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 a desirable place (quads)! Since what we really all want is thinner thighs and hips we need to take off all that pressure from our quads and put it onto the sartorius muscle – again by not tucking under. Try it right now to understand what I mean.
Now let’s try this a different way, the proper way. Instead of tucking under, stand in your normal position, pull up from your rib cage, activate those muscles that go along your spine, make them strong and hard. Keep it all this way and do a plié and lift your leg to the front, without moving anything in your body. I bet now you could not lift your leg past 80 degrees. But that is the only way to do it!
Let’s try fifth position on releve. Instead of tucking under, again pull up from your rib cage, open your shoulders and activate your back muscles. Now squeeze your hips together, try to feel as narrow as you can, squeeze your butt muscles together as well. My teacher use to say “keep your body above your feet” or legs. Try to feel that your body is above your legs, somewhat like your lower body is a little tilted forward, but the shoulder pushed back to compensate for that little tilt. And now feel that the back of your legs are becoming longer. In other words instead of feeling flat and wide because by tucking under you are widening your hips and flattening your butt, you want to feel “narrow” in your hips and in your waist. By following this technique and approach your body will slowly take on the form that you are feeling – it will become narrower and you will stop growing those unwanted hip muscles.
In part two of this series I will talk about calves and how to make them leaner.
Again, if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them.
Live with passion,