Blog Archives

Should I go to Ballet When I’m Sick?

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There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with a sore throat and a full day of rehearsals ahead of you. No matter how healthy you are it is inevitable that the flu or a cold will hit you at some point during peak season. I get asked a lot by my dancer clients whether they should continue classes and rehearsals while sick. The answer truly depends on just how sick you are. Is it a cold? Allergies? The flu? Are you contagious?

In general, if you are sick you stay home and rest but with dancers it can be a really tough decision to make. If we miss a day of rehearsals, for example, our understudy will get a chance to do our part or we may lose our spot altogether. So what do you do? Be sure to talk to your studio or company director directly on the phone (so they can hear just how sick you are) and take care of YOU. Staying home may make you feel lazy, but it is an essential part of your recovery – and the faster you recover, the sooner you will be back to dancing.

The general rule is that if the symptoms are above the neck it is usually okay to exercise but at a lower intensity than you are used to. As dancers, we don’t really get the luxury of determining the pace of class and rehearsals, so If you absolutely must go through with it, alert your teacher or director that you will be taking it easy. Dancing while you are ill could also lead to injury so be cautious. The key is to listen to your body – it is definitely not a good idea to push yourself beyond your limits when you are under the weather so take it easy.

You wouldn’t want the rest of the dancers at your studio to get sick either, so be sure to wash your hands and wipe off your barre spot with disinfecting wipes. Get lots of rest when you can and be sure to drink lots of liquids whether you are at the studio or at home.

When you should definitely NOT dance while you are sick:
• When you are vomiting
• You have a fever
• Coughing or chest congestion
• Widespread body and muscle aches

When it is okay to dance with a lower intensity:
• Sore throat
• Nasal congestion
• Sneezing
• Runny nose

My hope is that you stay healthy this Fall and Winter and continue to thrive as a dancer. Be sure to stay up on your nutrition and rest to avoid getting sick!

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Preventing Ankle Sprains in Dance

Ballet Strength Ankle Injuries

The most common injury in dance is a sprained ankle. If you have been dancing long enough, chances are, you have gone through this injury and the long rehabilitation process that comes with it. As a dancer who was prone to ankle sprains early on in my professional career, I looked to strength training for help. I will never forget the first time that I “rolled” my ankle in the studio after a summer of Ballet Strength cross training preparation – my ankle rolled over to the outside of my foot, and immediately corrected itself back to standing due to the strength that I had created in my ankle, knee and hip. No pain, no sprain! I was truly amazed and felt accomplished as all of my hard work over the summer had paid off!

While accidents do happen, there are a few exercises that you can add to your cross training routine to help prevent sprains from happening. Two of the exercises that I will outline in this blog are lunges and squats. These exercises are very common in the gym but not so much in the ballet world. In ballet we tend to work hard on the muscles that hold our “turn-out” while neglecting stabilizing muscles that we use in “parallel” or daily life. This is why us dancers have taken on the reputation of walking like ducks.

Lunges

Start standing with the legs together in parallel. Lunge forward with the right leg, striking with the heel first. Pushing back through the heel (no pointed toes here), return to the start position. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions on each leg.

Ballet Strength Lunges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squats

Start with both legs in parallel, slightly wider than hip width apart. Send the hips back (breaking in the hips) followed by a bend in the knee. Be sure to keep the knees in line with the heels, NOT letting them go over the toes. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Ballet Strength Squats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding these two exercises to your strength training/cross training routine will help balance out your muscles, keeping you centered and strong. For a full ankle strengthening program, try my Power Pointe Ankle Strengthening Program! As always, be sure to consult with your physical therapist, physician, or Ballet Strength trainer before performing these or any cross training exercises.

Nutrition for Dancers – Career Saving Advice

Ballet NutritionDid you know that proper nutrition can make or break your day to day ballet performance? With the intense physical demands that are being put on dancers these days a solid nutrition routine is a must for optimal performance, endurance and muscle recovery. Contemporary choreography is taking ballet to a new athletic level. Dancers are much like other athletes – They need to eat for energy.

When I landed my first professional job away from home as a dancer with Ballet Austin, I wasn’t used to having to prepare meals and take care of myself. Frozen food and pizza were convenient but were not what my body needed to perform at it’s best from day to day. I was always tired, got frequent migraine headaches, and my performance in class started to suffer. I also gained weight.

All of this eventually lead up to an injury. The physical and nutritional stress that I was putting on my body had finally taken it’s toll. Soon I was called into the office to talk to the directors about not only my injury but my weight gain. The last thing that I wanted to be thinking about while dealing with an injury was “dieting.” Injured, self-conscious, and desperate for answers, I left the company mid-season to recuperate back at home and pull myself together in time for company auditions that Spring.

Through healthy eating, adequate rest, and stress management I was able to catch myself before I fell into a career ending pattern in time to receive multiple job offers that Spring. Luckily I have put together a resource for you to optimize your nutrition and apply the same principles that helped me to your life and dancing!

It’s called Ballet Nutrition and it covers all of the important things that you need to know including; using food for fuel, proper hydration, adequate rest, muscle recovery, daily caloric requirements (super easy to use formula to figure out your needs), and eating for energy. This digital book empowers you to make your own healthy choices and design your own plan based on the principles explained and examples given.

Your dancing deserves the best nutrition! Read more about Ballet Nutrition here >> http://balletstrength.com/Ballet_Strength/balletnutrition.html

 

 

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 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?

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 DVD Secrets

I am pleased to announce the launch of my new Ballet Strength DVD. I have been working hard over the past few months to carefully choose and design exercises that will help dancers improve their jumps, turns, core stability, and most importantly help with injury prevention.

You can learn more and get your very own copy by clicking here >> I want a copy of the Ballet Strength DVD

Here is a video preview of some of what the Ballet Strength DVD has to offer!

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/huMxgp3rWwA%2Em4v%5D

Ballet Strength Stretching Secrets

These stretches are best done after class.

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!)

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 throughts and experiences with this!

Committed to Your Dancing,

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

*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 Strength on Alex Wong’s Injury

A photo of Alex gives me great insight as to where his injury prone areas may be.

My heart was broken last night watching So You Think You Can Dance for Alex Wong, an extremely talented dancer who captured the dance world’s attention this season. I’m not an avid So You Think You Can Dance viewer, but I do catch the show about twice per month. Being that Alex was a ballet dancer and had left his position with Miami City Ballet to be on SYTYCD, there was quite a story and a passion behind his presence on the show. It kept me watching…

As a Ballet Strength and cross training coach for dancers, I immediately started to think of ways that this injury might have been prevented. Gorgeously arched feet and super tight calves like Alex’s usually mean short Achilles Tendons in my experience working one on one designing plans injury prevention plans for professional dancers. (I could go into more details about his anatomy, but I’ll spare you.)

In my spare time this morning I did my best to find out how Alex Wong “ruptured his Achilles Tendon” to further investigate how something like this could have been prevented. Had his spring nearly sprung? Is it the result of improper technique? Or did he merely land wrong? The articles that I found were quite vague in their description of the incident so I am hoping that there will be more to come in the next few days.

My next thought: was Alex in pain prior to the Achilles rupture? Did he have chronic Achilles Tendonitis, a nagging long-term injury that some dancers suffer with their entire careers? Many dancers push through injuries in order keep their status in companies thinking that the injury will heal itself and get better. Us stubborn dancers think that we can change the reality that rest is the only thing that will truly heal an injury.

In my ballet summer studies at Chautauqua I remember hearing stories about New York City Ballet Dancer Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux rupturing his Achilles, but I don’t know for a fact if he returned to dancing after the injury. I am confident that Alex will dance again.

I guess my message in this blog post is this: Dancers, be smart. Take risks, but don’t risk your career thinking that you can triumph over pain. You cannot mask injuries. Trust me, it will bite you in the behind. Not to say that I know 100% that this is the reason for Alex Wong’s injury, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it may be the case. Hopefully more details will be available to the public soon.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author/ Fitness Expert