Thursday, February 26, 2009

Great Site For More About The Proper Use of Foot Muscles

I was looking for some good foot diagrams and found this site.

There's more here.

Check it out if you'd like to learn more about your foot muscles.

It'll help you get that perfect pointe

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Improving Basic Ballet Positions For Ballet Split Leaps

What ballet movements and ballet positions will result in clean accurate split leaps? The first exercise at the ballet barre, demi and grand plie, your posture, the placement of your weight and the strength of your turnout, is the foundation of your ballet positions and ballet movements. Your split leaps, and even fancier allegro depends on it.

Starting with your primary level ballet classes, understanding and being able to execute correct posture as well as an accurate grand battment devant and derriere will eventually produce a good grand jete en avant, the well known ballet split leap.

A demi plie take off in a basic jump in first position without posture changing, or the turnout decreasing or the heel coming off the ground, is a secure take off. As you progress to more advanced jumps, this ballet technique will continue to support good positions and a good quality of balon, or easy bounce.

An effective brush of the foot on the floor,practiced hundreds of times in battment tendu, degage, and grand battment, will add power to your petit jete, and eventually your grand jete.

Being able to change from the upright back to a proper arabesque position (as in a grand battment derriere) will make for a good position in the air, and a good landing. Repetitive releves in arabesque at the barre will enable you to see if the position is being held well, and the demi plies are on balance and strong.

A chasse temps leve forward into arabesque is a good practice routine to also make sure the arabesque leg reaches its height at the height of the jump and can be held in the air. Much of the ballet I watch lacks a moment at the height of a releve or jump where everything freezes for a nano second, without stiffness or effort. In other words if someone wanted a snapshot, the position could be easily captured.

Brushing up into the devant position, releve, arms reaching their position at the same moment, holding the position , and then tombe forward, repetitively across the floor, helps too.

If all the basics are done with strength, it doesn't take too much to do a good ballet split leap, or grand jete. Positions that are not strong can be practiced at the barre in the usual exercises before the jumps will improve. The Body Series offers books and DVDs (try Effective Stretching The Ultimate Guide) with more about flexibility exercises for dancers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Develop the Perfect Foot Muscles For Pointe Shoes

Is there a perfect foot for ballet - or can any foot function perfectly if the ballet dancer has the correct understanding of how to use their foot muscles in pointe shoes?

Even men in ballet want to work in pointe shoes to develop the fine foot muscles that will enhance balance and virtuoso allegro.

Strengthening and stretching the hyper-mobile (very flexible motion) body/feet and hypo-mobile (tighter motion) body/feet requires accurate ballet movements.

All would-be ballerinas and plenty of men in ballet want to get into pointe shoes, and, faster.

Preventing injuries such as sprained ankles, more typical of the hyper or extra mobile ankle and foot joints, and Achilles tendon injuries, more typical of the feet and ankles with less flexible movement, is not difficult if you learn correct basic ballet technique.

Ballet students, and particularly boys in ballet, who have tighter ankle and foot joints and flatter-shaped foot bones, can partially solve this disadvantage by learning how to massage their lower legs and feet.

The constant strain to get that ballet line in the foot arch leads to excess tension in the calves and feet.

 Using a small sports ball or a golf ball, and rolling it under the arches with gentle pressure, eases the tension out of the muscles. You can also use a ball with nubs for extra stimulation of the circulation.

Calf muscles can be massaged the same way. Sitting on the floor, the ball can be eased from behind the knee, down the calf muscles to the ankle area.

Check that you get the extra tension towards the outside of the calf, and the inside area.

Your shins, or tibial muscles, can be tense as well.

Kneeling on the floor, ease and press your sports ball (a golf ball will not work for this one) from just below the knee, down the front of the calf to the ankle, leaning into it to get the tension to release.

After this, you may find a significant degree of increased mobility in the ankle joint, and a better line.

Hypo-mobile students are usually less likely to sprain ankles en pointe, but can be predisposed to Achilles Tendon issues, due to how hard they have to work the feet.

A wonderful stretch for the calves is: standing on a book, a stair step, or a rolled up towel, rise up and then lower onto one foot, stretching past the level point, so the heels are lower.

Alternating slowly and carefully, you'll feel a deep stretch.

Ballet students with the flexible high arch are lucky in that the ballet ideal has somehow become the large, domed instep over the top of the foot.

However, much more strength and control is required to utilize this range of motion, and prevent injury.

If you have this kind of mobility, one way to begin assessing your strength and control is to see if you can do 20 consecutive slow rises with no sickling out of the foot. That is the least control you need.

There are more advanced exercises for controlling the flexible ankle and stretching a tight ankle joint. Learning these will help prevent sprained ankles.

The Perfect Pointe Book provides with you with many self-testing methods and charted strengthening exercises so you can develop perfect foot muscles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Worry That Forcing The Splits Or Dancing In Pointe Shoes Can Damage Growth Plates

Parents can worry that the high demands of ballet training can distort or deform young children. Poorly taught turnout, for example, can result in the torqued look of feet turned out, with knees and thighs facing forward, and often with the a little bent. Growth plate damage is not common, but could result from dancing in pointe shoes starting at a too young age, or without proper preparation.

In ballet, the common injuries such as sprained ankles or knee injuries, will more likely be torn tendons, muscles or ligaments.

Starting with the splits, is there an impact on the hip bones that could damage growth plates? If young children practice vigorous or unsupervised stretching to do the splits, what is likely to be injured, if anything?

Doing the splits requires length in the large muscles at the front and back of the thighs, the large postural muscles that run down the front of the spine to the hips and thighs, and also requires long ligaments and tendons, that are not elastic.

Overexertion in stretching, or badly taught or unsupervised stretching, will first cause fairly significant pain (and stiffness the following day) in the muscles. Most younger children will not repeat this very willingly, and will avoid injury.

Overuse of the postural and large leg muscles that can cause injury to growth plates are most associated with sudden, unexpected exertion, for instance to recover from a badly executed long jump. This kind of uncontrolled pull, or compression, by a powerful muscle can damage a growth plate.

If a child, or any ballet student complains of severe, immediate (to the time of stretching), and localized (a child can point to it) pain, they must stop their exercise. If the pain returns at all, it is best that they be seen by a ballet/sports/fitness health practitioner as soon as possible.

Doing the splits is one thing that young dancers idealize in ballet. Some are not born to do the splits ever. Others can stretch to that degree gradually, with the usual guidelines - being extremely warmed up, and be patient.

Being able to dance in pointe shoes is another goal that young ballet dancers are eager to reach. Getting onto pointe too young could damage growth plates in the tiny foot bones. Even after the age of 12, lack of preparation for dancing ballet in pointe shoes can also result in damage.

Growth plate damage does not ever have to be considered a risk in ballet training. Good training is methodical, patient and is of very calculated exertion. Learn more about how to prevent ballet injuries with the materials at The Body Series.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Making Progress With Dance Fitness Or Ballet Tutorials to Enhance Your Ballet Instruction

In the quest to learn how to do ballet better, get into pointe shoes faster, or get cast in better roles for ballet recitals, many ballet students seek coaching from ballet tutorials. It is simple to improve your dance fitness with the wealth of information available. I didn't say easy, but simple. The following tips may help you.

Sometimes it is a little stressful thinking about the things that are wrong in your ballet positions, ballet movements, or other dance steps. Yet, if you do some analysis for yourself and develop a plan, I think you'll feel optimistic with an organized long term view.

Making a checklist to sort out things that you want to change and improve. It might look something like this:

***"the most basic correction I get - related to posture, flexibility, turnout or weakness?"

In other words if your corrections are directed to your demi plies, that is basic. It is going to affect nearly everything else you do in dance class. Is your most basic correction related to something you can change, or related to your physique?

If related to your physique, you may or may not be able to change something. Or, you may be able to change it over several years, so you have to give up being frustrated about it and get very patient and methodical.

If your correction is about something you do wrong, but you cannot seem to change it, why not? Is it related to a lack of understanding about it? Or you understand it but your body just doesn't seem to do it when everyone else's does? In classical technique, it's important to understand that certain ballet movements and ballet positions defy the human anatomy.

Sometimes ballet technique means "the safest and most aesthetic way to cheat", be it fifth position, or your arabesque. Ballet teachers do not like to talk about cheating, and it's not really cheating. It's calculated, educated compensation.

If you have to release the hip placement to get an extension of ninety degrees in a la seconde, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. If you learn the right way to do it, you will be able to do turns a la seconde without falling off pointe or demi pointe. You will still have a postural plumb line, and you'll look correct, aesthetically.

So back to making a checklist:

*** "things I can change by improving my ability to concentrate on doing it correctly every time"
*** "things I can change over a few years"
*** "things I don't understand how to change"
*** (a sublist) "things I need to research to simplify my practice"

Ballet and other dancers tend to just work harder, do more and more repetitions. However, practicing until your muscles burn is worse than not practicing. Ballet training does not usually accommodate what sports and fitness trainers consider a realistic recovery period, so burning out your muscles is harmful.

Professionally prepared ballet tutorials and guides such as THE PERFECT POINTE BOOK are written with moderate practice routines, and self-assessment tests so you know when you have improved. You can get progress charts with some of these, or make up your own.

Adding to how you make your checklist:

*** "my weakness is because of muscle power and I need to......" understand and add nutrition, hydrate better, sleep better, rest more, learn to release more tension. Once you've figured this out, you will start improving.

If you are still growing, growth spurts can bring on muscle pain and awkwardness. Your body doesn't fit anymore! However, this passes.

Let your ballet teachers know that you are practicing for better dance and ballet fitness, the ballet tutorials you are using, and ask for feedback. If your teacher is not that approachable, work with another student and you'll learn some valuable ballet coaching skills as a bonus.

Take advantage of the excellent educational materials-books, and DVDs at The Body Series.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Prepare For Pointe Shoes and Prevent Dance Injuries

Prepare, prepare, prepare, for dancing ballet in pointe shoes. Learn how to prevent dance injuries like a sprained ankle or a ballet knee injury years before you, or your child is looking for exactly the right fit in pointe shoes. Even recreational dancers who may leave ballet classes for hip hop, jazz, salsa, cheer leading or any other style of dance, benefit from learning how to do basic classical ballet technique correctly.

The basic ballet movements and ballet positions can be executed correctly by almost any dance student. Students who do not have the physical attributes of turnout, flexibility, long legs/short body, long arms and long necks, can still learn to do ballet correctly enough to advance.

In some ballet schools, teachers actually believe that a student will never be able to do certain ballet movements because they lack "X" physical attribute. Unfortunately some students absorb this negativity whether the teacher voices it or not. It's a shame.

If you feel like you are not progressing and you do not get the coaching you need in ballet class, read, read, read. There is detailed information available about ballet technique and also there is plenty of help in the area of anatomy and anatomical correctness in ballet movement. The all too common sprained ankles and knee injuries of ballet/sports/fitness can be avoided, for you.

The trick is how to get YOUR body to do THAT. If you are a few degrees too many from the ballet ideal, your teacher may not be able or may not be willing to help you. However, you can learn what you need to do to develop the correct application of for instance, a demi plie, onto a correctly postured releve with a correctly stretched arch and ankle.

If you aspire to become a performer in another dance style such as jazz or hip hop, your longevity in dance will depend on the correct use of your body. If you aspire to dance ballet in pointe shoes, you need to be sure that your time and effort and the thousands of plies, degages and battment tendus are not being practiced with errors that will lead to injury.

Your basic dance movements imitate the advanced and sometimes intricate classical choreography. Modern ballet and modern dance choreography often cannot be imitated by basic ballet movements, but you are more prepared for that if you know how to move and prevent injury.

Take advantage of the wealth of information available at The Body Series in books (print and downloads)and on DVDs. You can learn what you need to know to prepare to dance in pointe shoes and prevent ballet injuries.