How To Improve Ballet Technique

how to improve ballet technique

How to improve ballet technique and having perfect Ballet Technique is a quest that all dancers are aiming for, as without good technique, your ballet dancing won’t look like it should.

In this blog post, I will explain what ballet technique is and will explain how to improve ballet technique.

What Is Ballet Technique

how to improve ballet techniqueYou can always spot a ballet dancer, no matter where they are or were trained.  They are the ones with the beautiful muscles, regal posture and turned out legs.  Most dancers cannot help turning out their feet as they walk down the street, and they have a distinctive ‘duck footed stance’ that sets them apart from non dancers.

Technique in ballet is learned from an early age and worked on consistently in every class, as it takes years to perfect.

Ballet technique is made up of these three simple elements:

  • Turnout
  • Alignment or Placement
  • Lift or Pull-Up

You need to work on and perfect all three of these elements within your ballet dancing if you want to improve your ballet technique.  You learn these fundamentals right from your first ballet lesson, and your body eventually absorbs them so completely that they often stay with you forever.

How To Improve Ballet Technique

Alignment

Start with your feet in ballet first and work your way up with this checklist:

  • Are all ten toes on the floor?
  • Is your weight evenly distributed on both sides of your feet?
  • Ankles should be straight and not rolling in or out.
  • Are your knees facing the same way as your toes?
  • Are your legs turned out at your hip?  Remember to keep your knees straight.
  • Are your hips in line with the center of your feet?
  • Make sure that your pelvis is not tucked to much underneath.  The Coccyx should be facing downwards to the floor.
  • Make sure your torso is slightly forward so that your armpits align with your hips.
  • Are your shoulders open and your shoulder blades gently pulled down your back to support your arms?
  • Make sure your rib cage is not sticking out.
  • Is your belly button held?
  • Is the back of your neck long and relaxed?
  • Your chin should neither jut forwards, nor tuck in.
  • Are both sides of your body even?

    how to improve ballet technique
    Bad Posture!

Lift

To move with speed and precision, you must be pulled up or have lift of the entire body.  Think of engaging and lifting the muscles of your feet, legs and torso, rather than clenching them.  Lift shouldn’t be rigid and shouldn’t restrict you vertically.  Your body will still bend and flow, and your feet will make good contact with the floor as you feel your body growing tall, like a tree that has its roots planted into the ground and the branches and trunk reach up into the heavens.

Pull-up lifts you up and forwards, as ballet requires forward momentum in the centre most of the time.  When standing still you need to prepare your body by pushing forward with the muscles on the backs of your legs and putting more weight on the balls of your feet than on your heels.

When working or standing on one leg, think of making the supporting side of the body long and tall.  Don’t allow yourself to sink into your supporting hip.

Lift is hard work when done properly.

Turnout

Ballet dancers have, since the beginning of ballet, always been turned out, as this enables the dancer to move easily from side to side, jump and travel without ever needing to turn away from the audience.  Turnout just makes ballet look a whole lot better.

When the dancer raises her leg out to the side, the turnout enables her to do so without displacing her hips and torso.  If she lifted her leg out to the side without turnout, the hips will become uneven and the alignment is lost.  Everything done in ballet is helped by turnout.

Proper turnout starts deep in the hip socket and continues all the way down the leg to the knee, ankle and the foot.  The entire leg rotates outwards lead by the inner thigh muscles.  Most of us have to work with what turnout we have, as very few dancers have 180 degree turnout.  Turnout must be carefully worked and coaxed with gentle stretches.  Never work from overly turned-out positions, as this can cause injuries over time.  Knees must stay directly over the toes at all times and not roll forward, especially when the dancer plies.

Turnout Tips:

  • Don’t let the pelvis tuck underneath you in an effort to turn the feet out more.
  • Make sure both legs are turned out equally.
  • Rotate from the hips and avoid clenching the buttocks too hard.
  • Don’t force your feet to turnout more than you are comfortable with.

I trust these points have helped you on how to improve ballet technique.  If you have any questions, please leave your comments below.

perfect ballet technique

 

 

Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett

pilates for ballet

Doing Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett is an excellent idea, as the benefits for dancers are wonderful and beneficial.  Pilates lengthens, strengthens and tones the entire body, and that is why it is so good for ballet dancers.

Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett

Is Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett For Ballet Dancers Only?

Pilates is excellent for ballet dancers, but the best thing about Pilates is that it is beneficial for everybody, dancers, and non-dancers alike.

Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett or any Pilates helps you to condition your body without punishing your body. As you get older you will find that this is a very important aspect of your exercise training.

Pilates is a series of exercises that places intense concentration on your abdominal and core muscles, particularly the deepest layers of muscles in the abdominal.  Not only do you get a beautiful flat tummy, but having strong abdominal muscles will improve your balance and coordination, as well as help you to perform other exercises properly and with ease.

In addition to the abs, Pilates helps to strengthen the entire body , thus helping you to stand taller.  The aim is to develop lean, long and toned muscles similar to that of a dancer.  Imbalances in the body are corrected, which, will in the long run, help your back to stay strong and healthy. The saying goes ‘you are only as old as your spine‘.

Anybody can benefit from Pilates, no matter what your fitness level or health condition is.  Whether you are overweight, have bad knees or are just super unfit, there is a Pilates exercise program for you.

How Did Pilates Come About?

Pilates was invented by Joseph H Pilates, who was a gymnast.  He invented the program more than 80 years ago, but it as only become really popular in recent years.

Joseph Pilates intended Pilates originally to help rehabilitate bed-bound patients during World War 1, as he worked in a hospital in England as a nurse during that time.  Pilates helped patients to regain their strength.  Springs were attached to their mattresses for them to pull and push against for resistance.

Eventually, after the war injured dancers would come to him for rehabilitation, and he put them through their paces on a machine that he called the Reformer.  Did you know that Martha Graham and George Balanchine, both renowned teachers, and choreographers, were among his first clients?

Because Pilates wanted to help as many people as he could, during the 1960’s he developed a series of exercises that could be performed on mats without any machines and accomplish the same benefits.  We still do those exercises in Pilates classes around the world today.

My Personal Experience With Pilates

When I first began with Pilates about 3 years ago, I found it to be torturous.   I realised just how weak my core muscles were, even though I thought I was pretty fit at the time.  It took a few weeks to get into it, going twice a week, but I found myself being able to do exercises that I could not previously do as my strength improved.  I actually started to miss it if a class was cancelled.

Pilates also makes you think about what you are doing with your body throughout the day and helps you better utilise it without causing injury.

 

Here are two great resources to add to your Pilates collection, especially if you are not going to Pilates classes:Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett

Ballet Pilates Ellen Barrett

The grace of a ballerina and the strength of an athlete is the essence of Ballet Pilates.
Ballet Pilates

Click on the link above if you would like to reserve your copy.

By integrating beauty principles with fitness philosophy, Ellen Barrett has created a program that is both functional and gratifying.

This 50-minute routine requires no equipment.

It begins with 25 minutes of fundamental ballet training followed by 25 minutes of mat pilates work.

Ballet Pilates by Ellen Barrett is a great addition to any dancer’s collection.

Body Weight Pilates

Here is another Pilates program that you can buy online, and it is quite popular.  It is also known as the 45 Day Pilates Meltdown and if you follow the daily exercises you can’t go wrong.  Click on the link below to read the review.
Click Here!

Please feel free to leave any comments you may have about your experiences with Pilates.  Ballet dancers, you are also free to comment on your experiences with Ballet Pilates.

 

What Are The Best Shoes For Mortons Neuroma

what are the best shoes for mortons neuroma

What Is Morton’s Neuroma And How Is It Caused?

Morton’s Neuroma, Morton’s Metatarsalgia or Interdigital Neuroma are all the same foot ailment, which was named after Dr. Morton who first described this condition in 1876. Down below I have placed some links below to what are the best shoes for Mortons Neuroma and for convenience you can purchase these online.

It is not known what exactly causes Morton’s Neuroma, but it is a condition that affects one of the nerves that run between the long bones (metatarsals) in the foot.  Some doctors say it is caused as a result of long-standing (chronic) stress and irritation of a plantar digital nerve.

Morton’s Neuroma is not the most comfortable foot condition to have, especially for dancers, as symptoms include pain, burning, numbness, and tingling between two of the toes of the foot which are affected.

Because the space between the second and third Metatarsal and the third and fourth metatarsal is narrower in the foot, these nerves are more likely to be irritated and compressed, especially when wearing narrow shoes.  Dancers must be extremely careful that the pointe shoes they wear are not too narrow.

Most of the time Morton’s Neuroma can be controlled by changing or modifying your shoes (not always possible for dancers).  In more chronic and long-standing cases, surgery is the only option.

More women than men seem to suffer from this condition, and it is probably due to the fact that they wear high heels, and of course, ballet dancers wear pointe shoes which doesn’t help matters much. The pain is normally relieved by taking the shoes off and massaging the affected area.  Stretching the calf muscles can also help to relieve the tension in the foot.  Here are some products that will help to alleviate foot pain associated with Morton’s Neuroma.

Foot orthotic Insoles with Arch Support for Relief of Heel Pain, Plantar Fasciitis & Mortons Neuroma (Many Sizes Available) (XL – Men US 11-13, Women US 12.5-14)h

  • FOOT PAIN RELIEF- orthotic insoles for treatment of Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Pain, Morton’s Neuroma,  and Bunions.
  • ARCH SUPPORT- Full-length orthopedic insoles contour the Arch to support Flat Feet and Over Pronation.
  • CUSHIONING- Quality EVA foam with extra Cushion under heel and ball of the foot. Soft yet really supportive.
  • FOOTWEAR- Can be used by Men or Women in Runners or other Shoes. 5 SIZES- can be trimmed if needed.
  • 100% GUARANTEE- If you’re not completely satisfied with our Foot Orthotic Inserts you will be refunded.

what are the best shoes for mortons neuromaNeuroma Pads

These are used for interdigital Morton’s Neuroma and work by spreading the bones at the base of the toes that are pinching nerves.

Metatarsal Sleeve, Women’s 7-12/Men’s 6-11

what are the best shoes for mortons neuromaThis is a soft elastic sleeve that fits over your foot comfortably.  It has an extra soft gel pad which enhances cushioning and eases the pain.  The toe loop maintains proper positioning and prevents slipping.

I don’t have Morton’s Neuroma, but I like to wear these inside my shoes when I stand a lot for extra cushioning.

LEAGY Toe Stretchers, Pain Relief Bunion, Plantar Fasciitis, Hallux Valgus, Perfect Quickly Alleviating Pain After Practicing Ballet, Dance, Yoga Sports Activities, Lifetime Foot Pain Relief (①)

what are the best shoes for mortons neuroma

  • Our Doctor Recommended Toe Stretchers to provide quick and effective foot pain relief
  • HYPO allergy and latex-free toe stretchers improve flexibility.  
  • Five toe stretcher lets you keep your favorite activity without stopping because of the pain and discomfort.
  • One size fits all.
  • Great for the following: hallux cystic swelling, hammertoes, MORTON ‘ s foot Acoustic Neuroma, overcrowding at planter Fasciitis pain or deformity of the toe.
  • Stretch and relax your tense and weary feet.  Results are guaranteed.
  • Complimentary free eBook is included about foot care.

What Are The Best Shoes For Mortons Neuroma?

what are the best shoes for mortons neuroma

Mortons Neuroma sufferers need comfortable shoes that are wider in the toe area. It may also be a good idea when it comes to what are the best shoes for Mortons Neuroma to wear a shoe that the heel is set lower than the toes to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot.

These are some that you can buy online that are super comfortable and have space for your toes to spread. These are some of the best shoes when it comes to what are the best shoes for Mortons Neuroma that I have found online.  If you are interested in finding out more, simply click on the blue link or the picture.

OESH Women’s La Vida v2.0 Shoe Charcoal 8

These are so comfy, you will not want to take them off.

  • Designed for women, by a woman scientist-engineer with a Harvard MD
  • Wide, spacious forefoot allows natural foot movement to maximize strength and health.
  • Entirely based on medical-science, the La Vida offers a different approach to plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, knee pain & knee osteoarthritis, metatarsalgia, and other lower extremity medical conditions
  • Patented and proprietary OESH® Sole responds to body weight/instant of physiological vulnerability
  • Perfectly flat interior easily accommodates orthotics and all foot types.

Oasis Men’s Jimmie Walking Shoes,White,11 M US
what are the best shoes for mortons neuroma

  • Leather
  • Rubber sole
  • Rubber outsole with Foot Cradle Technology to provide stability and supports your heel in a neutral position to encourage a proper walking gait; Reinforced toe box protects toes without a bulky look.
  • Trek-Dry vamp lining has natural antimicrobial properties and ceramic fiber that disperses moisture for a dry, healthy foot environment.
  • Natural Skintex lining treatment, with antibacterial silver ions, helps keep skin smooth and soft; Nylon composite shank adds stability.

Telic Unisex VOTED BEST COMFORT SHOE Arch Support Recovery Flipflop Sandal BONUS Pumice Stone $49 Value,Midnight Black,12 B(M) US Women / 11 B(M) US Men (XL-Large)

  • Made of Leather and manufactured in the USA.
  • Synthetic sole and 100% Novalon.
  • WORK HARD – RECOVER SOFT. Often worn as a Recovery Shoe after sports, walking, running, golf, and other forms of exercise. Worn by and endorsed by golf and sports celebrities, movie stars, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, and podiatrists worldwide.
  • A great recovery shoe for Mortons Neuroma and Plantar Faciatis.

Z-CoiL Women’s Z-Breeze Slip Resistant Black Leather Sandal 7 C/D USwhat are the best shoes for mortons neuroma

A highly unusual shoe, but this style is becoming popular in the workout field.

  • Leather with a rubber sole.
  • If you are still wondering what are the best shoes for Mortons Neuroma, this one, although odd works a treat.
  • Genuine full grain soft leather accommodates every curve of the foot.
  • Easy slip-on style with hook and loop closure ensures easy on/off and a great fit.
  • Forefoot EVA cushioning cushions the ball of the foot and toes, which is a bonus if you are on your feet all day.
  • Built-in Z-Orthotic protects plantar ligaments
  • Wide toe box prevents toe irritation, which is perfect if you suffer from Morton’s Neuroma.

Hope you find in this post entitled ‘what are the best shoes for Mortons Neuroma’ something that will help you. Please comment below and let me know if you have found something better.

For more reading on foot problems, click here.

Ballet Dancing Feet – Types and Shapes of Feet

ballet dancing feet

ballet dancing feet
As dancers it is a good idea to know about the neuropathy of feet and the different types and shapes of feet. Unfortunately very few of us have perfect ballet dancing feet, but we can strengthen and work towards the ideal.

The foot is very intricate indeed and your two feet have one forth of all the bones in your entire body.  The human foot alone has 20 muscles, 3 arches, 26 bones, 24 ligaments, 33 joints and around 7 800 nerves.  The force of the body weight taken on by feet is about 1½ times during walking and up to 3-4 times during running. Add in 10,000 steps during a typical day while wearing ill-fitted shoes possibly, and it’s a wonder that those poor feet are still working so hard for you.

If you have any sort of foot pain, you would do well to learn a bit more about the workings of your foot and the different types and shapes of feet.

ballet dancing feet

Types and Shapes of Ballet Dancing Feet

1.  Giselle or Peasant Foot Type

This foot type has three short, stubby toes that are almost the same length.  This type of foot is ideal for dancers and especially ballet dancers, as it is usually strong and perfect for balance en pointe.

2.   Flat Foot Type

This type of foot is strong and functions normally in most cases, but it is not a pretty foot for dancing purposes.  The arches tend to drop inwards and calluses often develop on the side of the big toe.  Also the fallen arches usually create problems for a dancer as the whole alignment of the body is affected.  People with these types of feet usually suffer with knee, hip and back pain, as well as metatarsal stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

3.  Greek or Morton’s Foot

ballet dancing feet
Greek Foot

The Greek foot has a gap between the big toe and the second toe, making it an easy foot type to identify. The second toe is also normally longer than all the other toes.  Unfortunately this foot is quite unstable, and people with this foot type suffer with quite a few foot ailments.  Some of them include calluses, bunions, plantar fascitis, Morton’s neuroma and stress fractures.

4.  Egyptian Foot

Egyptian feet are narrow with a longer big toe.  The rest of the toes taper down from longest to shortest. This type of foot gives the least problems and is the ideal foot type to own.

5.  Simian Foot

In this type of foot, the big toe leans towards the little toe.  With this type of foot is is easier to get bunions, so try to avoid wearing pointed and narrow shoes.  Ladies with Simian foot, will find high heels quite painful.

6.  Rothbarts Foot

The Rothbarts foot is a genetic and abnormal type of foot.  You know you have it if you put your foot on the ground in a neutral position, and your big toe and second toe cannot lie flat.  This type of foot leads to bad posture.

Everyone should know what type and shape of foot they are, just as they know what blood type they are.  Then you will be more aware of what types of problems can occur and why.  For instance, if your knees hurt, it may stem from the way you are holding your feet, and nothing actually being wrong with your knees.

Trusting that this article on types and shapes of ballet dancing feet has helped somebody.  Please feel free to comment below.

 

Plank Exercises For Core Strength

plank exercises for core strength

Although it may seem simple, nothing beats plank exercises for core strength.  As it is very important for dancers to have core strength, this site wouldn’t be complete without some articles relating to the core strength that dancers need.
plank exercises for core strength

Here are some great variations of the simple plank exercise that can get your core fit and strong.  Firstly let us discuss the correct way in which to do a plank, as it is essential to master the basic plank before moving on to the more advanced variations.  The plank exercises can only be effective if the correct form is maintained.

How To Do Plank Exercises For Core Strength

plank exercises for core strength

The correct form for a plank is to maintain a neutral spine.  If you don’t know what that is, it is the natural curve of the back when you are standing in the correct posture.

Make sure not to over-arch the back.  Shoulder blades should be pulled down your back and you should hold yourself off of your arms and not sink into them.  There should be a line from the top of your head to your heel.  The head shouldn’t drop forward.  The heels can pull downwards to get an extra stretch in the calf muscle.  Tummy muscles must be well held in order to protect your lower back.

The picture on the left is the basic plank with the arms stretched.  Once you can hold this position for a minute or more, it is time to move into the advanced plank, pictured on the right.

plank exercises for core strength

The more advanced plank is exactly the same as the one above, but propped on your forearms, elbows in line with your shoulders, and your toes planted firmly into the floor.

The most common problem seen in planks is a sinking lower back, but the second-most common problem is an arched back with the hips in the air. This is the type of “plank” usually favored by people who say a plank is “too easy.”

Once you have mastered the basic plank you can try to up the difficulty levels a bit.  Keeping the same form try to lift alternate legs and then arms.

When you feel solid on three points of contact, cut back to two: one arm and one leg. If you can hold this for 60-90 seconds with good technique, pat yourself on the back and move on to more advanced versions.

Another modification is to push your arms out in front of you slightly during the hold. The change of leverage from having your arms farther away from your center makes this movement much more awkward and difficult. Go slowly with this one.

Work those stabilizer muscles even more by adding some dynamic movement into your plank.  You could put your feet or hands on paper plates and move them in and out.  You could lift one leg at the back and bring it into your chest and stretch it out behind you a couple of times on each leg.  You could take one foot off the floor and pulse into the heel of the other foot a few times.

Make sure that whatever variations that you are doing, you are holding those tummy muscles firmly in place and controlling your every movement.

plank exercises for core strength

Another variation of the plank is the side plank.  You can do this by placing your weight on one elbow and ensuring that one hip is over the other.  Make sure to lift well off your arm and out of your shoulder.  This is excellent for working those obliques.

Download a free Plank Exercise App by clicking on the picture to the right.

Plank Exercises With Accessories

Other variations of the plank include doing them on a Bosu Ball.  Place your hands quite close together on the Bosu to challenge your core even more as you now need to balance.  Now place your feet on the ball and hold that pose.

You could do the same thing using a foam roller.  You could even do with your elbows on a Pilates ball – now that is a balance challenge in itself.

Need To Know More About Plank Exercises For Core Strength?

For more great plank exercises for core strength variations, you can try the book below:

Ultimate Plank Fitness: For a Strong Core, Killer Abs – and a Killer Body

plank exercises for core strengthA safe, challenging, and effective method of core conditioning, plank exercises for core strength are one of the best ways to get fit and toned. Variations of planks are used across many fitness domains including traditional group exercise, personal training, home workouts, yoga, pilates, barre, CrossFit and more. Not only are planks perfect for crafting six-pack abs, they also target shoulders, pectorals, biceps, triceps, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. They increase the heart rate, offer calorie-busting cardio exercise, and create healthy muscle tone.

Ultimate Plank Fitness features 100 different variations of planks that can be used to customize your workout. Easily increase the difficulty of your core strengthening exercises by adding stability balls, gliders, and weights. Each exercise includes a step-by-step photo demonstration, points of performance, where to engage, along with common faults to detect ways to improve your fitness. Finally, CrossFit coach, personal trainer, and fitness instructor, Jennifer DeCurtins provides you with ten 5-minute workouts incorporating several planks that you can use to target trouble areas and build strength.

With countless variations of the exercise, ranging from traditional planks to side plank variations and planks using external weights or unstable surfaces, your entire workout can be programmed around the plank! Work your way to a healthy core with Ultimate Plank Fitness.

Ballet Dance Moves

ballet barre exercises

Ballet is a wonderful art that allows you to express yourself through movement.  Here are some ballet dance moves for you to try for yourself.

First, you will need to get acquainted with the basic arm positions and the basic foot positions.  These two links will take you through some basic ballet moves and positions.  These positions are the basis for all your ballet steps and you will always start and end a step with one of the positions of the feet.

You should practice your ballet positions daily with the help of a bar to aid you with your balance.  Imagine that the bar is your partner in dancing.  Rest your fingers lightly on the top and try not to press to hard.  You should get used to balancing on your own without the aid of the bar.

ballet dance moves
Fingers should rest ontop of the bar. Do not grip as in the picture.

Before you move into the center, you need to make sure that your body is thoroughly warmed up.  Barre work should include plies (knee bends), tendus (pointing the feet by sliding them along the floor), ronde jambe (circling the foot on the floor, working the turnout in your hips) and some grande battements (swishing the leg as high as you can to the front, side and back and lowering with control).

If you do the above bar exercises with control and thought, you will be slowly training the muscles in your body to work in the correct way and creating the muscle memory required to do ballet.

Once you get into the centre, there are many interesting ballet dance moves that you can work on.

Here is just a taste of some of the simpler ones to try.

Ballet Dance Moves

Pettis Jetes or Jetes Ordinaire

Click here to see a good example of a Jete.

The thing to practice here is making sure that the whole foot goes through the floor on the swish and on the landing the back leg is placed with the big toe behind the ankle.  The knees face outwards and when you land the supporting foot is flat.

Glissades

The various different ballet societies have slightly different ways to perform glissades.  The RAD keep the toes in contact with the floor at all times.  Other societies prefer a small jump with the toes momentarily leaving the floor.  The action is basically the same with the body well lifted, especially at the height of the glissade.  Make sure to point both feet – the one extending out and the one coming in to close.

Pas de Chat

This is also known as the step of a cat.  It is a fun step to try and you can watch a very entertaining video below.

Grande Jete

This is one of the most popular ballet steps.  It is basically a leap where the dancer attempts to do a split in the air.


Trust that you enjoy trying out these ballet dance moves.  Remember it is always best to go for formal ballet lessons so that you don’t develop any bad habits.  You will need an expert eye to ensure your posture and form is correct.

To learn more about ballet dance moves, you can purchase The Ballet Bible.  This is an excellent resource and library of all the ballet steps with instructions on how to do all the steps.  This series will greatly compliment your existing ballet lessons.  Click here to read my review.

 

 

Nutcracker Ballet Story – Synopsis

the nutcracker ballet story

the nutcracker ballet storyThe Nutcracker Ballet Story is a well known one, and many ballet companies around the world like to perform this ballet during the Christmas Season.

Most famous is of course, Tchaikovsky’s music which is recognised world wide.  When the Nutcracker was first performed as a ballet, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on the 18th of December 1892, it wasn’t a success, apart from the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet.  There was a lot of criticism, especially about the battle scene, which was said to look confusing and unrehearsed.

It was staged again years later with the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy danced by Clara and the Nutcracker, with Clara played by an adult instead of a child, and is still sometimes performed in this way by some companies.

However since the 1960’s The Nutcracker ballet story has enjoyed enormous popularity from audiences worldwide.  In fact, some ballet companies generate up to 40% of their annual revenue from ticket sales for the Nutcracker during the Christmas Season.

Nutcracker Ballet Story Synopsis

Act I

Scene 1: The Stahlbaum Home

Family and friends have gathered together to decorate a beautiful Christmas tree  at the Stahlbaum Family home, in preparation for a Xmas party.  Once the tree is done, the children are sent for.  They arrive and stand in awe of the tree sparkling with candles and decorations.

The party grows festive with music and dance as godfather Drosselmeyer arrives.  He is a skilled clock and toy maker and always full of surprises. Drosselmeyer draws everyone’s attention as he presents two life-size dolls.  They are the delight of the party, each one taking a turn to dance.

The children begin to open their gifts.  Drosselmeyer presents his gifts to Clara and Fritz.  Although his gift to Fritz is great, he gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that  becomes the hit of the party.  Fritz becomes jealous and, having a bit more spunk than a boy should have, grabs the nutcracker from Clara and it accidentally breaks.  Clara is heartbroken but looks on as Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air.

As the evening grows late, the guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening.  Clara, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him and falls asleep with the little toy in her arms.

Suddenly, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow to dizzying heights. The nutcracker also grows to life-size.  Clara awakes and finds herself in the middle of a battle between an army of soldiers and the mice, led by the Rat King.

The Nutcracker and his army eventually can go on fighting no longer and they are captured by the mice and their King.  Clara makes a final daring decision and throws her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head.  The Mouse King drops to the floor.  The mice leave, carrying off their leader’s lifeless body.

Scene 2: A Pine Forest

The Land of Snow

The nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince.  The Nutcracker  takes Clara on an exciting journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland  where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes, who beckon them on to his kingdom as the first act ends.Nutcracker ballet story

Act II

Scene 1: The Land of Sweets

The Prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances.

In honor of the young heroine, a celebration of sweets from around the world is produced: chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, and tea from China all dance for their amusement; candy canes from Russia; Danish shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her children, the Polichinelles, emerge from under her enormous hoop skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a dance.

A final waltz is performed by all the sweets, after which the Sugar Plum Fairy ushers Clara and the Prince down from their throne. He bows to her, she kisses Clara goodbye and leads them to a reindeer-drawn sleigh. It takes off as they wave goodbye to all the subjects who wave back.

In other versions of The Nutcracker, the dances run as follows:

  • The Spanish Dance
  • The Arabian Dance
  • The Russian Dance
  • The Chinese Dance
  • The Mirliton Dance
  • The Waltz of Flowers

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas De Deux.

The Dream Ends

Clara awakens from her dream and finds herself by her Christmas tree with her beloved Nutcracker.

For some interesting Nutcracker Gift Ideas, Click Here.

Hope you have enjoyed the Nutcracker Ballet Story…

Men In Ballet – Should I Let My Son Dance?

should I let my son dance

The public often see male dancers and men in ballet, and think nothing of it, but for some reason there is a stigma attached to men in ballet.  Maybe it is not seen as manly for a man to be seen doing ballet, and most fathers would rather have their sons on the rugby fields than in a dance studio, but here are some answers to the question ‘should I let my son dance?’

should I let my son danceOverall men in ballet have real advantages.  They can start a lot later than the girls and continue with their careers a lot longer.  Because there are far less male dancers, they find it much easier to gain scholarships to study dance and even jobs later on.

Dance companies world wide are always looking for male dancers, so if they shine at dance, they will have loads of opportunities.

Once men retire from performing, they more often than not get into offstage positions with great prestige, for example directors, choreographers or give classes at a dance company.

To develop a male ballet dancer, or any type of dancer for that matter, it takes a tremendous amount of athleticism and strength.  For that reason there are a few differences in the training of men and women.  A male dancer is taller and heavier than a female and has less flexibility in the spine.  He has narrower hips and all of these attributes affect his placement.  For a boy, flexibility and turnout are harder to achieve than for a girl, and he also needs to work a lot harder in general on his coordination.

Men in ballet need to become solid partners, so he has to develop his upper body strength a lot more than a woman.  Male dancers are also expected to turn better than women and jump a lot higher.  It is always best if possible to have a separate class for your boys as they get older, so that they can concentrate more on these things, while the girls concentrate more on their pointe work.

Men need to look a lot different to the women when dancing – broader movements, weightier look and strong – as opposed to the women who look more waif like and delicate.

Should I Let My Son Dance?should I let my son dance

If you son expresses an interest in dance, there is no reason you should try to deter him.  Let him try a few classes first and see for himself.  For one the ballet will definitely help with your sons rugby.  In fact a lot of the national teams have weekly ballet classes for strength and coordination.    The strength and flexibility they gain from their dance classes also help them to recover from injuries a lot faster.

Remember that ballet is not the only type of dance form.  There is also hip hop and jazz, which is becoming increasingly popular with boys at the moment.

If you are worried about the teasing at school, don’t.  It doesn’t last long, especially when as teenagers they become the envy of their friends as they get all the beautiful girls to dance with.

I am not fortunate enough to have a son, but if I did, I would totally encourage him to take lessons if he enjoyed it, as it will go far in building not only self discipline, character and determination, but also strength and flexibility which also helps with most sports. So should I let my son dance – of course!

 

 

Learning From Teaching – Ten Important Points

Learning from Teaching

They say in life that you never stop learning, and this blog post is what I am Learning from Teaching.

I have always enjoyed teaching others.  When I was small we would play school school and I would make sure that I was always thelearning from teaching teacher.

I have tried my hand in the past to teach my school friends to horse ride (even though I wasn’t that great myself), to roller skate and to knit.  Now I teach dancing and even help the technically challenged with their computer work on occasion.

What I have Been Learning from Teaching

In this blog post, I would like to tell you the most important lessons that I have been learning from teaching dancing for the past two decades.

1.  Patience

Yep teaching dancing gives you oodles of patience.  Some people work faster than others and you need to be able to slow yourself down so that even the child that battles to grasp onto stuff can learn.  But the biggest lesson in patience has been with the naughtier children.  Believe me screaming at them doesn’t help.  I have learned it is far more beneficial to draw a deep breath and divert their attention elsewhere.

2.   Time Delegation

As a dance teacher you need to stick to your class times and fit loads into a day.  I have learned that I need to get things done now rather than leave it for later.  I can’t afford to waste a minute, as believe me there is always something to catch up on.

3.  Confidence

I was always a very shy child, but when you teach dance, you can’t afford to be shy, you need to get out there and act silly with the kids, and be able to communicate to large groups of kids and parents at the same time.  My inner shyness is still there, but I have learned to cover it well.

4.  Learning all About What It Takes To Run A Successful Businesslearning from teaching

This one took some time to adjust to as it is not the most fun part of running a dance school.  I thought it was just about teaching and first, but there is more admin than you want to know about happening in the background.  There is always choreography, ideas and music to find, books to do, accounts administration and communications.  Believe me, if you don’t keep on top of it, you can quickly drown in paperwork.

5.  Learning to Say No

This one is still a difficult one for me, and I still find it very difficult to say no.  But as a business owner you have to learn to do this, otherwise you are swamped with requests that you can’t possibly meet, and the stress levels are just not worth it.  Being too accessible and kind-hearted just doesn’t work in this field.

6.  Team WorkLearning from Teaching

Learning that you can’t do everything on your own is a big eye opener.  Now the studio has three teachers, and life is a lot simpler.  When it comes to putting on shows and exam days, each teacher has a role to play that makes the work load less for the others, and working as a team you get a lot more done in far less time.

The pupils also benefit from having different teachers teaching them, as every teacher has something unique to offer.

7. Getting Comfortable being Uncomfortable 

Running a dance studio is not for the faint of heart or for those who don’t love a challenge 24/7. None of us really know what tomorrow will bring, use the thrill of uncertainty to fuel your creativity rather than drain it.

8. Budgeting

This is a big one.  As a dance studio owner or even a business owner, your salary will be different every month.  Some months are tighter than others and you need to make sure that you can meet all your commitments and also save for a rainy day.  I have learned the hard way in the past, so I try to always put something aside for a rainy day, as you just never know.

9. Use Your Strengths to your Advantage

This doesn’t mean don’t work on your weaknesses, but make sure people know what you are good at and where you shine.

10.  Learning Not To Take Things Personally

People come and people go.  You will say good bye and hello a lot in this career choice, and it’s just a fact of life.  Some people will love you and some not, and this is ok because everyone is different.

learning from teaching

The Discipline of Hope chronicles veteran educator Herb Kohl’s love affair with teaching and what he was learning from teaching since his first encounter over forty years ago, chronicled in his now-classic 36 Children.

Beginning with his years in New York public schools and continuing throughout his four decades of working with students from kindergarten through college across the country, Kohl has been an ardent advocate of the notion that every student can learn and every teacher must find creative ways to facilitate that learning. In The Discipline of Hope, he distills the major lessons of an attentive lifetime in the classroom.

Pre Ballet Lesson Plans – Snow Mountain Adventure

pre ballet lesson plans

I use pre ballet lesson plans for my baby classes, and this is of one of my favorites.  The children often ask to do this story.  It is designed more for older children of about 5 years, but it can be simplified for 3 and 4-year-olds.  Children love stories, and this is a great way for them to learn ballet steps, but while acting out a story.

Pre Ballet Lesson Plans

I have various pre ballet lesson plans that I use to teach my tiny tots. I have the music labeled with the story on my iPod for ease of use, and to remind me of the different stories. It helps to have your music organized in order so you don’t waste time jumping around, thus losing the focus of the children.

Snow Mountain Adventure 

pre ballet lesson plans

We start our adventure by getting dressed warmly to go up into the freezing mountains.  We even have a song that we sing while we are putting on our hat, scarf, and boots.

Next, we climb into our car, which we do by putting our legs in front of us bent , with a straight back.  We drive on a dirt road, so we bounce up and down, lean back (to work the tummy) as we go uphill, and forward as we come down.  We also lean to the side when we turn corners and try not to fall out of the car.

We look into the glove compartment and get our airplane tickets so that we can fly up the magic mountain.

We then climb into the airplane and fly to the top of the magic mountain.  I usually take the best behaved child so far  that day, and make her the pilot, and the others follow the leader.  They run on the tips of their toes with their arms out to the side. Tell them not to “bend their wings’ or the plane will crash.

We land the plane nicely by spinning on our toes and ending with our feet together.

When we get out of the plane at the top of the mountain, we have to walk in very deep snow up to our waists, so we have to lift our knees really high. This is a good way to practice for marches or skips.

We then come across a frozen lake.  We decide before we go ice skating, we will walk across on our bottoms to see if the ice is thick enough to hold our weight.  Let the children sit with their legs out straight in front of them and walk both forwards and backwards without touching the ice with their fingers.

This exercise is excellent for developing their stomach muscles and core, but the older children will manage this far easier than the younger ones.

As the lake is hard enough, we put on our ice skates and go skating on the lake.  This teaches the children the basics of a chasse in ballet.  Sometimes we even twirl on one leg.

We then get to a forest, and I lay down bean bags, which represent trees, and we follow the leader and skip through the trees.

We come across some ponies tied to a tree and go for a pony ride.  Here we use skipping ropes around the ponies waists and the children take turns in being ponies and riders.  Some days we do pony gallops, some pony trots and other days just pony walks, depending on the ability of the children in the class.

We then run and leap over the river.  I use two skipping ropes laid out on the floor like railway tracks for this one.

We hear somebody calling for help, and discover a cave with a big rock blocking the entrance.  We try to push the rock, but it is too heavy.  Then we see a piece of paper sticking out the side which says “This is a magic rock.  In order to make it move you need to do the following:  Stand and balance on one leg, hop on one leg, sit down and stand up without using your hands on the floor.”

After doing what the paper says the rock moves away and all the fairies that were trapped inside the cave come flying out.  They thank the children for saving them and give them a set of wings as a gift.

The children then fly home with their new set of fairy wings.

I will from time to time be adding more pre ballet lesson plans to this blog. Please let me know how it goes if you use it in the class.