Sofiane Sylve in Giselle. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Penché. So simple, yet so tough. Here, San Francisco Ballet School faculty member Tina LeBlanc offers her tips for a beautifully supported penché.


Keep reading... Show less
Inside PT
Keep reading... Show less
Views

A correctly rotated, aligned and stabilized arabesque can feel elusive. It's tricky to find the right balance between strength and flexibility, so we combined two of our best tips to help you find your line. Read on for training advice, and visualization exercises to get that leg soaring higher.

Back Strength and Stability

You’ve probably heard it time and again throughout your training: Flexibility isn’t all that helpful unless you have the strength to support it. Leigh Heflin Ponniah, MA, MSc, from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, offers this exercise to build lower-back strength to better support and hold arabesques. Try it two to three times a week as part of your warm-up before class, and you’ll be on your way to a stronger arabesque balance.

Thinkstock
You’ll need:

a physio ball

a clear space where the wall meets the floor

1. Position a physio ball under your hips. Lie facedown on top of it with your chest slightly curved over the ball and hands by the ears. Your feet should be against a wall, with the toes on the floor, heels on the wall and legs slightly bent.

2. Use your lower-back extensors, which allow backward bending of the spine, and your gluteus muscles to slowly lift your chest up and away from the ball. The body should pass through a straight diagonal before the chest continues lifting into a slight arch without crunching in the lower back. The core should also be engaged.

3. Curve back down over the ball and do 10 repetitions, increasing up to 20 as you gain strength.

If you don’t have access to a physio ball, you can also do the exercise lying on the floor. However, Heflin says the ball allows for an increased range of motion in the lower back and challenges dancers’ stability. —Madeline Schrock

 

What It Really Means to Stay Square

"Square your hips!" Susan Jaffe, dean of dance at University of North Carolina School of the Arts gives a fresh take on the classic correction.

Fresh Take: Jaffe says to think of a twisting energy in your rib cage to counteract your open hip, “like an internal ‘S.’ ” For example, if your left leg is in arabesque, you “square off” by feeling an opposite, twisting energy pulling up through the left side of your ribs. “Otherwise you’ll collapse the rib cage on the lifted hip,” Jaffe explains. “You need to lift out of that.”

The Real Issue: “Square off” can be misleading when it comes to arabesque or attitude. “If you’re lifting your leg in arabesque, your hip bones cannot be square because your knee and the top of your arch will face the floor,” says Jaffe. “They have to face the audience, and in order for that to happen, you have to lift your hip. What is square is the rib cage.” —Katie Rolnick

Inside PT

Amp Up Your Arabesque

You’ve probably heard it time and again throughout your training: Flexibility isn’t all that helpful unless you have the strength to support it. Leigh Heflin Ponniah, MA, MSc, from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, offers this exercise to build lower-back strength to better support and hold arabesques. Try it two to three times a week as part of your core warm-up before class, and you’ll be on your way to a stronger arabesque balance.

Thinkstock

You’ll need:

a physio ball

a clear space where the wall meets the floor

1. Position a physio ball under your hips. Lie facedown on top of it with your chest slightly curved over the ball and hands by the ears. Your feet should be against a wall, with the toes on the floor, heels on the wall and legs slightly bent.

2. Use your lower-back extensors, which allow backward bending of the spine, and your gluteus muscles to slowly lift your chest up and away from the ball. The body should pass through a straight diagonal before the chest continues lifting into a slight arch without crunching in the lower back. The core should also be engaged.

3. Curve back down over the ball and do 10 repetitions, increasing up to 20 as you gain strength.

If you don’t have access to a physio ball, you can also do the exercise lying on the floor. However, Heflin says the ball allows for an increased range of motion in the lower back and challenges dancers’ stability.

 

Catch More Zzzs

If you’ve been sick a lot lately, you may need to reconsider your sleeping habits. They could be a major factor in keeping you away from the studio. A study in the journal Sleep found that women who had five or fewer hours of nightly winks spent more time sick throughout the year (approximately five more days out of work) than those who slept for around seven and a half hours each night. Aside from helping you keep a clean bill of health, sleep is especially tantamount for dancers. The downtime allows muscles to repair and recharge.

 

There’s an App for That

If you’re looking to breathe new life into your stretching and strengthening routine, check out the new Ballet Elasticity app. The program offers 48 short videos demonstrating exercises that cover everything from improving ankle strength to increasing turnout. With strengthening exercises specifically created for ballet dancers under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer and stretches designed and modified by Slawomir Wozniak (coach to competition stars like Gisele Bethea), you’re sure to be challenged. Available for the iPad and iPhone in the App Store for $1.99.

 

Beat the Sniffles

If allergy season has you sniffling your way through pirouettes, consider a pre-class cardio workout. Why? Research from Thailand found that running can provide relief from allergy symptoms, and it may be due to the fact that aerobic exercise calms the inflammatory proteins in the nasal passages. Any form of cardio, like jogging or using an elliptical or stair-climber machine, will do. The study found that 30 minutes at a moderate pace decreased sneezing, congestion and an itchy, runny nose by more than 70 percent.

 

Organized Dance Bag, Organized Mind

When you’re frantically digging in your bag before the start of class for just one more bobby pin (you swear it’s hidden in there, somewhere between yesterday’s dirty leotard and the crumpled-up granola bar wrappers you forgot to throw out), it’s no wonder if you start your pliés feeling frazzled.

In fact, research from the University of California, Los Angeles, found a correlation between the amount of stress female homeowners experience and the clutter in their living spaces. Women’s cortisol, or stress hormone, levels were higher the more disorganized their houses were. Do yourself a favor and sift through the contents of your dance bag once a week. When you’re stocked with easy-to-access essentials, you’re likely to feel more calm and prepared going into class.

 

Did You Know?

The Achilles tendon, which is integral to jumping and pointework, is the largest tendon in the human body, and it can withstand more than a thousand pounds of force.

 

Good Eats for Headache Relief

For ballet dancers, no time is a good time for a headache, whether you’re in rehearsal learning a new work or about to step onstage. But you don’t have to be defenseless. If you’re prone to that pounding in the brain, try incorporating these foods into your diet.

 

Almonds: Because magnesium helps regulate blood pressure, almonds may ease existing headaches and prevent future ones.

Cherries: These fruits are rich in the compound quercetin, a natural anti-inflammatory that aids in pain management.

Dairy: Low amounts of riboflavin, or vitamin B2, are a known trigger of migraines, but riboflavin-rich dairy can help ward off attacks.

Try this supercharged snack: Make a parfait of low-fat yogurt, dried cherries and almonds for a hassle-free nosh to relieve tension.

 

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!