7 Additional Effective Habits For Improving Your Strength and Dance Technique
Posted Aug 26 2008 11:43am
Every exercise you do up until you get into pointe shoes, is basically pre-pointe. However, using the term to focus on the basics that will help you work well in pointe shoes, is how we currently emphasize that there IS a regimen for improving your strength build-up towards pointe work. For boys, these exercises will improve your technique too.
** Check your postural plumb line when doing your first demi plie of the class. Your postural plumb line is the line that goes straight down through your body, through the curve of your spine and your other natural shapes. Also called "neutral spine", when you are not straining to straighten the spine, nor are you slacking in your ab muscles, and curving excessively at the at back of the waist,
** Check your turnout. Turn out as much as you can from your rotator muscles in the back of your pelvis. Your feet should be turned out as much as your thighs are, but not more to the degree that they pronate (rolling the front of the ankles toward the floor), or tense excessively, under the arches and toes. Ballet is not anatomically correct. The fact that you will ultimately have to produce a "heel to toe" fifth position (as viewed from the audience, if you get my drift), does not mean you should be doing that in early training.
** Move your head easily from side to side. Check that your neck is relaxed, and your shoulders move easily with your breathing. You should not press your shoulders down to compensate for a non-neutral spine, feet not completely contacting the floor, or anything else indicating that you are off balance. You should not have to press your shoulders down to hide the fact that they are constantly pulling up from effort. If this happens, you need to work on your abdominal and back "core" muscles, and your turnout and thigh muscles, so your shoulders can stop working. You may need to be in a more basic class.
** During your plie exercise, note that your arm can move without the shoulders following. In other words, the shoulder joint is free, and your shoulders and arms are not working to hold your balance in any way.
** More important than many would think, is the focus of your eyes. When you look ahead, look at something and be aware of what you are looking at. When you incline your head, look at something.Your attention to the environment is necessary. A class or a stage can be a busy place! You must be able to focus and see what is around you even when you are concentrating on your own movement. You also must seem, to an audience, that you are focusing outward, to them, even in moments when you are not, and even when you cannot see them.
** Check that you are holding the barre lightly. Place your hand on the barre and use a slight pressure down when you feel your balance shifting. Gripping constantly tells you one thing - you cannot do what you are trying to do! You need to cut back to an easier version of the exercise and practise. You may need to increase your ab and back exercises. Ask your teacher for help. Teachers don't see everything in class, no matter how hard they may try.
** If you are altering ANYTHING at the depth of your grande plie, or during the first inch coming up out of it, you need to find what is weak. As soon as your heels come off the floor, start watching and feeling. Have a friend help too. If it just a matter of strength at the bottom of the plie, do shallower grande plies for a few classes. Tell your teacher you are trying to improve this way, and that you are deepening your plie little by little, so as not to lose posture or turnout, whichever it is.
If you are a male dance student and you've noticed the girls talking excitedly about new pre-pointe regimens, pay attention! All those exercises and assessments for pointe work are perfect for you too. The strength and finesse of foot work is just as necessary for you. Your jumps, your landings, controlling your descent from multiple turns, will have that cat-like quality if you develop your feet as you would for pointe work.
Anyway, that's all for plies! Now, on to the rest of the class.....