Tuesday, December 22, 2009


All the best to everyone! Merde for your performances (I hope no one asks me to explain that one) and have a safe and happy holiday time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to Train in Ballet Before You're Too Old

High school age students have a dilemma with ballet training, and balancing the demands of the academic and the artistic. However, the structure of education is actually quite flexible. The easiest solution is to get accepted into a full time ballet/academic school, but that is not possible for many. Here are some ideas dancers and parents may want to explore.

Finding out the audition schedules and possible audition tours of the full time ballet/academic schools is not difficult.

Use a search engine and type in "full time ballet schools in (name your country or area)".

Search the web site for auditions, audition tours, or "about us" if you cannot find the audition information. Usually that and scholarship information, or financial assistance, is available.

If it is not possible for you to even consider leaving home and attending a full time training school, then calculate the number of hours you can train at a local studio, each week. If you can add three hours a day of academic training on top of that, then you can spend those other hours doing dance training.

In the US, home schooling is legal and very organized. Registered schools, of which the details may be different in each state, are usually organized by parents. A home schooler registers with a school. The school may offer a curriculum for the school grades. or not. If they do not, then the student and the parent put one together. It is not difficult because there are many models to use. Here's another thing that helps - home schooling high schoolers, at least in California, can register in community college courses for NO cost, and get college credits for the courses. This is in place because many home schoolers have finished high school by the time they are thirteen years old.

When you factor in the legal requirement in spending three hours a day in school, and how much work a student can do in that time, without all the extra time spent just going through the daily motions of a public school - three hours is all it takes. Additionally, hours of ballet can count as physical education and - well, more time for dance training!

There is a lot of philosophic and political discussion going on about home schooling, but this article is not about that. If a young person is extremely talented and motivated to train in the arts, the regular 7 hour school day is a waste of time.

Also, check to see if your state provides a high school exit test which can usually be done in the later semester of Grade 11, if the student has turned sixteen. This gives a high school diploma and the student can then go on to further training. In California it is law that the school inform students of this option, although I've never heard that schools routinely do this. I found out from a home schooling mom.

An arts intensive curriculum can be created at any grade, while still fulfilling general education needs. If you want to train in ballet before you're too old, you do have options.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"La Danse" - If You Dance and Love Ballet

"La Danse" - Le ballet de l'Opéra de Paris is a wonderful dance film. By Frederick Wiseman, it gives you the role of a fly on the wall. I saw it with a friend, a real estate mogul, who is also a doll house maker and a seamstress. She said afterwards "I want to run away and join le ballet! In the wardrobe department!" Tutus galore, masks, wigs, and more...I can see her in Paris.

Oh....the wide shots of Paris..... wonderful cinematography.

Shots from the roof - where beehives are harvested - shots below with water filled causeways - the real Phantom of the Opera location -

And then there's the dance! La Danse, le ballet....

Rehearsals, performance, moderne, classique - office meetings, union meeting, you are a fly on the wall......

"Also, at two and a half hours, it's not a film for the fidgety." reviews Mike Scott, of the The Times-Picayune. Hah - dance fans are not fidgety!

You'll get an ongoing and interspersed revelation into the rehearsals of "Medea". During the two and a half hours , between the studio rehearsals and stage rehearsals , I wondered what the buckets across the back of the stage were for. Duh - uh. Oh, Medea, every mother's worst sacrifice. If you are not familiar with the Medea story, you may want to look it up before going to this ballet.

You'll see rehearsals with le corps de ballet, and with soloists/principals. You'll see the dyeing of shoes, the sewing of crystals on tutus and the dyeing of costume fabric.

You'll see it all!
Read here about Brigitte Lefevre, the current Director of Dance at the Paris National Opera.

If you love dance, you'll love this movie.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Want To Be A Ballerina - But I Need More Time At The Ballet Academy

Finding a way to balance school requirements and the time needed at the ballet academy is frustrating for many young ballerinas and boys in ballet. Parents worry if grades drop and use dance classes as currency for academic improvement. What are the alternatives for getting a good education and still putting the time into classical dance training?
If you want to audition for a professional academic/ballet school, do a web search for their audition tours and see if any of them come to your area. Most auditions are held early in the year.

The sooner you can start professional training the better. Check all your choices!

Can you home school - or get a an independent education program? Here in Los Angeles children can home school - they register in a local private school for home schoolers, and get a curriculum put together that fulfills the grade requirements. They document their attendance (legal requirement is 3 hrs per day)and the parents who have registered the school supply computerized transcripts of their grades every year. There is no problem entering a private school or a college, later.

This allows ballet students to attend their dance classes on a more intense schedule. Also, the dance training would fulfill a quota of the home schooling daily requirements - such as physical education, field trips (ballet, art galleries, etc.,). There are very large home schooling communities so students do not exist in isolation.

You may be able to get into an Independent program through their public school, where you study at home and check in with an academic advisor once or twice a month, and do the usual school exams at school. This system allows for both disabled and gifted students to arrange their own schooling circumstances.

Look into all of this. If your school semesters start again in January, or early in the year, perhaps you can arrange a switch to another system of schooling which would fulfill the requirements you would need as a professional dancer, (art, language, for instance), as well as general education.

Also new here in California is a system for students to do ALL their schooling on line. They co-ordinate with a public school advisor to stay on track, yet there is a freedom of schedule for both the parents and students.

So check all your options, and make the best of the years left to qualify for auditioning in a professional company. Try to get some feedback from a local ballet company - audition at their school!

A lot of success in this world comes from having the nerve to approach people, present yourself, and make contacts. While ballet has specific requirements, often the bravest reach the top when the most talented do not.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Improve at Ballet - Define Your Weaknesses

The elegant art of ballet has a mechanical side to every position and movement. Understanding anatomy and which muscles create the movement you want, helps you enormously in knowing how to improve at ballet. You can learn to define your weaknesses in an impersonal way. Sometimes your weakness in ballet technique comes from just not knowing how your muscles work.

If you are a young ballet student or an adult beginner, organize yourself by learning the correct way to execute ballet movements, one at a time.

Or start before you make a move - you can improve all your ballet by learning correct posture. Good posture in ballet is the same as general good posture. There is no extra tension in the upper body as all the elongating support is in the lower abs and pelvic area. This doesn't mean that the upper torso muscles are not pitching in as the lower muscles change position and tension level - but the upper back/shoulder/neck muscles don't "hold" your posture at all.

Your core muscles - lower ab and pelvic/low back/hip muscles hold your posture. Then you add turnout.

So if your next exploration is turnout, it is best to find a good illustration of the low back/pelvic/hip area showing the muscles and joints clearly. (A picture is worth a thousand words....).

Learn how to stretch the rotator muscles, the piriformis and the adductors (inner thigh) muscles.

With correct posture and turnout you have a basis to develop beautiful basic ballet positions. If you can define your most basic weaknesses in classical technique, and search for every detail as to the solution that you need, you will learn how to improve at ballet with an excellent understanding.

Here is more info about where to get ballet turnout exercises.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learn Ballet To Speed Up Your Calorie Burning

If you choose classical dance as a workout, you can expect some degree of health results, even if you do not target that particular goal.

If you learn ballet correctly and keep a slow, relaxed focus on progressing through the levels, you have a chance at reversing typical aging effects and rejuvenating your body.

Here's a nutshell version of how you speed up your calorie burning twenty-four/seven. How your body uses insulin and burns energy (instead of storing it as fat) depends upon lowering the glucose content in your muscles. The way to deplete the glucose in your muscles is by high intensity exertion, to the point of "muscle failure".

For example, when you execute a simple sequence of developpes (slow unfolding and lifting the leg) at the barre, you may feel shaky by the time the exercise ends. Your quad, or thigh muscle may be burning a little. This is good! You shake out your muscles to relax, and turn to the other side. This kind of exertion exhausts the big muscle, triggering the cellular events that uses insulin properly and burns energy.

The calorie burning speeds up as the muscles must now recover and rebuild. This requires a faster metabolism, even as you sleep.

Ballet classes have a combination of slow, intensive workouts, and short bursts of activity (fast footwork at the barre, and jumps) that require a different exertion from the cardiovascular system. This is similar to the Pace Express program, though not as exacting.

When you learn ballet arm movements (port de bras) you will feel the exertion on arm muscles as well. It's not the same as weight lifting, but done properly (which involves correct spinal posture) arm positions and movement in ballet is toning and sculpting. Everyone sculpts differently with exercise, but most people will see some visible result.

Running, jogging, and even brisk walking, done long term, can wear out joints. Learn the controlled workouts of ballet correctly, and you'll find out how to prevent joint injuries, and speed up your calorie burning at the same time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Learn Ballet Positions Faster, 3 Essential Tips

When you, especially if you are an adult beginner, learn ballet, there is a lot of information to absorb about basic positions. You might be dreaming about doing split leaps and beautiful elegant ballet arm positions. Learn the ballet basics slowly and carefully. You will progress faster with classical technique and movements by seeing, and reading about ballet.

Adult dance beginners are a pretty devoted bunch. The attention to finer detail that it takes to learn ballet is not attractive to everyone.

First tip - how to learn balletic technique using the correct spinal posture is crucial to achieving correct ballet positions. This includes a neutral pelvic position. Discovering that you have been building tension in certain muscles in your every day standing and sitting, and that you have the need to stretch, adjust, and correct your posture, brings you a life long benefit.

If you do not have the time or money to take more than one class a week, you can still learn more!

Once you have discovered an area you need to stretch, make a routine of relaxing and stretching your muscles. You can use a pinkie ball (a small rubber sports ball) to help relax muscles.

Second tip - learn the real deal about turnout. How much you have, how to hold turnout securely, and how to strengthen turnout muscles.

Third tip, learn to develop your foot muscles with daily exercises. This will strengthen your barre exercises, your jumps (allegro) and your releves (quick movements from a demi plie up to your highest arched demi pointe position). Foot exercises are also exercises to prepare for pointe work - if that is a particular goal of yours.

TRY - TUNE UP YOUR TURNOUT by Deborah Vogel.

TRY - THE BALLET BIBLE for ballet barre exercises, with video and photos.

(just for starters!)

Ballet is an art form that increases the magical and imaginative dimension of life. Understanding how to learn ballet increases your enthusiasm and brings you real physical results. It's your journey, it's your dance. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Regional Ballet Nutcrackers - Support Your Local Ballet!

This looks like my longest post ever - but it's not, it's just the most lines. This is all USA. I'll need another week to get into links to some other countries....

Hey folks! Support your local ballet! Give Nutcracker tickets as presents, take your family or your Girl Scouts!

Here's a list of regional/smaller ballet companies and schools doing Nutcracker this year, in case you don't live near a major company.....

Tucson Regional Ballet

Virginia Regional Ballet

Utah Regional Ballet

Contra Costa Ballet, Walnut Creek, CA

Pennsylvania Regional Ballet

Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet

Ashland Regional Ballet

Nutcrackers In Ohio

Allen Civic Ballet (TX)

Arts Ballet Theater of Florida

Ballet Chicago

Ballet Concerto Fort Worth TX NOT THE NUTCRACKER, but take a look at their Holiday concert

Pennsylvania Youth Ballet with ABT guests

Ballet Theatre of New Mexico

Ballet Yuma, AZ

Ballethnic Dance Company Atlanta, GA

Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre

Bossov Ballet Theatre Pittsfield Maine

Brandywine Ballet West Chester PA

California Ballet San Diego CA

Canyon Concert Ballet Fort Collins CO

Cape Cod Ballet

Carnegie Performing Arts Center , PA

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet

November Nutcracker with Chamberlain Ballet in Plano TX

The Childrens Ballet Theatre of Michigan

Company of Dance Arts Redbank NJ

Dance Theatre of Pennsylvania

Fort Lauderdale Ballet Classique

Greater York Dance York, PA

Greensboro Ballet NC

Gwinnett Ballet Snellville, GA

Harford Ballet Edgewater, MD

Indiana Ballet Theatre

Irine Fokine School of Ballet

Ithica Ballet

Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet Company

Madison Ballet

Media City Ballet Glendale CA

Mid Atlantic Ballet De

Midland Festival Ballet, TX

Mobile Ballet with Joffrey and New York City ballet guests - Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty

Mohawk Ballet

Mystic Ballet

Neglia Ballet Buffalo NY

New England Ballet CT

Nouveau Chamber Ballet Fullerton CA (with orchestra)

Nutmeg Conservatory For the Arts

Peninsula Youth Ballet San Mateo CA

Peoria Ballet

Placer Theatre Ballet They require a log in to view the site which I think is a big mistake...

Fort Wayne Ballet

Red River Dance LA

Rhode Island Ballet presents Nutcracker excerpts and Alice In Wonderland

Rochester City Ballet

Salt Creek Ballet, IL

San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet

San Pedro City Ballet CA

Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet

Sierra Vista Ballet, AZ

South Bay Ballet Torrence CA

South Dayton Dance Theatre

Southern New Hampshire Dance Theatre

Southwest Virginia Ballet

Saint Louis Ballet

The Toledo Ballet

The Tupelo Ballet

Virginia Ballet Company & School

Westchester Ballet Company NY

Westside Ballet Santa Monica CA

Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre

Woodlands Civic Ballet TX

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Exercises For Pointe in Adult Ballet Classes - Warm Up and Awareness

Most ballet exercises cover a lot of muscle groups, while exercises to prepare for pointe work, or foot work in general focus on the feet/ankles. Here is a simple exercise you can use as a warm up before class that will activate your posture, leg muscles, and foot muscles. It will get your joints more flexible in a gentle way as you increase your circulation and alert your brain/body that class is about to start!

As an adult ballet student you may have been sitting at a desk all day, or confined more or less, in an office venue. Coming into an adult ballet class, usually at the end of the day, your body is ready to wind down, yet - here you are.

Prances is a wonderful warm up movement. Facing a mirror, you can set up your posture, checking that your legs are truly parallel, with knees over the toes, not turning in toward each other at all. You can also check that your hips and shoulders are level. If not, be aware of tense areas in the body as you warm up. (And check at the end of class to see if you look more level).

So if you haven't learned prances, start by pressing up onto demi/three quarter pointe and then come down on one leg through a flat point, and then lower into demi plie. The other leg bends, and you can press over a little on that (now) working leg, to get a little more flexible in the ankle and toe joints.

Slowly transfer the weight onto both feet as you press up onto demi pointe. Check that your neck and shoulders are not working, and that your core muscles, or lowest abs, are controlling the neutral pelvic posture (pelvis tilted neither forward a little, or back).

Do 12-16 slow controlled prances, then take a little break. Now turn sideways to the mirror, repeat all, checking that your demi plie is going up and down a plumb line, not allowing your weight to press back at all at the depth of the plie.

This is a great yet simple warm up. You can add to it by doing a port de bras - bring the arms up from low fifth through fifth in front to high fifth and down through second position. This will warm up the back and shoulders. Breathe deeply and easily.

This little preparation to class addresses the basic foot movements for ballet - and every use of the foot is an exercise to prepare for pointe work, every single one. Flexing and extending the ankle and arch properly, while controlling your posture, and getting a little flexibility through the toe joints (especially the big toe), is no small feat.

When you do eventually get into pointe shoes, you can do the same exercise as a preparation/warm up, holding onto the barre, and going up onto pointe and coming down through the foot, changing the weight, and pressing over your pointe a little if you need more flexibility. If you have hyper-mobile ankle joints, you can practice holding it back a little, staying on your pointe shoe platform instead of pressing over.

I hope this will help you enjoy your adult ballet class even more!

If you want to go the extra mile, get this book to prepare for pointe shoes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Adult Beginners In Ballet Can Progress To Pointe Work

Most adult ballet beginners I talk to are motivated to add home practice to their dance class schedule. If you want to progress to pointe work, you can save time and money by learning exercises targeted to prepare the foot muscles for pointe. An added bonus to this focus is, that the same exercises enhance your balance and all your ballet footwork.

Exercises involving just the intrinsic (in the foot only) foot muscles do not require a ballet barre (or bar), a mirror, ballet wear, dance music, or any kind of workout equipment.

Furthermore, once you have learned these exercises properly, you can do them while you watch television, read, or engage in casual conversation.

Adding an exercise to determine and then improve your turnout requires enough floor space for the length of your body, and a small cushion or folded towel if you are very thin.

Practicing press ups on one leg in a cou de pied or retire position requires a kitchen counter or chair back for use as a barre.

Checking for a correct ballet position to practice in, is best done with your ballet teacher. However, if you have a full length mirror, you can also check at home, once you understand what is right for spinal posture, pelvic position, and leg positions.

Plan on adding ten to fifteen minutes a day for foot exercises to progress toward pointe work. While your feet get stronger, you will find a better push off in all your releves and jumps. Landing through the foot will become easier as well.

Some adult ballet beginners may never get to dance ballet in pointe shoes because of previous dance injuries, extremely inflexible ankle joints, or another reason. Yet, adding specific foot exercises to your routines will definitely help you progress toward pointe work and better foot work in general.

Learn more about how to progress to pointe work, with targeted foot exercises in an easy-at-home learning format to support your ballet class work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Relaxation Techniques And Myofascial Release


Releasing tension in the fascia, the covering of our soft tissues (to put it in my rustic terms) is different from just releasing tension in the muscle centers. For an example of situations that are addressed from a myo-fascial release viewpoint, learn about relaxation techniques with "The Ball Work" DVD.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still Trying To Lift Your Leg "From Underneath?"

Well, give it up - it's not going to work. Trying to get the legs up by pure force and effort is quite frustrating. Believe me, I understand!


Nichelle at Dance Advantage wrote a detailed article about the iliopsoas muscle and pelvic area that's well worth reviewing.

If you want better extensions, read this through as many times as it takes for you to sense this muscle and surrounding area.

Learn Basic Ballet Positions - Can You Learn On Line?

For the curious adult beginner, or younger student wanting to learn ballet, there are many offers to learn ballet on line. Is this really possible? There are many articles and you tube videos showing basic ballet positions. Even if they were all perfect, how would you learn ballet at home? Maybe your body can do ballet positions easily, maybe not.

It's easy to view the great ballerinas and male dancers doing ballet as perfect as it gets. So you can do it because you can see it, right?

Well, you already got my point. The professional teachers who put e-books, videos, and print books about ballet, anatomy, exercises to prepare for pointe, and dance injury recovery information on the internet, assume that you have a ballet teacher and that you have a basic grasp on the basic ballet positions and movements.

To learn classical positions properly, you need a ballet class. Certainly you can improve with taking advantage of the abundance of information obtained on line. But only if you understand how you are doing things right in ballet (or other dance style) class, and how you are seeking to improve turnout/posture/core strength/exercises for pointe etc., etc..

And, for example, ballet flexibility (or getting more flexible for cheer leading or dance/sports/fitness) is also a topic that has been updated and written about in the recent past.

If you love dance, clarify your goals with your dance study. Determine what topic in dance that you need the most information in, and find it. I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find answers to any of your dance questions.

You can learn all about ballet positions easily. Then, follow up with data on exercises to prepare for pointe. You can bring all this info into your ballet class practice and get optimum results!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pointe Shoes- Basic Ballet Positions Matter!

Exercises in pointe shoes are not going to result in grace and ease when you dance ballet, unless your basic ballet positions are correct. Spinal posture, well-held turnout (no matter what degree you have naturally), and powerful demi plies will give you strength and power in pointe shoes.

Neutral spine position must be understood and practiced correctly in every ballet barre exercise. Good posture makes everything else in ballet easier - and will help you progress faster.

Using your demi plies in a very elastic way, as a movement rather than a series of positions, gives you power to push off for releves and jumps. Maintaining your spinal posture and holding your turnout lends to your strength.

Strength in your core muscles, or lower abs, supports your overall alignments. Especially if you have an additional situation to control, such as hyper-extended legs. This lower abdominal activation also allows you to relax in the upper body area, enabling natural and graceful arm and head movement.

Sliding and pressing the feet into the floor every time you leave first, third or fifth position, develops strength and awareness of your foot muscles. This use of the feet also powers every demi plie into a chassee that ends in a jump or releve onto three quarter or full pointe.

Holding alignment of the supporting side of the body in ronde de jambe a terre, and en l'air builds the kind of strength you will need to do thirty-two fouettes en pointe.

Being able to build up from four releves on one leg in a well-held retire position, to eight, to sixteen, to thirty-two, with a correct demi plie, pressing from the heel every time, will also mean that you will be able to do the releves and then the fouettes, on full pointe.

Every barre exercise you do with correct basic ballet positions prepares you for pointe work!

Learn all about exercises to prepare for ballet pointe shoes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pointe Shoes - Exercises to Prepare

Prepare For Pointe!

Every young ballet dancer wants to dance in pointe shoes.

And every ballet exercise, done properly, will prepare you to dance ballet in pointe shoes. Yet, there are special exercises you can add to your home practice that will prepare your foot muscles to do pointe work.

There is a special gentle way (or two) that you can get more flexible in the ankle joint, if you need that.

First, a simple exercise that you can do - toe swapping.

With feet flat on the floor, lift your big toe up and don't allow the other toes to follow, or even work at all.

Sometimes in the beginning, your toes all want to work at once, and it feels very strange to separate the big toe from the others. Hold the big toe up for 10-20 counts.

Then, put the big toe down, and lift the other four toes of each foot. Hold them up for 10-20 counts. You will feel muscles working that maybe you have never been aware of before.

Secondly - playing the piano with the toes. Just like it sounds.

Lift the toes, then place them down, one by one, starting with the big toe. Lift them up one by one, starting with the little toe. This takes practice to do properly.

The wonderful thing with these exercises is that you can do them while studying, watching tv, or reading.

For more flexibility in the ankle joint, first it is important to relax the muscles at the front of the calf, all the way down to the ankle.

This can be done with a tennis ball, or a "pinkie" sports ball.

Kneel down and sit back on your feet. Work the ball down the tibial (front of lower leg) muscles, pressing into tender spots that are holding tension.

Once you are down to the ankle area, there are two ways you can stretch the top of the ankle/foot area gently.

You can place the tennis ball under the top of the foot, above your toe joints (or you will stretch the toe joints, not the arch area).

Gently press down on the ball, just enough to feel a good stretchy feeling from above the ankle joint into the top of the foot. No force is needed.

This gentle stretch is simply to elongate and release tension in the muscles, giving you a little more point. Progress is gradual. Do not ever push into the stretch where you feel pain.

The other way to get a gentle (did I say GENTLE yet?) stretch is (still sitting in the same position) to lift the knee off the floor and hold it up.

You'll feel the same elongating but not forceful stretch over the top of the ankle/foot area. You can hold these stretches for 15- 30 seconds and slowly release.

Here's a video with more tips for pointe work!

That's just a start. Get your own copy of The Perfect Pointe Book, for exercises to prepare for pointe shoes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Trey McIntyre Project - I LOVED It!

I can't believe it's Thursday - I've been so busy. Wanted to get to this earlier...

Last Saturday evening some fellow dance fans and myself drove down to the Orange County Performing Arts Center to see the Trey McIntyre Project dance company.


"Ma Maison" (translate, "My House" - New Orleans was initially French, and also the Acadians (say 'Cajun') from Nova Scotia Canada were re-located (rounded up, and forcibly abducted to) to Louisiana three- four hundred years ago (that's why the food's so great!) with fabulous jazz band music was colorful, beautifully danced, poignant, funny and just delicious to watch. "Ma Maison" also used masks, which I loved for that commedia del'arte, carnivalesque touch.

I know, I do not sound like an academic intellectual dance critic - because I'm not that, I'm a dance lover. Not that the critics don't love the Trey McIntyre Project - they do!

"(serious)" was.....serious. It was not the kind of contemporary/classically-based dance that I enjoy - except that the execution was WONDERFUL and captivating. So who cares - entrancing to watch Chanel DaSilva, Jason Hartley and Brett Perry.

"Shape" was entertaining above all. Use of shapes (duh-uh) as props - well, I just don't want to give it away in case you have tickets for an upcoming show.

"The Sun Road" ahhhhh..... Trey McIntyre was inspired by visiting Glacier National Park. I had spent summers there as a child - close to my heart. But if you see this and have never been there, he presents a wonderful exhilarating visit with the choreography and film of the wild, wind-whipped vistas of that international border-defying land. The music of Paul Simon and Nina Simone lent irony and soulfulness. The music of Young Grey Horse lent a portal to another realm.

But then, dance offers us a portal to another realm, even while doing the grunge work of the ballet barre!

"The More I See You" took us from the theater, outside to the plaza, for viewing the dancers in cages, and film on the wall, with projected comments of the individual dancers personal history, likes, etc. This was entertaining for a couple of minutes, but I couldn't help thinking "I bet the dancers just HATE this!". But I could be wrong! And then I found myself thinking "just wait till they hit ----Minnesota?" (right, take everyone outside in October...January...).

Anyway, I still loved it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Improve Your Ballet By Learning How To Train Your Brain Waves For Creativity

Ballet dancers and all creative artists who have more Alpha brain waves suffer less tension and anxiety. The artistic lifestyle of competition and daily pressures produces stress, which suppresses your immune systems, diminishing the physical strength you rely on. If, in the teen years, during ballet training, you could train your brain and become familiar with Alpha waves and producing positive emotions, your adult years in ballet would be much more fulfilling.

Alpha waves help to produce a burst of creative inspiration, or revelation, in response to the demands of problem solving. Scientists have studied highly creative people and observed that they have different brain waves from non-artistic types.

For brain activity to result in inspirational ideas, the process needs to be able to produce a big burst of Alpha brain waves. This is a 'left- brained' activity.

One way to increase creativity is to increase Alpha wave production.

Peak athletic performance is enhanced by Alpha brain waves. Sports scientists have observed that the one key difference between beginner and elite athletes is in their brain function, and the ability to produce a burst of Alpha waves on the left side of their brain, exactly when needed. What's more, study of thought-wave activity showed that Alpha waves increased as athletes trained.

To experience less stress and anxiety during ballet training, you can learn how to increase the amount of your Alpha brain waves. If you are not a natural born mellow personality (and to my personal experience training dancers, most are not), learning how to train your brain for the Alpha wave activity of producing positive emotions, and positive imagery, will balance the pressure and stress you feel about ballet, performances, auditions, and your professional potential.

The teen brain especially produces a roller-coaster ride as the brain chemicals and resulting growth spurts change radically, disrupting the flow of dance training. Positive outlook becomes a challenge.

Train your brain - take a look at this useful tool!

Power Training Video For Men In Ballet

Here's an excellent power training/weights/kettlebell video taken at The National Ballet of Canada, with trainer Josh Hewitt.

Josh introduces an overview of the basics of training for power. He recommends this type of training as useful for men in ballet and shows how it helps explosive movements and partner work.

His demo includes:

-dynamic warmup
-importance of training for power
-exercise progressions for power movements
-triple extension
-kettlebell training
-other power movements such as plyo pushups and jump squats

These training exercises are meant for advanced/professional dancers and they should not be practiced without instruction and supervision.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stretching at the Ballet Barre to Improve Basic Positions

Stretching at the barre is necessary even when you are first learning ballet. Opportunities to stretch come in between exercises while your ballet teacher describes the next exercise.

Use this to get better ballet basic positions.


Often a teacher will give a stretching exercise at the end of the ballet barre workout, in order to take advantage of the warmed up muscles, and also to give the ballet students a brief rest from the most strenuous moves.

One set of muscles that need stretching and relaxing between each exercise is the rotator, or turnout muscles. After plies for example, turn your legs in and plie. Then lean into each hip, gently stretching all the muscles in the hip area. Do this after every barre exercise.

Stretching and relaxing muscles does not diminish your muscle tone, but does the opposite. Muscles that retain tension are weaker than muscles that are relaxed properly with correct stretching.

After battement tendu, relaxing the calves with a demi plie is advised. Relax the foot muscles briefly by pressing each foot up to demi pointe (while standing on the other) to stretch the sole of the foot muscles out.

Some ballet teachers give a stretch exercise at the barre before grand battement. This may be something like placing one leg on the barre, to your devant or front position, and stretching over it. A stretch should be held still for 15-30 seconds at least.

No bouncing or pulsing is needed - and movement does not help with the stretch. Turning out the supporting leg and pivoting the body turns you into a la seconde, leg to the side.

There are two common ways you can stretch in a la seconde. One, simply hold a well aligned position (spinal posture correct, working hip level with the supporting hip if possible), and stretch sideways over the leg, holding it 15-30 seconds, or musical equivalent.

For more flexible students, slide down the bar, staying close to it, and maintain the widened second position, holding turnout well, 15-30 seconds.

And this is how you can do your stretching at the ballet barre to improve your basic positions. Get yourself a copy of Strength And Stretch In Motion DVD`

Watch this preview video:

D. Buxton is a writing partner with Vone Deporter, of The Sedona Series, about a surfer girl in pointe shoes.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fitting Ballet Pointe Shoes - Some Extra Tips

It is exciting when your dance teacher tells you that it's time to start dancing ballet in pointe shoes. New, shiny, pink satin pointe shoes are beautiful. Every student has to have an idea of what they should look for in getting exactly the right fit. Hopefully the ballet store will have an area of floor for fitting ballet pointe shoes, and a ballet barre (bar) or chair back to use for support.

Here are a few points for every dance student to review. Do you have

*** narrow feet/wide feet

*** narrow heels/wide across metatarsal are

*** long toes/short toes

*** even length toes/varying lengths of toes (especially longer second toe)

*** flat arch and less deep toes/high domed arch and deeper toes/ankle bone higher above floor

All these elements determine the kind of pointe shoe you will work best in.

Pointe shoes must be snug enough to support the foot, yet not too tight. Cramped toe joints will not be able to work properly. Pain at the end of the toes from compression does not serve the dance student who needs to concentrate on accurate technique in order to build strength and avoid ballet injuries.

The boxes, or supportive area of pointe shoes around the toes, come in different widths and shapes. Therefore the platform, or part you actually stand up on, may be narrower or wider.

The vamp, or cloth extending from the box up over the metatarsal joints, also is made in different lengths to accommodate different foot shapes.

You will try on each shoe standing flat, in demi plie in second position (you need a little room for your feet to spread), and on pointe, using a barre or chair back for support (or a person). Of course, you do not want to break a pair of shoes when fitting.

Once you select a pair of shoes, take them to your teacher to review the fit. Keep them absolutely clean by standing on clean white paper or a towel, in case you end up returning them. Do not sew on ribbons and/or elastic before having your teacher see the fit.

You can get many more details about ballet pointe shoes and exercises to prepare for toe shoes, before you start pointe work.

Fitting ballet pointe shoes takes time, so don't be rushed at the ballet store.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ballet For Adults and Barre Exercises

Basic ballet positions, technique and movements are taught through barre exercises. (For a complete description, with photos of a ballet barre workout, get THE BALLET BIBLE).To discover and increase your turnout, and improve your natural dancing abilities, you need to understand the purpose of each barre exercise. Adult ballet beginners can progress faster with an understanding of ballet barre work.

A ballet barre work out is designed to warm you up while working different muscle groups.

For example, the demi (half way down) and full plie exercise warms up everything a little, but more so for the large quadriceps (front thigh muscles), gluteals (butt and hip muscles), as well the supporting abs and back muscles. But, mainly it's thought of as a leg exercise.

As you advance, different arm movements are added, to practice ballet positions of the upper body. It also requires coordination and musicality to do the arm positions and movements.

However, if your class doesn't do a lot of arm positions in plies, don't worry. Your teacher is giving you a chance to concentrate on your legs, posture, and turnout until you get stronger.

Battements tendus and degages are mostly lower leg and foot exercises. This gives your upper leg muscles a rest, although all your muscles will support the technique you are building with the footwork. Maintaining good posture and turnout is crucial here, as in every ballet barre exercise.

A well-planned barre continues with trading off on larger upper leg muscles with lower leg and foot muscles, as you proceed through it. This way you get practice, you get warmed up, but never exhausted.

Technically, a ballet barre exercise may work a set of muscles "to exhaustion", which means you may experience a weakness, or trembling by the end of the exercise. THIS IS GOOD! This point is where your brain tells your body to build on the size of your muscle fibers, meaning, building strength.

And again, a well planned barre will then rest those muscles and work others in the next exercise. This is all carefully planned for you.

In a ballet for adults class, ask questions when you need to. Keep a small notebook so you can write down questions about ballet positions or movements you'd like to look up after class. You'll master your barre exercises and enjoy ballet that much more.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How To Improve Your Ballet Technique, Avoid Ballet Injuries and Eventual Arthritis

The traditional ballet conservatory training usually combines a syllabus training (Cecchetti, Royal Academy of Dancing, Vaganova) with the talent of world class retired ballerinas and male dancers. This provides ballet technique that trains each dancer to improve their ballet technique according to their unique physique and talent. How can the recreational dancer, adult ballet beginner or cheer leader student tap into this information in order to avoid ballet injuries and eventual arthritis?

The fastest way to improve your ballet technique, no matter what style of dance your ballet conservatory teaches, is to learn what is anatomically correct and what is not.

You can improve your turnout by understanding the type of hip joints you have. You can also learn which muscles actually hold your turnout, and which muscles support your correct ballet technique and traditional ballet positions. Cheerleaders and even football pros use turnout in their movements and learning it correctly can prevent sprained and torn knee joints.

Analysing Arabesque for example, requires that you understand moving from an upright position of the spine, to a tilted, correctly twisted position of the lumbar (low back) spine. Even if you have 180 degree turnout from your hips, a high arabesque will demand the twist of the low back/pelvis to achieve a professional line. Different dance styles will determine the details of your line, as in some arm placement (square shoulders or not, etc.,) and yet correct ballet technique will allow the dancer to adapt to many choreographic styles.

Also, understanding a proper arabesque ballet position helps you stretch properly to do the splits.

Understanding foot types, foot muscles, and how to strengthen AND relax lower leg and foot muscles will help prepare you for dancing ballet in pointe shoes, regardless of your dance training style. Cheerleaders included - you may not aspire to dance in pointe shoes, but foot/lower leg control will improve your balance and help you avoid the most common ballet/sports/fitness injury - sprained ankles.

It's amazing that x-rays dancers in their twenties can show arthritis in foot joints, knee joints and joints of the low back, neck and shoulders. Certain ballet training styles sprain and strain joints to perpetuate the tradition. Ballet conservatories understand this, and their audition processes attempt to screen out the physiques that will sustain too much damage to finish the training. The better funded academies have added anatomy classes and physical therapists to their programs to diminish this accepted professional hazard.

Now any ballet student or cheer leading student can get the same information! No matter how out of the way your ballet school is! If you have no money to spend, there are many free articles to read on the internet, and many ballet books in your local library.

It's open access to anyone who will search and benefit from the wealth of information on how to improve your ballet technique.

Learn how to IMPROVE YOUR BALLET TECHNIQUE,with products from The Body Series. These educational books and DVDs cover anatomy, ballet turnout, analysing arabesque, muscle tension release and much more!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Use the Ballet Barre to Improve Your Balance and Strengthen Your Ballet Technique

Be in pointe shoes as much as you can. Once you've gone beyond beginning pointe work, wearing the shoes for barre work is a good habit.

The sole of the foot, and ankle, have to work so much more with every tendu, degage, and rise onto demi-pointe. The shoe resists, and the muscles get a better workout.

If the thickness of the sole makes your foot wobble because it does lie flat on the floor, use a wood file, and shave the sole down lightly. You can get the sole close to flush with the satin, so that your foot will be flatter on the floor. Straining the ankles from wobbling is distracting, during ballet barre work.

Even wearing worn out pointe shoes is better than wearing soft shoes. There is still more effort needed, until the shoe is completely mushy.

If you're still pre-pointe, or an adult ballet beginner, here's some tips to help you gain from using the ballet barre properly:

*** understand correct weight placement on your feet (or supporting foot) which is, evenly distributed between the center of the heel, the area at the little toe joint at the outside of the foot, and the area at the big toe joint at the ball of the foot.

*** check frequently during barre work, by lifting your hand off the barre, that your weight has not moved back onto the heel.

*** additionally, at frequent opportunities, see if you can lift the heel of the supporting foot, and place back down, indicating that you are not back on your heel.

These two simple points show you how to use the ballet barre to improve your balance and strengthen your ballet technique.To get into pointe shoes faster, learn more about better ballet technique, and ballet positions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Easy At Home Stretches For Your Ballet Or Cheer Leading Moves - Position To the Side

Doing the splits to the side, or a la seconde, can be improved with patient stretching after a sufficient warm up. Basic ballet positions can be used to highlight cheer leading jumps, and landings, into the splits.

After a ballet class or a cheer leading workout is a great time to stretch - when you're extremely warmed up.

Here are some tips to getting a better looking second - or side splits position.

Usually the audience is presented with this position straight on from the front. So, even if your legs cannot extend out to the extreme (180 degrees turnout) position, if you can raise the legs waist high in a leap, it still looks impressive.

All of the muscles around the pelvis, low back, and in the back of the the thighs (the hamstrings) can be gradually and constantly lengthened. The tendons and ligaments around your joints should not be pressured into tearing. They don't lengthen the way muscles do.

If you cannot stretch at the end of a class or a workout, put on leg warmers or sweat pants to go home in. This will keep you warm.

As soon as you have some time, even if you're doing homework reading or studying, sit down in second position on the floor. Do a stretch in second position, relaxing over to the floor over your book, and just hold the position. Do not bounce or pulse. Deep breathing is okay, and helps you relax. This is the yoga method of NO FORCE. After 30 to 60 seconds, slowly pull up straight and see if you can wiggle your legs out even a hair's width, without pain.

Repeat this stretch about ten times, not pushing into pain, but tolerating discomfort.

You have to get away from your book for the next bit - do a side bend, leaning to one side over your now stretched to the max sideways leg. Keep the other hip and butt bone down, on the floor. Hold 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times and do the other side.

This sideways stretch actually stretches your lower back muscles on each side of your spine. These muscles normally restrict movement so that in daily life you don't over stretch and tear your back. In controlled stretching, it's fine to stretch them out. This will allow you to maintain an upright position when you kick to the side. All from easy at home stretching while you get some studying done.

Now your basic ballet positions and your cheer leading leaps and kicks are going to look great!

Improve your basic ballet positions and cheer leading moves with THE BALLET BIBLE, a complete description of the ballet barre.

FABULOUS Dance Student Videos

Watch these videos!

I just found this on line. Wonderful student videos of Napolean's summer dance course in the Salt Lake Conservatory's Summer Dance Intensive.

I've taught in dance courses with modern dance teachers like Wendy Perron, Sandra Neals and Raymond Johnson. There is frustration with teaching ballet students modern choreography. Yet they did, and Napolean did - to enjoyable results - check the link and watch the dances!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Understanding Basic Ballet Positions

Understanding basic ballet positions, to most people, means the five positions of the feet. Yet, a position more basic than those, is the position your body is in when you are standing with your feet parallel, in a comfortably held good posture. Understanding your personal starting point will help you progress faster.

You may not be asked to do this in a beginner (including adult beginner) ballet class. If your teacher skips this step, you can do it at home.

Stand in front of a mirror in your ballet clothes, or wear shorts and a tight top so you can see your knees, and your general posture. A hard floor is better than a plush carpet. Here are things to notice:

- are your feet evenly touching the floor with your weight distributed evenly between the center of your heel, the little toe joint area and the big toe joint area (this is often called "tripod")

- do your ankles roll inward or outward

- do your calves naturally stand in a straight line upward to your knees, or do they bow out slightly

- do your knees face the front or slightly inward

- are your hips and shoulders level or even a tiny bit uneven

- standing sideways to the mirror, are your knees above your ankles or do they over-straighten and curve behind you

- is there a small curve inward at the small of your back (everyone's natural curve will look different in relation to the shape of their gluteal muscles)

- can you pull the very bottom of your abdomen up and in without changing the tilt of your pelvis

- is your chest lifted allowing your shoulders to relax, not drooping forward

- is your neck relaxed - turn your head slightly from side to side, and up and down a little, to get into a relaxed position

Of course it is your teacher's job to notice all of this, but it gets you ahead if you can see these factors, and correct yourself as much as possible. Always ask for help if you need more information to be sure.

All of the above will determine how you will stand in first, second, third, fourth and fifth ballet positions. Aside from introducing the element of turn out, your understanding of posture and how your feet are placed on the floor, will determine how you progress learning basic ballet positions.

Learn more details about accurate ballet positions and movements like retire, releve, and how to correct your turnout and posture for executing ballet barre exercises.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Flexibility Exercises For Cheerleading Stunts

How to improve your flexibility is an ongoing challenge for cheerleaders, dancers, and those doing gymnastics.

Safe stretching is a learned art. It's especially important for those who are not in dance classes learning ballet technique, to learn proper warm up, and proper stretching positions.

If you are in high school or college cheer leading it's easy to justify a short-cut and skip warming up - especially if you're hot and sweaty just from getting to practice on time! Yet warm up and cool down are important for making your hard work pay off. Also, and just as important, your stretching is more effective.

The time taken to warm up protects you from injuries. Stress fractures, joint pain and muscle strains are the least of what can happen if you fail to warm up.

Warm-up gets your body activated for the intense activity of all the choreographic repetitions you will do in any given practice. It wakens your reflexes, or your automatic physical reactions to your own and others' movements.

Your heart rate and breathing will increase, pushing oxygen and glucose to your muscles and raising your body temperature. The result is, your muscles get warmer, move and stretch more easily, and will be less painful afterwards. Once warmed up, your metabolism runs high for the duration of your practice, resulting in better fat-burn off.

Your warm-up should work the same muscles you'll be using while exercising. If you are going to be doing a lot of jumps, a slow motion warm up of jumps would be slow controlled squats.

Slowly straightening up, controlling your posture, and holding your core muscles, will prepare your muscles and your concentration for a fun and safe session.

Using slow motion versions of your arm movements will warm up your shoulder/neck/arms and upper back.

After five to ten minutes of this kind of warm up, you can do some gentle stretching in all the positions you will be using in the choreography.

After practice, you can repeat your stretching more intensely. Better to take time here while you're really warmed up, and then throw on some sweats to go home in. (Even if you are going somewhere to grab a bite and socialize, better use the time to stretch rather than primp. You are serious, right?)

Cool-down gradually. Just walking around two or three minutes, pausing to lunge and stretch your calves, makes it easy on your circulatory system (heart/lungs/blood flow).

Stretches are technical and must be learned in detail. Warming up in order to maximize your efforts will help you get more flexible for cheer leading, and avoid injury.

CLICK HERE  to learn the best  flexibility exercises.

D. Buxton is a writing partner with Vone Deporter, of The Sedona Series, about a surfer girl in pointe shoes.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ballet Warm Up Exercises For Your -Position To The Front

If you are a beginner in ballet classes, adult ballet classes, or with a cheer leading team, safe stretching is an important factor in your training. Following are some safe easy at home stretches with which you can become more flexible. Whatever aspect of ballet/sports/fitness you participate in, these stretches will help for ballet warm up exercises.

Being able to kick, or lift your leg to the front, side, and back, enables you to move more freely and maybe eventually do the splits. You need a daily routine of stretches to become more flexible. You also need to understand a few principles of working safely.

Don't skip a warm up. If you haven't had a class or any other kind of exercise on a day where you decide to stretch, walk on the spot for at least five minutes, swinging and moving your arms freely. This will boost your metabolism and get your muscles a little warm.

For becoming more flexible to the front position, you need to engage your core muscles and lengthen the hamstring muscle(s) that run from your butt bone to the areas around your knee. There are two ways I recommend for this. If you are not able to lift or kick your leg to the front without the movement causing a change in the position of your hips, here's a great exercise. Stand in front of a chair. Lift one leg up and place it on the chair. Bend the standing leg, keeping your pelvis upright and your back straight. If you feel tension down the back of the leg on the chair, stop there. Very slowly lean forward, back still straight. You may only move a quarter of an inch, this doesn't matter. Don't let your back round. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds. That's your stretch. No bouncing or pulsing. Release up a little, then repeat. Change legs. As you get used to this you can do more repetitions on each leg. You want a stretchy feeling, but not pain.

You will feel a place where the muscles will let go a little, allowing more of a stretch. This is the "stretch reflex".

If you can already easily lift or kick the leg to over 90 degrees, or above your hip height, you can put your leg up on a ballet barre or counter top, keeping your hips facing to it. Maintaining a straight pelvis/back, lean over the leg slightly, while pressing the leg down. Hold 15-30 seconds. At some point you will feel the stretch reflex, maybe not on the first repetition. Do the same number of reps on each leg.

After a class or workout is an ideal time to stretch, but sometimes that's not possible. Always warm up for safe stretching.

With these ballet stretches, you will become more flexible for your ballet moves or cheer leading choreography.

Get more ballet warm up exercises, with the fast download The Ballet Bible.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Avoid Knee Pain And Understand Overpronation With Flat Feet

How To Avoid Knee Pain

Over-pronation is the inward roll of the foot while standing, walking, running or dancing. Allowing the foot to roll inwards causes noticeable internal rotation of the lower leg and knee and can influence the body's posture. This can result in extra strain on the lower body and can cause foot pain of the arches, heels and ankles, knee pain, leg pain, and lower back pain. A ballet student only needs to understand this, and can correct flat feet by developing the sole of the foot muscles.


Studying ballet without correcting pronation can lead to
  • Knee pain
  • Shin splints
  • Arch pain
  • Overall tension in the lower leg

Flat feet may be flexible and may show a curve when pointed, but on the floor, they still need to be supported properly.

Rolling ankles, with the lower leg internally rotating inwards, and the thighs turning out, can eventually lead to a twisting of the knee joint with irritation, inflammation, and pain.

Excess wear on the inner sides of the street shoes, is an obvious sign of over-pronation.

If you can get a parent or a fellow dance student to take a picture of your flat feet standing in parallel, (from the back) you'll see if you are rolling in from the heel, with your arches mushed on the floor.

See if your heels lean inwards and if your kneecaps turn inwards while standing.

This would be in a relaxed position, not holding your thighs in any particular way.
You'll see that if you then turn out, your feet may adjust somewhat, with the heels pulling up straighter, and the arches maybe lifting a little. This will definitely help avoid a knee injury.

However, holding your turnout is not enough to correct this. Also, just lifting the arches up by rolling outward is not a good correction.

Locating and strengthening the tiny foot muscles (demonstrated in The Perfect Pointe Book)is your best bet to not compensate for flat feet in the wrong ways and then send the feet's workload up into the calf and shin muscles.

If you already have ankle, lower leg or knee pain, see a chiropractor, physiotherapist or a podiatrist. You may need orthotics (supportive shoe inserts) and even a heel counter (an insert in the heel of your shoe that stabilizes your heel position) in your street shoes. This heel counter should fit well to prevent extra movement and twisting ankles.

Morton’s foot (big toe shorter than second) can cause a slight roll inward when the foot moves upward to rise or take off for a jump. Even though weight goes off the foot in many of these movements, just try counting how often in a class that happens - and imagine the uneven pressure on the feet muscles and bones.

Having the weight spread evenly from the center of the heel, big toe joint and little toe joint, is your foundation. It gives the level base, just like the platform a house is built on, for your skeleton to stack up above.

Understanding flat feet, overpronation, and the possibility of foot/calf/shin/knee sprain, will help you prevent dance injuries.

THE PERFECT POINTE BOOK will help you avoid knee pain.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Care Of Shin Splints - Or Prevent Shin Splints By Building Strong Foot Muscles

Understanding shin splints requires knowing how to use your foot muscles properly.

This affects all your ballet positions and movements. Even more basic, is understanding where your weight should be on your standing foot/feet.

If not drawn back too much on the heel, the calf muscles and tibial (shin) muscles do not have to strain even before you've made a move.


 To avoid shin splints altogether, check how you're standing in parallel, and how your feet are positioned on the floor.

Ideally, you have arches that don't flatten on the floor when you are standing, and also don't hold an arch shape with a rigid locked position.

The front of your ankle is relaxed because your weight is on the middle of the heel, the outside of the foot at the little toe metatarsal joint, and the inside of the foot at the big toe metatarsal joint.Think "tripod".

The rest of your body is stacked upward from ankle to knee (if your knees are hyper-extended you have been shown how to hold them in a straight position) to hip, through the natural spinal curves to your head.

Imagery-wise, your head floats above all of this. Realistically, you work with your rib cage held but not clenched down, so your neck does not have to compensate with a chin pulling up and forward, eliminating the natural curve.

And all of that has to do with how your feet rest on the floor.

If your feet are flat and soft, standing correctly, turning out correctly and getting the weight distributed on the foot (picture a triangle or tripod) is going to activate the sole of the foot muscles but NOT activate tibial (shin) and/or calf muscles that will strain if your weight has sunk inwards. Dancers call it rolling ankles.

Having the weight a tad forward (isn't that nice and scientific) feeling ready to move into a tendu and take the weight on the standing leg, is an activated but not tense or clenched feeling in your legs and core muscle area.

So even though shin splints are usually associated with jumping on hard floors, or overworking through long rehearsal days, shin splints can start with a lack of understanding just how to stand on your feet - and also not understanding what type of feet you are standing on.

It doesn't MATTER what kind of feet you have. It matters that you know how to use them and improve them, way before you get into pointe shoes.

A foot that is arched but rigid in the mid section can be loosened up with massage, warm foot baths, and regular ballet strengthening exercises.

A soft flat foot can be strengthened and activated properly on the floor.More about that HERE.

A hyper-mobile highly arched foot can be strengthened and controlled by the intrinsic (sole of the foot) muscles.

A less flexible ankle can be stretched properly, starting with relaxing the shin muscles.......that may be strained by weight drawing back on the heel, as mentioned above.

Ideally you prevent shin splints.

If you are past that, you practice good care of shin splints with massage, ice, perhaps rest, and applying all of the above.

Swelling and inflammation of the tibial muscles can get extremely painful, and severe pain should be addressed by a ballet/sports/fitness physiotherapist or chiropractor. There may be a stress fracture present, so it's good to know exactly what you are healing.

Take a look at your parallel bare feet position in the mirror and get your weight placed properly.  

Women and men in sports/fitness/ballet can learn to prevent shin splints with The Perfect Pointe Book exercises and improve reflexes and fine balance, for all dance and sports.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ballet Pointe Shoes and How to Control Your Professional Footwork

To prepare your ballet footwork for pointe shoes, concentrate on the single factor which will make up for perhaps not getting exactly the right fit with your first pair of toe shoes. It is not the ballet shoe ribbons or the toe padding that you use. It is not your teacher, or the type of dance floor at your ballet studio. It is something you own, and it cannot be taken from you. It is the strength in your tiny foot muscles.

The advantages of developing your intrinsic foot muscles (the ones that are in your feet and are not extensions of leg muscles) are:

* your calf and tibial (shin muscles) will not over work and hold extra tension because of weak foot muscles

* your Achilles tendon will not be prone to dance injuries due to tense calf muscles

* your reflexes will develop in your ballet footwork, giving the needed control and balance

* you will able to use the full depth and power of your demi plie

* you will be able to secure your weight properly on your feet, in the 'tripod' or middle of the heel/at the little toe metatarsal joint/at the big toe metatarsal joint

When you cannot get the exact fit in pointe shoes, compensations can be made with toe spacers, gel padding, heel grips, and sewing wide elastic across the vamp for extra support. These are many methods that dancers use to make their pointe shoes more comfortable.

However, you gain an extra advantage over the availability - or lack of - the specific ballet shoes that you want, when your feet are really strong.

Another wonderful quality you gain from developing the right ballet muscles in your feet is a more relaxed, elegant upper body, helping you attain the impression of effortlessness that every ballet dancer strives for.

When you get into a ballet partnering class (Pas de deux, French words for 'dance for two"), you rely less on your partner for control.

You will also have more of a cat-like quality simply walking in your pointe shoes, not to mention performing difficult classical dance movements requiring finer ballet footwork.

Doing ballet in pointe shoes is not difficult if you are prepared. You'll become the dancer you want to be with strong professional footwork.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Reading For Understudies....


I just found this article on the blog "Ballet Business". It is good advice!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ballet Shoes and the Perfect Pointe Muscles

Both young and adult ballet beginners wonder when they can dance in pointe shoes. The process of training foot muscles begins in your very first ballet class.

Learning accurate ballet technique from day one is your best way to get into pointe shoes faster. The Perfect Pointe Book is the best manual I know of to get the best ballet tips.

The proper use of foot muscles begins even before you pointe your foot. Here is a quick review:

Your street shoes! Do you wear supportive shoes generally? If you alternate between pointed toe high heels and flip-flops, you may decide to make a lifestyle change to help prepare your foot muscles for dancing ballet in pointe shoes.

High heels are usually pointed, angling in the big toe. This strains the soft tissues around the toe joint, and ultimately can lead to painful bunions.

High heels will usually throw your posture out of a neutral spine position - which means, that when neutral, all your natural spinal curves are in place, with no unnecessary tension compromising your neck/shoulder/spinal/hip joints. With all those with neutral spinal position in high heels please raise their hands...you get the idea that this would be rare.

High heels throw your weight forward off the "tripod" platform of even distribution from the middle heel point, to the point at the big toe metatarsal joint and the little toe metatarsal joint, thus the tripod metaphor. This will affect your posture and muscle tension required to go about life.

Flip-flops force the muscles in the sole of the foot (the exact muscles that ultimately allow you to control your positions and movements in point shoes) to clench, just to keep the shoes on! You get used to this, but it is a contraction of the foot you would not normally need if you were wearing supportive shoes.

While foot massage, proper stretching, and other foot pampering can partly compensate for flip-flop wearing, would all those who wear flip-flops who daily massage and stretch their foot muscles please raise.....

Worn out oxfords and sneakers (for you men in ballet) will also compromise the daily use of your foot muscles. Your feet have to do what the shoes cannot.

In your first ballet class you will learn how to stand in first position. Here it will most likely be mentioned that your feet should be flat on the floor, foot muscles not clenched in any way. Thus you achieve the tripod weight distribution.

If your feet pronate (ankles/arches dropping inwards) or supinate (rolling outwards) hopefully your teacher will notice and address your posture - spine/hips/knees/ankles, and locate the source of the pronation.

Weak muscles will strengthen, and eventually you can remedy improper foot placement on the floor.

So you see, before you do your first demi plie as a young or adult ballet beginner, you can do a lot to improve your perfect pointe muscles .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Men In Ballet Working in Pointe Shoes

Many men in ballet talk about dancing in pointe shoes and whether it is appropriate or even possible.

Pointe shoes are made in men's sizes for the few classical ballets where pointe shoes for a male character are used.

More importantly, developing foot muscles for ballet using pre-pointe exercises is an excellent idea for men in ballet classes.

Here is a video of a male ballet dancer who does work on pointe, with the Royal Ballet. See what he has to say:

For male adult beginners in ballet classes, there are many challenges.

Often strength in the large muscle groups is not one of them, especially if the men have been practicing high intensity interval training or weight resistance training.

However, the particular exercises for the intrinsic foot muscles do not show up often, even in ballet classes. You can read more about those here.

Here is where information about feet in general is needed for all dance students, and especially for men in adult ballet.  

Knowledge of foot muscles will prevent strain/sprain of the lower leg muscles and tendons, protecting the Achilles area. I wrote about that topic HERE.

Developing awareness and strength in the foot muscles will prevent cramping and soreness in the feet.

If men in adult ballet classes wish to eventually get into pointe shoes to exercise and hone their footwork, they also need to know about foot types, and proper stretching of the ankle joint.

Also, correct basic ballet technique - weight distribution on the feet, posture, turnout, and ballet positions, need to be understood completely. This education will give an adult dance student a better experience as well as faster progress.

Ballet is an excellent form of exercise. It compares to high intensity training. Ballet exercises are short, designed to challenge and completely load the muscles during the barre work.

A well designed barre workout rests some muscle groups while engaging others, alternating, so as to warm up the whole body evenly.

For serious recreational ballet students, more is not necessarily better. Muscles need to recover properly, and several classes a week do not add strength.

It would be better for an adult male ballet enthusiast to do an upper body training workout rather than another ballet class. If such a student feels unoccupied during off days - rent ballet movies, or ballet classes on DVD and study them while doing some gentle stretching on your floor.

Also do your pre-pointe foot exercises while watching your favorite ballerinas and their partners perform the amazing feats of classical repertoires. This trains your brain to assimilate the movement finesse it perceives, even when you are not active physically.

I think it is a great idea for men in ballet to eventually exercise in pointe shoes. It is not a necessity, yet you can be among the men in pointe shoes (the real ones)!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sad To Lose The Ballet Greats

I was saddened to read about the passing away of Gerald Arpino and Ekaterina Maximova recently. I felt a huge empty spot in the ballet world. Links to these events are at topix.com.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to Improve My Ballet is a Big Issue For Dance Recital Prep

If you study dance for more than ballet fitness, and recital preparation bumps the stress levels, there are different ways to make this rehearsal period easier. Classical dance, hip hop dancing, jazz dancing and much more is now included in contemporary dance school demands. Avoid dance injuries by preventing over training, especially now.

There are two main ways to get the most out of your rehearsal time and present the best of your ballet (or other dance) technique. Physical practice, naturally, and training your brain to rehearse by itself when you are resting.

Here are some tips to do your best in choreographic moves that are difficult for you:

*** check out the preparatory movement, like a demi plie, just before a difficult move. Are you losing turnout, posture or correct push-off (heel on the floor)?
*** does any particular muscle need strengthening for a new move? Instead of practicing it over and over, fatiguing your whole body, decide if you need a high intensity exercise with a weight perhaps, to isolate and build strength in one (or one group) of muscles. If so, you need only do this exercise once or twice a week to build that muscle up.
*** need more flexibility for a specific dance position? If so, do not over do it. Stretch whenever you are warmed up, for the position, without pain, and make sure you stretch a properly positioned muscle, and not the ligaments holding a joint. Ligaments just tear, they don't stretch. Hold any stretch position motionless, do not bounce or even pulse. You'll feel a release into a further stretch, bit by bit.
*** make time for some hot baths in Epsom Salts! Or Apple Cider Vinegar, which will pull wastes out of your muscles. Bathing is a lost art for many athletes.

Get some information on brain training. You can rehearse mentally and benefit physically. It's true, studies have been done. Also, get the brain training to manage stress and anxiety that seems to accompany competition for most performers. This in itself will improve your ballet and all your dancing.

And ultimately, send your self-critic self on a vacation. Accept all the praise you get, and enjoy your recital season!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Would-Be Adult Beginners in Ballet Classes Suffer From Needless Self Doubt

A quick survey of articles on the internet show that articles read by adult beginners in ballet outnumber those read by the (somewhat) more self-accepting younger ballerinas and men in ballet. Many older would-be dance students worry that they are too old to get anything out of taking ballet.

There seems to be a degree of self-consciousness in most adult ballet students that I hear from. However, the self-doubt is needless because it really does not matter, except to each individual, what the goals of studying classical dance are. Each to his own.

Some adult ballet beginners will attempt to train long and hard enough to dance in pointe shoes, yet many will not have that aim in mind.

Many want an exercise program that also lends to developing grace and elegance. As exercise, ballet provides high intensity workouts for the lower body, while also challenging the upper body muscles, in a lighter manner.

Properly taught and practiced, classical dance increases both muscles strength and stamina. Reflexes are improved, and if kept up through the senior years, ballet will help increase bone density, balance and muscle strength.

A strong heart and strong lungs' response in an emergency moment relies on muscle strength. The heart and lungs do not actually strengthen by prolonged low intensity exercise (such as walking and running) as previously thought. This is because the stronger the muscles are, the less the heart and lungs NEED to respond to a sudden burst of movement or intense muscle contractions.

I hope that adults who want to do ballet just go ahead. Whatever the flexibility and the resulting ballet positions, whatever the muscle type and the resulting ballet technique, the benefits are enormous and these adult exercisers are way ahead of the aging/degeneration progression.

Define for yourself what you want to get out of ballet classes, enjoy every minute of it, and throw away any needless self-doubts.

To support your ballet training, take advantage of the remarkable ballet education that is available at this ballet store.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zen and the Art of Dancing For Artistic Fulfillment

Most of the dancers I hear from are recreational dancers or adult dancers or adult beginners who are just getting started. The professional students have most of their problems solved by their environment. For the non-professionals, dance is also a soul expression, a creative outlet, resulting in the daily life becoming more artful. For what dancer does not do something everyday relating to their dance experience?

Zen and the art of ...... living! The mindfulness practiced in meditation, flower arranging, a tea ceremony, a ballet class, performing kata, is a commitment. It is a commitment to be there at the exclusion of all else.

There only is where you are, when you are, doing what you're doing. There is nothing else. Any reflection on something else, somewhere else, some-when else is all in your mind!

And you might say that dance is all in your mind too! Dance certainly starts in the mind, and maybe I don't want to take that topic any further.

In a ballet class, maybe you do not have quite the ideal ballet body. Maybe you are totally on the wrong side of the ballet body barrier. What every dancer, regardless of body type, has in her/his favor, is the ability to concentrate.

Concentration is zen-like. It excludes everything except what is being done in the moment. I am not a zen master or any kind of meditation guru, but I can say with certainty that this definitely works for ballet. I have seen four year olds concentrate on their demi plies, battments tendus from first position, and slow rises in parallel position with utterly non-distracted attention. It continues to astound me.

Learning ballet benefits the most from this type of concentration. I think the value is in the doing, not the results. The results in ballet are largely dictated by the body type. The doing remains unmarred by conventional values. Ballet technique, strength and flexibility can all be gained by focused practice. And whichever side of the ballet body barrier you are on, the soul expression, the rewards of the creative outlet can be equally fulfilling.

So, especially if you are on the difficult physical side of progressing in ballet, don't let yourself get distracted by the ideal form of the body that you do not have. Or if you're an adult beginner, or adult re-starter, enjoy and relish the focus you get in class from the long slow climb to intermediate and advance levels of ballet.

Imagine applying the concentration you give to a demi and grand plie exercise, where you set your tone and level of involvement for the entire ballet class, to clearing the dinner table, doing your homework, or preparing a business proposal. It's all life.

If you have this approach, you cannot be worrying, comparing yourself to the next dancer, to your favorite ballerina, or any other nervous thought. You have brought all of you to the plies, the tendus and the rest of the dance routines.

The interesting thing is it is this kind of focus that draws attention to a dancer. The one you cannot take your eyes off. It's the zen, the soul expression of really being there that captivates the audience. You can be that any time, all the time.

Amazing sources of dance education such as The Perfect Pointe Book, and The Body Series books and DVDs, will help you learn the art of dancing to your fulfillment.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Doomed With My Body Type in the Dance World

Ballet students in general have two strikes against them when they start ballet. I have heard so many in the ballet world say:


(I chose that image because I'm not into body shaming dancers! You know what I mean...)

"I am doomed with my body type". 

Some are correct. With the wrong proportions and genetically bulked up muscles, only a few awesome talents break the ballet body barrier. The second strike is that dancers are their own worst critic, regardless of genetic luck.

Anyone who has seen a few classical ballets, or modern ballets with dancers in white spandex unitards, has figured out what the favored ballet body type is:

*Small head***long neck***shortened torso***long, thin, lean (but slightly muscular)legs*

This is a matter of genetics plus training, and it is important for the dancer to have enough strength to control motion. In non-ballet fields, these proportions are not normal and may even be considered detrimental.

Turnout of the leg from the hip joint.

This would depend whether the natural angle of the thigh bone in the hip is angled outward or inward. Also, increasing the flexibility of the surrounding soft tissues must begin before the age of seven to significantly enhance the degree of turnout.

However, serious full time ballet training should NOT start at age seven. Well designed weekly classes with no rush on advancing from simple exercises (for instance the early Cecchetti or R.A.D. grades) is as complicated as training should get.

Slight knee hyper extension has become a pleasing line in ballet. The slight backward curve of the leg enhances the look of the arch curve outward (yet undermines the function of balance).

A dancer with hyperextended knees can be taught to hold them straight, that's one more of the zillion things to think about throughout a dance class. This ideally would be mastered before getting into pointe shoes.

Bowed legs is favored for the ballet dancer for both practical and visual reasons. External tibial torsion (outward rotation of the lower leg) is favorable in that it can increase turnout look of the feet.

Adequate mobility of the ankle and foot so that the body can be stacked up from a demi pointe or full pointe position. A less flexible ankle especially would have the dancer's weight slightly back. Hypermobile feet are the fashionable shape, a highly domed arch. This is something you are born with, or not. However, ankle flexibility can be increased with gentle stretching, over time.

The hypermobile foot is not the best functional foot for ballet. Until it is strengthened sufficiently, pointe shoes will break quickly and the dancer will not have good control.

Some talented dancers with lesser-favored proportions and muscle shapes rise in the ranks to become soloists and character performers in classical dance companies.

Hard work, a winning personality and acting ability all help contribute to the success of a dancer like this.

Yet body type has nothing to do with the love of dance or performing talent. If a dance student realizes that she/he is struggling to accommodate ballet positions, let them keep struggling.

And also investigate other styles of dance where success is more likely.

Hitting the ballet body barrier never has to be a negative. It may propel a young person toward a different area of performing.

And this person will have gained dance technique, discipline, ability to work hard, and they will be no longer doomed with their body type in the dance world.

If you feel that you are struggling in ballet class, take advantage of the amazing dance education available from expert educational material such as The Perfect Pointe Book and The Body Series books and DVDs.