of the shoulders. Hold one minute. Release hands to floor. Either roll up or reverse back through flat-back stretch to standing.

Exercise #2: Sit up tall with legs out in front of you. Take the right leg, bend it and place foot flat against inner right thigh (as though you are in a passé position.) Gently press foot into the opposite leg, making sure you are creating a nice “diamond shape” with the right leg. Keep the left leg extended and take a long stretch over the leg. Lengthen the spine, trying to stretch past the leg. Make sure to keep the right hip down and turned out as you are stretching over the left leg. Hold one minute. Repeat other side. For more intensity- keep the foot of the extended leg in a nice, strong flexed position. For a variation- gently hold the foot back in flexed position while taking more of a flat back over the leg vs. a full stretch over the leg.

Exercise #3: Lie on your back. Bring right foot up in parallel coupé, through passé and extend leg up in the air. Hold on to either the back of the hamstring, calf or ankle and gently pull leg back into a stretch. Start with a pointed foot and then slowly progress to a flexed foot. Make sure for the hamstring stretch that he leg remains in front of the body, not swinging out to the side in second position. Hold one minute. Slowly bend the leg to chest and stretch. Repeat stretch. Repeat opposite side. For more intensity on the stretch, try wrapping a Theraband around the leg and gently pull the leg in towards you. Hold one minute and release.

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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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