Blog Archives

Foam Rolling for Ballet Dancers

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If you are one of those dancers who has tight iliotibial bands or “IT bands” you know that it is not an easy task loosening them up. Today I want to share with you a different way to loosen up your IT band. These exercises work well because they do not put direct pressure on the IT band, rather on the muscle groups surrounding it which are the real culprits for the tightness!

But first lets explore the IT band by locating it. The Iliotibial Band is a thick strip of connective tissue that connects several muscles in the outside thigh. It plays a key role in the movement of the thigh by connecting hip muscles to the tibia of the lower leg. (see below) Tight IT bands in dancers is very common and can cause hip and knee pain as well as injuries. It can also inhibit flexibility which of course affects extension and developé.

ITB

Anytime my Ballet Strength clients start to feel hip or knee pain and/or tightness, I add the exercises in the video below to their training program. Give them a try yourself, performing 10 repetitions in each position to increase your flexibility.

 

 

This article was originally published on www.balletstrength.com

*References innerbody.com, athletico.com

Setting Ballet Summer Intensive Goals

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As the end of June approaches many of you will head off to your very first summer ballet intensive program. With your suitcases packed have you left anything behind? You have surely packed enough leotards and pointe shoes to get you through the 3-6 weeks that you will be away from home. Have you forgotten the most important thing you will need for your summer intensive?

The most common thing that dancers forget to do before leaving for a ballet summer intensive program is set goals. Why are you doing this summer intensive program? To improve, right? But what exact areas of your dancing are you looking to improve? Let’s face it, without setting goals what exactly will you get out of your summer intensive experience?

Before you leave home (or even if you are in your first few weeks of the intensive) write down the following questions in your ballet journal.

What do I feel that I most need to improve on this summer? This could be anything from pirouettes to technique.

What have my teachers been encouraging me to improve on? This would be the corrections that you get in class or at the school year-end conference.

What do I need to do to make these corrections over the summer? Listen to the teachers, focus, etc

Why did I choose this summer intensive? List the key reasons that you decided to go to this particular summer program. Anything from teaching staff to city.

What do I most want to accomplish this summer at (fill in your summer intensive name) ? What is your ultimate goal in attending this particular summer program? Do you perhaps want to be asked to stay for this school’s year-round program?

By answering these questions and looking them over every few days, you will stay on track at your summer program. I know it sounds kind of dorky but if you really want to become the best dancer you have to set goals and remind yourself of those goals consistently. Have fun and make friends but remember, you are there to dance!

Improve Your Penché for Ballet

Today’s video is to help you improve your penché for ballet. The penché is one of the exercises in ballet class that dancers struggle with – it requires balance, proper alignment, flexibility, and a strong standing leg. In fact, directors often give penché in auditions to see who can handle it and who topples over.

So what can you do to improve your penché? This video demonstrates a Ballet Strength exercise that addresses all of the key factors that go into executing the perfect penché such as balance, flexibility, strength, and alignment. Give it a try!

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.

Breaking Pointe – Human or Dancer?

As a former professional ballet dancer, I admit that it is exciting to see a ballet reality TV show such as the CW’s Breaking Pointe getting so much attention. I support the show and the dancers who are opening up their lives on camera to give the public some insight into a dancers life. The tough part is seeing dancers whom I trained with or worked with in the past getting so much criticism from the dance community – particularly from ballet moms. Here’s a quick reality check.

If everything was just sugarplums and tutus, there wouldn’t be a show. As perfect and innocent as ballet may seem, you have to realize that dancers are human and are in fact very much like you – They don’t get along with all of their co-workers, they have bad days, they have self-esteem issues, they deal with work stress, they have to compete for job promotions. Yes, occasionally they even meet up at the bar after a long day of work. Isn’t this what most of the general public has been doing their whole adult lives? These dancers are men and women working to make ends meet just like you – they don’t live in a music box.

The other thing that the public doesn’t realize is that these dancers are Adults. The public tends to associate the word “ballerina” with a little girl when in fact these ballerinas are professional adults. The truth is that while you were off at college joining fraternities and sororities, dancers were already working. Most dancers are hired into professional companies at age 17,  forcing them to grow up at a much younger age than you. Now that’s reality.

Why don’t they show more dancing? Because dancers lives encompass more than just dancing. Breaking Pointe is trying to make the public realize that dancers are human beings dealing with many of the same social issues as you – look at the African American dancer in the company, the openly gay couple, the dancer dealing with the stress of starting a family and marriage, the dancer who’s husband doesn’t have time for her. These are very big issues that people are dealing with all over the world every day. Why do you demand that a dancer’s life be any different?

The show depicts a wonderful contrast between the dancer’s personal lives and their studio lives. Have we created a false sense of reality for our teens when we don’t allow them to watch Breaking Pointe because it addresses too many real issues? If you want to see dancing and be swept away from reality buy tickets to see the ballet! In the meantime, watch Breaking Pointe for what it is – a real look into a hard working professional’s life and the hardships and glory that comes with it. Let’s applaud these dancers with a standing ovation for opening up their lives to us!

 

Contest Alert

You could WIN a Ballet Strength DVD! 3 lucky Facebook fans will win a Ballet Strength DVD. Just click on the photo below to head on over to the Ballet Strength page and “like” and “share” the photo! Good luck!

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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.

Joffrey Ballet in San Diego: Review

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It is not too often that world renowned ballet companies make their way to San Diego so I jumped on the opportunity to see the Joffrey Ballet perform at the San Diego Copley Symphony Hall on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. I was pleased to see that the repertoire would be all contemporary ballet pieces in which they performed three- Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

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The program began abruptly with Son of Chamber Symphony choreographed by Stanton Welch, as both the music and the dancing started as the curtain was rising, on the first count of the music, written by John Adams. Four male dancers were surrounding one female dancer, Anastacia Holden, wearing an edgy, modern version of a tutu. Holden performed the choreography with precision and attack. Her sense of balance is something that most dancers would envy along with her petite yet athletic build. The true standout though came in the second movement with a pas de deux performed by April Daly and Dylan Gutierrez. Ms. Daly truly has it all feet, legs, flexibility, turns, and the ability to emote all wrapped into one long and lean package. I could have watched her dance for hours…if only this ballet was longer! Son of Chamber Symphony was my favorite piece of the evening. I could definitely see the Balanchine influence in the choreography which made me want to dance it, of course. (gotta love the “chugs” and the “hip thrusts” in the third movement)

The second piece was Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. After hearing so much about this ballet since it was choreographed in 2005, I had very high expectations. The dancers definitely delivered the feeling that is expected from this short piece. The audience moved and breathed with the female dancer either Christine Roccas or Yumelia Garcia (not clear in the program) as she effortlessly enchanted them all with real raw emotion during her pas de deux to the famously haunting music Spiegel im Spiegel in the second movement.

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The third piece, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated reminded me of the type of ballets the Joffrey is known for. As a kid, I remember Billboards and this ballet, particularly the costumes, gave me that early 90’s kind of feeling. The choreography looked fun and the dancers executed it well, however the music was in my opinion revolting. The standout of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was Christine Roccas who fluidly moved through the piece, executing multiple turns with ease. The dancers were really able to show off their technical “tricks” and abilities in this piece whether it be flexibility or turns. The men were landing five and six pirouettes like nothing and my jaw definitely dropped a few times in regards to a particular female dancer’s a la seconde turns. While I enjoyed watching the technicality of this piece, I did feel that the costumes were a bit dated. Not to mention that with the black tights, you could not see the dancer’s legs at times.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my evening seeing the Joffrey Ballet perform these three pieces. This performance proved why Joffrey Ballet is and always was one of the top ballet companies in the country. I look forward to seeing how these talented dancers progress!

*Please note that none of the photos shown on this page are mine, nor am I claiming them to be my intellectual property.

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?

Which Ballet Summer Intensive to Pick

Summer intensive auditions are coming to a close and chances are, you have started to receive some of your acceptance letters in the mail. Most of you audition for tons of different summer ballet programs and will be accepted into multiple intensive programs. So how do you make an educated decision about which summer intensive to attend? Here are a few helpful hints to make sure you end up in the right place.

1.) Cost- If your family is on a budget, the cost of the summer intensive that you choose will definitely be a factor in the decision making process. Did you get a scholarship? If you received a scholarship to a particular program, this means the school has an extremely high interest in you. Choose which program makes sense for your family financially.

2.) Program Length- Three week, four week, or six week? How comfortable are you being away from home for long periods of time? I used to get homesick when I went to summer intensives at age 12 and 13, so I would choose no more than four week programs. Also, will you be missing out on your family vacation?

Photo from Chautauqua Ballet Intensive

3.) Travel- How comfortable do you feel traveling far away from home? For example; since I was from the East Coast, I was hesitant to travel far from my family to attend San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive. Travel also fits into the cost category as typically you will either need to fly or drive to the program.

4.) Style- Does the school that you choose fit with the style you currently train in? Or is it different? How will your current school director feel about this? Going to a summer intensive like School of American Ballet, for example, might mean a change in technique. If your hope is to be accepted there year round, it is definitely worth it.

5.) Preference- Sometimes the best thing to do is follow a hunch. Where do you want to go most? If money is not an option go to where your heart follows!

Which ever ballet summer intensive program you choose, make sure you go into it with an open mind. This will ensure that you make the most of any situation and remember- write down your corrections!