Clase de Ballet

Conditioning Exercises for Ballet Dancers

When training as a ballet dancer, many hours are spent in the studio working on set exercises or choreography. While ballet training may offer a type of fitness regime, in the December 2005 issue of “Dance Magazine,” Linda Hamilton, a former New York City Ballet dancer, advises that dancers get out of the studio to try other types of conditioning or cross-training exercises to complement their dance training and to help prevent injuries.

Cardio

Ballet classes offers little in the way of cardiovascular endurance training, yet dancing can become difficult if you are lacking in this area. Doing 30 minutes of low-impact cardio training, two to three days per week, will vastly improve your lung capacity, as well as your overall cardiovascular health. Avoid running on hard surfaces since the impact can be taxing on the joints, resulting in an injury or general wear and tear. Swimming, walking or using a stationary bike are all low-impact options.

Core Work

Ballet requires strong core muscles, not only to help execute the steps but also to protect the lower back. Weak abdominal muscles can lead to low back vulnerabilities. Although sit-up or crunches are popular ab exercises, they can put stress on the neck or back. One alternative to a sit-up is the plank. Hold yourself in a push-up position for 30 to 90 seconds. Make sure your back is straight and ab muscles are contracted.

Another core-strengthening exercise is the quadruped. Start on your hands and knees. Slowly raise the right leg behind and your left arm in front so the raised arm and leg are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a couple of seconds then return back arm and leg to the ground. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. Repeat the cycle 10 to 15 times.

Participating in yoga or Pilates classes can also offer core-strengthening exercises.

Arms and Upper Back

Ballet dancers spend hours strengthening their legs and feet, yet few exercises work to strengthen the arms and upper back. When doing exercises targeting the arms, ballet dancers need to be careful not to add too much bulky muscle to their upper bodies; lifting weights may not be the best option. Push-ups use your own body weight and can be modified by resting your knees on the ground for a less-intense workout.

Elastic Resistance Training

Resistance training with elastic fitness bands or tubing can help to strengthen, tone and relieve chronic pain. An elastic band can be used in place of weights for exercises, such as bicep curls and shoulder presses. It can also be used to add difficultly and resistance to exercises, such as squats.

It is also important for ballet dancers to keep their feet strong, thereby preventing injury, pain and cramps. Wrap an elastic band around the toes or ball of the foot. Slowly point and flex the foot, using the band as resistance. Repeat 15 to 20 times, and then switch feet. This will help to build the muscles in the foot, as well as strengthen the ankle joint.

Stretching

Stretching lengthens and loosens muscles, allowing a ballet dancer to perform graceful dance movements without injuring herself. Tight muscles lead to poor body mechanics during movements and increase the risk of joint and soft tissue injuries. The goal of stretching is to gradually increase flexibility by extending the muscle only as far as it can go without pain and holding the stretch until the muscle relaxes. Always warm up before stretching to prevent muscle strain.

Clase de Ballet

Leg Stretches for Ballerinas

Ballet dancers require a high degree of leg flexibility. In slow adage movements, flexible legs, along with strong abdominal muscles and hip flexors, allow the dancer to lift her leg well above 90 degrees to the front and side. For dynamic grand battements, ballet dancers need flexibility for the same reasons. Turnout, one of the defining characteristics of ballet technique, is only possible if the dancer has enough leg flexibility to continue the rotation that starts in the hip joint. Flexible calf muscles permit a dancer to land from jumps and to work on pointe safely.

Hamstrings

Stretching the hamstrings can increase the flexibility that a ballet dancer needs to lift her leg to the front and the side. Ballerinas stretch these muscles with the leg on the barre stretch. After placing her foot on the barre, she can lean over her leg to increase the stretch. Ballet dancers can also stretch these muscles by lying on the floor and bringing one leg toward her chest. To target all of the hamstring muscles, ballerinas often perform these stretches with external rotation and without.

Adductors

Flexibility in the adductors helps a ballet dancer open her legs directly to the side without losing control of her turnout. Stretches that target the adductors include the leg on the barre stretch performed facing the barre, center splits and the pied dans la main stretch — or “foot in the hand” stretch. In this last stretch, the ballet dancer grasps her right foot in her right hand, while holding onto the barre with her left hand if desired. She extends her right leg in front of her body and then moves it to the side of her body, pulling her leg as close to her shoulder as possible. She holds the stretch for several seconds before switching sides.

Calves

Flexibility in the calf muscles — the gastrocnemius and soleus in particular — is necessary for every plié a ballet dancer performs. Because ballet dancers spend so much time pointing their ankles and working on demi-pointe, these muscles have a tendency to get overused and tight. Stretching these muscles — with straight-leg and bent-knee lunges — can protect the dancer from injury and can make the landing from jumps more fluid.

Quadriceps

The quadriceps are another group of muscles that tend to get overused in ballet. These muscles are engaged any time a dancer straightens her knees. Also, many ballet dancers use these muscles incorrectly in adage movements. Instead of focusing the effort on the abdominal muscles and hip flexors, many ballet dancers try to lift their legs with their quadriceps. This unnecessary effort leads to tightness in the muscles. A ballet dancer can stretch these muscles by lying on her stomach and grasping her right foot in her right hand. Bringing the foot toward the buttocks will stretch out the quadriceps.

When to Stretch

Most of the leg stretches that ballerinas perform are static stretches. This type of stretch should only be performed after a thorough warm-up, to reduce the chance of injury. Because a dancer needs to be warmed up before performing the stretch, the ideal time to stretch is after ballet class.

By Kat Black : Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.

Clase de Ballet

Los estiramientos

La práctica de estiramientos a diario es la mejor manera de mantenerse saludable, y cuando hablamos de danza estas técnicas se convierten en rutina prioritaria. Todos sabemos en teoría la importancia de estirar muy bien, pero no todo el mundo la sigue debidamente. Preparar nuestro cuerpo antes de hacer clase es necesario para calentar los músculos, previniendo tensiones y lesiones, manteniéndolo flexible y listo para efectuar movimientos más duros. Si bien, la barra clásica está perfectamente estructurada de modo que el cuerpo se vaya calentando progresivamente y trabajando cada una de sus partes, desde pies hasta piernas, caderas y espalda, el estiramiento previo nos ayuda a despertar nuestro cuerpo de la quietud de otras actividades cotidianas, como leer o estudiar y nos predispone a iniciar la clase de danza con mayor vigor.

Los ejercicios de estiramiento pueden efectuarse antes de empezar la clase, al terminar la barra y/o al concluir la clase. Antes de clase deben ser más suaves y después de la barra podemos acentuar el estiramiento y la elongación ya que el cuerpo ha entrado en calor.  Desde mi punto de vista, es mejor evitar los movimientos de rebote y estirar cada músculo dando unos segundos de tiempo a que se estiren solos. En el caso de hacer rebotes, deben ser realizados suave y cuidadosamente para evitar desgarros. Tanto el estiramiento estático como dinámico son ejercicios válidos pero debemos tener en cuenta que el estiramiento debe practicarse desde los ejercicios más leves hasta los más intensos de forma gradual y coherente, sin incurrir en la ansiedad de intentar exigir más de lo posible. Y tenemos que ser pacientes y constantes para conseguir resultados sin caer en lesiones que supongan una baja que nos deje fuera del entrenamiento.

¿Para que sirve un buen estiramiento? A nivel general, sirve para agilizar las acciones de movimiento de cualquier individuo, además de mejorar el ritmo para evitar la lentitud que sobreviene con la edad, ampliar el rango de movimiento, mejora el andar, previene caídas y lesiones, combate el estrés y las tensiones musculares y nos ayuda a mantenernos más activos. Asimismo mejora la circulación, y por consiguiente, mejora la capacidad física y mental (siempre que practiquemos estiramientos con regularidad)

Para un bailarín es primordial antes de cargar al cuerpo con mayor responsabilidad sobre los músculos con ejercicios de mayor exigencia y mantener el buen estado de forma cosechando buenos resultados. Un plié, développé o fondu dependen en buena parte, no solo de la práctica, sino también de un buena rutina de estiramiento, ya que una musculatura flexible es la que aporta la belleza de un movimiento ligado y armonioso.

Los brazos

Los brazos también responden a la gracia y a la perfección de la danza, y no debemos pensar que por si solos van a responder a lo que pedimos. Es muy necesario ejercitarlos, ya que, he observado con frecuencia que son olvidados, centrando toda la atención en la técnica de los miembros inferiores. Lo cierto es, que hasta el más hermoso paso de ballet puede caer en desgracia por no estar debidamente acompañado de un estudio eficiente del port de bras. Y para ello volvemos a reiterar la importancia de un buen estiramiento para mantener la flexibilidad de los brazos -desde los hombros hasta las muñecas- para mejorar su sujeción, aumentar la delicadeza del movimiento y mejorar la longitud del espacio recorrido en los port de bras. Tampoco olvidemos que son herramientas que debemos manejar a nuestro favor para fomentar el equilibrio.