Blog Archives

Perfect Ballet Port de Bras

What is the most common correction that you get in ballet class? Chances are, it has something to do with your arms. Rather than just telling you “shoulders down” or “elbows up,” today I am going to show you the single most important exercise that you  should be doing outside of the classroom. If you never want to hear your ballet teacher scream at you in front of the class about your arms ever again, please read on!

Addressing the real problem – Like I talk about in my other blog posts, strength is the limiting factor (in our extensions and our pirouettes). Sure, we can stand around in ballet class all day long with our arms out in second position but this tends to lead to two things; 1.) Tired, droopy elbows which leads to 2.) Incorrect muscle memory. Over time, after repeatedly holding the arms incorrectly day after day and hour after hour, our bodies (and our minds) get trained to do the wrong thing – to hold the wrong position. The best way to address this situation is outside of the studio.

Dancers often lack upper body strength. We spend so much of our time focusing on what the legs and feet are doing that we neglect the upper body. (Core is another neglected component but we’ll get into that at another time.) The dancers that I work with at my studio and online work diligently to balance their upper body strength with the rest of their ballet skills. Some workouts are even entirely for the upper body. Why, you might ask? Because our upper body is responsible for a lot that goes on in our dancing. A turn cannot successfully be completed with droopy elbows, for example, and your jumps clearly will not get far off the ground if you are tensing your shoulders and neck midair.

So what exercises should you be doing? I am going to show you one of the single most important upper body exercises that dancers should be doing outside of the ballet classroom.

The Pec Fly – The Pec Fly (often referred to as the dumbbell fly) is an exercise that emulates a ballet port de bras that goes from first to second position.

balletstrengtharm

The pec fly targets the pectoralis major and minor muscles, the serratus muscles in the rib cage, in addition to the deltoids to help stabilize the movement. What does this mean in dancer terms? It means that it directly targets the muscles that you use to keep those elbows lifted and shoulders down when holding your arms in first position. This means great things for your dancing like stronger turning positions, free moving jumps, and effortless port de bras.

Directions: Start lying on the floor, knees bent, feet on the floor as pictured, holding 2 weights (3-5 lbs to start) in a rounded ballet second position. Keeping the arms rounded, slowly bring the arms in to a first position, touching the weights together. Repeat this for 15 repetitions, rest and do this again for a total of three sets. As always, make sure you warm-up prior to beginning any ballet or fitness routine.

Below is a video of the pec fly exercise as well:

Upper body is something that I have incorporated into all of my Ballet Strength online programs and DVD’s as it is a vital component to your progress as a dancer. I go over multiple exercises that will improve your port de bras, just like the pec fly exercise above. Give this a try and I can’t wait to hear how this exercise helps you improve as a dancer!

 

 

 

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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.

Get Amazing Ballet Arms

If you are like most dancers, chances are you have had correction or two about your upper body and arms. Without the muscular strength to properly hold your arms in place, you will fall victim to one of the two most common ballet arm corrections – 1.) drooping elbows or 2.) shoulders. The following is an exercise taken directly from the Ballet Strength DVD that will help you gain the muscular awareness to properly hold your port de bras.

Ballet Strength Awesome Arms

Give this exercise a try at first without using weights, then gradually increase to three pound weights or five pound weights if you are more advanced. This exercise will effectively activate the shoulders, pectoral muscles, deltoids, and lats to create more muscle awareness in first position. Try doing this exercise a few times a week and notice a big difference in your port de bras.

*Exercise a courtesy of The Ballet Strength DVD. For more information and to buy the DVD go to http://www.balletstrength.com.

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 – How to Improve Turnout

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

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)

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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