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.