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.

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!

Ballet Auditions – What to Wear

When it comes to auditioning for summer ballet intensives or ballet companies, the first impression is everything. Artistic Directors and ballet instructors are looking for dancers who look cleanly and neatly put together. They look for someone who catches their eye, but not in an “in your face” way. That’s why you want to make sure you look your best. Here are a few tips to help you look your best in summer intensive and ballet company auditions.

1.) Ditch the warm-ups. Unless you are injured, or want the director to think that you are injured, do not wear warm-ups in an audition. Even worse, you could give them the impression that you are hiding something. If you arrive early enough to the audition registration, you should have plenty of time to warm-up while you are waiting for your audition to begin. As soon as you enter the audition room, all warm-up attire should be off.

What not to wear- Are you going to a ballet audition or the gym?

2.) Wear an appropriate leotard. You are better off to pick a simple leotard in a style and color that flatter your body and show it in the best possible light. Many custom leotards from companies such as Yumiko may be beautiful but come off as too complicated and will distract the Artistic Director or teacher from your dancing. Also stay away from strappy back leotards or anything that cuts your back in half. School and company directors are looking for lines and I’m not talking about the ones sewn onto your leotard!

3.) Make sure it fits. The last thing you want to be worried about in an audition is your leotard falling off or riding up in the wrong places. Test out the leotard you plan on wearing to your next audition in class to make sure it is comfortable. Fidgeting will also distract both the director and yourself from the dancing.

A classic Mirella leotard in a flattering color is always best.

4.) Steer clear of bright colors but don’t wear black. Nothing will drive a director crazy like a fluorescent, striped or patterned leotard. Stick with solid colors that flatter your hair and skin tone. The only illusions being created should be through your dancing, not your outfit 😉

5.) Confidence. Nothing looks better than confidence. Wear it proudly and you will succeed!

I hope that these tips help you out in your upcoming summer intensive and ballet company auditions. If you need more advice about what to wear, how to fix your hair, and what is the best makeup, I have dedicated an eBook called The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide to answering these questions and tons more.

 

Ballet Strength Interview with Callye McCollum

Oklahoma City Ballet Dancer Callye McCollum.

Professional ballet dancer, Callye McCollum is catching the eyes of Oklahoma City dance critics and audience members alike. As a member of Oklahoma City Ballet (once Ballet Oklahoma) since 2006, she is rising to the challenges presented to her both on and off the stage. I have had the pleasure of watching her grow and mature as a dancer from her years as an apprentice with the company to today where you can catch her onstage performing principal and soloist roles.  Callye is a true respect to her talent, focusing on Ballet Strength cross-training programs in the off-season to continue her growth as a dancer. Here is an interview with Callye McCollum;

Where are you from and when did you start dancing?
I am a native of Lima, Peru, which I am very proud to say, but I was raised in Luther, Oklahoma, which is located about 45 minutes outside of Oklahoma City. I began dancing as something to do after leaving the world of competitive gymnastics age 10. When I was 12, I started taking ballet more seriously and decided to enroll at the School of Ballet Oklahoma (now The Dance Center of Oklahoma CityBallet).

When did you realize that you wanted to become a professional dancer?
I don’t remember necessarily ever consciously choosing ballet as a career path, I really just loved to perform. There was a principal dancer with the company that I looked up to very much that I loved watching perform and I was determined to be like her when I grew up. It probably wasn’t until my junior year of high school that being a professional dancer started to become a true possibility and something that I began to taking even more seriously. I received an apprenticeship at 17 and was promoted to a company position the following year.

What struggles or injuries did you encounter along the way?
Transitioning from gymnastics to dance, especially ballet, was very hard. Not only did I have to work to reshape my musculature, but I had to learn how to use my turnout which was difficult since I had only ever worked turned in. Aside from minor ankle tweaks and pulled muscles, I have no history of injuries that have hindered my ability to perform. I have been very VERY lucky in that sense.

Callye McCollum in OKC Ballet's Paquita.

How has Ballet Strength helped you as a professional dancer?
I primarily use Ballet Strength during the summer when I am not performing with the company. It is fantastic for keeping my muscles in shape and preparing me for the upcoming season. I have on multiple occasions used Ballet Strength to prepare for demanding roles. Last season, I performed a pas de trois in “Phantom of the Opera.” It was a very high endurance piece with lots of jumps. I decided to incorporate some Ballet Strength leg exercises into my daily routine and soon noticed a difference in my stamina and my ability to make it through the piece without cramping or suffering from extreme fatigue.

How do feel that Ballet Strength could help a young aspiring professional dancer?
We have reached a time in ballet where dancers cannot go with cross-training, or muscle tone for that matter. Contemporary ballet is becoming much more prominent and as dancers we must be physically ready for anything. Ballet Strength will give you an edge, no matter where you are in your career. I personally wish I would have had access to something like Ballet Strength as a student, so those of you that do are very lucky!

As Clara in OKC Ballet's The Nutcracker.

What has been your favorite role to perform and why?
This past December, I had the opportunity to perform as “Clara” in Robert Mills’ “The Nutcracker.” There were two pas de deux that were both different in dynamic but equally as enjoyable to perform. What made it extra special is that I had performed Clara when it was a student role and I was able to recall the pure joy that I felt at the age of 13. I was also cast in Robert Mills’ “Touchstones” which premiered in April 2010. There is a section in the ballet that represents maturity and being in love, in which I performed a short pas de deux with my boyfriend and fellow company dancer, Josh Crespo. To be able to share with the audience such an intense emotion, one that I already felt so naturally, was a very memorable moment in my career.

Any last words of inspiration or encouragement for young dancers?
NEVER take yourself too seriously. We’re human, we make mistakes. That’s something we sometimes forget as ballet dancers. Most importantly, know your own body and be good to it.