Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Dance and Ballet Resolutions - Get Some Tips For an Extra Advantage

Ballet dancers tend to be self-critical and my intention is to help dancers progress faster with a light-hearted and keep-it-simple approach to new resolutions for their quest to excel in ballet class. Solving technical roadblocks may result in the extra advantage of a new understanding and enthusiasm that will take the "chore" out of making New Year's goals for your ballet training. So here are a few tips.

We've all had ballet corrections that do not seem to ever go away. We may understand perfectly how ballet positions and ballet movements should be. We understand how the body should mechanically do something, yet it can be frustrating when the body we're in just does not get it right after much trying.

What is the most frequent correction you got last year? Why isn't it fixed? There is a reason, relating to one of the following.

** Posture
** Flexibility
** Alignment
** Strength and reflexes
** Turnout
** Tension

For example, if you stand sideways to a mirror, legs parallel and straight, core area held a little, do your ankles/knees/hips/shoulders/ears stack up, with natural spinal curves kept? If not, is an area not stacked because it is too tight or too lose? Can the core muscles hold without strain showing in the neck or shoulders? Posture has a lot to do with tension, flexibility, strength, and understanding. Correct posture leads to correct alignment in many ballet positions. Fix if needed! Study, search for information.

Turnout involves strength, flexibility and tension. And understanding what true turnout is. Incorrect turnout affects posture, increases tension, reduces flexibility and distorts alignment. There is a book called Tune Up Your Turnout by Deborah Vogel that is a good myth-buster, and something every dancer can use. You can figure out a lot by yourself, with the right information. The trick is that you need to get your body to do something, from an ideal concept. In fact many of Deborah Vogel's "ballet tips" publications analyse one ballet position, such as arabesque, giving a wealth of data that will help you get your arabesque to its best line.

All of the above factors affect the rest, but which one underlies your never-ending correction?

Do you understand the mechanics behind the ballet position/movement/step you are trying to improve? If not, find out the details you need to know!

I believe that if you understand all the aspects of one basic thing in ballet (anatomy, mechanics, technique, style, physical requirements), something super-simple, (I didn't say easy) like standing in fifth position, you will understand a great deal about many other things in ballet.

Another example of getting more anatomical, mechanical and technical details of one factor in ballet technique is, strengthening the sole of the foot. Understanding the foot, and how to strengthen exclusively the foot muscles, not only leads to superior strength in dancing in pointe shoes, but will refine allegro, balance, landing from jumps and releves on pointe, and lots more. All this is covered in The Perfect Pointe Book, just to name one of many professionally presented dance manuals.

If you feel an overall lack of understanding of French words for ballet, and the general repertoire of ballet movements and ballet steps, The Ballet Bible is an excellent body of data, with photos and videos included.

Try selecting one recurring correction, and make a new resolution to search understanding all possible aspects of it. I believe that will affect several technical roadblocks that you may have. I think you'll gain an extra advantage and progress faster in the New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Choose a Ballet Teacher and Dance Studio For Training in Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

This article gives you 7 highly effective tips about how to choose a ballet teacher. E.g., what a good dance studio looks like; the need for professional training; how to learn real classical ballet;will you need pointe shoes, and more. Many aspiring ballet dancers go through these thoughts in seeking a quality ballet class. Here are some important tips.

Things to consider: What Do You Want For Your Child? (or yourself)?

What does your child want from ballet? Would tap dancing, karate, hip-hop or jazz be a satisfying alternative, or does it have to be ballet? Ballet is a traditional, technical form requiring commitment and discipline. Sometimes it isn't fun! Ballet shoes and pointe shoes can be challenging. But many fall in love with this demanding and traditional dance form.

What will you look for if there are several studios you can check out? The following tips about the basic requirements to good, safe, ballet teaching, will be helpful to parents searching for a good dance studio.

A ballet regimen can be used for a weight loss plan, a childcare outlet, health maintenance, or relief for a troubled teenager. It takes a special love, and can fulfill many requirements of the soul. Many ballet teachers, in glamorous and famous settings, or small and out of the way regions, work just to provide an outlet for this broad spectrum of our needs. Some are experts at teaching pre-pointe, many are not.

*** Locations and appearances: professional dance studios tend to be in older buildings, which have large rooms with undivided spaces, and sprung wooden floors instead of floors set over concrete. A teacher trained in a professional school would choose such a place over a newer facility in a fashionable district with smaller rooms and a concrete floor. If the neighborhood is safe, don't judge a a studio by its lack of "chic". A teacher who chooses an older, low-rent district studio may be providing pupils with safer flooring, better musical accompaniment, and the luxury of smaller classes. If premises have been built especially for dance studios, the best amenities are likely in place.

*** Music: today's economy will not allow all teachers to have live piano accompaniment. While definitely preferable, it will be reflected in the fees you pay. Recorded music for classes does not necessarily mean lower teaching standards.

*** Size of classes: for the beginning levels (i.e., younger children) there should not be classes over approximately 15 students without a teacher's assistant, or the students will not get much individual attention.

*** Hard Floors: floors set directly over concrete have no give, thus creating the potential for injury from falls or repeated landings from jumps. This creates stress and wear and tear on on delicate developing joints and soft tissues. Sprung floors are the best, which is wood on wood supports. There are also floors now made for ballet studios which many studios install.

*** Body style favoritism in teachers: this can be devastating to your child's self-esteem. Any body type can learn, and benefit from ballet classes. This also applies if you are an adult looking for classes, beginner or otherwise. Ballet endows any physique with grace, strength, and fluidity of motion. Unfortunately the professional world of ballet is affected by fads of body shape just like high fashion. Children studying any kind of athletics should be encouraged to appreciate themselves, and the wonderment of their human body and their abilities, just as they are, and just as they are not.

*** Professional ballet training requires very specific physical attributes. Some teachers will praise a student's classwork relative to the assets they were born with. This leaves all others left behind. A good teacher will teach towards every student's actual efforts, concentration, and physical progress, be it made because of, or in spite of, their physiques.

*** Corrections and teachers' attitudes: a teacher's positive attitude is essential. Difficult routines can still be enjoyed, as they produce accomplishment. Every student should be corrected in every class, and every student should be noted when improvements are seen. A demanding but compassionate person produces the best results.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ballet Positions, Use of the Eyes in Ballet Training and Revealing Your Talent

Ballet dancers don't usually think like other entertainers. They don't think in terms of "sell yourself". Belief in talent starts inwardly for a ballet dancer. All the long years of training, enduring corrections from good teachers and criticism from less nurturing teachers shows belief in one's talent. How to mesmerize your audience is a quality some are born with, and yet doing a good ballet audition is not necessarily a result of that.

What is the performance presence? Where does it originate from? How does it affect doing a good ballet audition?

Observing a ballet class, I notice that when concentrating on ballet positions and ballet movements, the gaze of many ballet students is aimed downward, or aims in a fixed a point forward.

As teachers gain experience, they learn ways to keep the students focused, literally, on points in the room, as they concentrate. This allows expression to flow more naturally throughout ballet training, but it also has a different purpose, related to ballet technique.

Visual information is essential for the maintenance of balance and posture. The brain perceives from information received by the inner ear, eyes, and the soles of the feet, exactly where we are in space. And we therefore constantly adjust our posture and balance, whether we are mid-plie or mid-pirouette or mid-overhead lift.

After years of practicing posture and balance correctly for ballet technique, will an artist be able to express her/himself with total freedom of movement, offering the best and revealing talent?

Once a ballet student moves from barre work to the center, more emphasis on movement rather than posture is needed. Proper use of eye focus is even more essential now. Body awareness keeps perfect placement in the class structure, as it does in the corps de ballet on stage. Students who have learned to concentrate while focusing outwards, with attention on everything around them, have an extra advantage.

Every time a ballet position calls for inclining or turning the head, the eyes should focus instantly in the new direction, on the most distant physical object. A spacey or otherwise unfocused expression does not grab the attention of those watching, or allow them to feel included in what is going on. As in, your audience, auditioners or examiner.

So focus is part of both visual stabilization, as in doing turns, and also part of being an entertainer, catching those eyes watching you. I have also found that reminding students to focus their eyes delivers more natural head movements, completing ballet positions beautifully.

Ultimately, to do a good ballet audition, mesmerize your audience, and excel amongst entertainers, the use of your eyes has a place in your classical ballet training.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Adult Ballet Brings the Ethereal and the Grounded Together With Ballet Exercises

A common response to why adults seek ballet as an exercise to reduce stress, anxiety, or feeling spaced out, is "to get a sense of my body". Ballet is ethereal, yet taking adult ballet classes is a great way to get grounded.

If you take the big step and find a dance studio that provides adult ballet classes, how do you prepare yourself?

First, go and visit the ballet school, and observe the dance instruction in the adult ballet section. Before you buy any ballet wear, you can find out the dress code, and the the type of ballet leotards and tights most frequently worn. Check out the ballet shoes that are either required, or free for you to choose. Black or pink, black or white for men in ballet, and so on.

Whether you have a huge performing arts school, or a small neighborhood ballet studio, visit, watch a couple of classes and get a feel for the place. Ballet wear includes your hairstyle, clothes you might want to wear over your leotards and tights, if allowed. Even if you want to hide a less than wraith-like figure under a sweater, filmy skirt, or dance pants, always wear a leotard and pink tights, for women.

This classic ballet wear allows the ballet teacher to see what your muscles are doing, if she/he wants. This is only to your benefit, since especially in the beginner adult ballet classes, you want to know that you are learning correct ballet technique and getting into correct ballet positions.

Some adult ballet classes use Pilates to help warm up. This is excellent for developing the core muscles. Feeling your core muscles gives a good sense of the body. It is grounding. Feeling the core muscles and having correct posture in the low back/pelvic area will help you develop your turnout muscles without needless tension.

Feeling the soles of the feet flat on the floor, not slanting in (pronation) or out (supination) is essential. That in itself is a grounding effort. If you have been advised to exercise for stress or anxiety control, I think ballet is excellent. Ballet gives you control over something which you can indeed control. Your own body.

You cannot be spacey in ballet class. The music, the sound of the teacher's voice, and the sense of your body working, enhances your presence. You cannot be somewhere else. While getting grounded, you are learning an elegant and ethereal style of dancing. The best of both ideas.

By the way, presence is IT. If you ever wonder why professional ballet dancers work so hard for little money and lots of aches and pains, for so long, maybe because it creates more of their own presence so often. Because presence is Presence. You know what I mean.

So if you have always wanted to take adult ballet classes, go. Get the best teacher you can, and benefit from all the wonderful ballet manuals available now that will tell you all the finer details of ballet technique. That extra understanding will get you even more grounded in adult ballet technique.

The Ballet Store site provides a free ballet glossary so you can learn the French words for ballet quickly.

The Perfect Pointe Book gives practice routines you can do safely at home, after a few months of beginner adult ballet classes. Even if you never dance ballet in pointe shoes, the exact details of this manual will answer many questions you may have and never get to ask in ballet class.

How to Prevent Knee Injuries in Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

If you are among those dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes, knowing why ballet technique is the way it is will help you prevent ballet injuries. Healthy knee function is not possible without healthy foot function. Also, in learning how to prevent knee injuries, understanding the function of the foot, knee, hip and spine connection is useful, at least in a general sense.

The knee joint is engineered beautifully. It has ligaments to prevent too much movement in any given direction, and a shock absorber as well, the meniscus behind the kneecap, or patella.

Classical ballet, and other athletic activity involves sudden change of direction, twisting, leaping, and sudden starts and stops.

Fortunately in ballet, we have turnout to assist us with these factors.

If our turnout is not strong, there is risk to the knee joint.

If our posture is incorrect, in the low back and core area, there is risk to the knee joint. Crunched and chronically tense rotator (turnout) muscles, quads (thigh muscles), hamstrings (back of thigh muscles), result from an incorrect pelvic position. This leads to nearly all the other muscles involved in ballet technique, ballet positions and ballet movements, being held in tense positions, instead of being fluid.

While tension is needed to dance ballet, tension should be fluid. The years of repetition in ballet training should result in the reflexes needed to constantly increase and release tension.

Think of your favorite ballerinas and leading male dancers. One of the observable qualities to their dancing is the effortlessness. They make it look so easy. You don't necessarily think of pillars of strength, although they are very strong. You can feel their fluidity when you watch them in difficult roles such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote and other classics.

So, back to the knee joints - ligaments and shocks are in place. We have turnout to make the best use of them.

Foot strength is a major factor. A high percentage of the general population pronates, that is, allows their feet to collapse toward the inner side, when they walk, run, dance, whenever their feet hit the ground.

Proper posture, use of turnout muscles, correcting hyper-extended knees placement, if hyper-extension is present, and strengthening of the intrinsic (exclusive to the foot) muscles can compensate for this factor and prevent knee injuries.

Knowing how to relax muscles after hard work, for instance with a pinkie ball, is a needed element in ballet training, as well. Not many ballet students have the time or opportunity to get regular massages. But hard working muscles must get relaxed, and must be given recovery time, neither of which factors are typical in ballet training.

If you are involved in ballet training and have ANY pain or persistent soreness in your knees, see a professional. A chiropractor, or physio-therapist with experience in dance or sports injuries will help you.

Also ask your ballet teacher to watch the finer details of your posture, turnout, and foot placement on the floor. These factors are never isolated. Educate yourself as well, with the expertly written dance manuals that are now available to anyone on the internet. The Perfect Pointe Book will give you the details you need to review your ballet technique in all the ways that it affects your knees.

Eat a healthy diet to support your ligaments and muscles. You will be able to prevent knee injuries and enjoy your dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joint Pain and Pointe Shoe Pain Solutions in Nutcracker Season

Ballet dancing pains like joint pain and pain from dancing in pointe shoes can seem worse in cold weather. If you are doing lots of rehearsals for the Nutcracker or some other holiday season dance concert, you need to take special care of your joints, muscles, and feet. Wool legwarmers, snug sweaters and water-proof snow boots all contribute to a better holiday season if you are a ballet dancer.

Rehearsing classical ballet concerts takes a lot of organization. Most ballet dancers get good at this in their young years. If they haven't caught on to the need for methodical self-preservation in the long process of rehearsing and staging a show, the experience may be uncomfortable to say the least.

Starting with extra ballet wear, packing some sweats to wear in long rehearsal days is a must. Sweaters, shawls and scarves, help a lot to keep cool drafts off neck and shoulder muscles.

Leg warmers save the day to help warm up and to stay warm while waiting for your turn on stage.

In long technical rehearsals, the wait can be exasperating while lighting cues are tested. Fatigue can be challenging when repeated run throughs are needed for the stage crew and stage manager, or for dancers who are thrown into the dance at the last minute because of another's injury, or winter sickness.

Anything can happen! If your mother puts some vitamin pills at your plate, take them! Stay healthy and be smart!

Long hot baths with Epsom Salts followed by icing sore spots will help a lot. Even ice the not-so sore spots, the tired muscles and joints. Give them an extra boost at recovery.

Drink enough water - sip all day. Don't fill up with those frankenstein neon so-called sports waters, or sodas. Green juices and real fruit drinks are so much better, but water is best. Fruits for a snack are great. And one of the best snacks is celery. Celery is full of the mineral salts that you lose in perspiration. Losing those mineral salts decreases your muscle strength and your thinking power! Just the opposite of what you need to dance your best all day long.

You must take care of minor aches and pains, to make sure that they remain minor. Nerves and adrenaline get you through a lot, but be careful not to get drained. Your muscles and nervous system need real fresh foods to be replenished with.

The repetitive motion of rehearsing can lead to joint pain, raw pointe shoe blisters and deep aches in your muscles. Don't let these conditions dull the thrill of your Nutcracker ballet performances.

Go to this online ballet store for last minute ballet wear and dance accessories.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nutcracker Fans Tickets Links

Hello Nutcracker fans! Below are some links to getting Nutcracker tickets in the US and around the world.

Ticket Liquidator, an online ticket outlet, has a fabulous list of US Nutcrackers for which it is selling tickets.

An article about "Clara's Dream", a shortened version of the Nutcracker ballet for small children in Leominster,Mass.

Save the Sacramento Ballet's Nutcracker season - get your Nutcracker tickets here and help support this company. Also a link in this article
takes you to an online $10 voucher for tickets!

A list of international Nutcracker productions' ticket outlets; US, Canada, Europe,South America, Australia/New Zealand and China.

Northwest US Nutcracker productions.

Good news for Nutcracker fans in Vancouver, Canada:"An anonymous benefactor has given a lift to cash-strapped Ballet BC." Read it all here.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adult Ballet Beginners - Don't Underestimate Yourself

Adult ballet beginners - when are you too old to start ballet? If you want to do ballet, don't underestimate yourself. If you have no dire medical condition, and are under 75, I say go for it. Many things in life are about finding the appropriate challenge. If you can find the right ballet classes, dance and enjoy!

I hear the same concerns from 14 year olds and 30 year olds. "Am I too old to start ballet?"

Properly taught, ballet is precise, and not dangerous in any way. Many dance studios have adult ballet classes or classes for older teen/adult beginners. Most adult ballet classes include flexibility exercises for dancers. Many teachers include them hoping that their students will practice them at home, so the classes can concentrate on ballet. Other teachers may just recommend core muscle exercises, Pilates work-at-home DVDs, or anything that will help adults or older teens to do ballet with more strength.

If you really love ballet and want to progress to more advanced classes there are ways to do that. The internet provides download ebooks with illustrations, photos and videos of correct ballet positions, ballet technique, and ballet movements, one being THE BALLET BIBLE. These sources of information can give you the opportunity to see and hear details over and over again, which you just do not get out of a ballet class.

For example, if you feel you need to gain an extra advantage so that you can get ahead, you could focus on strengthening your foot muscles. This will result in less muscle cramps, and better ballet positions and movements. Eventually, if you progress to an intermediate level, and acquire an accurate technique, you may dance ballet in pointe shoes. The muscles in the sole of the foot play a major role in pointe work. Get into pointe shoes with safe and detailed routines you can learn and practice yourself.

If you seek a deeper understanding of the mechanics of technique, get expert tips on classical ballet training.

The different ballet techniques (R.A.D., Cecchetti and Vaganova, for example) approach some ballet movements differently. I recommend that the one closest to anatomically correct be chosen. Ballet, however, is not anatomically correct!

Even though the opportunity to be a professional ballerina may have passed you by, learning ballet for the sake of elegance and grace is made accessible by those ballet studios which offer adult dance classes. Get all the best ballet tips for adult ballet beginners.