Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learn To Dance Ballet And Eventually Get Into Pointe Shoes

Both younger and adult beginners dream that they can learn to dance ballet. They picture the tidy look of the black leotard, the pink tights and the satin pointe shoes. Hip hop, modern and ballroom dancers learn ballet technique to build strength and avoid injury. And some adults who start late work hard to eventually start pointe. Needing to understand basic classical ballet, is what they all have in common.

If you want to learn to dance ballet, start with finding a reputable dance studio. Many dance academies will allow you watch a class if you like.

Hip hop, contemporary dance classes, and ballroom dancing and many more forms of dance are supported by basic classical ballet technique.

The correct use of your posture, turn out and learning correct placement will help you to build strength and avoid dance injuries.

Even football players learn ballet to prevent sports injuries!

Simple ballet wear is preferred by teachers because they can see how you use your muscles (or not), and they can easily see how your joints are aligned. The visual result is important in ballet, but the proper technique is also related to preventing injuries.

The freer forms of dance depend on good technique as much or more than ballet, because dancers are asked to do more innovative and untested movements, repeatedly, in modern choreography. The risk of strain and sprain are less predictable.

If you are an adult ballet beginner, have a couple of soft ice packs in the freezer! You will feel soreness and stiffness the day after your ballet class. Ice is soothing to your muscles, a drug free solution to the results of your exertion. Unless the ice pack is fabric covered, be careful not to put it on bare skin.

There are specific foot muscle exercises, which will move you toward dancing in pointe shoes safely. Understanding your foot type, what the intrinsic foot muscles are, and finding out about the flexibility of your ankle and foot joints is important.

Also realize that any ballet move you do that is a little awkward will seem much more so on pointe, and must be corrected before you get into toe shoes.

If you have time to study a little anatomy and movement mechanics you'll understand why some things are easier for you than others. Go to The Body Series for excellent guides on movement anatomy and the benefits of stretching.

If you want to learn to dance ballet, start where you are. Get the best start possible with the dancer's guide to learn to do ballet and get into pointe shoes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Benefits Of Stretching - Avoid Injury In Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

The benefits of stretching is taught to all athletes. In school, safe stretching needs to be taught for physical education classes.

For classical ballet, safe stretching helps you avoid injury. Once soft tissues are torn, inflammation and scar tissue will form. In ballet shoes and pointe shoes, and in most sports, you want uninterrupted training. Whatever kind of ballet/sports/fitness you love, you can build strength, stretch, and avoid dancing in pain.

If you like to stretch before class, some warm up is absolutely necessary. Some loose leg and arm swings, and easy bending forward and sideways is a good way to start. Deep breathing while you do this adds to the warm up.

If you feel stiff from sitting at an office desk, or driving, walk on the spot for one minute. Lift your feet and pump your arms a little, this gets lots of muscle and joints moving.

The end of the class or workout is an ideal time to stretch. If it is not possible because the next class is starting, and you cannot find another place in the studio to stretch, wear leg warmers or sweats home. Sometimes you'll feel warmed up for quite a while after class. You can stretch at home immediately or take a hot bath then stretch. Soaking with epsom salts or sea salt is healthy for the muscles. The minerals help draw the acids out of your tissues.

Active stretching is where you stretch your own muscles. If you're sitting in second position, you can hang over each leg, and then hang forward. Stretching over each leg is going to stretch your hamstrings, and all the muscles, ligaments and tendons around your pelvis and hips. You can lean out sideways keeping your torso stretched long to stretch the hip joint area. Then you can do a side bend over the same leg, and you'll feel the stretch in the hamstring and the opposite hip and side of your torso. If you're stretching to the right, be sure to keep the left hip on the floor, and the left leg stretched.

Deep breathing provides enough movement to apply pressure to the stretch, you do not need to bounce.

If you can reach your feet in a second position stretch, you can pull yourself over the leg, hold the position for a minute or more, easing back if you start to feel real pain.

Passive stretching is when someone else stretches you. Stretching with a partner is not recommended until you are very advanced. A physiotherapist can stretch you properly, but if you avoid injury, you won't need that.

Stretching causes discomfort. Before you get to the point of pain, you are already stretching. You don't need to push to the point where you see lights before your eyes.

Get this amazing and simple to learn DVD to enjoy the benefits of stretching. If you avoid injury to your soft tissues you will dance in ballet shoes and pointe shoes, or enjoy your favorite fitness workout for many years.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Musicality In Ballet Class Facilitates The Difficult Aspects of Dancing

There is a lot that is difficult about classical ballet. Musicality in ballet class training makes it easier. What exactly musicality is, can lead to lengthy discussions about music, personality, and more.

I once had a teacher who described it as "technically dishonest" to use or feel the music in any way in order to perform a step better.

You mean we should have been able to train with someone just hitting a pencil on a pot lid to keep us working together? Or have a metronome clicking in the studio?

This same teacher made sure that her pianist played a battement tendu type of music for jumps - a little plonky, a little pedestrian (though there were pianists who, luckily, could not play without feeling). It seemed that inspiration was a way to cheat.

There are dancers who will catch your eye in class, even when they are not the best technical student, and are not among the most physically gifted ones. Their musicality is more than being on the music. Some people describe it as being "in" the music, or inside the music.

In performance, there is an element of phrasing. A soloist or principal dancer can adapt the timing of virtuoso sections in the ballet, to their individual technical highlights or qualities. Some dancers will work this out in rehearsal, and do it exactly the same every time.

And yet, in the less definable area of timing, there is poetry, there is a quality that isn't just good phrasing, that reaches a soulful level. The dancer, the music, the drama, the audience, are all in the same stream.

Such a quality does not require narrative drama to be visible, or tangible. It can occur in abstract choreography as well. It is not just that an experienced performer can "let go". Musicality can be apparent during ballet class when a performer or student is working hard.

Sometimes musicality can be invoked in students as they train. Movement imagery and mental tricks work. For example, giving an allegro exercise in a waltz, and saying "just stay in the air for two/three and land on 1" will bring out a better height and quality of jump. It will not be exactly staying in the air for two beats and landing on the first beat, but it will cause a dance student to reach for that timing and their work gains a quality.

Hearing the "and" between the beats of music is a technical necessity for petit allegro, for battus. But when there are several "ands" in between the beats - where do you choose to put the movement emphasis?

Musicality makes it easier. Of course practice makes it easier, but musicality makes it delicious for those watching, because some can feel what their eyes see and their ears hear, even without drama or emotion.

If you love watching ballet, you know what I mean. If you are extremely musical you may not know what I mean or why I would write about musicality in ballet class. You would ask "doesn't everyone do it like that?"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ballet Is Difficult - Prevent Dance Injuries For Advancing Or Getting Into Pointe Shoes

It is no secret that ballet is difficult. Years of ballet class training are carefully planned so that you can prevent injuries and get optimum results. If you do not understand something in your ballet classes, communicating is necessary.

Never be afraid of asking your teacher if you feel like you need some better defined direction in your ballet class. Different ballet moves are more or less difficult for different students. Teachers love to know that their students want to work harder or smarter, and are committing more than a recreational presence in their ballet studio.

Ballet IS difficult. Its technical demands override what other athletes consider proper muscle recovery time. Its fashion demands override sensible eating habits to a huge magnitude.

Fortunately both these issues are more widely addressed in most dance schools at this time.

The basic technique and quality aspects of classical technique are designed to build strength and prevent dance injuries.

Understanding the particular short comings of your physique and personality (everybody has some) will help you advance better, maybe faster, and more safely.

Feeling impatient to get into pointe shoes, or into a more advanced boys' class is a good thing. Do your best to study some anatomy, some cross-training like Pilates or weight training, in order to practice sensibly.

Doing foot exercises, core strengthening exercises, or upper body weight training (pas de deux prep) are things you can add to your home practice. Balance this by choosing days where you have no class, or lighter classes, to exercise outside of the ballet academy.

The finer details of cross-training, pre-pointe work at home, self-assessing your weak points, and understanding how dance injuries happen, are all available thanks to superbly-credentialed dance medicine writers.

Optimum health for dancers is available with the help of chiropractic, physiotherapy, a fresh/whole food diet, and medical diagnostics when you need them.

Experienced teachers know that the more mature and sensible students often go farther in ballet than the uniquely physically and spiritually gifted, sadly. But happily, there are the mystically endowed talents that also have, or develop (thanks to good people in their life) a streak of common sense. This helps a great deal with stress management from the competition for jobs and status in the ballet world.

In the pool of the more, or less , gifted ballet dance students, those who are not afraid of asking for individual guidance do better. And if you cannot get it - change dance studios.

You have accepted and feel wonderfully challenged that ballet is difficult. You can learn how to prevent dance injuries - even if your teachers don't know.

Get the right dancer's guide so you can learn to assess your strength for getting into pointe shoes - even if your teachers don't know. (adult beginners included!). There is nothing to stop you from learning more.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Improve Your Ballet - Basic Ballet Positions

If you want to improve your ballet, the simplest way is to first check the basic ballet positions.

Start with your normal standing position. Before you put on your pointe shoes or soft ballet shoes and go to the barre, try this.

In ballet wear so that you can see your posture, just stand in front of a mirror, relaxed. You'll see the qualifying factor and know if there is something basic to correct to improve your ballet classes.

Sometimes the simple things are the hardest to explain, but here goes:

Stand with your chest lifted, your shoulders relaxed, and your feet hips' width apart. Get your weight positioned evenly at the ball of the foot, the outside near the little toe, and the center of the heel (like a tripod). Notice how your hips and legs are positioned, naturally. If your pelvis is neutral and your ankles, knees and hips stack up symmetrically, you have the minimal requirement to proceed with nothing to fix.

If a hip or shoulder is lower than its opposite, you may have a skeletal misalignment, residual tension, or both. See a chiropractor, or you will be fighting this condition with lots of unnecessary tensing. It is also possible that one leg is shorter than the other, and it is good to know that, so you know how to work properly and use foot levelers if needed.

If your knees rotate in a little, causing a slight bow shape to the legs, then you need to use your rotator and thigh muscles to get your thighs and knees facing front, in line with your feet. Also note where your pelvis is here. (You can get a special book on how to increase ballet turnout).

Now keep that placement and turn sideways. Turn your head, relaxed neck, and see if you have a plumb line going down through your body, from the top of your head, through the natural curves of your spine, hips, legs, and to your ankles. See if anything is pulling out of line. This can be very subtle if you are already trained. Your skeleton should be able to line up well without much work. If you are feeling a little tense, shake everything out and then place yourself again.

If your knees over-straighten and curve backwards, you have hyper-extended knees. You must learn to hold them straight so they can support you with strength. If your knees are bent a little forwards you can work on stretching and relaxing your all your hip and leg muscles and you will get gradual improvement.

Regardless of your training level, you can always check this basic posture to see if there is any misalignment or extra tension. It truly affects the quality of your work. It also affects your risk of getting injured.

Checking postural habits and skeletal alignment is how you know if your good work, or talent, is hiding a potential problem. The qualifying factor may be the need to build strength in your core muscles, or do better relaxing and stretching.

Get the most important ballet tips to improve ballet work, and you will be progressing with confidence that you are doing things right.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Classical Ballet Training - Recreational Dance - Mechanics and Quality Go Together

The mechanical, or technical aspects of classical ballet training and recreational dance, are meant to be taught together with the quality, or traditional grace of ballet. Whether professional or recreational, classical ballet is a source of elegance for our culture.

I remember a friend's story about doing a Classical Stretch workout at home, with her 4 year old daughter. They were doing warm ups with gentle arm movements. Her dad came along and joined in for a second. "No Papa" she corrected sternly. "It's like water is falling off the ends of your fingers!"

Being a soccer and karate jock, he moved on quickly.....

When I look at the many classical ballet studio websites, I love to browse the photo galleries or the videos they put up. All the aspiring professional ballet schools and more recreational or amateur dance studios show high energy, colorful performances and tons of enthusiasm. It is easy to see from their navigational bars that many have parent committees, and volunteer groups for every kind of support. Those ballet schools which do not contribute dancers to the pool of professional arenas definitely contribute volumes of inspiration and involvement in their communities. Such is the importance of dance and all the arts in our culture.

The inherent quality of grace in classical ballet and other dance forms has inspired the development of movement imagery, a whole field which addresses injury prevention, and pain management in rehabilitation - and much more.

Learning the quality of a demi plie, a tendu, and the way the arms are held in the basic ballet positions should be synchronized with the technical or mechanical details. In fact, how to separate the two should be a problem. Yet I've seen that happen.

I feel sad when I see a gifted dancer show off multiple pirouettes on a you-tube video - where her arms are stiff and her descent is abrupt. Why would she be so neglected, to remain at her current regional level?

I feel the same when I see virtuoso leaps and spins from young male dancers, then see them at the barre slamming into over-crossed fifth positions, knees bent, hips rotating, in a speedy series of tendus. No time for foot pressure or thigh work. Why so fast when there are degages and frappes to develop skills for petit allegro? Will there be knee injuries?

Quality, as much as technique and mechanics, prevents dance injuries. Synchronous mechanical and quality development IS the grace of classical ballet.

Get the best ballet tips to integrate mechanics and quality in classing ballet training and recreational dance.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Get More Flexible With Ballet Tips

You want to get more flexible for doing the splits. Getting the 180 degree line for a jete or a penche does not come naturally to many dancers. So how do they make it look right?

One of the biggest reliefs I had when I went from amateur to professional training was that hips do not have to be square in a derriere (behind you) position. Including doing the splits.

When I got into professional classes at The National Ballet School of Canada, I was elated to find I could open my working hip. The waist, upper back and shoulders had to stay square, but not the hips. I finally and instantly had a professional looking line in arabesque, attitude, etc. When I explained how I had been taught they said "no one can do that!"

Some people will never do the splits due to hip deformity, and should not over work the issue.

Doing the splits depends on overall hyper-mobility. Not only hamstrings and quads need to be extremely flexible, but your postural muscles, the iliopsoas, needs to be very flexible. Hyper-mobility of the joints (meaning longer stretchy ligaments), is an extra blessing for doing the splits, but creates a lot of problems too.

A professional ballet dancer will do whatever it takes to get a good line in a split jete or penche. Those who cannot do the splits perfectly open the hip more, and sometimes slightly bend the leg so that their foot lines up with the hip, and even though the entire leg is not lined up, the illusion of the splits is seen.

The hard and fast rules of classical ballet training are for safety - to prevent dance injuries. Getting the right line allows for accommodations that skilled teachers know how to teach.

Stretch after your ballet exercises when you are warm. Relax your muscles first. Use a rubber ball to knead out the worst tension. Then stretch gently in correctly aligned positions. You will improve your muscle flexibility, and you may end up doing the splits. But if you never do, it is not going to kill a dance career.

Here is a wonderful DVD produced by a dance expert, Deborah Vogel which will help you get more flexible. It is excellent for non-dancers too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hyper-extended Knees - Understand Them Before You Dance In Pointe Shoes

Hyper-extended knees - I will help you learn how to build strength and how to hold the legs correctly. Understanding neutral spine, neutral leg, and understanding the support system of your core muscles is vital. Every ballet exercise requires a neutral standing leg. Dancing in pointe shoes, especially, requires a strong neutral leg and perfect alignment.

Explaining a neutral leg, in the first few classes, is as important as explaining a neutral spine, whatever words the teacher uses. (Unless there are no hyper-extended legs in the class, this is necessary).

A neutral leg is: knee above the ankle bone, pelvis above the knees. A line drawn down through a photo of you standing, taken from the side, should reveal a postural plumb line, from the center of the skull, neck, spine (through your natural curves), pelvis, through the knees and ankles, or just in front of the ankles, depending where you rested your weight.

With over-straight legs, the knees stretch back behind this line. While this curving out at the back of the knees is an admired line in a dancer's gesture leg, it causes many problems in a standing leg.

First you tackle the feeling of the legs being bent, when held in a straight position. However, in this straight position it is much easier to hold the turnout and have the pelvis in a neutral position where you can build strength in your center.

When the knees rest back in hyper-extension, the thighs turn in, and often the pelvis tucks under. Now you have compromised the safety of your low back. (In this position you may develop bulky thighs and bulky hip muscles). From here you destabilize your balance. You can compensate for this distortion in many ways in soft shoes, to a degree.

When you get into pointe shoes, all kinds of problems will show up, if they haven't already.

If you are a few years into training, it's extra work, it's reprogramming neural pathways. But most dancers do this all the time as they progress through their training and careers.

There is also a lot of talk about overdeveloping the quads or inside knee muscles, or some other deformity, because of holding the leg straight. Not so. If your pelvis is neutral, you can use your muscles properly. You don't need to grip or clench.

You want your thighs pulled up long. You want a feeling of pushing down through the center of your leg bones into the floor. And imagine a space between your hip bones and the top of your thighs. You will achieve a real lengthening by doing this, your deep lower abs will pull up and in nicely, and now your core muscles are supporting the length you want.

You will be able to hold your turnout and have a strong supporting leg. When you get into pointe shoes, you will have your body aligned well, over that tiny point on the floor.

Always remember in your ballet stretching, to relax and lengthen all your muscles. Use a soft rubber ball to knead the muscles, leaning on a wall, or use it with the floor. Deborah Vogel demonstrates this on her DVD as to how to get more flexible and release tension.

Get a guide with expert ballet tips for working with hyper-extended knees.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The " Too Old To Start Ballet " Age - And Build Strength To Dance In Pointe Shoes

Who is too old to start anything? How to choose a ballet teacher is more the right question. Some dance studios have classes for older teens and adults to start ballet, and some do not. Some teachers enjoy teaching older beginners and some do not. So maybe an older teen/young adult can start and even build strength to dance ballet in pointe shoes. Do not let fears about weight, age and muscle tone hold you back.

Whatever art or workout you choose, you start just where you are. How to choose a teacher is what deserves the first careful focus of your time.

If there are several studios in your area, check out their site, and then phone and visit them. Ask if you can watch part of a class.

While most older students will not immediately produce the right look or execution of any ballet position or movement, the teaching should be the same. Accurate technique should always be explained.

The pace and presentation of 'late starter' classes will be different. There may be an assumption that certain aspects of ballet will never be achieved, and working safely is the priority. The more imaginative teachers will be able to present an adult beginner class with simple, artistic and elegant exercises.

Fears about weight should be dealt with from a health point of view. Ballet is definitely more difficult if you are overweight. If you are still growing, cut out the junk food and extra breads and carb snacks. Eating real fresh food is best, and you need never be starving.

An adult who wishes to lose weight might add an aerobic workout to their daily routines, 2-3 times a week. And if eating fresh whole foods without breads, potatoes and pasta does not achieve weight loss within a few weeks, see a medical doctor. Low thyroid, blood sugar irregularities and other hormone imbalances, and medications may be playing a part in this. (This could be true for teens too).

If you want to eventually do classes in pointe shoes, you simply must persist with the basics of ballet technique until your work is correct and strong. How long this will take depends on the teacher, how many classes you take per week, and your ability to concentrate.

So not being too old to start, choose a ballet teacher, build strength, deal realistically with fears about weight, and perhaps you will study in pointe shoes one day.

Go here for many articles on ballet technique and how to choose a ballet teacher.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dance Injuries Can Be Prevented By Pre-pointe Exercises

Common dance injuries such as sprained ankles, inflamed Achilles tendons, and shin splints can be prevented.

To build strength in the foot muscles, a deliberate and separate routine of practice can be included in your daily routines. Strong foot muscles prevent muscle exhaustion in the calves, and in the feet.

Not all ballet teachers emphasize the use of the floor in the zillion battement tendus and battement degages that you in the first few years of training. In fact, every brushing movement you do for a grand battement, a glissade or a jete or assemble, should work the sole of the foot muscles.

Even if you are taught to use the floor properly, foot exercises added to your daily routines ensure that you build the strength needed to begin pointe work.

The common ballet injuries mentioned above can be prevented. In practicing foot exercises, reflexes are built along with muscle. Your body's proprioception is enhanced. Proprioception is a vast subject.

Suffice it to say that your brain has a communication system with the muscles, joints, and inner ear, (part of your balance system ) that is automated. It allows instant perception and adjustments to muscle behaviour so that you can function in the world without deliberately monitoring every tiny move you make.

Since we are so brilliantly engineered, let's do all we can do to take full advantage of it.

For example, Achilles tendon injuries are a symptom of deficient muscle activity, or overtraining/muscle exhaustion in the feet and perhaps lower leg muscles too. Or full body exhaustion.

The Achilles tendon will become inflamed in response to the strain and resulting lack of support in nearby muscles. The use of the foot, ankle and calves must be reviewed in order to recover, and prevent future misuse.

Take full advantage of the information from current manuals that discuss anatomy, foot types, foot exercises, and all the requirements for advancing to dancing in pointe shoes (and also lead to excellent footwork for male ballet virtuosity).

Muscle exhaustion and injuries can be prevented.

THE PERFECT POINTE BOOK gives you a wealth of information on how to prevent dance injuries. Get yours today.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Productive Routines - A Step By Step Approach To Pointe Work

Whether you are a beginner in ballet classes and you are under ten years old, or a young adult beginner, you can start some clever planning to achieve your goal of dancing in pointe shoes. Productive routines done at home, with a step by step approach, will help you build strength for all aspects of your ballet technique.

Anything that enhances the strength and accuracy of your ballet technique will get you closer to doing pointe work, if you are a female, and get you closer to the male virtuoso steps if you are a male.

If you are over about 12 years old and have been doing ballet for three years or more, it will also help you get towards classes on pointe faster.

If you are under 12, there is no rush. You need to grow, and there are a zillion finer details to work on in the meantime.

However, you can begin learning as soon as you can read! There are foot muscles to learn about, and posture, and turnout.

There are "flexers" and "extensors" and "rotators".

There are foods that help you grow and there are foods that weaken your muscles instantly! (sugars, and various chemicals in foods).

There are French words for ballet to learn.

There are ways to learn to relax and stretch, ways to warm up, and ways to ice and rest exhausted muscles (while you are watching your favorite ballet movies) .

Be optimistic and excited, but be methodical too. The way has been prepared for you by many teachers who have shared their expertise with books, videos, and excellent practice regimens.

I have seen students with the ideal ballet physique, good stage looks, the money to study, ("born to dance") and yet poor ability to concentrate. They are more likely to get injured and lose time. Or, they just cannot absorb the many details and keep up with the demands of ballet training.

Thus, students who seem less talented at first, but who can work well, gain consistently.

A step by step approach and clever planning, will result in productive routines that will advance you better, perhaps faster, and more safely.

Click here to view ballet manuals that will guide you with the information you need.