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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.

Common Ballet Injuries – Prevention Tips

When it comes to ballet there aren’t a whole lot of dancers out there who can honestly say that they have never had an injury. Whether it’s an injury as major or career ending as an Achilles tendon rupture or an injury as minor as a shin splint, it is imperative that the root of the problem be discovered.

Luckily today there are preventative measures being taken by ballet companies and schools lead by younger artistic staffs to keep dancers fine tuned. In the past there were ballet teachers and company artistic directors who were not educated on injury prevention for dancers, thus indirectly encouraging dancers to continue through injuries shortening the life of their career.

Common injuries for dancing include (but are not limited to);
Achilles Tendonitis
Ankle Sprains
Patellar Tendonitis
Piriformis Syndrome
Lower back pain
Rotator Cuff
Broken Toes/Feet
Check out a complete list on the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries website. It’s very helpful.

Of course there are ways to prevent some of these injuries through core conditioning, pilates, strength training, and ballet cross training. Most ballet companies have on site physical therapists who work with dancers daily aches and pains and can prescribe a correct physical therapy routine. There is also the Ballet Strength DVD which has a library of exercises that you can do to prevent injury and improve strength.

As dancers today, there is no excuse to allow the body to be plagued by injury and pain. With all of the helpful resources available dancers are extending their careers well into their 30’s. Don’t wait to address your injury prone areas…you don’t want to wait until it’s too late!

Ballet Strength – How to Improve Turnout

Watch a sneak peek of my new Ballet Strength DVD coming out with this exercise designed to improve turn-out.

Nutcracker Ballet Partnerning Advice

Question: Hi Nikol! Love your facebook page and hoping to purchase your ebooks soon. I had a question regarding some acting difficulties in Nutcracker. I am Clara and my directors really want a strong “connection” between her and the nephew/nutcracker prince. There are times where I have to really look at him with “affection” and mean it! Its hard! Do you have any advice for connecting with your partner? Thanks! ~ Colleen

Partnering isn't one sided. It takes two!

Answer: Hello Colleen. First off, I would like to say congratulations to you on landing the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. As a young dancer, performing the role of Clara was one of those times that I remember the most vividly and had the most fun dancing on stage. Now we all know the story of The Nutcracker, but I want you to find the book (if you don’t already have it) and really read the story. While you are reading the story, I want you to take careful note of the emotions that Clara is feeling. She is delighted by the gift that Drosselmeyer gives her, overwhelmed at this magical land that she didn’t know existed, enchanted by the prince who so bravely battled the Mouse King, etc. Write down a list of these different emotions. Now, think of the different instances in the ballet where you have to convey these emotions through choreography.

If you can immerse yourself completely in the role of Clara and focus on the story you are trying to convey, you shouldn’t have any awkward moments with the Prince. What I used to do is imagine the Prince to be a boy that I had a crush on. I know it sounds silly, but it works. So whether it’s Justin Bieber or Taylor Lautner, pretend like the “Prince” standing in front of you is him and feel what an honor it is to be led through the Kingdom of the Sweets by such a “superstar.” (Just don’t tell the prince that you are doing this! lol)

The other thing that can make you feel more comfortable around your partner is getting to know him a little better. If you two can become friends and have an awesome open communication that will also transfer well on stage.

Most of all, don’t be shy. Just as you should feel honored to be dancing with the Nutcracker Prince, you should feel even more honored to have been chosen to dance the role of Clara! Cherish the next two months in your “reign” as Clara and most importantly, have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to email me (nikol@balletaudition.com) to let me know how it goes!

Committed to Your Dancing,

Nikol Klein
www.balletaudition.com
www.balletstrength.com

Ballet Strength in Pointe Magazine

Ballet Strength is becoming a popular topic of discussion throughout the ballet community. With this being said, I was pleased to recieve a call last week from Pointe Magazine asking for my help and expertise on Ballet Strength for their advice column for dancers.

The question I was asked to answer was in regards to a young dancer looking to slim out her bulky legs. I was happy to hear someone ask this. It is good to know that dancers are finally starting to realize that there are ways for them to transform their bodies through cross training. The truth is that most ballet teachers are unequipped to offer advice on this once tabu subject.

This is where my Ballet Strength methods come in handy. With proven programs like Beginning Ballet Strength (www.balletstrength.com), dancers can now be confident that cross training works and with my expertise now being referenced by Pointe Magazine.

I am honored and flattered to work with Pointe Magazine and look forward to the future opportunities that are on the horizon.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author/ San Diego Personal Trainer

Cross Training for Ballet Strength

Improve your technique by cross training.

As Summer approaches, many Dancers will embrace a much needed three or four month layoff. Some will vacation, some will continue to obsessively take class day after day. The smart Dancer Cross Trains. To continue Dancing with the intensity you had during the season is like beating a dead horse. Our bodies need time off in order to make important gains and improvements. Yes, you can actually improve by taking some time off!

Here is the Cross Training Plan that I recommend;

Right after the Performance Season is over, take at least 2 weeks off! Upon returning to class, this will give you a clear signal as to what “pains” are actual injuries and which were just symptoms of overuse. During that first class back (typically after a 2 to 6 week break) take note of certain areas and muscle groups in the body that feel weak. If you feel that you have a serious injury this is a great time to see a Doctor, get an MRI, and get it fixed in time for the season to start.

After taking note of those weak areas, consult a Ballet Strength Expert such as myself for Dance Specific exercises that you can do in the gym.  On Ballet Dancers, for example, the “turn-in” or legs in a parallel stance is usually weak. I would then recommend some basic strength training techniques involving one-leg squats and exercises on the Bosu. Dancers also tend to favor one side of the body. This is a great time to strengthen your weak side!

As far as taking class goes, I recommend no more than 3 days per week during your time off.  The other 2 days should be dedicated to your Cross Training program!

Feeling out of breath during that variation? Don’t forget about cardio. What better time than Summer to go for a run, hike, or bike ride in your favorite park. You may be surprised at how much better you feel and how much more you are able to do pain free!

How do I Cross Train? To ensure that my trouble areas stay injury free, I take class only twice per week during the off season and weight train three times per week. I also focus on keeping my core strong with lots of unique abdominal exercises. For Cardio, I do chasse’s on the treadmill, front and side!

Still confused? I have taken all of the guess work out of it with my new book, Beginning Ballet Strength©. You can get your own copy at www.balletstrength.com!

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer/ Author/ Certified Nutritionist

Introducing Beginning Ballet Strength©

I am pleased to finally announce the release of my new program, Beginning Ballet Strength©. Now you can have all of the advantages of top professional ballet dancers and be in peak condition year round!

Beginning Ballet Strength is a strength training program geared towards helping you become the best, strongest dancer possible. In this digital eBook, you will be coached step by step through strength training exercises specifically designed by a dancer, for a dancer. Each exercise is illustrated and described to make sure your form is correct.

Benefits of Beginning Ballet Strength include:

★ Improved Balance
★ Injury Prevention
★ Stronger Jumps
★ Improved Stamina
★ Partnering Strength
★ Increased Confidence
★ Heightened Jumps
★ Better Turns
★ Tighter Core
★ Stronger/ Slimmer Appearance
★ Increased Range of Motion
★ and much, much more!
Any young dancer who is thinking about becoming a professional or any professional dancer new to strength training must read this book!
Be sure to check it out at www.balletstrength.com.
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The reproduction or use of any content found on this website is strictly prohibited by law.

Ballet Strength-Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I have been working diligently on my new book and website for you all based on strength training for Dancers. This is uncharted territory when it comes to ballet, so I have to be sure that the timing of my launch is right. To get started, here are a few basic things that you need to know about strength training for Dancers and how it can improve your performance and extend your career.

Lets debunk the common strength training and cross training myths that you have heard from your Ballet teachers.

Myth #1: You will get bulky muscles- This statement is totally untrue. In fact, if you are doing the correct exercises, your muscles should form a more elongated look! Strength training increases lean muscle mass. If you are working with a certified professional who understands a Dancers body, you should have any problems with bulky muscles. Now not all of you can have access to trainers like myself or the New York City Ballet’s strength and conditioning team, so stay posted to my blog for valuable tips for exercises that you can do on your own!

Myth #2: Taking extra Ballet classes is the only way to improve- Now most of you know that this is not true, but there are some Ballet teachers out there who are still preaching this. Cross-training is a great way to work on your weaknesses as a dancer through strength training, Pilates, yoga, or even taking a few jazz classes!

Myth #3: Strength training causes loss of flexibility- Untrue. It actually improves range of motion of muscles and joints. It also enhances dance proprioception. This creates improved awareness of your center of gravity (think balance and turns). Any good strength training or cross-training program will also incorporate stretching towards the end of the workout.

Myth #4: Strength training is for Men- True, but it is also beneficial for Women.There are many wonderful benefits to strength training including increased range of motion, injury prevention, increased lean muscle mass, improves balance, increases and restores bone density, and enhances sports performance. Now just think of how much that can improve your dancing!

I hope that through this post, you have a better understanding of the real benefits of strength training for Ballet Dancers. Remember, your strength training program needs to be tailored towards dancers, not just any program will do. If you have any questions please contact me.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my NEW Ballet Strength Book, Beginning Ballet Strength HERE!

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer / Certified Personal Trainer

Abdominal Conditioning for Dancers

Today I gave myself barre at my home just for fun to test out a few of the theories I’ve been working on for my next book. I wanted to focus on something technical that only a Professional Dancer with a Certification as a Personal Trainer would know. Something that your Dance teachers don’t know. (they don’t know everything, trust me)

Now I haven’t been taking class consistently by any means, but would still consider myself to be in good dancing shape. I noticed that my balance was very strong whether in passe, arabesque, attitude or the basic positions. I suddenly realized the correlation between my solid balance and my abdominal strength. See, I’ve been working very hard on my abdominal strength lately for my fitness TV appearances.

Abdominal strength is more than just Pilates. Dance teachers always try to push Pilates on students to improve their “core” strength. While Pilates is great, it’s not the solution to the problem. Abdominal strength through strength training is!

NKleincrunch

This exercise incorporates an element of instability

Take the oblique abdominal crunch bringing the knee to elbow on a physio-ball for example. (pictured above) This exercise engages the hip flexors in addition to the oblique abdominals in an active position. This exercise requires extreme core strength.

I could go on to tell you why this exercise will benefit you more than Pilates for example, but I’ll save that for the book! There are hundreds of exercises that you can do through strength training that will leave you feeling strong and energized as opposed to tired and lazy like Pilates can sometimes do.

Most of the exercises I have my Dancer clients do are standing up. Since you dance standing up, doesn’t make much more sense to strengthen you core muscles standing up rather than lying down like Pilates?

By the way, I don’t want you to think I’m knocking Pilates. In fact, I have a Pilates Mat Certification so I’ve been there, done that. Pilates is a wonderful way for injured dancers to stay limber while in a resting state. But eventually they have to translate all of that knowledge to standing.

Stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, you can purchase my Ballet Strength book that contains exercises just like the ones described above! Find out more HERE.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist

Ballet Cross Training

I had a chance this morning to bring the video camera into my workout session. I wanted to show my loyal blog followers the type of workout that I do in the off-season to keep my body lean and toned. It is sometimes hard for Professional Dancers to get into the studio over the summer because there are no classes available and/or they cannot afford to pay for them. (Yes, these days most studios are even charging professionals to take class!) If you are not lucky enough to have a studio near you offering free classes, you definitely need to look into the things you can do in the comfort of your own home! I happen to be lucky enough to have an oversized 3 car garage and a ballet barre, so I am able to give myself class at home.

A lot of the exercises I do in the video, mainly the plie jump squat, work on specific weaknesses that I need to target. The plie jump squats help improve my spring in jumps both in ballet class and on stage. I also make sure to add a 10 lb kettlebell to the equation so that I feel lighter when I perform the same movement in ballet class.

I will be making more of these videos in the near future and will be releasing instructional videos too! Stay tuned and please, bookmark this page.

Best in Health,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist

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