Category Archives: Ballet Strength

Getting into a Ballet Company

What does it take to get into a ballet company? Many of you may be asking yourself this very question right now as you embark upon a summer intensive program in hopes of being accepted into the company or trainee program for the 2013/2014 season. Let’s face it, you have competition and while summer intensives are for learning, they are also a great test of your fight – will you stand out and impress or try your hand in the back of the room?

It comes down to two things from what I have seen and experienced – Are you technically sound or are you a one trick pony? Let me explain. While every company is different in terms of style, there are a few truths that you just can’t ignore. There are those who can developé their leg past their ear, those who are barre technicians, those who have feet so arched that they can’t actually stand up in center, and then there are those who are balanced. Where do you want to be?

You know the answer – You want to be a balanced, well rounded dancer. Ballet company’s are not looking for acrobats nor are they looking for feet so arched that they are dangerous. They want dancers who have a strong base, are easy to work with, will not get injured at the first opportunity that comes their way, and who have a good work ethic. They are looking for strong technique and the ability to perform well when it counts.

Directors want to be able to use their dancers in multiple ways and they need versatile dancers to keep up with the demands of contemporary choreography. Chances are, your friend who has gotten this far only because she is good at adagio will be skimmed over for someone with a little more usefulness. The same also goes for the lazy but talented dancer who’s heart just isn’t in it.

Showcase your strengths, but show that you are willing to work hard in all areas of dance, try new things, and do it with an open mind. Afterall, if you are chosen to represent the company as a dancer, apprentice, or trainee the director wants to know that you will be likeable and can take correction and direction well.

This summer “trial run” for a position in the company next year is a test to see what your work ethic is like. Will you work your way to the front of the room and present yourself as the next company dancer?

Upper Body Toning Exercises for Dancers

Want to sculpt a lean, toned ballet upper body without the bulk? While, as dancers, we are great at holding our arms and moving from position to position, there isn’t a whole lot of focus on strengthening the upper body to do all of this! Instead you’ll sometimes find drooping elbows and tense shoulders. Give these three exercises a try. All you need is a light to medium resistance band!

upperbodytoningdancers

Core Conditioning for Dancers

Making sure that your core is strong is an essential part to your performance as a dancer. The following are three exercises that you can do to strengthen your core for turns, jumps, balance, and technique! Click on the photo below for a larger version or to print it out!

balletstrength core conditioning

Ball Crunches- On a balance ball, perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions being careful not to pull on the neck.

Oblique Twists- Sitting on a balance ball, contract the navel to the spine. Twist side to side holding a weight or weighted ball. Perform 15-20 repetitions.

Side Plank- Balancing as pictured above, hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

As always, be sure to use your best judgement when performing these exercises to your personal fitness level.

Get Amazing Ballet Arms

If you are like most dancers, chances are you have had correction or two about your upper body and arms. Without the muscular strength to properly hold your arms in place, you will fall victim to one of the two most common ballet arm corrections – 1.) drooping elbows or 2.) shoulders. The following is an exercise taken directly from the Ballet Strength DVD that will help you gain the muscular awareness to properly hold your port de bras.

Ballet Strength Awesome Arms

Give this exercise a try at first without using weights, then gradually increase to three pound weights or five pound weights if you are more advanced. This exercise will effectively activate the shoulders, pectoral muscles, deltoids, and lats to create more muscle awareness in first position. Try doing this exercise a few times a week and notice a big difference in your port de bras.

*Exercise a courtesy of The Ballet Strength DVD. For more information and to buy the DVD go to http://www.balletstrength.com.

Ballet New Year’s Resolutions

What are your New Year’s ballet resolutions? Are you looking to improve your flexibility? Do you want to work on your turns and balance? How about your jumps?

I have launched multiple videos on You Tube for my followers and fans and I wanted to put them all in one place for you to watch. These videos will help improve many areas of your dancing such as core strength, port de bras, ankle strength, and inner thigh activation! Watch them, and as always, please comment below to let me know what you think!

 

Ballet Performance Nutrition Advantage

Is your ballet nutrition giving you an advantage during performances and rehearsal? A common topic that comes up between my Ballet Strength clients and I is performance nutrition. Let’s face it, if there was a magical healthy potion created for dancers to eliminate muscle fatigue, soreness and boost energy we would all have it by now. But wait- there are some things that you can do to help your body repair, recover, and revitalize! Follow these steps to get your ballet body at it’s best come performance time.

Stay Hydrated- Let’s admit it…as dancers we sweat a lot. Water is one of the most important things that we can drink as it regulates body temperature, transports nutrients, and helps lubricate our joints, but If you are exercising excessively like we do as dancers, just plain water sometimes is not enough. I suggest an electrolyte sports drink beverage to my Ballet Strength clients who have schedules where they are rehearsing and/or performing more than 2 hours per day. Diluted Gatorade or G2 is a great start as you will get the effect of the electrolyte beverage without taking in too many additional calories. It is key to remember that hydration isn’t only important while you are dancing – you want to maintain your levels of hydration even on your days off!

Protein- I get many emails from dancers wanting to know about protein supplements and when they should be taken. Protein is an essential part of any athletes nutrition as it helps aid in muscle recovery and helps repair muscle that is broken down during exercise. It also helps optimize the storage of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen (enough of the technical stuff…I know). So when should you drink your Protein shake? Your protein shake should be consumed after your day of dancing. Drinking a shake or bar before rehearsal will make you lethargic- trust me on this, I’ve learned the hard way. Once I realized the importance of protein, as a professional dancer I always drank a high quality protein shake (in water) before bed. Quality of protein is also important, but that is a lengthy topic for another post.

Carbohydrates- If you are looking for sustained energy, carbohydrates are arguably the most important source. Carbohydrates are what provide the energy to fuel muscle contractions (getting technical again, sorry). This is why I do not recommend a low-carb diet for dancers. Carbs provide great between rehearsal snacks. A couple from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre have even formulated the perfect balanced pre-performance snack for sustained energy called Barre. (they’re not paying me to endorse them- I’ve tried Barre and it’s really good! You can get them here: www.realfoodbarre.com) General rule- if you are extremely active like most of us dancers are, don’t skimp on carbs!

Rest- The body needs adequate time to recover after a long day of dancing or performing. This is why I suggest at least eight hours of sleep each night. This might mean heading to bed earlier than you would like but trust me, your dancing will benefit from a few extra hours of zzz’s!

So there you have it, four major components to your ballet performance nutrition advantage. With adequate hydration, nutrition and rest you will be able to perform at your best! Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions below.

Ankle Strengthening for Pointe

Lots of you have written in to me looking for exercises that you can do to strengthen your ankles for pointe work. I went ahead and filmed a few quick videos of exercises that you can do to work the feet, ankles, and calves. These exercises are great to do before class as part of your dynamic warm-up or for strengthening in the comfort of your own home. Enjoy!


If you are looking to purchase the training program that goes along with this video, you can find the Ankle Strengthening Program HERE.

Ballet Strength Training Programs

A few weeks ago I launched a brand new method of cross training for dancers. I had been receiving emails from ballet dancers all over the world asking for my help with injury prevention and strengthening weaknesses and I knew that I needed to come up with a solution. Since not everyone can have the one on one access to me in San Diego for my Ballet Strength services, I decided to launch online training programs for dancers.

This method of Ballet Strength training had previously only been available to professional dancers, but is now available to pre-professionals and students as well. Dancers can now be emailed daily workouts that they should be doing in addition to their ballet class schedule in order to maximize their potential and improve on key areas of their dancing from outside of the studio!

An example of a Ballet Strength workout and calendar.

Dancers from companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, and Boston Ballet are using these programs (customized) to stay injury free and rise through the ranks. Pre-professional dancers all over the world are getting hired into ballet companies because of the solid, strong core development that these programs have created.

There are photo and video exercise explanations.

Since the launch of Ballet Strength online workouts for dancers just a few weeks ago, I have already been selling a tremendous amount of plans including: Better Ballet Balance & Turns Program, Beginning Ballet Strength Program, and 6 Weeks to Stronger Jumps Program. There is even a combo that includes the Ballet Strength DVD. Be sure to go to www.balletstrength.com to check out all of the new training programs!

Ballet Strength Visits The Olympics

In front of the Basketball Stadium.

I was very fortunate this year to be able to attend the London Olympic games. My fiance, who was the coach of two BMX medalist in Beijing in 2008, had another BMX athlete competing in London so I definitely did not want to miss out. Afterall, I had witnessed first hand the hard work and dedication of a coach and his athletes, often feeling that their dreams had also become my own. It reminded me of what it took, when I was a ballet dancer, to prepare for an upcoming show. So I decided to book my flight for the big show…the Olympics!

View of the Olympic Stadium from the train.

I wasn’t going to London to be a tourist. I was going to support my fiance and his athletes which meant I had to have a job…photographer! (You know us dancers can’t just sit around on our butts!) The first few days that we were there were practice days and I was fortunate enough to be one of the few permitted into the venue to watch. It was like one big dress rehearsal with the athletes in their uniforms, performing at their best. It was so great to see all of the different countries, their athletes and staff come together for this larger than life event.

At home among other athletes in the cafeteria.

After practice we were able to check out a little more of the Olympic Park and even Athlete Village. Athlete Village reminded me of the ballet summer intensive programs that I used to attend so of course I felt right at home. Just a bunch of the best athletes living together in dorms. It was so awesome to see all of the different athletes body types and try to guess which sport they competed in. I even had a chance to check out the cafeteria which had food selections from all over the world.

At the entrance to Olympic Park.

Since athleticism was the theme being that it was the Olympics, it was only right that there were miles of walking to be done. Olympic Park covered a very large area so the walk around the park really gave me the chance to take everything in. Luckily the weather was hot with no rain showers for the three days of BMX events.

In front of Tower Bridge.

From our gorgeous hotel overlooking Tower Bridge to a fun filled time at the games, my trip to the London Olympics was an experience that I will never forget!

Ballet Strength Goes Beyond the Barre

Are you looking to advance in your current ballet company? If you are like most dancers, your goal is to rise through the ranks of a ballet company and eventually get the opportunity to dance principal roles. Smart dancers know that the tools necessary to excel in the dance world are not all found in your daily ballet technique class. The following are some areas to explore when it comes to having the advantage over your competition.

1.) Use your resources. Does your ballet company offer massage and chiropractic services? If so, these are resources that you should be utilizing on a weekly basis. Keeping your body fine tuned will keep it performing to it’s full potential.

2.) Eat for fuel. It you are dancing professionally you should be on a performance nutrition plan. Dancers must eat to fuel their bodies to get through intense days of rehearsals, performances and most importantly recovery. If your body is not adequately recovered from the previous day of training, it will not magically reset the next day.

3.) Look beyond the barre. Ballet cross training is a huge part of a dancers performance plan today. It will help you stay injury free, strengthen weaknesses, and improve overall physical conditioning. The old thinking that dancers can’t lift weights is no longer a valid statement as dancers in the top ballet companies like New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet are doing it. Oh, and to answer the question “Will I get bulky?” No, you may actually lean out!

4.) Rehab injuries- Be smart about your injuries. If a prescribed physical therapy plan is not working, look elsewhere. Different rehabilitation techniques work for different injuries and with the many options available these days, there is no excuse to live in pain. Find a treatment plan that works best for you.

5.) Hire a coach. Sometimes you need an outside perspective. You can’t always lean on your friends in the company for help and advice since in essence they are your competition. Professional dancers hire me, for example, to keep them motivated and on track with their goals and to create a performance plan. Without a long-term plan, you will be lost in the corp de ballet.

6.) Rest. Probably the most important part of a dancer’s recovery is rest. This means respecting your body by getting to bed early each night and keeping outside drama to a minimum. It may sound like a good idea to go out with friends on weeknights, but you are only further fatiguing your body.

By exploring these six areas you will put yourself ahead of the game as a dancer. These are just a few of the things that I currently work on with my professional dancer clients. If you are interested in learning more about my coaching services for dancers email me at nikol@balletaudition.com.