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

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.