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Falling off Pointe

I’m hearing a lot about retirement lately from a lot of my young dancer friends. There is a common question whispered throughout the ballet community; How do you know when to retire?

I had a conversation with an old friend of mine, Matthew, who dances with Kansas City Ballet a few weeks ago and he brought up a few valid points concerning retirement. Would you rather go out with a bang, at the height of your career? Or be caught “falling off pointe” at 40?

When he said the “falling off pointe” I completely lost it in laughter. How many of us have seen this exact thing. A dancer hanging on to her career by a thread (or toenail), all the while doing the audience a huge disservice. How does an Artistic Director go about telling this once magnificent dancer that it’s time to hang it up?

Is your company’s principal dancer holding the rest of the company back? There is a company here in Southern California that has a dancer like this, and I could name about ten other companies with the same problem. While this forty-something Principal Dancer may have artistic qualities to add to roles, she needs to channel her passion in another way…perhaps through coaching.

Although dance is an illusion, when ticket sales start to plummet, you know that your loyal ballet-goers have seen through the illusion. Does anyone even realize that Darci Kistler is still dancing, for example? (I’m not knocking Darci in any way, just stating a fact)

On the flip side of the coin, dancers are retiring a lot younger than they used to. For many, the economy has made it so that ballet companies are having to make cutbacks. This is making the job search hard for young dancers and even for dancers who are experienced. Principal and soloist caliber dancers are being turned down by companies because they can use young, inexperienced dancers for free.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post other than asking one question;

Do you want to be caught on stage falling off pointe?

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer

Author of The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide

The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide

Are you ready to get an edge on the competition?

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Now you can with The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide! Learn the secrets that Professional Dancers use and get in to the Summer School or Company of your dreams.

As a Professional Ballet Dancer, I know that preparing for a dance audition can be a stressful task. I remember going to auditions nervous and uncertain as a young girl. I remember sizing up the competition based on silly things like what they looked like or what leotard they were wearing.

What I didn’t know was that focusing on what other people looked like and comparing myself to them wasn’t helping. It was actually setting me up for failure.

I’m sure you have done this before…compare yourself to someone else.

Through simple goal setting and confidence boosting exercises, you can rise above the competition and focus on what truly matters. Yourself.

When I was a young girl, there were no resources for Dancers who needed advice about auditioning. This is why I have put together a wonderful manual called The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide to help you through a smooth audition process.

Whether you are trying out for a Summer Dance program, a new school, or a Professional Company, these tips will help you feel confident in the audition! All types of dancers can benefit from audition preparation from Ballet all the way to Jazz, Modern and Theatre.

You can trust these tips and secrets because they have been working for successful dancers for years!

So go to balletaudition.com and download your copy of The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide to start getting noticed in auditions!

3 Secrets to Becoming a Better Dancer

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We’re all looking to become the very best dancers that we can be. The truth is, there is no magic trick to improving your technique. Progress takes time, and with your dedication and hard work you will improve. Here are a 3 tips to helping you become a better dancer!

1. Focus on yourself. It is so easy to get distracted by the strengths of others. No two dancers are the same so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Focusing on others is negative. Take that energy and put it towards working on something positive to help improve You!

2. Write down your corrections. I know this may sound silly, but it works. You should be writing down the corrections your teachers give you after class or rehearsal. That way you can think about it and work on improving. As a successful professional dancer, I even did this when I was a Principal Dancer! Writing down your corrections ensures that you are going into class the next day prepared and smart.

3. Every day is an Audition. If you walk into class with an attitude or a tired demeanor, your teacher will notice. Everyone has bad days, sure, but you need to approach each new day as an audition. If you put 100% into class, you will improve very quickly. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude! You never know who may be watching.

I hope these three tips enable you to approach your daily class routine in a more positive manner. For more secrets and tips visit balletaudition.com.

Ballet Dancers and Ankle Injuries

A sickled foot...an ankle sprain ready to happen.

A sickled foot...an ankle sprain ready to happen.

In class day after day I watch my young co-worker Professional Dancers forcing turn-out and rolling in on their ankles. I have watched ankle sprains put dancers out for entire  seasons. How many times have you had a teacher try to force your body to do something that you know is just not genetically possible?

The most common types of injuries in Ballet Dancers are in the ankle area. Almost all of these injuries are caused by weaknesses or faulty technique. Forcing turn-out is just one example of poor technique that is sometimes encouraged by Russian ballet instructors. The fact is that most ballet instructors have not studied the human anatomy and biomechanics enough, and simply teach based on what worked for them. The truth is that we’re not all the same and it is not possible to clone dancers.

Without proper form and core strength, it is easy to sit into the calves and ankles to take on the whole weight of the body en pointe. Weak glutes or over-flexible hamstrings can sometimes lead to unstable ankles due to gripping of the calves. What happens when the calves are overused? They tighten up, they feel like rocks, they won’t stretch out. And when the calves lock up, you lose mobility in your foot and ankle.

When calves get tight or tired out after a long variation or pas de deux, some dancers think it is weak calves that are causing the problem. They proceed to do more releves, but never address the real problem. Are you pulling up in your legs when you do releves? Do you feel the releve in the upper hamstring, or are you sitting into the calves?

This is where I have my Professional Dancer clients try a few simple exercises on the Smith Machine  to test their hamstring/glute strength. If they are feeling the exercises mostly in their quadriceps, which you don’t want, I know that there is a lot of work to be done. I will then test the dancers balance on the Bosu Ball or Balance Board standing on one leg.

Whether you are an injured dancer or a healthy one looking to test your strengths and weaknesses,  contact a personal trainer exerpienced in working with dancers. Give yourself the confidence you need to maintain a healthy and long career!

-Nikol Klein, CPT, Professional Ballet Dancer

www.nikolklein.com

Strength Training and Ballet Dancers

In ballet, we’re all looking for that edge, what sets us apart from the next dancer. Some are born with fortunate genetics such as natural flexibility or a lean physique. For the rest of us who are not lucky enough to have these natural abilities, we must identify our weaknesses. Ballet technique alone is not going to save you.

 

Once you have identified your weaknesses, you can begin to address the problem.

Sometimes the answers can be found in ballet class. It’s true, there is no substitution for a good class, but there are other means to improving your weaknesses. Cardiovascular fitness, Pilates, and Strength Training…yes, Strength Training…are just a few of the methods that dancers are exploring these days to get the most out of their careers.

 

Strength Training was seen as taboo in the ballet world up until now. Older instructors will warn against it, saying that it will create short, bulky muscles. What some fail to recognize is that we as dancers have evolved, and the demands being put on our bodies are getting harder. Most ballet companies these days are also performing Contemporary works which can take a toll on the body if it is not properly conditioned.

 

Simple exercises can help tone and even out the muscle imbalances that dancers have from being too turned-out. If we work on strengthening the muscles in a parallel position, we can take some of the stress off the adductors, making for more efficient use of the leg in the turned-out positions.

 

I will touch on specific weaknesses and injuries in future blogs. Keep reading, and you can be on your way to a better ballet body. Remember; don’t try anything on your own without a proper assessment from a trainer specializing in dancers.

 

-Nikol Klein

Certified Personal Trainer

Professional Ballet Dancer