Archive | January 2013

When You Have Ballet In Your Life

baby ballerinas

A child is like a butterfly in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other Each one is different, each one is special, each one is beautiful.




When I came across this quote on the internet, I thought of the ballet dancers that I am entrusted with each day …each one different, each one special and mostly each one beautiful….As adorable as they can be and all try to be my “best friend”, I am still “tough” on them…. with love, and they know that I expect results. That is how they give me what they truly have inside.

A dance teacher, a ballet teacher to be exact, needs to have a relationship with her dancers but the dancers also need to know when she means “business”. I feel that a teacher should always expect excellence from her dancers, always. A lazy class is never to be accepted. The dancers come into the dance school right after a six hour school day and they are tired of being instructed, and disciplined. It is the dance teacher’s job to keep fun and discipline all wrapped together at this point. The dance teacher should also expect results from what she is handing out to the dancers that day and nothing less.

Some fly higher that others, but each one flies the best it can….

Each day I see different abilities in the dancers that I teach, although they are in class according to their ability and age, as best as the school can accommodate. But each dancer will give me what they have inside them. What they feel that dance is worth to them. Dance can be felt as an emotion. As the class feels the music, as the class time progresses, that is the results I will see. They may not always be the results that I am wishing, but it is what they are feeling inside. Happy, sad, tired, excited and most of all yearning for dance knowledge.

Each one special, each one different, each one beautiful….

There are so many positive effects that ballet has on children. In my 37 plus years of teaching dance I have seen this often. Ballet can help children grow physically, emotionally and intellectually. Not only is structured choreography helpful but the music can be inspirational as well.

On the physical side, ballet helps children with strength, posture and flexibility. I have taught ballet to children with disabilities and I have seen so much physical progress and so much joy in their lives. I have even had the privilege to have taught a deaf child ballet and to see the happiness she had while dancing was beauty in itself.

Ballet can help a shy child come out of her shell, and become the music that she hears while yet ballet provides more structure to the active child. The discipline of ballet is perfect for both of these types of children. In the shy child she will enable herself to come forward and dance in the mirror, become a character and interact with the other dancers in her class. The active child will be taught to move only when others are moving, stand exactly how others are standing and being what the teacher and music is telling them.

Exposure to activities, like ballet, help children to become more well rounded individuals. Dancing is a great medium for both girls and boys, and should be started at a young age for the most benefit. As the children grow ballet may get pushed aside in favor of tap, hip-hop, jazz and other dance forms, but the foundation of all dance, is ballet. Parents, never let your child drop a ballet class in favor of a different dance class. If the dancer is instructed in ballet, they can do any style of dance. As the middle school age comes around, of those who have dropped ballet class, regret it. In these years the dancer becomes serious in their training and without ballet class in their foundation, they will be at the bottom. As a dancer continues to pursue ballet, more benefits will emerge.

I must say that this post is most definitely directed to the dancers in my charge. Each one is different, each one is special and each one is beautiful…….

Developing That Great Extension

ballet balance

Developing a good leg extension is one of the most cherished things a dancer looks forward to. Here is a repost of  important information in creating that beautiful extension in you.


 There are a number of things that ballet teachers work on diligently to develop in their dancers. First and foremost is a love of dance. Next is the appearance of the dancer’s body. Correct alignment, stretched and pointed feet, good spotting technique, beautifully stretched out leaps and higher jumps. But one of the most impressive skills that is sought after, is high leg extension. I am referring to the working leg either to the front or to the side. This is practiced first at the barre, then moves to the center with adagio music and developpe exercises. A standard ballet class will have at least one exercise at the barre and one center floor. Both barre and center exercises will repeat right and left sides, to train the extension that defines the beautiful slow developpe.

The typical ballet class is not enough to develop the necessary strength, flexibility and coordination required of the dancer to develop the necessary muscle groups to achieve the highest of extensions. I would like to recommend that while practicing at home that several conditioning exercises should be done. Conditioning outside the dance class, at home, will show good results for back strengthening, arabesque height and front and side leg extensions.

There are two muscle groups involved in good extensions. The quadriceps and the hip flexor muscles.

The quadriceps are a large muscle group that includes the muscles on the front of the thigh. It is the a large muscle that extends out of the knee, forming a large fleshy mass which covers the front and sides of the thigh bone. The hip flexors are a group of muscles that act to flex the thigh bone. They are situated on the upper thighs and just beneath the hipbones. Hip flexors allow for lifting of the knees and bending at the midsection. Because they continuously work to support the body, hip flexors tend to become stressed and tight, which can prevent the highest of leg extensions

Here is a five minute exercise that should be done in three sets of ten repetitions on both legs. It should be repeated three times per week for six weeks to get some better extension results.

Sit in a long sit position: back straight and both legs extended front

Lean back on your hands

The leg to be exercised is turned out with the knee slightly bent like a front attitude

The other leg is bent and the foot is flat on the floor

Lift the attitude leg slowly and then bring it back down again, in three sets of ten repetitions.

The achievement here is to use the quadriceps as little as possible and work the hip flexors.

Another way to stretch the hip flexors is to:

Lie flat on your back, and pulling one leg into your chest.

Lift the other leg up and pointed towards the ceiling and turned out.

Then slowly lower the leg until it eventually rests on the floor.

As you hug one leg, feel a release in the hip flexors in the extended leg.

Hold the working leg off the floor as close to the floor as possible for about 20 seconds before releasing the foot to the floor.

Remember to keep the small of the back pressed to the floor. Repeat for the other leg.

Stretching the quadriceps is important for good leg extension and hip flexors stretch ability and should not be totally neglected.

Lie on to your stomach flat on the floor.

With a flat back, relaxed neck and relaxed legs, Begin lifting your right foot and lower leg upward and bend it at the knee.

Lifting your body up slightly, reach back behind you and grab your right foot with your right hand.

Pull your leg upward and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds.

Next, perform the same quad stretch using your left leg.

You can also perform quad stretches for your hip flexors from a kneeling or standing position.

Or…Use a chair or wall for support if needed.

Pushing backwards toward a wall with your leg bent between your body and the wall during quad stretches will intensify the stretch and provide support. So instead of holding your foot, use the wall behind you for balance and stretch.

For a more intense stretch,

Start with your left leg. Kneel down on your left knee and position your right foot in front of you, knee bent.

Place your right hand on your right leg to guide your balance. Your other hand should be at your hip.

Keep your back and head straight, with your abdominal muscles tight. Shift some of your weight to your right leg, moving forward slightly. You should feel your left thigh stretching.

Extend the left leg behind you so that you are on the ball of the foot.

Raise both arms straight up above your head parallel to your ears.

Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat it three times, then switch legs.

There not many things in ballet as beautiful as a high leg extension… that can be held with ease. Work on it!

Your Investment In Time

ballet black and pink 2

It is said that as a young girl, Margot Fonteyn, one day saw a poster of a ballerina and asked her mother who it was “That is Anna Pavlova.” her mother replied, “The greatest dancer in the world.” Margot answered, “Then I will be the second greatest.”

All dancers need this confidence, though they may not all grow up to be a Prima Ballerina. Nevertheless, even though they may know they will never make it to the top, many dancers feel they have achieved their life’s ambition through dancing. Ballet is exhausting and time consuming, but it is also exciting and creative and many dancers become totally dedicated to their profession. Ballet is a whole world of its own.

A dancer’s life needs a lot of self-discipline, so it is important that you learn to be independent. For example, try to look after your own dancewear, and make sure they are always clean and in good condition. Be sure you have everything you need in your dance bag for the day’s classes. Give yourself a brief moment to relax and put yourself in the right frame of mind before you begin class Doing these things for yourself will help you to feel more confident and self assured.

Once class has started, listen carefully and try to keep your mind on what you are being asked to do. A good teacher will know how to keep your interest by occasionally re-arranging her syllabus, being creative and allowing you to think. Your teacher is there to guide and assist you through difficult moments, but there are many ways in which you can help yourself in this respect. For instance don’t be tempted to talk to other dancers, because that means you are not listening to your teacher and are also disturbing someone else’s concentration, besides your own.mic pointe class

Your teacher will correct your movements from time to time. Try to understand why and work hard to get it right. Pay attention to other dancers’ corrections because they may apply to you. There is no better way of learning to dance than studying with other people who are equally interested and motivated to succeed. Learning in this way, you can judge your own progress and can compare yourself with others.

Although, it requires tremendous effort, your ballet class should also be fun and something to be looked forward to. How much you enjoy it can be greatly helped by interesting accompany music. Listen to the music, don’t just do your specified choreography step for step, just counting and not paying attention to the music quality. The music will affect how you express yourself in dance. After all, dance is an art.

Sometimes, you may feel that you are not progressing quickly enough, but be patient and trust your teacher. Years of experience will have taught her to watch your development and to decide on the right pace for you. Doing too much too early can be more damaging than being held back a little.

ballet dancers at the barre

Working in a disciplined way will not only help you achieve much in your dancing; it should also assist you in other areas of study and generally prepare you for life in the future. Any professional dancers will tell you that good concentration and sense of self- discipline are absolutely essential qualities if you re in intending in to take dance seriously or for just life in general.

In any case have fun! Ballet is good for you…..