The Workout
Critchlow in Balanchine's "Diamonds." Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.

A fresh perspective: Last year, Katie Critchlow went through seven months of recovery for a debilitating ankle sprain, but the process transformed her outlook on cross-training: “You think that doing ballet class every day is enough, but it's not," she says. “Ballet dancers are hypermobile, and in order to execute everything onstage when you're tired and fatigued, you need a lot of strength to back that up."

Ready to run: About two months after her injury, Critchlow began jogging. “I had to start really, really slow on a treadmill." Her ankle sprain had affected her hip, too, causing her to veer in a diagonal until she balanced the alignment in her legs. Now she prefers to run outdoors around Salt Lake City. “It helps mobilize my joints, so I'll either go at the end of a light day or wait for the weekend."

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Everyone wants more air-time. Whether you're going for explosive jetés or crisp battu (or both!) there are specific ways to train. We break it down below:

  1. First, read Amy's extensive breakdown on how to improve your petit allégro. Some of her tips, like adding plyometrics to your cross-training regime, apply to big and small jumps. Her key points are: Use your plié, feel your whole leg, connect to your center and anticipate your landing.
  2. You may think that because you're on your feet all day in class and rehearsal you don't need to cross-train the large muscles in your legs and hips. Wrong! Those muscles need to be activated in a parallel position to generate propulsion for jumps and to control your landings. Here are two exercises.
  3. Here's everything you need to know about plyometrics for dancers. These kinds of exercises are utilized by hurdlers and high jumpers. Enough said.
  4. If possible, use men's class as an opportunity to work on your timing. The slower music will force you to hang in the air, and you might just learn a few new steps.

New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder, known for her buoyant jump (photo by Paul Kolnik)

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

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The Workout
Photo by Réjean Brandt Photography, courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

The Royal Winnepeg Ballet principal adapts her cross-training for the company's frequent touring.

Travel savvy: Touring seven to eight weeks a year means Sophia Lee hits hotel gyms a lot. “I usually pack my runners and workout clothes," she says. Once she arrives at a tour stop, she'll hop on the elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes. If there's no gym, she'll walk around the city to relieve stiffness from the bus or plane ride.

Picture this: While she's traveling or in her hotel room, Lee does visualization exercises. “I close my eyes, listen to the music and imagine exactly how I'm going to execute each movement. I actually think about firing the same muscles and where I'll breathe in and breathe out."

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Leaping into the New Year: Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.

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The Workout
Yorita's cross-training allows her to be grounded in one piece and light on her feet in the next. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy BalletX)

Cross-training keeps Andrea Yorita prepared for the demanding variety in BalletX's repertoire.

Choreographic chameleon: At BalletX, Andrea Yorita performs a wide range of contemporary ballet by dancemakers like Matthew Neenan, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Trey McIntyre. “It's very hard on our feet," she says. “Even within a show, we'll go from socks to bare feet to flat shoes to pointe shoes."

A solid foundation: To keep their pointework crisp, the dancers typically take class on pointe five days a week. Yorita also does Thera-Band work for her ankles each morning, plus doming exercises. “I try to keep all of those little muscles on the bottom of my feet strong, so I can be grounded when I'm dancing in socks."

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Photo by Nathan Sayers, modeled by Nicole Buggé

You may not understand exactly what causes a tight IT (iliotibial) band, but you've probably experienced that uncomfortable tension along the outside of your thigh. While it's not actually a muscle, the IT band may require daily stretching, says Suzanne Semanson, physical therapist at New York University Langone Medical Center's Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. The IT band is made of fascia, or tough connective tissue, that attaches to the pelvis through the tensor fascia lata (or TFL)—a small muscle between the pelvis and femur—and runs down to the outside of the knee.

When you're dancing with a fully extended knee, the IT band stabilizes the knee so that it doesn't move sideways out of alignment. However, “it is commonly tight in dancers due to compensatory patterns and overuse of the TFL," says Semanson. For example, if you force your turnout too much from your knees or rely on the TFL (instead of muscles in the hip) for développés to the front or side, this area might be too tight. The IT band and TFL can also build up excess tension from the demands of dancing several hours a day.

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National Ballet of Canada's Emma Hawes swims to strengthen her loose shoulder joints (photo by Daniel Neuhaus)

Every dancer has their own cross-training regime, tailored to their workload, injury prevention, rehab or particular roles. It's up to you to talk to a physical therapist about what exercises you should be doing to meet your own technical goals. But in the meantime, here are some of our best tips for effective cross-training:

  1. Do it in the morning. There are lots of reasons why AM workouts can be more beneficial, but we're most compelled by evidence that morning workouts might be easier to stick with.
  2. Scale your approach up or down depending on what you're training for. When it's summer intensive time, gradually work your way up to peak intensity.
  3. Try something new to keep yourself inspired. Ever heard of aerial yoga? What about TRX suspension training?
  4. Pools are an amazing training resource for everything from cardio workouts to fine-tuning your alignment.

And if that's not enough #fitspo for you, dig into our Workout archive to find out how the pros keep their bodies in peak condition.

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