Some Ballet Tips from Me to You

Anastasia's Blog

How To Develop a Dancer’s Body – Part One

This post is an answer to my friend and student Jenny who asked me about advice on building a dancer’s body. What a great topic and I will develop this theme into a series of posts since there is so much to talk about! How can we really develop a dancer’s body? A lot of people think it’s all about diet and more physical activities. But sometimes after doing more and more classes we look in the mirror and see no real improvement. This is because we are overusing certain muscles! And by doing so, the muscles are bulking up and giving us extra inches that we definitely don’t want. So how do we go about avoiding muscle growth in the “wrong” places? In the last newsletter I was talking about how some students are tucking under to increase their turnout and how harmful it could be. This theme goes along with this newsletter, because the first place of concern for many students is their legs and hips. I am especially talking about the front and sides of the upper thighs. Let’s start in the first position in font of the mirror standing the way you normally stand – the way your body is in normal position. Now tuck your tail bone under – do you see how the legs in the front and on the side become kind of “puffed up”? Continue on by doing a plié. Do you feel the pressure on your thighs (quads) and knees? Now if you do that all the time in ballet class, imagine how much extra muscle you will build and not in... read more

How to Improve Your Turnout

After 30 years of experience, here is my take on how to improve your turnout I’ll be honest and upfront, it took me a long time to understand the turnout. At first, I thought I’d stretch and stretch and stretch and it did help the turnout, but not much. What I needed to know is how to HOLD my body to maximise the ultimate load on the muscles that are responsible for the turn out. And after this newsletter I hope you will know exactly what to do. I want to talk about how there are three places of turnout. First it’s the hips (upper turnout), then from the knee and then the lower turnout from the foot. Let’s start from the hips turn out. In the past, I thought to get a better hip opening I needed to tuck under my tail bone! Yes, your leg will turn out more, but everything else goes wrong! This is because now you are involving your body as well. This makes your thighs and your torso sort of “one piece” and deprives you of involving the sartorius and tensor fascia muscles (see picture below) which are crucial for freedom of movement, speed and pretty much every step in ballet. Tucking under will haunt you in pirouette, extension, slows down your movements and also hinders pointe work. The other reason why you should never tuck under is because you stop using your back muscles!!! And you need to keep these muscles strong and flexed the entire time. Try this right now: stand up and put your hand on your back muscles. Now... read more

How to Improve Your Ballet Jumps

Another week, another blog post! A few have asked about some pointers on jumps so let’s *jump* right into it… First – Plié!! To start a jump you need a really nice, deep plié. Of course we all know the importance of plié, but I think a lot of times we forget… Someone once said that in music there are notes and space between the notes and that space between the notes may be more important than the notes themselves. So plié is that space between the notes. And for dancers, it what helps us to be with the notes because you can control your plié (much more than you can control your balance on one foot en pointe!!!) and you can make it slow or fast. Especially when you are dancing with the live orchestra and the conductor may have had too much coffee or is eager to see the football game on TV, or he just gets tired all of a sudden when you are doing your fouetté turns! And you have to follow! So plié is the answer! Second is the actual way you are doing your plié. This is a very important technique to acquire. My teacher used to call it “down/ up” technique. When you are plieing you need to stretch your spine up, like you are pulling up and when you are straitening up and jumping you need to feel like you are pushing down towards the ground, sort of pulling your legs to the floor, even though you are jumping up in the air. So when you do plié pull UP and... read more

How to Get Your Leg up Higher in Develope

Today I want to talk about how to get your leg up higher in develope to the front and to the side. It’s not easy!  But, it’s possible.  And if you do what I share with you in this letter every day, you will see excellent results in about three to four weeks. I will tell you what I did to improve my develope and the five points that you should pay attention to. In the following newsletter I will share a detailed list of exercises you should do on the floor.  So without further ado….  First – Stretching, stretching, stretching! I used to do a 30 minute stretching routine every day with one in the morning and one at night.  It consisted of about 15 minutes of yoga exercises to warm up the body followed by some extreme stretching of the leg to the front, to the side, and to the back.  If you are doing ballet and haven’t tried yoga yet, I highly, highly recommend you at least take a beginner class once a week.  It will help you with your flexibility and posture.   In future newsletters I will provide a detailed list the stretching exercises, including the asanas.  Second – bring attention to your supporting foot. Is it strong enough? Check that when you are standing, your weight is mostly over your toes and you are ready to go up into releve at any time.  I call it ” jumpy feet” or “cat feet” or bouncy feet.  What I mean is your supporting foot should always be feeling that its pushing from the floor. Also make sure... read more

Stretching Exercises for Ballet

I am happy to say that we are off to a good start with this blog with new subscribers almost every day! Thank you for sharing my tips with your friends – I really appreciate it. While originally my idea was to keep this newsletter exclusive for former students and parents, with your efforts we now have subscribers from 14 different countries and I received many good questions from many of you – keep them coming! Looks like a sense of community is starting to emerge and I am truly excited to keep this letter going to help you all improve and succeed in the ballet world.Now on to the fun stuff..In the previous two newsletters about pirouettes and about lifting your leg higher in develope I promised to follow up with a list of exercises that helped me to get my leg higher for ballet class. Below you will find a fairly long list of videos I’ve collated from youtube which you should watch in order and then perform the stretches. Don’t be intimidated by the long list because the clips are fairly short.I always suggest to start very slowly especially in the mornings, because remember you need to do this list of exercises in the morning and in the evening. At night you don’t need to do such easy warm up asanas like I put in the beginning of my list, but you can do all of them before your ballet class. Again please do these in order for best results. Here are the links for you: #1   #2  #3  #4  #5  #6  #7  #8  After this exercise,... read more

The five common mistakes of pirouette en dehor…

Pirouettes are fun and also a reward for all the hard work you are already putting in at the barre.  Students always want to do many turns yet forget about the basic skills that have to be mastered first.  You can’t write before you learn the alphabet and you can’t do a pirouette before you excel in having a proper alignment in your positions, your plie, your balance in passe, perfect releve (locked knees and strong, non wobbly ankles), and of course straight hips throughout.  The following are the the most common mistakes of pirouette en dehor: First, your preparation position is key as many students don’t have a correct 4th position.  The correct 4th position is when you have the toe of the working leg exactly behind the heal of your front leg.  The body weight must be mostly over the front leg (supporting leg).  Lastly, students usually have their shoulders and hips not alined, not squared so the body looks twisted.  Keep this in mind – always align shoulders with hips. The second mistake is not “enough” plie on the front leg – we do need to bend two legs right before the pirouette, but remember that the weight of the body should be mostly on the front leg.  Due to the lack of elasticity in the achilles tendon and strength in lats (major back muscles that go along the spine) many students sometimes try lowering themselves to the ground by any means, such as sticking their hip out or bending their back or sticking the butt out, but what plie really means is bending the knee... read more