Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stretches For Ballet (Or Other) Dancing Moves

Ballet warm up exercises are good for contemporary dance classes, jazz dance classes, hip hop dance classes, and cheer leading. Ballet is common to many dance forms. The classical technique is geared toward preventing dance injuries, facilitating turnout, and utilizing the best stretching and warm up.

Warm Up Stretches For Your Dance Class

Most dance classes start with warming up the lower leg and foot muscles. Whether you start with legs parallel or turned out, getting your demi plie and sole of the foot muscles ready to dance will enhance your class work.

“Prances”, a time tested exercise.

Done at the barre, or in the center, here is a simple and effective warm up move.

If you are working with legs parallel, remember to rotate your thighs so that the knees are over the toes, and not swinging in (which is natural).

Engage your core muscles to support your posture, and relax your shoulders and neck.

Rise slowly onto your demi pointe, carrying your upper body forward over your toes.

Start pressing (rather than just letting go of the muscles) down slowly onto the left (or right, as you prefer) foot, bending the other knee and staying on demi pointe on the bent-knee side.

Continue into your demi plie, foot held on the floor, until you get a stretch in that calf, and reach your deepest possible position. PRESS upwards through your flat position to your demi pointe, check your spinal posture, and check again that your legs are a true parallel, not with knees swinging in.

Repeat slowly and carefully a few times, changing sides. Then gradually speed up until you are “prancing”. Your toes may never leave the floor, or you may accelerate to a real prancing motion.

Most importantly, you are warming up your lower leg and sole of the foot muscles, your turnout muscles (even if you are not turning out), and your core muscles that are stabilizing your pelvis position, and properly curved spinal position.

It's almost a full body workout!

And of course your quads and hamstrings are contributing to the control of the movements.

Next, lie down on the floor. Some ab crunches will further warm those muscles and continue to accelerate your metabolism, getting you ready for class.

(You may want to put a small rolled towel under your head, or not. Lying on your back with legs bent, and feet flat on the floor, you will start your ab crunches. Some dancers like to do one hundred tiny quick crunches, range of motion very small – one to two inches.)

Other dancers may have learned the super-slow-motion type of ab contraction, moving one to three inches very slowly, and back down, up to ten times maximum.

Either way, you are warming up those muscles. If you feel you need to, put one hand behind your head. While not contributing to the ab crunch, you can support your head a little.

Stand up again, and you are going to do some fairly quick prances – this time with a pumping motion, accompanied by arm swings. You can do full circle swings front to back, and then reverse, back to front. As you pump, you will be relieving tension in the neck and shoulders, and loosening up the shoulder joints.

Literally swing the arms, do not work on this.

Now your cardio-vascular system is quickened, and in just a few minutes.

At this point you can use the ballet barre, or sit on the floor to stretch your hamstrings, (back of the thighs) adductors (inner thighs) and large back muscles (quadratus lumborum).

For hamstrings:

Put one leg on the lower barre; or seated, bend one leg, straighten the other in front of you .

Keeping the back straight, bend from the hip joint, and lean over an inch or two; same sitting on the floor, lean over the stretched leg, not much range of motion, and press the back of the leg into the floor.

This is a very gentle, low force stretch to prepare for class, only.

Sitting in second position on the floor, you will feel the stretch in your adductors, or inner thighs. You may just want to sit there and pull up your very lowest ab muscles, straightening your pelvis. You may then bend forward slightly, exerting a tiny pull on your adductors. You can stretch harder later.

Pressing your right thigh into the floor, bend sideways away from it, reaching over your head toward your left leg, an elongated movement. Relax over there, and then return, and repeat on the other side.

These stretching and warming up moves are just one example of how you can ready for your dance class.

You will have your own priorities, depending on your physique and the style of dance you are studying in each class.

Buy this DVD and get some more tips about stretches for ballet.

 Essentrics Flexibility Workout For Athletes

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ballet Pointe Toe Shoes - Do You Know Your Ballet Barre Exercises?

Almost every dance student starts ballet because they want to dance in ballet pointe toe shoes. They know they will have to work hard to get their foot muscles strong enough for the beautiful pink satin toe shoes.

Adult ballet beginners know they may not get into toe shoes but most are willing to try.

The Perfect Pointe Book makes this easier for both the young and old ballet beginner.

It is a given that each wants to find the best ballet teacher in their area. And a dance academy that has a pleasant encouraging atmosphere.

How can a ballet beginner get closer to being ready for pointe shoes?

At home, pre-pointe exercises can be learned and practiced six days a week. Always have a day of rest.

But bear in mind that the ballet barre exercises you do in every class, also get you ready to dance in pointe shoes

Every ballet position and exercise prepares you to dance en pointe. Understanding correct posture (which is natural posture of the spine), just to start, will help you get the best ballet position in plies, tendus, and all the ballet exercises done at the barre.

Correct ballet positions use your core muscles perfectly – pulling up the lower abdominal muscles. Holding in your stomach as you breathe adequately. Does this help you prepare for ballet toe shoes? Oh yes!

Understanding that flexibilty stretches, done with comprehension, relax and tone your muscles – yes, this too gets you more prepared to dance in toe shoes.

 flexibility exercises for dancers and athletes

And, yes there is more!

Very special exercises that isolate and strengthen the foot muscles, those little tiny muscles that are particular to the sole of the foot.

When the sole of the foot muscles get strong, the muscles of the lower legs -the calf and shin muscles – get a relief from over-exertion. This can prevent shin splints and Achilles Tendon inflammation.

When the sole of the foot muscles get strong and sensitive, ballet foot control will be better in releves, and jumps – and for pointe work!

And THEN when you go to buy pointe shoes, you will be ready!

Whatever you can do in soft shoes, you will be able to do in pointe shoes. Of course it will take some getting used to. I recommend that buy The Perfect Pointe Book and learn how to be ready for pointe shoes sooner.