Blog Archives

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

Ballerina or Professional Ballet Dancer?

My favorite fairy tale Ballerina

When it comes to job titles, it can get a bit tricky with Dancers.

Every once in a while I will run into someone who introduces me as a Ballerina. I immediately correct them and say you mean, “Professional Ballet Dancer.” My natural instinct is to get offended. Why do I get offended, you ask? To put it bluntly, doesn’t the word “Ballerina” sound a bit juvenile? Let me explain.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Ballerina as a Woman who is a Ballet Dancer. The general public does not understand that Ballet Dancers can become professional like sports athletes. They also do not understand that Professional Ballet Dancers get paid. The word “Ballerina” is most often associated with a young Ballet student or the music box dancer with her hands touching the crown of her head like an ape. I don’t want to be thought of as that, do you?

In reality, Professional Ballet Dancers are not recognized for the true athleticism that they embody. Instead they are thought of as the fluff and fairy tales that we learned about in our childhood. (Let’s face it, this lifestyle is far from a fairy tale.)

This is something that isn’t going to change anytime soon, just an observation I made last week while visiting with family.

What are your thoughts?

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author

Performance Nervousness-Part 2

In the Wings

Now that you have identified the type of performance nervousness you are feeling from Part 1 of my Performance Nervousness series, it is time to come up with a solution. In the book I wrote, The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide, (www.balletaudition.com) I outline the types of techniques that can be used to get rid of Audition nerves. The same concepts can be applied to backstage nerves.

Here are some of the long-term things you can do prior to the show to ensure that you are feeling confident going into theatre week.

Set Goals- Write out your goals ahead of time, starting with your first rehearsal. If you set realistic performance goals and work on them throughout the weeks of rehearsals leading up to the show, you will feel more confident.

Mental Preparation- Mentally prepare yourself through imagery. This is something that I have gone into extensively in The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide. If you can visualize yourself performing a role perfectly, you can take that same feeling into the real performing situation.

Here are some of the short-term things that you can do to help with pre-performance butterflies.

Avoid Caffeine & Sugar- I remember sugaring up before shows when I was in school and it always turned out disastrous. Either you feel like you’re going to jump out of your skin while you’re onstage or your sugar high crashes right before the show and you are left feeling tired and lethargic.

Eat and Hydrate- No one performs at his or her best on an empty stomach. To ensure that you won’t energy bonk before the show, eat at least 1 hour prior to call. Sip on an electrolyte enhanced beverage throughout the day.

Listen to Music- Listening to your favorite tunes on your iPod before the show can have a huge calming effect on your nerves. Most Professional Dancers practice this technique pre-performance.

Warm-up- Warming-up before the show will give your body the peace of mind it needs to successfully execute choreographic demands.

Focus in the Wings- Think positive before you are about to make your stage entrance.

Breathe- Don’t forget to breathe and relax before going onstage. If you’re holding your breath, all of the movements that you have been working so hard on in rehearsal will feel lot harder and more taxing on the body.

Try some of these techniques before your Nutcracker performances this month! If you are looking for more techniques to try pre-performance, check out the eBook I wrote at www.balletaudition.com. The techniques outlined in that book aren’t just for auditioners!

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer / Author

Performance Nervousness Part 1

 

Intermission-during one of my pre-performance rituals.

 

 

Through my extensive career as a professional dancer, I have observed some pretty strange pre-performance rituals. I have seen it all, and tried it all. So what works?

The truth is, not everyone is the same. There is no magic cure for nervousness, but there are things that you can do to calm yourself in the wings.

In Part 1 of Performance Nervousness, we will take the first step. Identifying the type of nervousness you are feeling.

Here are the categories of nervousness that I have defined through my years of dancing. See which category you best fit into or have felt in the past.

Prepared Nervousness– You feel well rehearsed, excited, pumped up. Maybe your family is out in the audience. You have a positive outlook on the upcoming performance.

Unprepared Nervousness– It feels like you are going into unfamiliar territory. You are doubtful, almost fearful. Maybe you were thrown into a role last-minute or were an understudy.

Combination of both– You are prepared but doubting yourself and your abilities. Even though you feel ready to perform a role, you are worried about uncontrollable factors.

Over-Prepared– You have rehearsed perfectly every day. Maybe you have even performed this role consecutive years. You are not nervous. After the performance you may even feel let down, although your performance went well.

Competitive Nervousness– You feel pressure. If you can perform well you will get a promotion. You want to outshine other dancers. Maybe your director or teacher watches the show from the wings.

Now that you have identified the type of nervousness you are feeling or have felt, we will move on to the solution. Stay posted for Part 2 of my Performance Nervousness series! As always your comments are greatly appreciated.

Stay tuned…

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author

How to be Nutcracker Ready

It’s our favorite time of the year…Nutcracker time! Young dancers all over the world are jumping with joy and bragging about the roles they have been cast in. Professional Dancers are sharpening their pencils in roles they have been dancing for years. What can you do to make sure you are prepared or in the pro’s cases avoid Nutcracker burnout?

Sugarplum Pas de Deux

Whether you are dancing a new role this year or repeating last years, you can use the same techniques to look beautiful and dance technically sound.

Music is a huge part of the equation. We all know the Nutcracker music all too well, but if you listen closely enough you may hear something new. Explore your musicality. If you are performing with an Orchestra, dance with the music. Listen to the music, don’t just dance on auto-pilot.

Nutcracker is a great time to work on your performance skills and stage presence. If you’ve performed this role before, approach this year with more confidence! Show the audience that you are comfortable in this role.

Improve your technique on these roles. Last year you did a double pirouette in Waltz of the Flowers…why not throw in a triple this year? This of course does not apply for the corp de ballet, but is a great way for a soloist to show off their stuff. Careful though…some artistic directors get angry if you do too much!

Stand out in the Corps de Ballet! As a kid, I always watched the corps member who smiled the most and looked like she was having the most fun. While you are dancing imagine that all eyes are on you! There are subtle ways that you can keep from blending in.

Enjoy yourself this Nutcracker season! Remember, Summer School and Company auditions are right around the corner and with auditions comes added stress.Learn more about how you can get rid of nerves with The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide.

Happy Dancing!

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

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

How to Prevent Ballet Injuries

Ballet injuries are common career ending catastrophes for dancers of all ages. What may seem like a small ache or pain could turn into a serious injury if you are not making the proper adjustments to your technique. There are a lot of solutions offered that just mask the pain. If you do not get to the bottom of the issue that is causing the injury, it could be a life long struggle.

The following are a list of steps you can take to ensure you are doing the right things to prevent career ending injuries.

1.) See a Doctor- I know this may seem like a no brainer, but going to a doctor is one of the most important things you can do if you are experiencing abnormal pain. If you are attending a good ballet school, they should be affiliated with a Sports Medicine department or physical therapist in your city.

2.) Rest- You’ve heard this one before too. If you are experiencing abnormal pain, you need to stop dancing until you have the issue identified by a physical therapist. I know, you’re afraid that you will lose your part to your understudy, but how would if feel if you kept dancing and tore or broke something? Do your career a favor and take a much needed rest.

3.) Therapy- Once you have seen a physical therapist and they have diagnosed the problem, you need to follow through with your treatments. Your physical therapist may have you doing some strange exercises, but if you don’t follow through with them the injury will come back.

4.) Investigate- After you are finished with physical therapy and your injury seems to have healed, start investigating your ballet technique. Are you rolling in on your ankles? Are you gripping your hips? You might even want to see a Ballet Strength & Conditioning Coach like myself to help you work on technical weaknesses based on your anatomy and body mechanics. (Keep in mind that these are things that most ballet teachers are not qualified to recommend)

Sometimes your Ballet instructors, though they have your best interest in mind, will continue to tell you to force your turnout, etc. so that your body looks aesthetically correct for ballet. While this may look good, it may be doing disastrous things for your body and your career.

Take these simple precautions to prevent long lasting injuries and never be afraid to ask questions. You can try out one of my Ballet Strength programs HERE.

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

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 Leg Workout

Even though I’ve been quite busy over the past few weeks with an abundance of new clients, I still found some time to get some video work done for all of my blog followers. My latest creation is an instructional video showing 4 different variations of a Ballet Leg sequence. All you need to perform these movements is the back of a chair, couch or railing.

You don’t have to be a Dancer to have Ballet Legs! Enjoy!

Best in Health,

Nikol Klein, ISSA CPT/SPN, Professional Ballet Dancer