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The Obliques Trifecta: Practice This Trio of Exercises for a Stronger Core

This story originally appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Pointe.

Abdominal strength is essential for any ballerina. A connected core can turn an otherwise wobbly dancer with arms and legs askew into one with supported extensions and smooth movement. But ab work is about more than just standard crunches and planks. The internal and external obliques, which wrap around the sides of the abdomen, are often neglected, though they're some of the most valuable muscles dancers can develop. Leigh Heflin Ponniah, MA, MS, from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University's Langone Medical Center, suggests these three exercises. Try the whole series three days a week on alternating days.


You'll need:

  • a 5–8-pound medicine ball or free weight
  • a physio ball

Seated Twist

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1. Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet on the ground. Hold the medicine ball or weight in both hands, slightly in front of the body at belly-button height. Lean back a bit with the torso, so your abs feel engaged.

2. Twist side to side, allowing the weight to drop toward the floor as you reach left and right. Move slowly, exhaling each time you return to the starting position.

Repetitions: 10–20 sets

Oblique Ball Crunch

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1. Lie sideways on a physio ball, with your feet against a wall. Your hips should be stacked on the ball and your hands by your ears.

2. Drape your upper body over the ball. Then, exhale as you curve your upper body up and away from the ball.

3. Inhale as you slowly lower back over the ball.

Repetitions: 8–15 times on each side

Side Plank Dip

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1. Start in a side plank with your body propped up on your elbow closest to the floor and the other hand on your hip.

2. Slowly lower your hips toward the floor. Exhale as you lift your hips back up until your body is in a straight diagonal again.

Repetitions: 8–15 times on each side

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The dance community's response to the death of George Floyd was immediate and sweeping on social media. Dance artists, including Desmond Richardson and Martha Nichols, used their social platforms to make meaningful statements about racial inequality. Theresa Ruth Howard's leadership spurred ballet companies including Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre, and New York City Ballet to pledge #BalletRelevesForBlackLives. Among the most vocal supporters have been dance students, who continue to share the faces and gut-wrenching last words of Black men and women who have died in police custody on their Instagram feeds and Stories.

The work we're doing on social media as a community is important and necessary—and we should keep at it. But now, that momentum must also carry us into taking action. Because to be a true ally, action is required.

A responsible ally amplifies Black voices­­. They choose to listen rather than speak. And they willingly throw their support, and, if they can, their dollars, behind Black dancers and Black dance organizations. Here are some ways you can do your part.

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Class of 2020, These Ballet Stars Have a Heartfelt Video Message Just for You

Congratulations to this year's graduating seniors!

You might not have had the chance to take that long planned-for final bow, but we're here to cheer you on and celebrate all that you've accomplished. And we've brought together stars from across the ballet world to help us; check out the video to hear their best wishes for your futures.

To further fête all of the ballet grads out there, we're also giving away 100 free subscriptions to Pointe... plus, one lucky bunhead will receive a personalized message from one of ballet's biggest stars. Click here to enter!


Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/27/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

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