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.

Get the wonderfully demonstrated Effective Stretching The Ultimate Guide DVD to learn flexibility exercises.