Health & Body

Try This Full-Body Stretch Series for a Smarter Cooldown

All photos by Jayme Thornton, modeled by Kailei Sin of The School at Steps.

During class, you're tuned in to every aspect of your dancing. But when the day is over, you may be tempted to head home and skip out on a proper cooldown. Don't: Going from grand allégro to a full stop is hard on your muscles. Bené Barrera, an athletic trainer who works with Houston Ballet, says, "If you're doing an end-of-day cooldown, you're going to need at least 20 minutes. That allows the muscles to calm down." And your body should notice the difference: "You'll have less trigger-point pain later, and your soreness might reduce a bit." A proper cooldown may even help you sleep better.

But post-class stretching isn't about sitting in a straddle. "As a dancer, you're never truly isolating one area," says Barrera. Your cooldown should mimic that. "You want to cover the whole body altogether. You don't want to just stretch one muscle group."


You'll need:

  • a doorframe or corner where two walls meet
  • stability or BOSU ball

1. Pecs and Neck Muscles

Why: Ballet dancers often breathe "up top" to avoid sticking out their stomachs, and that pat- tern causes tension in the upper body. Plus, more contemporary choreography may require you to use your neck and head differently, so this area requires careful stretching.

Dynamic neck stretches: First, loosen up the area by bending the head back and turning it to the left and right to stretch the front of your neck. Once you feel a stretch, roll on to the next position. Bend your head to each side toward your shoulder to stretch the scalene muscles.

Doorframe stretch

Standing in a doorframe, raise one elbow to 90 degrees and rest the forearm on the doorframe. Twist away from the raised arm until you feel a stretch in the front of the shoulder. Contract your pecs and try to pull your elbow forward (the frame will stop you) for 5 seconds. Relax for 10–15 seconds, and you should be able to ease further into the stretch. Do 3 reps of this contract/relax pattern, and repeat on other side.

Neck stretch with resistance

Pull your head toward your right shoulder. Press your left ear into your right hand, as if trying to move the head toward the left shoulder, for 5 seconds. Relax for 10–15 seconds, and you'll be able to stretch your head further toward your right shoulder. Do 3 reps and repeat on other side.

2. Hip Flexors and Quads

Why: "We see a ton of dancers bending over stretching their hamstrings," says Barrera, but the front of the legs, which do the heavy lifting for movements like battement and développé devant, shouldn't be neglected.

Runner's lunge

Kneel with your left knee on the ground and your left buttock engaged. To stretch the left ilioapsoas, lunge forward without taking the knee over the toe too much. For a deeper stretch, add a cambré to the right. Hold for 15–30 seconds on each side.

Standing quad stretch

Hold one ankle behind you with the gluteus maximus slightly engaged to stabilize the pelvis and spine. Make sure both knees are parallel. If you don't feel a stretch in your quad, attempt to straighten the knee of the bent leg and resist the action with your hand for 5 seconds. Then relax and you should feel the stretch more. If your working leg wants to turn out, Barrera says, grab that ankle with both hands to encourage parallel alignment.

3. Gluteus Medius, IT Band and Quadratus Lumborum

Why: This region is often overworked from actions like arabesque, attitude derrière and sissonne, or if you force your turnout. The quadratus lumborum (QL), in the lower back, aids in twisting and can lead to low-back strain from overuse.

Letter K stretch

Lying on your back, cross the right leg over your body (with a sickled foot) to form a shape like the letter K. Think about the leg reaching down instead of up as you press the right foot and knee toward the floor—with your leg between 45 and 90 degrees, you should feel a stretch along the whole right leg, in your gluteus medius, IT band and maybe even into the QL. Reach your arms into a T to help keep your right shoulder on the floor to reduce back strain. Hold 15–30 seconds per side.

Figure 4 stretch

For a deeper QL stretch, use the same setup, but bend the top leg so your body resembles a number 4. You should be able to twist the lumbar spine further. Hold 15–30 seconds per side.

Side stretch on ball

To stretch the QL and obliques, lie sideways over a stability or BOSU ball. Try to crunch upward, and slowly release back down over the ball. You can also twist for- ward, exploring your range of motion until you find a good stretch. Move through these stretches dynamically on both sides.

Show Comments ()
Ballet Training
Torija coaches BalletMet Dance Academy summer intensive student Polina Myers. Photos by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

It's the complex transfer of weight that makes piqué turns en dehors—commonly called "step-overs"—so tricky. Maria Torija, director of the BalletMet Dance Academy, shares her ideas on how to successfully navigate these inevitable variation-ending turns.

What's in a name: " 'Step-over' is the American way," Maria Torija explains. But the turn has many names. "Vaganova calls it 'tour dégagé.' 'Lame-duck'—that's the English! Maybe we should go to the French. The Paris Opéra calls it 'tour piqué en dehors.' "

Walk the line: Whether you tombé front or side, Torija stresses the importance of precision in consecutive piqués en dehors. "Hold the passé until you finish the turn, and then tombé right in the path you're going, like on a tightrope." The leg doesn't extend to the front or side. That's a different step. "Tombé means you fall into it. It's a very quick motion."

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Josephine Lee exploring Oklahoma. Photo Courtesy Lee.

Earlier this summer, we followed master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop as she made her on a pointe shoe fitting tour around the West Coast and California. Now she's back, this time on a 45-day tour from California to Chicago, educating students on all things pointe shoes and helping them to find their perfect fit. Lee's making stops at top ballet companies and academies across the country, interviewing school directors and chatting with professional ballerinas to find out how they customize and break in their pointe shoes. Below, check out Lee's stop at Oklahoma City Ballet. She touches base with company soloist Amanda Popejoy and school director Penny Askew. Stay tuned for more!


Keep reading... Show less
Sarah Beth Marr. Photo by Oliver Endahl of Ballet Zaida, Courtesy Marr.

Several years ago, Sarah Beth Marr, then a dancer with Mejia Ballet International in Arlington, Texas, went to see a famous ballerina give an interview at a nearby theater. She was eager to hear the dancer's insights on navigating a ballet career. "I was hoping for some kind of secret sauce in order to keep going," she says. When it came time for a question and answer period, several in the audience asked the ballerina about what got her through challenging times. "Her answer was that she worked really hard and pushed herself and tried to be the best," says Marr, "and there's a lot of truth in that." But she was left with a heavy feeling inside. "Is it all about working really hard and striving and carving my own path, or is there something deeper?"

Keep reading... Show less
News
Joffrey Ballet's April Daly, Yoshihisa Arai and Amanda Assucena in Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake. Assucena will make her debut in the role of Odette/Odile this week. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Remie Goins, a student at International City School of Ballet in Atlanta, performs at the YAGP finals. Photo by VAM, Courtesy YAGP.

You've watched First Position, the 2011 documentary about dancers at Youth America Grand Prix. You've studied videos of past ballet competition winners online. Now, you're interested in joining those elite ranks by entering a competition yourself. But what if your school doesn't have a program set up to guide you through the process? Pointe asked four experts to break down what ballet competition newbies need to know.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Joseph Gordon, pictured here in George Balanchine's Who Cares?, became New York City Ballet's newest principal this weekend. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

On October 13, the evening before the close of New York City Ballet's fall season and longtime principal Joaquin De Luz's retirement performance, Jonathan Stafford, the leader of the company's interim artistic team, promoted seven company dancers: six men and one woman. In addition to De Luz, NYCB lost three other principal men this fall. Chase Finlay, Zachary Catazaro and Amar Ramasar were fired last month in the midst of a scandal surrounding the sharing of sexually explicit communications. With principal Adrian Danchig-Waring out of commission while recovering from a broken foot, the company has been in need of male dancers to bolster its upper ranks.

Joseph Gordon has been promoted to principal, and Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Peter Walker have been promoted to soloist. All seven made a number of debuts throughout the year and shone in featured roles; we've rounded up some of their recent accomplishments below.

Keep reading... Show less
News
From left: ABT principals Devon Teuscher, Christine Shevchenko and Gillian Murphy isn Praedicere. Photo by Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT.

Last spring American Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin McKenzie announced the company's Women's Movement, a multi-year initiative to support the creation of new work by female choreographers. ABT's fall season, running October 17–28 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, sets the project in full swing. The opening gala features a world premiere by tap extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance. A co-commission with the Vail Dance Festival, this work marks ABT's third collaboration with Dorrance this year: She created Praedicere, a pièce d'occasion for ABT's spring gala, as well as a work on company dancers at Vail last summer. The gala performance also includes past and present works by two female choreographers: Twyla Tharp's 1986 In The Upper Room and Lauren Lovette's 2017 Le Jeune, which will be danced by the ABT Studio Company.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Sarah Lane and Jeffrey Cirio in Harlequinade. Photo: ErIn Baiano

American Ballet Theatre's two months of performances at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House can be an exciting but demanding time for the dancers. With nine ballets in eight weeks including Whipped Cream and Harlequinade, a night off is hard to come by.

James Whiteside as Harlequin in Harlequinade. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Josephine Lee outside Ballet West Academy. Photo Courtesy Lee.

Earlier this summer, we followed master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop as she made her on a pointe shoe fitting tour around the West Coast and California. Now she's back, this time on a 45-day tour from California to Chicago, educating students on all things pointe shoes and helping them to find their perfect fit. Lee's making stops at top ballet companies and academies across the country, exploring schools and getting know academy directors. Below, check out Lee's stop at Ballet West. She touches base with academy director Peter Merz. Stay tuned for more!

Editors' List: The Goods
San Francisco Ballet soloist Koto Ishihara stretches in her warm-up boots. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Dance Magazine.

With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.

Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie

via Bloch Inc.

Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints.
blochworld.com, $48

News
Kimin Kim and Soobin Lee. Photo Courtesy SunHee Kim.

Kimin Kim may be a huge star in Russia, but he hasn't forgotten his roots. The prodigious South Korean dancer, who became the Mariinsky Ballet's first foreign principal in 2015, trained at the Korea National University of the Arts, also known as K'Arts. He owes much of his success, he says over email, to the academy's teachers, who prepared him well for his high-profile career. So when dean SunHee Kim approached him about guest-starring in the American premiere of her original ballet Song of the Mermaid, which K'Arts Ballet brings to New York City next week, he didn't hesitate to sign on. "I had performed the role of the Prince while I was at school in Korea and it was such a memorable performance," Kim says. "I've always wanted to do it again, so I happily accepted her offer."

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!