Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting Back to Ballet

Getting back to ballet after a few years off seems intimidating to many who can't ignore the call to dance.

A child, teen, or adult ballet student will need a different approach. Some may need to get in shape for ballet for a few months.


Unless there is a medical condition, there is no reason not to go back to classical dancing.

For example, perhaps you took ballet classes from the age of five to fifteen.

Then for some reason you decided to go to college. You pursue academics for a couple of years, and realize you really miss dancing. You were considered a talented student formerly, but now you worry about what it would take to get back to an advanced level.

Early in the year, look into summer intensives. The more established summer intensives will ask you to audition, and may have already held their auditions.

Sometimes a smaller more local studio is the best, as you may get more attention in those classes than in a major ballet school.

After intensive study, you and your teachers will have a good idea of whether you can make the progress you want.

But you don't have to wait....if you can, right now, take a weekly ballet class, starting in a less advanced class than you had been doing so you can have "the luxury" of concentrating on basic ballet technique. The fancy combinations of an advanced class would be a distraction.

In some cases a dedicated student gets accepted into a full time training ballet school, and "something happens". After recovery from injury or some other situation, has taken place, an ambitious teen can be tortured by not knowing how the previous scenario would have played out - and wonders if she/he should try to get back to it.

I say if you can, audition again. Some of the training schools have a special course for older students who are talented enough to make quick progress, or go into a teacher training program that dovetails with a degree program.

Sometimes a teacher is approached by a student who quit ballet at the very old age of ten, after five years of classes. Now she/he wants to get back into class, and isn't sure how to catch up.

Many studios like to keep classes geared to an age range, but I would put this student into a very basic technique class once a week for a while. She/he could also take a class closer to the previous level studied. That way boredom won't take over.

Doctors I have asked say that the best cardio/endurance training for dancers is swimming. There is no impact on the joints at all, as there is with jogging or running.

If you want some ballet barre exercises explained to practice effectively, use The Perfect Pointe Book to get back into pointe shoes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spotting For Pirouettes Correctly

Spotting is the technique used by ballet dancers to avoid dizziness while doing multiple turns. In ballet classes, and in theaters, dancers will find a "spot" that they can see, and upon which they will focus throughout, for example, the 32 fouettes performed in Swan Lake by the ballerina, or a series of turns a la seconde by the male dancer.

When you reach the point in ballet training where turns are added to your class exercises, often spotting will be taught first.

Imagine a child spinning, just for the joy of it. Children will do this until they are too dizzy to stay upright, and then they will collapse. In the dance studio, the same playful spin can be done. With one difference.

Choosing a spot on the wall, which could be a picture of a famous ballerina, or whatever decoration the dance teacher may have chosen to inspire her/his students, a dance student can spin while focusing on the spot.

In slow motion, as the dancer spins away from the front, or corner of the studio as it may be, she or he leaves their head behind, focusing on the spot. At the last possible moment, the dancer whips the head around to regain focus before the body reaches the front again.

That is spotting. Within the requirements of ballet technique a few points are added.

The head must not incline. The entire body posture of a retire position, or an a la seconde position, must not be influenced by the head staying behind to remain focused on the spot. Same for a turn in arabesque or attitude.

Usually, chainee turns are the first ones learned. Remaining in first position, the entire body position must be held while the dancer spots.

This achievement then assumes that the core and turnout muscles are well held. The arms remain in a fifth en avant or slightly over - crossed position, and the NECK IS RELAXED, allowing the head to spot, without inclination.

A modern, jazz or hip hop dancer does the same.

Image: many years ago I watched Helgi Thomason give dancer Victor Edwards a correction in class. He said something like "imagine your body is spinning underneath your head, which just stays looking at the front".

That's spotting.

Every dancer needs to accomplish proper spotting before dancing in pointe shoes. The most subtle errors in posture, turnout, and basic ballet positions will be exaggerated once you are en pointe. Be prepared for dancing in pointe shoes by getting a professionally written guide specific for pointe shoe exercises.

How To Build Strength In Your Calves For Ballet and Pointe

I just found this page of exercises on a post by Ken Woodman at

This is the thread where Ken discusses why these exercises are best.

I was glad to find this because I cringe when I see kids ask each other how to increase strength for pointe work and many seem to think "do a hundred releves a day" is more or less the solution.

I have to admit I have not taken up this issue thoroughly till now, and I will continue to add info when I find anything different. But, Ken (thank you), explains these well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Costumes For Boys In Ballet - Creativity Wanted!

Nina Amir has written a very relevant post about costumes for boys in ballet at her blog My Son Can Dance.

This is indeed an area that can benefit from creativity! I've been in conflicts with directors quite a few times over boys'/mens costumes. I've seen arguments about whether boys/men should shave their armpits or not. Or shave off a moustache because of one piece of choreography...I've seen people resign over it.

It is not easy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How To Do a Sissone Lift - Pas de Deux for Good Partnering

Today's pas de deux snippet is a nice clear look at a sissone lift - including explanation et al - and a good view at a shoulder lift, that a pas de deux boy ballet student would appreciate.