Ballet Training
CPYB school principal Alecia Good-Boresow teaching class. Photo Courtesy CPYB.

Suddenly, all I could see in the mirror was a fuzzy, dancer-shaped outline. I had accidentally rubbed out my contacts right before pliés and, frustrated, resigned myself to an unproductive two hours. As class progressed, however, something strange happened: I felt far more relaxed and placed. My balances at barre were steadier, I didn't have a single wobble in center adagio, I nailed every pirouette and even my jumps felt freer. Could the reason for this stellar class be that I wasn't depending on my reflection?

So much of dancers' training is through sight, usually with the mirror as an aid. From toddlers to top-ranked company members, nearly every hour of studio time is spent in front of the mirror, honing technique in class and perfecting choreography in rehearsal. Too often, however, the mirror becomes a crutch, and the very reasons you need it for your training can become detrimental. Luckily, awareness and refocusing can help break the habit.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training

Have a question? Click here to send it to Amy and she might answer it in an upcoming issue!

I’m having trouble balancing schoolwork and dance. I come home from a long day and rush through my homework without worrying about whether I did it correctly. Doing homework late at night makes me stressed for the rest of the week and affects my attitude towards dancing. How do I balance both school and dance? –Marie

When I think of my crazy schedule as a teenager, I’m amazed I ever made it through high school! My brain was fried by the time I’d get home from ballet class. It helps to stay super organized. Look at your daily and weekly schedule in advance to find pockets of time to do homework during lunch, study hall or immediately after school. Prioritize what needs to get done, and avoid procrastinating. I used to finish my math homework right after school because it was hardest for me, and save shorter, easier assignments for after dance classes. Sometimes if I was super-exhausted after ballet I would head straight to bed and get up extra early to finish schoolwork.

Take advantage of your breaks between dance classes, or time in the car (unless, of course, you are the one driving). I used go to the library on weekends for a few hours to crank out some study time without the distractions at home. I found I worked way more efficiently when I couldn’t make phone calls, watch TV or raid the pantry. Scheduling out your day, your week and your weekend may seem like a drag, but eventually you’ll find a rhythm and your life will feel more manageable.

 

Ballet Training

Have a question? Click here to send it to Amy and she might answer it in an upcoming issue!

I’ve been dancing for eight years and still have poor turnout. I’ve tried many techniques and stretches, but nothing helps. Any advice? —Allison, Kansas

It’s so frustrating when our bodies refuse to bend to ballet’s will! Unfortunately, we’re born with a somewhat fixed degree of external rotation. Your turnout might be naturally limited. My advice is to do the best with what you have. Strengthen your rotator muscles to hold your maximum turnout. Before class, stand in your natural first and fifth positions, taking time to activate and feel your rotators. Maintain these positions during class, and resist the urge to crank your turnout from your knees and ankles or twist your working hip open. As you get stronger, your turnout will look better because you’ll hold it correctly in place.  Also focus on your strengths. Do you have a beautiful stage presence or a great jump? Develop these more! Along with strong technique, they will draw attention away from any imperfections.

When doing relevés on pointe, my roll up from half pointe to full pointe is very jolting. I have strong ankles; it is just the last part of the relevé that I struggle with. What can I do? Alina, California

I spoke with Liz Henry, director of  Westside Dance Physical Therapy, who suspects your intrinsic flexors (the muscles that move your toes) are weak, and recommends an exercise called “doming.”

With your foot flat on the ground, lift the row of knuckles between your metatarsals and your toes. “Allow the toes to be long,” says Henry. “Glide the toes along the floor in the direction of the heel, and create a ‘dome’ at those knuckle joints.” Make sure your toes are not curled or hammered. If you’re having trouble, use your hands to help shape the dome until you find the right foot muscles.

From here, Henry says, “Return back to flat the same way you came, keeping the toes long and straight without picking them up.” Then, keeping the ball of the foot on the ground, lift the toes up and return to flat. Start with 10 to 25 reps, eventually working up to 100.

Also practice going from demi to full pointe in your pointe shoes while sitting in a chair. Apply the doming principle as you articulate your foot (10 to 25 reps). Then, with doming in mind, try relevés at the barre, first with two feet, then one. Once your feet get stronger, you’ll have less need for the barre.

I have a really hard time finding my balance. Do you have any tips?

—Madeline, New York

Your problem may stem from improper alignment or lack of strength. Pay attention to which way you fall. If you fall away from the barre, you’re probably not “on your leg,” meaning the weight of your body is not centered over the ball of your foot. If you fall towards the barre, you’re probably lifting your working hip or sitting into your standing hip. If you’re wobbly in your ankles and torso, work on gaining strength. Check the alignment of your feet, legs, hips, pelvis, rib cage and shoulders from both front and side views on flat and relevé.

Once you nail down the problem, practice! At the studio, in your kitchen, at the bus stop—whenever you can. Set goals (10 seconds, 30 seconds, 2 minutes), and be determined to meet them.

Another tip: Think of pressing down into the floor during relevé, rather than rising up. If you push into the balls of your feet, you’ll engage your entire leg up to the area right underneath the buttocks. You’ll feel taller and much more stable.

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox