How to improve the basics of ballet training can be done with the help of professional technique manuals. A student cannot train in pointe shoes without an experienced teacher. However, there are currently several good sources of basic ballet technique in text, photo and DVD form. The finer details of posture, turnout and placement can be understood and learned. Stretching safely can produce great improvement, whether or not you end up doing the splits.
Internet dance forums and chats can create a wonderful community for students, especially those in smaller towns with fewer dance studios to choose from.
One drawback, however, is the transfer of incorrect technical information that may lead to zero progress, or even injury.
For example, the basics of posture depend on enough flexibility for a dancer to stand with a neutral spine (normal curves and good abdominal support). This requires thigh muscles at the front of the leg, or hip flexors, and thigh muscles at the back of the leg, the hamstrings, that are long and flexible enough to allow the pelvis to retain a natural position. This is simply, neither tilted forward nor back in response to a short or tense muscle of the leg.
While flexibility allowing a ballet dancer to do the splits may seem like the ideal, a strong technique is required to hold the traditional ballet positions and leg extensions in a stable position. Without a strong core and uncluttered ballet exercises to build more strength, both adagio and grand allegro will be clumsy or result in injury.
A clean and accurate ballet technique benefits greatly from a student learning the basics of anatomy in regards to turnout, foot structure, the spine, and large muscle groups. The all too common knee injuries and sprained ankles can be prevented with understanding what is at stake when a dancer forces turnout, for example, or goes onto pointe too soon.
Dance students who are not ideally flexible, long and lean, or highly arched in their foot structure can still be strong. Holding the turnout you have means you can move and jump safely. Having strong extension positions and a strong core can mean you will do a fabulous series of turns in second, arabesque or attitude. Strength is more important than height of leg, for these showy spins.
Understanding the finer details of the basics of classical ballet technique will allow you to build strength faster, without developing over worked muscles that gradually become too tense to maintain good muscle tone. Learning to train your brain to improve your ability to envision your dance moves, and stay in a positive frame of mind will give you an edge. Yet, you must know what is accurate in order to envision it for the best results.
Learning the tips and tricks of safe stretching, and proper muscle care and relaxation will result in a steady progress and optimum results.
Study, in particular, the pre-pointe routines, including proper self-assessment, and well-paced home practice. Whether you are a would-be ballerina or are among the men in ballet, pre-pointe regimens benefit balance, foot strength, and lead to virtuoso professional footwork. Men and boys in pointe shoes is not a freak phenomenon, it's wise study, and more and more dance teachers allow the males to join basic barre work on pointe.
Pointe work should always be supervised. Problems with pointe work usually need to be corrected off pointe first. General technical weaknesses can be improved throughout class work, and then work on pointe will be accurate and can be done without a struggle.
If you would like to improve your ballet dancing beyond your local training, all the information you need is readily available. Give yourself some quiet time to study and learn some self-assessment tests to isolate your weaker areas. The basics of ballet training are well explained and are in your reach, even if you are far away from a professional ballet school.
I think that beginning students should probably avoid practicing by themselves. It is easy to pick up bad habits and make mistakes that can be harmful to the body. Better to work on strengthening exercises--you can ask your teacher for some to do at home.
The suggestions above are definitely great for students with some prior training.
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