Category Archives: Summer Intensives

Our Blog Has Moved!

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We are excited to announce that with the launch of the new balletstrength.com, our Ballet Skills blog has moved! Now you can get all of our helpful free blog tips as well as our products that offer solutions to the most common ballet problems in one place!

Don’t worry, we’ll still check back with you here periodically but our most recent and up to date blog posts and products will be posted to our new blog at http://www.balletstrength.com. Thanks again for all of your support and I look forward to hearing your feedback on the new blog!

Summer Ballet Intensives – Adjusting Back to Home Life

Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive Program. Photo Credit: Theresa Wood

If you attended a summer ballet intensive program this year, congratulations! It is such an honor and accomplishment to be accepted into a summer ballet school away from home. I remember all too well the 6 weeks of dancing bliss, meeting new friends, being away from my parents, and of course learning a ton from the wonderful ballet teachers that were on staff. Memories like these last a lifetime – I am even still in touch with some of the friends I made at summer intensives long ago.

The hardest thing for me was always adjusting back to home life after the end of a summer intensive program. I remember leaving for American Ballet Theatre, New York at age 15, living in an apartment by myself, and walking to the studios each morning by myself. It was a big responsibility but it made me feel so grown up.  It was always hard for me to leave my family and friends back home, but once I got to the summer intensive, I never wanted to leave! Chances are, you are dealing with the exact same feelings right now after returning home from your summer intensive, and I want to share some pointers with you to help you adjust and get comfortable back at home.

Be Easy on your Parents – Your parents have missed you so much during the duration of the summer intensive. After all, their little one has been away for 6 weeks and they can’t wait to see you and spoil you when you get home. While their overly-affectionate attitude may be annoying, don’t fight it – embrace it. It is often hard to adjust back to the boundaries and rules that your parents have set at home. Sit down with them and explain your new found confidence rather than breaking the rules and getting in trouble. The key to dealing with your parents is working with them, not against them!

Keep in Touch – Do be sure to keep in touch with all of the new friends you met at your summer intensive. Social media like Facebook makes it super easy these days. Not only is it a great way to keep each other updated as to what is going on in your lives, it can also be a great connection for the future – Say if you’re looking for a roommate for next year’s summer intensive.

Respect your Ballet Teachers – You want to show off your new skills and technique, but don’t do it at the cost of making your ballet teacher angry. This is probably one of the hardest things to adjust to. For example: you go to a Balanchine summer intensive but return to a classical school. Your teacher back home definitely will not appreciate your new hands and over-crossed fifths ūüėČ Do your best to honor their corrections and chat with them after class. They will help you understand why they don’t like some of your new habits, but will also tell you which new habits they appreciate in a good way!

Adjusting back to home life can be tough after attending a summer ballet intensive program. Communicate with your loved ones, friends, and ballet teachers and you will be back on track in no time!

* Photo Credit Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive Program. ¬©Theresa Wood

 

 

 

Setting Ballet Summer Intensive Goals

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As the end of June approaches many of you will head off to your very first summer ballet intensive program. With your suitcases packed have you left anything behind? You have surely packed enough leotards and pointe shoes to get you through the 3-6 weeks that you will be away from home. Have you forgotten the most important thing you will need for your summer intensive?

The most common thing that dancers forget to do before leaving for a ballet summer intensive program is set goals. Why are you doing this summer intensive program? To improve, right? But what exact areas of your dancing are you looking to improve? Let’s face it, without setting goals what exactly will you get out of your summer intensive experience?

Before you leave home (or even if you are in your first few weeks of the intensive) write down the following questions in your ballet journal.

What do I feel that I most need to improve on this summer? This could be anything from pirouettes to technique.

What have my teachers been encouraging me to improve on? This would be the corrections that you get in class or at the school year-end conference.

What do I need to do to make these corrections over the summer? Listen to the teachers, focus, etc

Why did I choose this summer intensive? List the key reasons that you decided to go to this particular summer program. Anything from teaching staff to city.

What do I most want to accomplish this summer at (fill in your summer intensive name) ? What is your ultimate goal in attending this particular summer program? Do you perhaps want to be asked to stay for this school’s year-round program?

By answering these questions and looking them over every few days, you will stay on track at your summer program. I know it sounds kind of dorky but if you really want to become the best dancer you have to set goals and remind yourself of those goals consistently. Have fun and make friends but remember, you are there to dance!

Stretching vs Warming-Up for Dancers

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If you are like the majority of dancers, your daily routine begins by showing up 30 minutes or so before ballet class starts to warm-up. The keyword here is “warm-up.” What most of you end up doing is stretching as a warm-up which may be causing more harm than good. Read on to find out the proven reasons why you should not be stretching before class.

If you are stretching in an effort to increase or enhance performance prior to ballet class or the big show, you are really doing yourself a great disservice. Static stretching results in a decrease in performance while dynamic stretching results in an increase in performance (*see reference 1 below).

Some of us don’t really know why we stretch before class…we just do it because we saw someone else doing it. I don’t know about you, but I never had a ballet instructor suggest stretching before class. They did however suggest warming-up. There is a big difference.

Your pre-ballet class ritual should consist of a dynamic warm-up done in an effort to specifically turn-on and activate muscles through heightened neurological communication between the brain and muscle motor units. Stretching will not achieve this. Stretching should be done in an effort to recover and restore fatigued muscles after ballet class or performance. The goal of post class/ performance stretching would be to restore range of motion and/or to release tight muscle fibers to provide efficient blood flow which brings essential nutrients into the muscle to repair, restore, and recover.

A great dynamic warm-up for example would consist of high knee lifts (think marching in place), torso twists, arm circles, and believe it or not a jog around the ballet classroom to elevate the heart-rate and get the blood moving. How many of you have seen girls jogging around the room in auditions to warm-up and laughed at them for doing so? (now the joke is on you!) Below are a few good warm-up exercises to try before class:

1.) The Plank – hold this position for 30-60 seconds. Warms up the core muscles and really, the whole body.

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2.) Hi Knee Marches – Do 20 or so of these to warm-up the hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings.

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3.) Calf Raises- This is a great way to warm-up the feet, ankles and calves. Perform 15-20 of these along with some ankle rolls.

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If you are looking to maximize those splits or extension, work on your deep stretching after class from now on. Also, be sure to give a dynamic warm-up a try before class this week and notice the difference in the way your muscles feel during class. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences with this!

*Resources:[1]  L. Parsons, N. Maxwell, C.Elniff, M. Jacka, and N. Heerschee Static vs. Dynamic Stretching on Vertical Jump and Standing Long Jump (2006), Greg Romero Coaching (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

Ballet New Years Resolutions

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The New Year starts tomorrow – have you set your goals or resolutions for the year? When we think of the “year” as dancers, we tend to look at it the way we look at the school year, September through June. While the start of the school year is a great time to set new goals, this doesn’t mean that you can’t set new goals starting January 1st! The following are some goals and resolution ideas to help you out in 2014!

Resolution #1: Write down your corrections – You are more likely to actually improve and apply corrections if you write them down. Take notes of what your teachers tell you and look back on those notes every few weeks.

Resolution #2: Stretch – Stretching is an essential part of your muscle recovery at the end of the dancing day. Make it a habit to stretch before bed each night so that you feel refreshed and ready to go in the morning.

Resolution #3: Limit negativity – As dancers we sometimes become perfectionists. This perfectionism can sometimes put us in a negative place mentally. Do your best to think positive thoughts and seek solutions rather than complaining about them.

Resolution #4: Help others – Is a friend having difficulty picking up choreography? Help him or her out. Going over the choreography with your friend will also help you learn it better. Plus helping just feels good!

Resolution #5: Nail those auditions – Be confident and nail those summer intensive auditions this year! Showcase your best by looking the part and acting the part.

Did I give you some ideas? Now sit down and start writing out your detailed New Year resolutions for a successful 2014 dancing year. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Tendu Tuesday – Preparation for Turns

Ballet Strength Pirouettes ©Ballet Strength

I have coined the phrase #TenduTuesday in the dance world and every week it makes me think about just how much we use the tendu in dance! The tendu is used in preparation for many of the turns we do in class and on the stage; soutenu turns, pique turns, simple pirouettes.

As you know, the preparation can make or break the step that follows it and the tendu is no exception.  If your tendu before a pique turn or pirouette is out of placement, you turns will definitely suffer. Practice perfect placement this Tendu Tuesday and watch your turns improve tremendously!

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me on Facebook – facebook.com/balletstrength

 

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 develop√© 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?

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!

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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.

Ballet Strength Cross Training

Ballet Cross Training

The school year is almost coming to a close which means it is time to start planning your summer ballet cross training. Whether you have decided to attend a summer dance intensive program or continue to train at your current ballet school, you will need a structured plan with specific goals in mind. What would you like to accomplish over the summer to improve your dancing? The following is a list of choices you have to improve over the summer. Which one is right for you? (feel free to comment at the end!)

Summer Intensive Programs- Summer dance intensives are a great way to improve your technique and gain perspective from different dance instructors. Sometimes hearing the same correction in a different way, or from a different teacher, can make a world of a difference. Being in a different environment is wonderful as well. Dancing in a new studio around different dancers and teachers will almost feel like you are getting a fresh start. Sometimes when we are away from common distractions (like our friends at the studio) we are able to absorb corrections and information better. This is what will help you improve as a dancer.

Injury Rehabilitation- If you have suffered an injury over the school year it is sometimes best to stay home over the summer to rehabilitate that injury. You wouldn’t want to go into a summer intensive program injured and risk further injuring yourself, or worse yet, have to sit out the entire program. It is definitely deflating for your confidence and a big waste of your parents money. On the other hand, you could build-up your confidence at home going through physical therapy, taking it slow in classes at your current studio, and getting well for the coming school year. Injuries that aren’t properly rehabilitated in your teenage years will come back to haunt you in your professional life…trust me…so be smart!

Cross Training- Most professional dancers cross train over the summer. Cross training means targeting the same muscle groups that are used daily in ballet only with different types of exercises to work them in a different way. This helps to develop a well-rounded dancer who is less likely to develop injury. Since professional dancers typically have two to four months off in the summer, this is the ideal type of training for them as it will reduce burn-out, help rehab aches and pains developed during the season, and rule out any potential weaknesses for the upcoming season. (ballet cross training) Since dancers need to stay conditioned year round, this is the healthiest plan for a professional dancer to do over the summer.

So which ballet cross training plan is best for you?

Which Ballet Summer Intensive to Pick

Summer intensive auditions are coming to a close and chances are, you have started to receive some of your acceptance letters in the mail. Most of you audition for tons of different summer ballet programs and will be accepted into multiple intensive programs. So how do you make an educated decision about which summer intensive to attend? Here are a few helpful hints to make sure you end up in the right place.

1.) Cost- If your family is on a budget, the cost of the summer intensive that you choose will definitely be a factor in the decision making process. Did you get a scholarship? If you received a scholarship to a particular program, this means the school has an extremely high interest in you. Choose which program makes sense for your family financially.

2.) Program Length- Three week, four week, or six week? How comfortable are you being away from home for long periods of time? I used to get homesick when I went to summer intensives at age 12 and 13, so I would choose no more than four week programs. Also, will you be missing out on your family vacation?

Photo from Chautauqua Ballet Intensive

3.) Travel- How comfortable do you feel traveling far away from home? For example; since I was from the East Coast, I was hesitant to travel far from my family to attend San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive. Travel also fits into the cost category as typically you will either need to fly or drive to the program.

4.) Style- Does the school that you choose fit with the style you currently train in? Or is it different? How will your current school director feel about this? Going to a summer intensive like School of American Ballet, for example, might mean a change in technique. If your hope is to be accepted there year round, it is definitely worth it.

5.) Preference- Sometimes the best thing to do is follow a hunch. Where do you want to go most? If money is not an option go to where your heart follows!

Which ever ballet summer intensive program you choose, make sure you go into it with an open mind. This will ensure that you make the most of any situation and remember- write down your corrections!