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. 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 THE BALLET BIBLE if you want a complete description and photos of ballet barre exercises.

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!