Thursday, December 15, 2011

Disordered Eating, Hypoglycemia, And Self Esteem Problems

While discussing the issues in ballet training with students, my ear is perked up all the time, when I hear comments, phrases, and brush-offs, concerning eating, body image, and obvious self esteem problems.

Certainly I am not going to address this with someone unless they ask for that. Recently, my radar on this subject really started to beep, due a conversation I had with a non-dancer, but aspiring performer, in another field. This person is talented, pushed forward by all her teachers, and yet cannot accept the “well done's” from teachers or peers, because – she just can't.

The lack of self-esteem in this person stupefies me. A person who won the number one state award for a Shakespeare scene? Give me a break! That's like winning the ballet competition for Blue Bird or Swan Lake pas de deux.

Disorder eating
can be most broadly defined as, the behavior that achieves emotional reward by controlling what you eat. This does not necessarily mean anorexia or bulimia, but may refer to a habit of self criticism or self approval in regards to what type of food you eat, how many calories you eat, and this does not only apply to dancers.

It may involve an extreme situation like a teenager who insists on being a vegan, in which I have personally witnessed the result causing stress fractures in this dancer who still thought that she was going to be able to get stronger on pointe and have a professional career in ballet, while she looked at her x-rays.

Recently I took a look at hypoglycemia and its symptoms. Now this is tricky. Symptoms are almost unique to the individual. But the dominating symptoms, according to what I have read, are:

***self criticism
***feelings of absolutely NO SELF-WORTH
***periodic complete failure of energy, dizziness, mental confusion
***thoughts of suicide, though not enough energy to think further than that

Hypoglycemia is...drum roll...too low blood sugar!

It is caused by a nutritional deficiency of protein, or just lack of food.

Hypoglycemia does not mean you are diabetic, or almost diabetic. More concisely called Reactive Hypoglycemia, this is a condition that results from a poor diet, or not eating often enough for whatever reason. Or eating too many carbohydrates with not enough protein.

The most common recommendation for hypoglycemics, is to eat some protein every two hours.

Also, I would like to mention the rule of nutritionists, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Proteins set your brain chemicals for the day. Skip those, and your brain chemicals will not be properly functioning until the next day IF you happen to eat protein for breakfast.

Dance parents reading this – how many times in a week does your dancing daughter or dancing son run out of the house without breakfast because they slept late?

And what are they going to eat when they get to the food dispensers at their public school? Or hang in until they get to the school cafeteria for lunch? This is a miserable situation for a non-athlete student, not to mention a ballet dancer or any other athlete.

And later when they run off to their ballet academy? Are you one of those ballet parents who have to suffer hearing “I'm not that good”...”I'm not good enough”... and worse? While the ballet teacher is telling you your child should be aiming higher – auditioning for professional summer intensives?

Confused yet? Let me give you a break. Read this thread!

Personally, I believe that hypoglycemia is a result of:

***nutritional ignorance
***modern fast-food, frozen food products
***lack of time to prepare fresh food showing your kids what REAL FOOD IS
***sugar addiction (nutritional ignorance)
***ignorance about the lack of need for grains, and the quality of most (GMO) grains

And, sadly much more I cannot cover here. BUT please, if your dancing child or anyone in your family has any energy or depression issues – but not severe enough to consult your physician (who probably will not have any nutritional education) or therapist, please investigate hypoglycemia. It is an insidious condition - but can be reversed with a good diet!

It is not that difficult. I would love to never hear from again, a ballet dancer, or any other kind of performing artist, who feels morose, depressed, sad, or hopeless about their talent or potential, when they have no idea where all this negativity comes from. And they skip meals, eat nutrition-free snacks, and have low blood sugar...

I would love to never hear from again, a sad, depressed ballet parent, whose amazing talented child is failing, sinking, not even treading water, suffering from body image problems, or self esteem problems, and contemplating quitting ballet, or even suicide.

I've seen it. Fellow students and teachers who attempted and achieved suicide. Or were off-loaded from the school because they were a liability. Yet, some recovered and achieved greatness.

I do not believe that nutrition is superior to the human spirit. But I do believe that the aspirations of the human spirit are so much more easily achieved if we know about and support our bodies' needs, every day. This may take a little extra study.

This may take a lot of extra food preparation for ballet parents! If you're still reading this post, I bet you're O.K. with that.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Perfect Pointe Book – By Lisa Howell

The Perfect Pointe Book” is a fantastic resource for dancers of all ages. It is designed to guide you through all of the stages required for pointe work, to make sure you have a safe and fun progression onto pointe!

This invaluable resource was written by a Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) with over 10 years of experience in treating dancers and preparing them for pointe work.

It is designed to combine classical technique training with physiotherapy techniques to fine tune and accelerate your preparation for pointe work!, this book is worth its weight in gold!

The book teaches you four special exercise programs targeted for technical accuracy and strength.

  • the flexibility of your feet and ankles
  • the strength of your little foot muscles 
  • your ballet turnout 
  • your core control
Lisa Howell the author says:

"After over 10 years of working intensively with dancers as a therapist and constantly seeing the same weaknesses resulting in the same problems en pointe, I simply had to find a way to teach students how to get it right from the beginning. The problem is, if you start off with bad technique, it is VERY hard to UNLEARN this later on."


"I wanted to make learning about the body as fun, and as easy, as possible. All of the exercises have lots of photos so that you can see exactly how to do them..."

The198 page book shows you how to "test yourself at the start of each of the 4 stages, and then learn a program of special exercises that really focus on waking up all of the important muscles. After doing all the exercises for two weeks, you can retest yourself, and if you can do them all perfectly, you can move onto the next stage."

This years old book continues to be a highly valued ballet dancer's guide for adult ballet class, getting the right ballet pointe shoes, and for teachers too.

The Perfect Pointe Book Lisa Howell

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dance Pointe Shoes And Top Of Foot Pain

 Top Of Foot Pain

Training in dance pointe shoes, especially if you have started a bit before you are truly ready to get into pointe shoes, may show some weaknesses in your foot structure that you were unaware of before.


First however, if you experience top of foot pain, please see a health practitioner and make sure you do not have a stress fracture.

Top of foot pain can occur if your arch is flattening out. This puts pressure on the top of the foot, where the bones are now compressing together, called dorsal compression syndrome.

  • Growth spurts
  • Weight gain
  • Hormonal changes 
These occurrences that affect ligaments may change the strength of your arch.

Wearing flip-flops, unstructured shoes, and soft slippers at home, or walking around with bare feet, can aggravate this problem.

Unfortunately the familiar human growth and aging stages are completely thrown off due to the deterioration of food quality and food additives and contaminants.

If you are working toward, or are dancing in pointe shoes, you need extra everything--proteins, vitamins, minerals and good pure water.

If you have ruled out a stress fracture for your top of foot pain, and if you are doing special pointe shoes exercises, and you still have foot pain, take a look at the footwear you have for home, daily use and other working out.

If you wear sneakers to school, make sure you have shoes with a good arch support and a well built heel that will not allow you to pronate, or roll inwards, flattening your arch.

At home, don't wear bare feet all the time. Get some slippers with an arch support, or flip-flops with an arch support.

Over the counter orthotics with some arch support are better than none, if custom-made orthotics are not an option for you.

A multi-vitamin, from food sources, including the B Complex and B6, can be added to your daily diet, unless you are allergic to some of these substances.

Soaking your feet with magnesium chloride or Epsom Salts absorbs magnesium into your body. This feeds and relaxes your muscles.

Icing painful feet decreases inflammation and pain.

There is much a dancer can do to diminish top of foot pain and get stronger for dance pointe shoes. Get your own copy of The Perfect Pointe Book and work those exercises until your feet are as strong as they need to be!

The Perfect Pointe Book

Friday, October 14, 2011

Breast Cancer Survivors Special Stretching Exercises

Breast cancer rehabilitation post surgery DVD
Miranda and I graduated together at The National Ballet School of Canada. I applaud her work in this area.

Her DVD for breast cancer rehabilitation post surgery is excellent. Miranda is a breast cancer survivor and look how flexible she i!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Alexander Grant Dies at 86 - Anna Kisselgoff article

FromThe New York Times:

"Alexander Grant, Dancer With Royal Ballet, Dies at 86
Published: October 3, 2011

Alexander Grant, whose portrayal of childlike suitors, muddled husbands, English eccentrics, pirate chiefs and Shakespearean rustics made him one of British ballet’s most beloved stars, died on Friday in London. He was 86.

His death was confirmed by Jean-Pierre Gasquet, his longtime companion. Mr. Grant had been ill for eight months after a hip operation left him hospitalized with infections and pneumonia.

Mr. Grant was especially acclaimed for his magnetic personality and vigorous demi-caractère style, particularly in Frederick Ashton’s works for the Royal Ballet.

Seeing Mr. Grant as the complete dancer, Clive Barnes, dance critic of The New York Times, reviewed him in Ashton’s Neapolitan Dance for “Swan Lake” in 1969 and proclaimed him “one of the few great, as opposed to merely magnificent, dancers of our time.”

Mr. Grant also played an influential role in international ballet. He served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1976 to 1983 and staged Ashton’s “Fille Mal Gardée” in many companies, including American Ballet Theater.

Mr. Grant himself is perhaps best remembered for the role he originated in “Fille” as Alain, the rich farmer’s son rejected by Lise, a rich widow’s daughter who marries her poor sweetheart.

More in love with his red umbrella than with Lise, Alain could be mistaken for a simpleton. But Mr. Grant made him a gentle childlike figure who had not experienced the world. The trick was to dance so well that Alain looked slightly clumsy but not too much so.

In another memorable role seen with the Royal in New York, he was Bottom in “The Dream,” Ashton’s version of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Transformed into a donkey, Mr. Grant danced a virtuosic solo in toe shoes disguised as hooves.

Although many called Mr. Grant a character dancer, he was more of a classical dancer who used ballet technique in a demi-caractère style, which is less concerned with academic niceties.

In his early years, he showed off a swashbuckling bravura: his pirate chief in Ashton’s “Daphnis and Chloë” exploded into a frenzy of leaps after abducting Margot Fonteyn’s Chloë, wrapping her around his neck and throwing her to the floor.

Alexander Grant was born on Feb. 22, 1925, in Wellington, New Zealand, where his parents were in the hotel business.

Having studied dance since the age of 7, he was offered a ballet scholarship in London. He arrived there in February 1946 and was invited two months later into the Sadler’s Wells Theater Ballet, the recently formed junior troupe of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which became the Royal Ballet in 1956). Short on male dancers in the postwar period, Ninette de Valois, founder of both troupes, invited him into the senior company in September of 1946.

Ashton, now considered Britain’s greatest choreographer but not yet internationally known, created a small role for Mr. Grant in 1946 in one of his lesser ballets, “Les Sirènes.”

It was Leonide Massine, then ballet’s most prominent choreographer, who brought the young dancer to public notice.

Invited as a guest choreographer by de Valois, Massine cast Mr. Grant in his revivals and two new works. Massine’s farce-like “Mam’zelle Angot” gave Mr. Grant a major success in the choreographer’s idiosyncratic comic style.

“I was given this role by Massine which typed me as that kind of dancer for the rest of my life, Mr. Grant said in later years. “I don’t regret it.” Nor did he regret never portraying a prince or count in 19th-century classics like “Swan Lake” or “Giselle.”

It was Mr. Grant’s ability to portray a character through dancing rather than mime that made him outstanding. Ashton recognized this quality and cast him as the Jester in his new “Cinderella” (1948).

During his 30 years as a dancer in the Royal Ballet (1946 to 1976) Mr. Grant appeared in 30 Ashton ballets, creating roles in 22 premieres. Occasionally he was thrust into Ashton neo-classical works like “Symphonic Variations” and he appeared in Michel Fokine’s “Petrouchka” and ballets by de Valois.

In the 1971 film “Tales of Beatrix Potter,” Mr. Grant danced on toe again as Pigling Bland and was also featured as Peter Rabbit.

In addition to Mr. Gasquet, his partner of 54 years, Mr. Grant is survived by his brother, Garry Grant, also a former dancer in the Royal Ballet.

Mr. Grant was seen as an inspiration to Ashton and even as a collaborator. The range he displayed in Ashton ballets alone was testimony to their joint creativity.

In “Enigma Variations,” a meditative Ashton masterpiece about the composer Edward Elgar and his friends, Mr. Grant’s terse expressiveness summed up an entire personality in a brief comic solo. For his final Ashton role, he offered a moving image of a lovelorn Russian husband in “A Month in the Country” (1976)."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Talent For Ballet - Can I Get Into Ballet

Do you wonder if you have the talent for ballet?

Kids ask me "how do I know if I can get into ballet? "

Professional ballet teachers look for a combination of a physique - close to the ideal ballet body - and the spark of love for dance and presence, or magnetism, that they feel will develop you into a successful performer.

If it seems that you do not qualify for a professional dance career (sometimes you are not accepted because there are not enough places in a program), you can still get into ballet and love it.

Find the best local studio with the highest credentials. If a specific studio has been able to send any of their students to a professional school, they will be advertising that fact. Read everything in their web site, and check the teachers' credentials.

If you do get into ballet, take advantage of the current dance education that is available for home practice.
There are books and DVD's, put together to enhance your ballet training.

You can improve your talent for ballet with some extracurricular study:

Flexibility Workout for Athletes

Flexibility Workout For Athletes

The Perfect Pointe Book - professional footwork for men in ballet too!

The Perfect Pointe Book professional footwork

Inside Ballet Technique - anatomy as related to ballet technique/physical requirements and advantages:

Inside Ballet Technique

Increase your ballet turnout
Last but not least - what's talent for ballet without turnout?

Getting accurate information will help you get stronger and more flexible as needed, to practice safely and correctly at home. Understanding proper stretching and relaxation techniques will add to your muscle strength.

If you know how to take advantage of every ballet barre exercise, you will develop the following technique:

* correct natural posture
* ballet foot muscles and ballet footwork
* correct alignment
* high leg extensions
* strong ballet turnout

Talent for ballet involves the ability to concentrate.

In other words, a maturity to ignore all the distractions delivered to you by your culture. Peer pressure, emotional upheavals, and keeping up good grades can all alter your focus to varying degrees.

If you wonder "can I get into ballet", or "do I have talent for ballet" take a few months of ballet classes and find out!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Best Stretching Exercises - What's My Best Program

The ballet beginner and the adult going into ballet class both want to learn and understand the best stretching exercises.

Each wonders "what's my best program"?

Those in love with, and already watching ballet closely, can see that high leg extensions, long curving back bends, elastic knee bends and cat-like jump landings, and high leaps in the splits, are the mere norm in classical dancing. A tall order for most!

After training hundreds of ballet students, I tell you, everyone is different, and almost each one wished they had just one more physical attribute, the one that everyone but they, had.

Flexibility WorkoutFor Athletes
 The Flexibility Workout For Athletes (click on the pic!) is not for beginners but more for intermediate dancers and athletes.

You may be a ballet student with high arches, flexible hips, and yet - you have lousy turnout.

You may be a dance student with a long neck, elastic shoulders, a willowy upper back, and high arches, yet have a tight pelvic area.

Many of the most gifted ballerina has one area that needs a lot of stretching exercises, just to catch up with the rest of their physique.

Ballet is easy for practically no one, just in this regards. Yet, if you learn some functional anatomy, and if you KNOW what your least flexible muscle group is, you can get it up to par with your more flexible muscles.

Don't despair if you do not have the easy flexible ankle joints (get The Perfect  Pointe Book to solve that problem!) , but you have a deep, elastic, demi plie. Your long and stretchy calf muscles will provide you with a range of motion from the depth of your plie, to your highest point of foot, giving you a strong jump upwards.

If you have a shallow demi plie, but more motion in the ankle joint, that movement will give you a strong push off from the feet. Either way, you can work on the other, to get more movement, as well as more of a fashionable look in the result, which as we all know, ballet is very picky about.

If you have a small range of motion in both the ankle and demi plie (calf muscles), then you will have to patiently work on both areas. The good news is, no matter how slowly, you will improve, with understanding of your muscles and joints, and not with just forceful pushing on them.

Here is a tantalizing short Essentrics stretching workout - oceanside!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back To Ballet With An Adult Ballet Class

Who wants to get back to ballet class?

Depending on how many years it has been since you have done ballet, or any kind of dance related exercise, I always say go for it.


You may have to call several local studios to find an adult ballet class that is right for you.

You may worry about the dance wear dress codes and if you will want to comply.

If you are overweight, or have lost your flexibility, you probably feel very self conscious.

In an adult ballet class - you're not alone!

Most dance academies that offer adult ballet class level work will offer a one-class-pay for a new dancer, and after that you will be asked to pay by the month.

There are usually other types of class packaging that are further discounted, depending on the amount of classes purchased.

Will You Get Injured In An Adult Ballet Class?

There is always a possibility of injury, with ballet and most sports too, if you are out of shape. But bear in mind that every single ballet barre exercise is designed to train your muscles so that you prevent dance injuries.

The basic ballet posture, for example, is a natural posture. It may not feel or look that way, since most people slouch and are slowly injuring themselves just by that bad habit.

Standing up straight is not an exaggerated military posture, but maintains the natural spinal curves, placement of the shoulders under the ears, and is completed with a relaxed and curved neck.

Ballet turnout is the main technique that prevents knee injuries. The feet should not be forced out more than the knees can match the rotation.

You may never get into the performance standard fifth position - toes to heels - and yet over time you can still gain elegance and control from attending adult ballet classes.

You will achieve your artistic fulfillment with careful, patient hard work. You will feel the exhilaration of the air borne leaps and spinning pirouettes all the more, having the confidence that you can land from jumps safely.

You will reach your ballet position after turning, well grounded, without the room spinning on without you.

Control And Perfectionism

Ballet classes truly give an ongoing sense of control and mastery, through repetition, and slow increase of strength. Yet, the affliction of perfectionism is a dead end for any dancer, especially a self critical individual who perhaps feels disadvantaged in an adult ballet class.

If there is any quest in your mind/heart for a perfect kind of control and a harsh way to discipline yourself, you will be the dancer to most likely injure her/himself in class.

I caution about this because, a drive to be perfect usually entails over-working, not resting enough in between classes, and maybe not eating enough to achieve any muscle building.

I don't mean muscle shape or bulk, but just strength, and a normal recovery.

Dancing ballet, you can always get better, so there is no perfect.

The real control comes with practice, developing better foot control (use The Perfect Pointe Book for extra practise), and knowing how to do ballet stretches and relaxation techniques correctly.

I hope you DO get back to ballet, and find an adult ballet class that you love.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ballet Movies - Like Steampunk Movies?

I love ballet movies. The abundance of movies available now is of great interest to me, and I'm sure it is for most dancers.

It is not possible to get around the world, see all the dance festivals, or travel to catch all the ballet touring companies every year. Yet, while collecting ballet movies, I feel like I just lucked out.

I bought a "deal" package of 4 ballet movies recently. Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty. I only bought it because The Nutcracker is Maurice Bejart's production, which I had not seen. The others...well I can always watch another one, whoever.

The "Swan Lake" was special because Evelyn Hart danced Odette/Odile. I had not seen her in that role, so it was a nice surprise for me.

Secondly, I watched "Romeo and Juliet", choreography by Angelin Preljocaj, with the Opera National De Lyon, filmed in 1992. Cool. That's a company that has not graced my neighborhood. I knew it was a neoclassical style.

Steam punk movies? I may have seen three before - "Dune" designed by Tony Masters and Carlo Rimbaldi; City of Lost Children" designed by set designer Jean Rabasse and artistic director Caro (and coincidentally both scores were by Angelo Badalamenti); and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" with set designer Andy Thomson - all steam punky designers...

Well, this "Romeo and Juliet" has the flavor of steam punk movies and it is moody and powerful. None of the lush Italian wealth of the power families, but very strong emotionally. I did not think I would like the modern choreography - having been partial to John Cranko's - yet with the Prokofiev score, it was captivating.

I did not assimilate what I was looking at immediately. This production re-invents some of the characterization, trimming down the cast and events.

When I realized I was watching a Steam Punk Movie I sat back and enjoyed it. The wall guards with the German Shepherd were a chilling touch.

I love old movies - probably all ballet movies!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

National Ballet School Grows Own Organic Vegetable Garden

"Simon and Jack's Garden
Simon Hill, NBS' Manager of Food Service Operations and Jack Sobocinski, NBS' Chef de Cuisine, have planted an organic herb & vegetable garden behind NBS' Residence! The herb variety is extensive, including lemongrass, thyme, basil, chives & tarragon amongst others. The vegetables include heirloom tomatoes, English runner beans & cucumbers! Many of NBS' menus have featured our very own herbs & produce."

posted at:

I applaud!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How To Relieve Muscle Pain That Has Become Chronic In Ballet, Dance And Cheerleading

Dancers and cheerleaders need to know how to relieve muscle pain that has become chronic. Often, some area of the hips in particular can become imbalanced because of a postural misalignment. It seems like nothing gives those sore muscles relief.


In many cases, you will see a dancer's or cheerleader's postural habit when they are not dancing or practicing. There are variations on the lack of the postural plumb line, which is a line going straight down through the body, through the natural curves of the neck and spine.

 Ideally, the ankles, knees, hips, waist, and shoulders are all stacked neatly.

A tight area in the psoas, one of the large muscles that lifts the legs to the front, will pull the low back out of alignment. The back will look swayed, and the thighs will turn inward.

This is one way that leads to imbalance in the development of the hip muscles. A dancer or cheerleader will try to resolve this with more and more stretching.

Yet, one muscle or another will get tighter and tighter, and others may get over-stretched.

Some students will feel a clicking, a snapping, or a clunky movement for a long time before it starts to hurt. Please tell your teacher or coach immediately if you feel these things.

You can correct your posture and how you use your core and hip muscles, before you get the inflammation and pain that is so hard to get rid of.

Misalignment in the basic posture, and in the basic ballet positions (used everywhere in dance), will develop one muscle or area of muscles too much.

Consequently, other muscles in the same group remain underdeveloped and weak.

Understanding the muscles around the hips, and how they work in connection with the deep low core muscles, will help students or dance team members prevent injuries.

Can you stand sideways to a mirror and check your posture? Can you see the natural curves of your spine and visualize the plumb line going straight through the curves?

Can you pull up the very low abdominal muscles? Sometimes they can be harder to feel than the higher stomach muscles.

If you are not sure that you are using these low ab muscles properly, try this:

* lie down on the floor, and make sure you have your natural curve at the small of your back
* you should be able to slide your hand under the curve there
* first do this wrong - suck in your stomach so that the small of your back pushes into your hand
* release the stomach muscles
* now do it right - pull your very low ab muscles straight up from your pubic bone and away from your hip bones
* keep the curve in the small of your back

 Your belly button will move UP toward your ribs. Up not IN. This action, when you are doing barre exercises, or routines to warm up for your cheer leading, will support the right activity in the hip muscles. It is going to help you develop long lean muscles.

If you take contemporary dance classes and study the Martha Graham technique, you know that the contraction movement actually elongates - even though it changes the shape of the spine and DOES push out the curve at the small of the back, it requires that you pull UP the lower core muscles and maintain length in the spine.

The stronger your low ab muscles are, the more fluidity you will have in your ballet movements. For cheer leading too, your core control will be so much better.

Make sure you get the instructional DVD Flexibility Exercises For Athletes. It includes a whole section on sore muscles relief.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pointe Shoe Pain - Do I Have A Bunion?

A ballet student describes her pointe pain as being at the side of the big toe joint. The foot pain is bad that she cannot releve onto that leg, although the other foot is fine.

She does not see any bump on the painful big toe joint, but she wonders if she has a bunion.

If you find yourself in this predicament, it is best to see a health practitioner to determine if there is a hairline, or stress fracture in the toe bone.

Without a fracture, inflammation by itself can cause enough pain to result in you not being able to do a releve. The pointe shoe fit seemed correct at the ballet store, yet - is the painful foot just a tad bigger? Or a tad wider?

Has the painful foot ever been injured in any way?

Is the painful foot weaker? Those are good tests for any ballet student in toe shoes to check regularly. Most people do have a stronger foot, and foot exercises will help you even up the foot muscle strength.

Your health practitioner can help you figure out what is causing the pain, and advise some home care. Icing decreases inflammation. Be sure the ice pack is wrapped, and such a small spot would not need more than a few minutes. The frequency of icing will help as well, perhaps two or three times a day.

You may have a bunion forming. If so, you can learn how to prevent it continuing. Just be sure to get professional help, and you'll become a truly professional student who knows how to care of her feet!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Summer Dance Intensive At The National Ballet of Canada - Their First

The National Ballet (company) of Canada announces a new summer dance intensive.

"New this year The National Ballet of Canada will offer a 10 day Summer Dance Intensive that will give young ballet students the opportunity to learn from professional dancers right in the National Ballet’s studios. Ballet students ages 14 to 18, who have an Intermediate or higher level of ballet training, will participate in Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Repertoire and Hip Hop classes taught by professional artists from the National Ballet and others."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beginner Dance Classes - Adults

Ballet barre routines are wonderfully configured full body workouts.

 If this were not so, you would not see so many trade marked workouts for Pilates, core muscle training, "booty" trimming, and many more, with "ballet barre" in the name.

A fast track dancers' guide would be The Perfect Pointe Book, a comprehensive manual covering basic ballet technique. It is invaluable whether women and men in ballet get into pointe shoes or not.

If you are in beginner dance classes for adults both for exercise and your artistic needs, here are a few tips for getting the most out of your work at the barre.

If you are doing some other, non-ballet academy barre-ish workout, you may get some tips also.

First Tip - Warm Up Before Class

The barre exercises will warm you up, completely. Yet you will get much more out of the first few exercises if you can manage at least a five minute warming up time before class starts.

At the very least, two to three minutes of walking on the spot, executing large easy arm movements, will increase your heart rate a little and get your circulation going.

Gentle Stretches

Stretches before class are good for simply "getting out the kinks". If you sit down all day before a dance class, or if the class is first thing in the morning, doing some barre exercise-related stretches will ease you into the class gently.

These would not be deep stretches, but more like movements to remind your body of what is about to happen.

Doing a few rotations both inwards and outwards of each ankle, and then doing a few demi plies, either with turnout or parallel, will stretch the calves out.

If you are not so flexible in the ankles, you can sit down, sitting back on your heels, and gently pull up one knee at a time, to stretch the front of the ankle joint.

Easing Out The Hip Flexors, Or Front Of The Hip Joint

This is easily done with a runner's lunge. Standing parallel, move one foot behind you about three feet, or where ever you need to place the foot to feel the stretch from the upper thigh, over the hip bone, and into the abdominal area above the extended leg.

Pull up the lowest core abdominal muscles, and allow the pelvis to relax into its neutral (no tip forward or back) position.

If you are too tight in the hip joint to get the pelvis straight, don't worry. You are just getting the alignment that you can here, with no need for heavy pressure.

Repeat on the other side.

Easing Out The Hamstrings

Most ballet studios have a lower barre. For a light hamstring stretch, place one leg on the low barre. Flex the foot and make sure the leg is straight.

Also, keep a straight back, and you are going to bend from the hips, not curving in the low back. This keeps the stretchy part in the hamstring, or back of your thigh muscle.

It doesn't matter if you hardly move at all. You can do a deeper stretch in the break before center work when you are well warmed up.

Side Bends Lengthen the Large Quadratus Lumborum, Or Spinal Support Muscles

Standing with the feet apart, comfortably, reach up with the right arm, keeping the shoulders and neck relaxed, and bend toward your left.

Get a long pulled out stretch, keeping the left side of your torso lengthened.

Repeat other side.

The Turnout Muscles Need Stretching Too

The easiest way to do a brief low pressure stretch out of the rotator muscles is to sit on a chair, and bring up one leg, bent, with your foot resting above the opposite knee.

You can hold the bent knee up with your hand if you feel ANY strain in the knee joint. This is not about having the bent knee level like a table top, or stretching in the hip socket area.

Now you will bend forward, back straight, and you will feel a stretch in the back of the pelvis, and around the side of the hip.

Use very gentle pressure, just to alert your body that ballet class is about to start.

The "Swan Lake" Stretch

This stretch will give you a nice pull across the chest. Stand with your back to the barre, and reach behind you with both arms, grasping the barre.

Then lean away, not arching very much, but stretching out the arms and you will feel a delicious elastic feeling at some point, in this small movement.

 Muscle stretching exercises done before class are very gentle. They are part of your warm up. Deeper stretches can be later in the class, or afterwards.

The Perfect Pointe Book shows you all the details of ballet barre routines for posture, turn out and gaining foot strength. I highly recommend it if you're in beginner dance classes  for adults.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Remembering Glenn Gilmour - A Wonderful Colleague and Friend

On this page from The National Ballet School of Canada's newsletter, poignant passages are written by Mavis Staines and Paul Winston, I won't re-iterate.

Glenn was so refreshing in Cecchetti classes when I taught him the grueling grades after he'd danced the classics for many years. He and fellow professional Brian Scott had the funniest ways of embellishing some of the duller sequences.

Later it was always wonderful to come back to his class at NBS when I was a performing pro.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Pointe Shoe Exercise - Tips For Pointe Beginners

 Pointe Beginners

Pointe shoe beginners need more than one pointe shoe exercise - naturally. But here is one to get you started, if your goal is to dance in pointe shoes.

The following describes a pointe shoes exercise, for the pointe shoe beginners and the hopeful. It focuses on training the feet to point, extending the ankle joint as far as possible, to force up the instep into its maximum arch.


Don't Curl Your Toes!

However, the toes, next for the completion of the movement, can point, and stay long and strong, or curl over. This is what you want to avoid. The toes can follow the curve of the arch, but not curl in their own joints.

This should be the way you have always pointed your toes in soft leather ballet shoes.

Many dance students try to feel more arch by curling their toes over, but this does not help ankle flexibility. It puts the toes into a position, that inside pointe shoes, will create blisters. The top of the joints press into the stiff box of the toe shoe.


If you are not sure how precisely you have been pointing your toes in soft shoes, just practice the following exercise:

  • Sit on the floor, legs straight in front of you

  • Point the foot, extending the arch/instep as far as it will go. But keep the toes flexed.

  • Next, begin to point the toes. When they are in a long position, following the curve of the foot, but not curling over in your toe joints, STOP.

  • Hold and memorize this position. You may have been doing this all along, from your very first ballet class. If not, you can correct and re-train this important ballet position right now.

  • Then flex the toes back up, and then flex the whole foot. Push through the heels and get a nice calf stretch.

  • Repeat twenty times.

If your feet or ankles cramp, stop and rotate the ankles in circles to loosen the muscles back up. If the sole of the foot cramps, massage it until the tension releases, and then start the exercise again.

You can avoid dance injuries, blisters, and pain, if you know how to use your feet properly in ballet toe shoes.

If you are an adult ballet beginner, this works for you too. Visit us to get the best in a group of routines that give you much more than a pointe shoe exercise.

I like this video because the teacher stresses long toes, not curled, and also shows the best position of the leg for getting the most turnout activated.

A Pointe Shoe Exercise For Perfect Ballet Positions

Would you like to do perfect ballet positions? While true perfectionism is an illusion, learning one pointe shoe exercise properly will take you far.

The following foot strengthening routine is one example from The Perfect Pointe Book.  
Instant download for pointe shoe exercise

here is a great way to practice press ups, or rises.

As long as you understand the form and the movement, you will do it right. Sitting in a chair, you do not have your body weight on your foot.

Repeating the ballet movements exactly as you will do them in pointe shoes, you prepare your brain and your feet to do these actions precisely, safely, and in a way that you will get stronger and prevent dance injuries.

Start sitting straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, resting evenly on the ball of the foot, the heel, and the little toe joint.

In other words, no rolling ankles or pronation, or leaning to the outside of the foot.

The purpose of this exercise is to train your foot to perform it perfectly, in a way that develops strength, and prevents over-use of the shin and calf muscles. (which can lead to painful shin splints or Achilles Tendon strain).

Your arch muscles should be "on", meaning ready to move, but not clenched.

One foot at a time:

  • peel the foot slowly off the floor 
  • work and control the muscles and keep the foot/ankle angle in a straight line
  • no leaning to the inner side of the foot, or the outer.
  • lift the foot off the floor, as though you were completing a jump or releve 
  • stretch the toes long, do not curl them. (This is the top of a jump, or where your toes will be positioned in pointe shoes.)
  • touch the tips of the toes to the floor.
  • press the heel back down, with resistance through the sole-of-the-foot muscles 

Resume your starting position and repeat twenty times. Simple yet very effective!

This is one in a series, a wonderful pointe shoe exercise.

The Perfect Pointe Book is a complete ballet ebook showing you how to make you stronger in perfect ballet positions.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Hope This Does Not Sound Purely Philosophical About Ballet Training

I recently heard from a mom who was concerned about her 12 year old daughter's dance training.

It seems like her daughter was ahead of her age group in a former ballet school. For some reason, her daughter had to change ballet schools.

Now her daughter is in a school that puts students in age appropriate classes, which is a surprise for this young dancer. Or nasty shock. She was expecting to start dancing in pointe shoes.

I had to encourage this loving mom to flip to the positive here; her daughter is 12, and she has plenty of time to progress in her new school. The time during which she feels "held back" is a time during which she can perfect her ballet technique, and then be even more prepared than she would have been, to dance in pointe shoes.

This is not an uncommon scenario. Perhaps if her daughter can somehow see that she actually has an advantage here, and is not being cheated in some way, then she can just continue to enjoy her dancing and excel in it.

Sometimes the "grade" or the "level" has to be relegated to the background, and the urge to dance and the love of it has to come forward. I hope this doesn't sound abstract or purely philosophical - but her daughter - or maybe YOUR daughter has TIME on her side. If she were 17, then my thoughts on this would be different.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Big Dance World And Professional Ballet Dancing

You are between fifteen and twenty years old and you have suddenly decided that only professional ballet dancing is for you. It is your passion and excludes all else. What are you going to do? Which ballet academy will you choose? Will this dance studio accept you as a serious student? Will you ever dance in pointe shoes? You are in a very vulnerable position right now. You are actually considered to be an adult ballet beginner, even if you just turned fifteen. That seems unfair!

I know you are aware that ballet is like the Olympics. You start young, like nine or tens years old. Ideally you have the best professional training offered, ballet six days a week with character dancing, modern dance, endurance training and eventually pointe work. Your school has a physical therapist, a massage therapist, and you learn dance notation and anatomy as you progress.

What? You don't? Well before you get depressed about not doing all of the above, think about why you love ballet. What qualities do you admire in ballet dancers? What aspects of the drama grab you o that you dream about it, run it over and over in your head.

I ask this, because this is important. If you HAVE missed the ballet boat, you must seriously engage in the things that draw you to ballet. Why?

I believe this has something to do with you and your destiny. Whether it is dancing ballet on stage or - being a stage manager, a dance medicine specialist, a costume designer, a dance photographer.... a professional in dance notation - do you see how big the big dance world is?

I am not suggesting that you don't start ballet classes right away. First and foremost, this is going to engage your love of life and art at a crucial level. Your intensity in learning ballet now will carry you through all the moments of doubt. "My legs are too short". "My arches are not flexible". Whatever - in ballet, something will come up short, guaranteed. But that is not the point!

You love ballet for a reason. Even if you decided this "too late" there is still a reason. I hope you will explore your instincts further and follow your heart to the big dance world.

Monday, January 31, 2011

If You Have Hammer Claw and Mallet Toes Can You Do Pointe?

 This post has affiliate links (what's that?)

Getting into pointe shoes may not be a dream you feel you can fulfill if you have hammer, claw, or mallet toes.

Misshapen toes may or may not hurt. They may be related to arthritis, or not.

These kinds of toes indicate that the toe muscles have somehow become unbalanced. A common reason is from you wearing shoes that are too tight.

However, home care and stretching and exercises can be performed, gradually alleviating these conditions, to some degree if not altogether.

If you are ready to dance on pointe, improving your toes' shapes and functions can be done while you take pointe classes.

In both your toe shoes and your everyday shoes, proper sizing is crucial. There absolutely must be room for your toes.

If your second toe is longer, it is the toe that you choose shoe length for.

Especially for pointe shoes, which must fit snuggly, and yet accommodate a long second toe.

You are going to become very particular with toe spacers, toe caps and any other padding that will help your toes stay long in the shoes, and be protected from developing blisters and corns due to their bent joints.

A podiatrist may recommend orthotic insoles - made to fit your feet - and can also teach you ways to splint or strap toes to help straighten out the joints.

Learning ballet foot stretches and ways to relax all the foot and toe muscles will help you work with misshapen toes.

Specific exercises for articulation and strength in the toes will help you straighten these toes to whatever degree possible, and develop the strength you need to dance in toe shoes, at the same time.

All dancers should pamper their feet with warm soaks and massage, and this will help you too, with your special project.

Good Nutrition

Don't forget nutrition. Eating fresh foods, good lean proteins, and getting enough of the right vitamins that convert proteins to muscle in your body is important.

The Vitamins B12, B6, and Folic Acid are needed for this. Add Vitamin D3, and plenty of dark green vegetables and salads count too.

If you are a serious dancer, young or an adult beginner, I know you will gradually learn all that you need to keep you going in ballet training.

This article is meant to get you started if you have been wondering about whether you will be able to dance in pointe shoes.

Here is a video demonstrating some pointe accessories:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dancing Professional Ballet - Is It Too Late?

I get this question from time to time, sometimes from dancers whose experience with ballet I know, and sometimes from those I have not seen dance, or even walk for that matter. So here are my thoughts as of today.


Dancers competing for a professional job will have done 10 years of training already. They will have had the advantage of training over physical limitations, while young enough to overcome them, to some degree, or altogether.

I don't like to be discouraging but must be honest.

But here's something else to think about - what soulful or artistic quality in you loves ballet? Could that aspect of yourself be expressed through another media that does not require:

a) an extraordinary physique by birth
b) the circumstances under which to be trained by an exceptional professional school starting at age 9-10
c) the political savvy to survive all that? (seldom mentioned, but not to be discounted)

That wonderful artistic energy in you could come out some other way without challenging your age, your body, the reality of the profession, et al.

I hope I am not disappointing anyone with this perspective.

But I believe there is something in you, even though you love ballet, that can come alive without ballet.

And you are better off figuring that out, even if you experience a disappointment right now.

Believe in your life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ballet Classes And Foot Arch Pain

In a ballet classes, there are many types and shapes of feet and some may experience foot arch pain more easily than others. If you have arch pain during or after ballet or your contemporary dance classes, I will help you understand some of the causes of foot pain in dance training.

There is a complete manual about how to learn properly in ballet classes on how to use the foot and arch muscles properly, that will make it easier for you to enjoy years of dance, no matter the style you study. For example, the following topics are covered:

the tripod foot - proper weight placement

pronation - not holding ballet turnout

relaxation techniques

stretching exercises

over use of lower leg and weak foot muscles

ballet injuries

Pronation - called "rolling ankles" in dance. Your inner feet collapse toward the floor. This puts strain on the knee joints, as well as all the tiny joints in your feet. Often this can be corrected by simply learning how to hold your turnout better in the rotator muscles at the back of the pelvis area. As the legs turn out, the inner foot lifts a little, without evoking excess tension in the ankle muscles.

Also, the amount of tension it takes to activate your arch muscles is small, and yet can help support the feet. This does not mean pulling the arches way up from the floor, resulting in tension at the front of the ankles. If you do this, you will see the tendon at the ankle joint stick out.

The tripod foot is a term meant to describe the placement of your body weight on the ball of the foot, the little toe joint area, and the heel. Getting the weight just right will help you feel that the foot muscles are activated, but not tense.

Relaxing and stretching your feet can be achieved with rolling a golf ball or a Pinkie Ball, pressing into the foot muscles, used under the foot and on top. You'll feel a release of tension, and do not push too hard. It's better to do this more often, rather than harder.

The softer Pinkie Ball is used to stretch the ankle joint like this: sitting on your feet, place the ball under your tibia or shin muscle, below your knee. You may feel tension or tenderness as you work the ball down the leg to the ankle, pushing into it to release tension.

This prepares you for a gentle and safe ankle joint and muscle stretch, to give your more flexibility and a better point of the foot.

Now you can place the ball under the metatarsal area, just above the foot joints (closer to the ankle), and gently press into the ball. You will feel a delicious stretch over your arch and ankle area. Repeat on the other side.

Weak sole of the foot muscles will cause over-use of the lower leg muscles. This will result in tension and a decrease in the depth of your demi plie.

I hope the above tips about ballet dancing have helped you. Get all the details about how to improve your ballet technique and avoid foot arch pain.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adult Ballet Class Exercises - All Prepare You For Pointe Shoes

If you are in an adult ballet class as a beginner or a returning dancer, every exercise you do will prepare you for getting into pointe shoes, if that is your goal.


 Every ballet barre exercise, whether focused on the feet or not, will get you ready for pointe shoes.

The men in ballet can benefit from this viewpoint, as special foot exercises for pointe strengthen, and refine control. This will increase technical accuracy in allegro (jumps) and help prevent dance injuries.

Starting with your demi and grand plies, your use of:
  • Correct ballet turnout
  • Core muscles
  • Ease of the upper back use
  • Elegance of head and arm movements

These factors all mean a great deal about everything else you will do in dance class.

If you can do this simple (but not easy!) warm up exercise correctly, to YOUR best ability, you will probably be able to do the entire ballet class with the same control.

Someday, if not today.

The battements tendus and battements degages, or foot warm up exercises, begin to develop your control and strength in the sole of the foot.

While these exercises also make the lower legs stronger, if your calves or shins get stiff and sore, you need to use the feet more, and the lower leg muscles less.

Stretch the calves in between exercises with a demi plie or a lunge stretch.

It is good to turn in and allow the rotator muscles to relax in between barre exercises as well.

You actually start preparing for pointe work right from Day One. Everything you do in class will possibly be done later in toe shoes.

Any misalignment of posture or weakness in ballet positions, will be magnified when you are on full pointe.

If your ballet studio offers pre-pointe classes, ask if you can view one. You will see special foot exercises being taught, not ballet moves, but just isolated routines to refine and strengthen the use of the feet.

If you do not see anything like this, it may not be the best kind of pre-pointe class to take.

Aside from your dance classes, if you would like to gain on the normal time needed to develop a fine classical technique, you can learn the special exercises that target the muscles in the soles of the feet.

A few minutes a day is all that is needed. I recommend that you take a look at The Perfect Pointe Book,  fine dancer's guide for preparing you to dance in pointe shoes.