A Balancing Act

December 9, 2015

 

The moment on stage that you witness a dancer elongating each muscle in an arabesque as to suspend space and time, is when you know you are watching a master craftsman at work. This requires strength, technique, and artistry. The sooner you master these elements you will see your poses, jumps, and turns transform themselves into secure, strong, and beautiful movements. If you care for your dancing, as well as the pleasure of your audience, you'll take great care to implement these tips and skills into your dance class on a daily basis. 

 

Core

Your core is without a doubt the single most important factor for mastering balances

 

{3 exercises to build strength of core}

 

1) Crunches are a sure way to isolate and build strength of the core. Here is an exercise series to get you going. You can take the exercises given here and complete as written on Monday then double the amount each day of the week. The next week start with the number you did on Tuesday the week prior. 

 

10 crunches regular > 10 crunches alternating > 10 toe touch crunches > 25 bicycles > 10 leg lifts

 

2) The classic plank will build all over strength and is a great option for hitting all of your core muscles. You can build this throughout the week as well. Start with 1 min and add 15 seconds to the plank each day until Friday. The next week you start with Tuesday's time. Once you have mastered a 3 minute plank try taking one leg off the ground into an arabesque and alternating halfway through.

 

3) Leg pushes. This one requires a partner. Partner 1 lays flat on their back. The key is to keep the lower back connected to the ground the whole time. Partner 2 stands and P1 grabs the ankles of P2 for stability. P1 lifts their legs at 90 degrees. P2 pushes the legs down so that they almost hit the ground as P2 resists and brings legs back up to 90. This can be done 10-30 times as it is very tiring!

 

Derriere

 

Your seat, only second to your core, will keep you in place and holds your turn out to stabilize the balances

 

{2 exercises to build strength of seat}

 

1) Seat pumps: Get down on all fours knees and palms connecting to the floor. Extend your right leg into an arabesque and turn out the leg keeping the foot pointed. Move leg up and down in a 3" line 50 times. Switch legs. Repeat with your leg out to the side, making sure to turn out and scoop the heal on top. 

 

2) Classic plies are designed to get your seat in gear for class. Isolating the tiny muscles at the base of your seat that connect to your leg, will help you build these minute balance power muscles. 

 

Stand in first position > take 4 demi plies squeezing and focusing on the seat every time your legs straighten > take 2 grande plies > Repeat in 2nd and 5th both sides. 

 

 

Feet and Calves

 

Your feet and calves have the privilege of the foundational supports of your body. Keep them strong for long controlled balances.

 

{3 exercises to build strength of feet & calves}

 

1) Classic releves are key to building strength in your feet and calves. Keeping your core lifted off of your legs, and keeping in mind your seat - get ready to lift!

 

Start in first position > rise up to full demi-pointe and lower slowly for 4 counts > repeat 32 times > Double each day of the week and the next week start with Tuesday's count and so on. 

 

*To make it harder stand on the edge of a stair and go lower than your heal could go on the solid floor. Hold on to something sturdy if using a step to exercise!

 

2) Stretch Bands are available at local sports supply locations or online. They come in different strengths of resistance so you'll need to get a few so you can work up to your newly budding levels of strength. Once you have the bands try this. 

 

Laying on your back with one leg up in the air with a band strung around the arch > go from flexed to demi to full pointe all in 3 counts each > repeat 20 times > switch to opposite foot.

 

3) Refer to previous blog Dancer's Feet - Training and Tricks of the Trade for additional foot care!

 

 

Technique

 

Technique is no small part of the equation. Without it, your balance is just a pose and a prayer. It allows you to make your balance happen every time...on purpose.

 

{3 tips to help your technique}

 

1) Imagery allows a dancer to take a story or real life situation and use the word pictures to better their technique. When hitting a long balance go to your dancer "happy place". Don't over think the movement, but do stay present in the moment. Think about a bird flying high, a trapeze artist reaching for their partner, or a long road stretching in two opposite directions. Put that image into your body and keep the energy flowing continuously. 

 

2) Finish the line. Nothing is worse then a beautiful balance or pose and a flexed or lazy foot or cocked wrists at the end of it. Don't break the line of the body, but keep it going with energy exploding out your fingertips and toes. This constant radiation of energy will help you hold your balance and thrill your audience. 

 

3) Turn out your base leg and working leg. A lot of dancers think of one or the other. You need both for a good balance. Turn out from the hip, not knees or ankles which causes injury. 

 

Artistry

 

Let us not forget our purpose is not simply to master a skill, but rather share the gift of dance with those not able to expierence it themselves.

 

{3 tips to help you as an artist}

 

1) Get inspired by the music, by images of professional dancers, and youtube videos. Whatever it takes, find your reason for dancing and commit. Your balances mean nothing without a reason for why you choose movement as your expressive medium. 

 

2) Musicality is key for knowing how long to hold a balance. Too long, and you'll be late, too soon and you'll look like you made a mistake. Look for highlighted portions of the music and specifically listen to your choreographers choices which are usually reflected by what is heard in the music. 

 

3) Put in the effort. You will not succeed unless you push yourself beyond where you have gone and where you want to go. That is the epitome of what a balance is. It is a movement that looks like it is still and steady, but that in reality is constantly working, striving, and yearning to be more than it already is. 

 

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Iowa C.A.T.S. Dance Company was formally known as Dream Dance Company. Same owner and amazing staff, with a bright and focused future!