How To Dance With Pointe Shoes – Tips For The Class Room

How to dance on pointe shoes

how to dance with pointe shoesHere is a post dedicated to the subject on how to dance with pointe shoes, as it is not as easy as ballerina’s make it look.

It is the dream of every little girl who does ballet to dance in pointe shoes.  In fact, all my pupils at some stage of their training ask me when they can buy their first pair of pointe shoes. Ballet is the only dance form that uses pointe shoes, although I have seen other dance forms lately attempting to adopt dancing on their toes for various shows or competitions.

Of course, the reality of dancing with pointe shoes is quite a different story and not a glamorous one at that.  There are blisters, ingrown toenails and varying degrees of pain to deal with. Learning to dance ‘en pointe’ is a long training process that takes years.

Pupils have to work slowly to develop the required strength in their feet and ankles before they start to do the complicated steps that they see the stars doing. There are no short cuts here, otherwise, you could be putting yourself in danger of getting permanent injuries.

Here is some practical advice for teachers and pupils who are learning the art of pointe work.

How To Dance With Pointe Shoes

How To Strengthen the Feet

If you want to know how to dance with pointe shoes, you must know that you won’t be able to do this properly until you have strong feet.

When doing your normal ballet class, make sure all your movements are with your feet using the floor.  There should be a feeling of pushing the floor away from you whenever you do a tendu. Your feet and the floor need to become good friends, and your feet need to use the floor with pressure in order to get strong enough over the years to master pointe work.

Here are a few more great ways to strengthen the feet:

  • While sitting curl foot into a c-shape to strengthen arch and hold for a while.
  • Walk while rising and lowing through the demi point, preferably working with no shoes.
  • Write the alphabet in cursive with your feet, one foot at a time.
  • While sitting push toes into the floor with pressure to arch feet (like pushing a towel underneath foot).  Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Scrunch up a towel with the feet.
  • Keep the heel on the floor in one spot and push the towel side to side with the toes.
  • Sit flat on knees to stretch the front of the foot.
  • Put the front of the foot against the wall with the foot flat and slowly stretch the knee and try to keep the top of the foot on the wall.
  • A good exercise to start with is standing parallel facing the bar.  Place foot on the calf and step up to 1st before lowering through the feet.  You can also do plies and rises then straighten legs turned in or out.
  • Do multiple rises and releves every week, on two feet and one foot.

Notes For Teachers

What Exercises Should I Start My Pupils  With En Pointe

When you dance in your pointe shoes for the first time, walk, run, and skip in the shoes first to get used to them.  They will feel totally different from the normal ballet slipper, and your foot will have to work a lot harder to make the shoes point and look good.

All pointe work should be done with the support of a barre or a partner, to begin with.  Gradually the student places less weight on the bar and more on his or her toes.

Many repetitions of rises and releves on two feet and then moving from two feet to one foot are required here. This is how to dance with pointe shoes in the beginning until your feet get stronger.

Be very careful of the overarched foot – the sole of the shoe must first be softened.  Make sure the knuckles of the toes don’t bend when standing on pointe.  The overarched foot will need more strengthening than the average foot in general.

Rolling feet in or out places strain on the ankles and knees, so insist on the student/dancer getting this right.

Here are some exercises for teachers to try with their pupils:

  • Stand parallel 1st on point and go from one foot to the other through demi point.  One foot goes down as the other goes up.  Both feet are ¾ point at the same time.
  • Facing bar, do battements tendus to each position and releve in each position.
  • Releve 5th and then retire devant 3 x, then retire passé to repeat on the other side.
  • Releve 5th and release back foot to do petit pas de bouree piques.
  • To teach courus do small foot changes on point.  Little courus on the spot with slightly relaxed knees.  Then go along bar facing it leading with the back foot.
  • Do walks up on toes.
  • Echappe to 2nd, not too wide and hold for 3 counts before closing to strengthen the feet.
  • Echappe to 4th and hold.  Make sure they stretch through the backs of knees.
  • Once they are stronger  you can bring them into the centre for echappes.

Once your pupils are more experienced try:

  • Rises through ¼, ½, ¾, and up in 1st, 2nd and 5th.  Show resistance in heels when going down.
  • Demi Plies and rises.
  • Tendu’s and Echappes.
  • Echappes and Detournes.
  • Releves two feet to one foot.
  • Pas de bourees Piques and Courus.
  • Courus on the spot with coupe over.
  • Up in 5th and move one leg at a time back, front, back and rest on point changing weight.
  • Walk along bar and back by bringing feet over, over, over and then under, under, under. (emboites)

Centre:

  • Releves devant and derriere with Echappes.
  • Walks with developes coming down through the feet.

Try to always work beyond your syllabus requirements. The process is slow and tedious, but this is how to dance with pointe shoes as you gradually get stronger and the idea is to make dancing on pointe look effortless.

How Do You Know If You Are Ready To Dance In Pointe Shoes?

Never start a beginner on pointe.  Even an adult should have a minimum of two years of dancing experience first.

The normal age varies between 11 and 14 years, although later is better.  Rather start later than earlier when learning how to dance with pointe shoes as the bodies must be mature and strong and growth in the foot must be settled. Never start pointe work before puberty.

The pupil should have even turnout, and be able to control the turnout from the hip.  She or he should have a good understanding of transfer of weight, and should be able to do releves and rises strongly on demi pointe.  The pupil should be able to rise and releve with ease on one foot.  Posture and balance must also be secure.

Other Pointe Shoe Problems

For the overarched foot, get them to sew a thick piece of elastic over the shoe for support until the feet have strengthened and the pupil has learned to support the feet.  Don’t allow them to go too far over as this will weaken the foot.

If one foot is bigger than the other, buy shoes for the bigger foot or buy 2 pairs.

A broken shoe means that muscles are weak and the student is not pulling up off the foot or she is sitting into the foot, thus putting undue pressure on the shoe and her feet.

Before starting point treat the feet with meths or camphrey or canyon herbal cream.  This helps to reduce the incidence of blisters.

If shoe twists off the heel then it is too big.

If the shoe is too small, the toes will be squashed. How to dance with pointe shoes

The heel should stay in the shoe on demi point and foot mustn’t slip in the shoe.

To fit a pointe shoe, stand in 2nd  and demi plie.  Relax foot and spread toes, as this stretches foot to its longest point.

Toes should be slightly touching the block with no pressure on the sides or top.  The shoe must be tight-fitting, but not the foot shouldn’t be squashed.  Be careful the shoe is not too pointy on the toe area.  Make sure that ribbons are tied correctly to support the ankles.

The other important aspect of how to dance with pointe shoes is choosing the right pair of pointe shoes for you.  The choice nowadays is vast, and there is a shoe type to suit every foot.  Go Here To Find Out More About Types of Shoes.

All The Basic Ballet Positions Explained

Here are some basic ballet positions explanations and illustrations for you.   There are 5 basic foot positions and 5 basic arm positions in ballet – 1st to 5th position in both feet and arms.

Basic Ballet Positions Illustrations

Here are some ballet positions illustrations and descriptions to help you to understand them in your ballet training.

Ballet Positions of the Feet

The first position of the feet is with heels touching and the toes facing outwards.

basic ballet positions
First Position

Make sure that both feet are equally turned out from the hips and that they are not so turned out that the feet roll forward.  The turnout should come from the hip.

All five toes on both feet must be on the floor and relaxed, not clenched.

Because the arches of the feet are lifted and held, the feet shouldn’t look flat.

The knees should line up with the toes, or face the same way as the toes.  On this illustration, the toes are a little too turned out for a beginner, and most people will suffer knee injuries if they do ballet with too much turn out before they are ready and strong enough for it.

2nd Position of the feet has the same rules as the first position but the feet are separated by anywhere from one of your own feet to one and a half of your own feet.  The toes are in line with each other and the feet are equally turned out.

2nd position
2nd Position

2nd Position is not a pretty position but is used a lot in ballet exercises like echappe sautes and to strengthen the feet in pointe work.

Ballet dancers also do plies in 2nd position and it is the only position in which we plie without lifting the heels.

3rd Position of the feet is more like a stepping stone to 5th Position.  It is used to train young children or beginners and is used a lot in the grades exams.

Once a dancer is comfortable with 3rd Position, she then moves on gradually to 5th Position.  Professional dancers usually only work from 5th position rather than 3rd.

ballet position illustrations
Third Position

5th Position of the feet is the ultimate classical position, that you will see all the professionals doing.

It is a difficult position to work in, as the dancer must fully understand how to work the turnout from the hip socket as well as master landings in this position.

4th Position of the feet is a difficult one for dancers to master properly, and both legs need to be turned out equally at all times from the hips, and the weight of the body has to be in the middle, and not favoring one leg. The hips also need to remain square to the dancers front.

There are different variations of 4th position, for instance, 4th opposite 1st is a more open position than 4th opposite 5th.  The feet are about a dancers foot distance apart.

5th position of the feet
Fifth Position
basic ballet positions
4th Position

Ballet Positions of the Arms

ballet positions illustrations
First Position

The first position  of the arms that a beginner will learn at ballet is Bras Bas.

In ballet, the arms are always rounded in the basic positions, and they stay in the same shape while moving through all the positions.

Bras bas is not pictured here, but the arms are down with the baby fingers in line with the top of the thigh.  The elbows are held away from the body and there is a small gap underneath the armpit.

The upper back should be engaged, and the shoulder blades down.

1st Position of the arms is taken by lifting the arms in front of you so that the middle fingers are in line with the belly button.  The elbows are well supported and rounded, and the palms face inwards.

ballet positions illustrations
2nd Position

2nd Position of the arms is an open line with the arms sloping gently down from the shoulders.  The elbows remain supported and the hands have a soft and relaxed look to them.

The Dancer should feel the muscles across the upper back and underneath the arms working.

ballet positions illustrations
3rd Position

3rd Position of the arms is one arm in 1st and the other in 2nd Position.  This position is used to prepare for pirouettes and the arm line shown in the diagram is a bit higher than it should be.

ballet positions illustrations
5th Position

5th Position of the arms is the classic ballerina pose.  Both arms are above the head, rounded but lengthened with the shoulders relaxed, and shoulder blades have a feeling of sliding down the back of your spine.

4th Position of the arms is a mixture of 5th position and 2nd position.  You also get a 4th crossed position of the arms where the one arm is in 5th position and the other arm is in 1st position.

If you have any questions about these ballet positions illustrations, please leave a comment below.

ballet positions illustrations
Open 4th Position 

Turnout In Ballet and How To Increase Your Turnout

turnout in ballet

Turnout in ballet is a very controversial subject, and every ballet dancer wants to achieve perfect turnout. But how does turnout actually work and what are the limits. Let’s look at some of the muscle groups and ways in which we can increase our turnout in ballet.

Why is this and why do we need turnout in ballet?

There are three reasons we need to turn out in ballet.

The first reason is that turnout helps the dancer move sideways across the stage. In this way, the dancer can keep facing the audience in front of her as she moves effortlessly and elegantly across the stage.

The second reason we have turnout in ballet is because you can lift your legs higher when they are turned out. In ballet, the dancer aims to get her leg as high as possible without compromising her posture and hip alignment, and turnout is used to achieve this.

The third reason is that it looks aesthetically pleasing to watch a dancer with turnout. Turned in legs do not look at all attractive in ballet.

What is Turnout In Ballet?

Turnout is the outward rotation of your legs from the hip socket. Turnout in ballet can be used to describe the angle at the feet, the flexibility of the hip or the muscular control of that external rotation.

Although it is safe to imagine that the feet should perfectly reflect the available external rotation at the hip, in practice this is not exactly right.

Thomasen, who was a Danish orthopaedic surgeon, said in 1982 that the lower leg is externally rotated 5 degrees at the extended knee and that the normal ankle joint has an axis with an external rotation of 15 degrees. Therefore the foot lies at an angle of 20 degrees outwards. This is a bonus for classical dancers, but pushing beyond this at the knee or at the ankle when fully turning out the hip causes distortion of these joints with resulting malalignment of the foot.

Unfortunately once the joints are forced out of alignment, true balanced muscular control of the joint is lost.

So dancers need to be very careful to make sure that they are working within the range dictated by the hip joint, and only then can the externally rotated limb be securely controlled.

Turnout is not about standing and trying to force your feet into a 180-degree line as can be seen in Figure A. This is an impossible, over turned-out position.

turnout

Figure B shows a more realistic angle at which to work, but this position still demands at least 60 degrees of external rotation from the hip.

Figure C shoes a still visually acceptable angle at which to work, where a good balance of muscular control can be used around the hip.

When training young children, they need to work at an even more decreased angle to avoid injuring their joints over time.

Children dancing from the ages six to twelve years have the benefit of developing the femoral neck angle and after that can the bone shape no longer be altered.

To benefit from this, the child must presumably be working at her individual maximum with good control in order to generate the force withing the hip joint.

The entire leg is rotated outwards, and it is dependent on your flexibility in the hip socket as to how far you can work your turnout.  When bending your knees, they should always align with your toes and when standing, your kneecap should face the same way as your foot is pointing.

The amount of external rotation in the hip is dictated by the shape of the bones involved and the flexibility of the ligaments, joint capsule, and muscles.

What Muscles Are Used In Turnout?

There are many muscles of turnout, some more important than others, and there will be a constant interplay between them depending on the position of the hip.

Teachers will need to find the best ways of teaching turnout. Some may emphasize the wrapping round of the upper thigh at the back and others may emphasize the flattening and rotating of the front of the thigh.

These are the muscles that are used and that will be activated during external rotation of the hip in classical ballet. How much they are activated depends on the position of the hip joint.

The first are the adductors (inner thigh muscles). Nowadays the majority of teachers believe these are the most important muscles and insist that they are used.

In first, third or fifth position of the feet when the thigh is is fully turned and the pelvis held in balance, the inner thigh is brought to the front producing a flatness and muscle delineation, which is evidence of control and increased stability.

If we consider that the pubis of the pelvis is the origin of the adductors and the insertion is down the line spear at the back of the femur and if the pelvis is well placed (neither tucked under nor arched), the adductors will pull the back of the femur round towards the front.

They will also adduct it (bring it in towards the centre), which is exactly what we want in our closed positions, from where we start and in which we finish.

The more anterior muscles of the adductor group also help with flexion, taking the hip into deviant positions.

So teachers need to continue teaching the importance of the adductors in holding turnout. These muscles need to work hard in all closed positions and closing movements in first and fifth.

ballet turnout

Using the adductors of the supporting leg in adage will help the control of the supporting hip. However, in high adage positions to second when the pelvis has tilted horizontally, it is unlikely that the adductors are active on either leg. The adductors could well be holding onto turnout as they go through the motions of a grand battements a la second, but It is important that this muscle group  develops strength to balance out the muscles on the outside of the hip.

The apparent decrease in knee problems in dancers over the past two decades could be due to better emphasis on the use of the inner thigh rather than the forcing of turnout from the feet.

The gluteus Maximus is the most superficial of the seat muscles and is an external rotator of the hip joint and will be more or less active throughout classical movement.

If it is over gripped in static positions, the pelvis will tuck under and the normal lumbar curve will flatten. Whan movement takes place, the gripping actions must relax and so control is thus lost.

The Gluteus Maximus is an important muscle which extends the thigh and turns it out, as in arabesque. Posturally it works with the hamstrings below and supports the spine above, but overuse disturbs fine control and upsets muscle balance around the hip.

The third set of external rotators is made of the six deep lateral rotators (deep turnout muscles) situated closely over the back of the hip joint.

These can be thought of as the deeper layer of the gluteal muscles. This group is made up of the obturator interns and externes, gelmellus superior and inferior, quadrates femurs and piriformis. Their attachments strongly suggest that they are external rotators of the hip, but they are so deep that no EMG studies have been carried out on them.

However most dance investigators ad anatomists agree about the importance of the six deep lateral rotators in their role as turnout muscles.

So when standing on two feet in your ballet positions, the adductors, Gluteus Maximus and the deep turnout muscles will be well activated. In adage positions to second where the hip is abducted the deep lateral rotators come into their own.

As so much of our classical vocabulary is set in second positions, both a terre and en l’air, the full use of rotation and the dropping of the hip requires the use of these ideally placed muscles.

Remember that these are relatively small muscles and they will need to work concurrently with others to generate a burnout force around the joint.

The Sartorius is the long diagonal muscle which passes over the front of the thigh from the pelvis above ve the hip joint to the medial condyle of the tibia. It has a rotatory effect on the hip, although its main action is flexion, abduction and external rotation of the thigh at the hip and flexion of the knee like in a retire. The Sartorius works with the six deep lateral rotators in second positions.

The posterior fibres of the Gluteus medius and minimus also help with external rotation of the hip as the anterior fibres internally rotate.

Biceps femoris, the outside hamstring muscle, contributes to external rotation of the hip, pulling laterally on the head of the fibul where it inserts.

Another muscle that contributes to turnout is the iliopsoas, which is the main hip flexor. It is also an external rotator helping to hold the turnout in devant positions along with the adductors.

So as you can see there are many muscles of turnout, and some more important than others. There will be a constant interplay between them depending on the position of the hip.

While it is interesting to learn about the muscles of the hips, teachers cannot teach too analytically, but instead have to find the key to achieve the desired results.

How To Turnout In Ballet

Simply spreading your feet outwards as wide as they will go, as most beginners tend to do, is not correct, as you are simply placing a lot of strain on the knees, and this is going to cause injury in the future.

The best way to start is to find your natural turnout by standing with your feet in parallel first position, and then gently squeezing the buttocks muscles and letting your legs move outwards from the hip.

Once you are in natural turnout, there are many exercises that are done during your ballet class that work in turnout and train the muscles to remember this position and improve on it while you are dancing.

The more you dance in turnout, the stronger the muscles will get, and your body will allow you to do more as you get stronger. In the beginning, you will often feel your turnout slipping. Just stay focused on holding the turnout from the hips while you dance, and your body will eventually start doing it on its own.

Extra Note: When you turn out your legs for the first time you may find that one side can comfortably turn out much more than the other side. If this is the case, always work according to the rotation of the less supple leg. Never force turnout as this will lead to injury.

How Can I Improve My Turnout?

Most dancers dream of having 180-degree turnout, and unfortunately, this is just not possible on most body types. You can, however, enhance and improve on what you already have.

never force turnout
Some of these children are forcing their turnout more than they should

Remember, in order to be a good dancer or a professional dancer, there is a lot more than turnout that is needed, for example, musicality, technical strength, good feet – the list goes on…. Most gifted dancers do not have 180-degree turnout but still do very well for themselves.

If you start to dance as an adult, it is a lot harder to get your turnout as the hips have already set, whereas in a child the growing body is pliable and supple.

On this video, is one of the more popular exercises to stretch the turnout in your hips.

How To Increase The Turnout In My Supporting Leg

Here is an excellent exercise to do to increase the turnout in your supporting leg.

More Exercises for Your Turnout in Ballet

Tune Up Your Turnout In Ballet

Working rotation from the hips is important in all dance forms, not just ballet.

Here are two exercises to test your turnout and then end with a stretch.

Exercise No. 1

Lie on the floor with your hips about two feet away from the wall and place your legs at a 60-degree angle above the ground, resting your heels against the wall.

Hold your feet a few inches apart with your legs parallel to one another. Keep your knees straight.

Place your hands on your hips to make sure they remain still.

turnout in ballet

Turnout in balletWorking from this starting position, slowly rotate your legs out, initiating from the hips.

You will feel your inner thighs wrap forward and out like you should when standing in a turned-out position.

Without the floor under your feet, you won’t be able to twist your knees and angles to increase your turnout, you will be working only within your natural range.

Once you are fully rotated, return to parallel and repeat the rotation five more times.

Exercise No. 2

Lie on your side with your head resting on one arm and the other arm bent in front of you with the palm flat on the ground. Line up your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles so that you aren’t rolling forward or back.

Slide your knees forward so that they are slightly bent. Point your toes and keep them in line with your upper body.

Without changing the position of your torso, hinge your top leg like a door, opening at your knee and keeping your feet connected.

The rotators of your upper leg will be isolated as you work against gravity to lift your knee without disturbing your balance.

Hold your most turned out position for a few seconds before lowering.

Repeat 15 times then roll over and repeat on the other side.

If you really want to work those rotators repeat the exercise with a thera band tied around your legs just above your knees.improve your turnout

After working those rotators, stretch it out by sitting with one leg bent in front of you and fully extend your other leg behind you, aiming to keep your hips square.

Relax your upper body forward and feel a release in the hip of your front leg.

Hold for 30 seconds or longer and then repeat on the other side.

Correct control of turnout in ballet does not just happen. It needs to be careful tough, just as the position of the pelvis, alignment of the spine and weight placement through the foot need to be guided.

Why We Do A Reverence In Ballet

reverence in ballet

I was teaching for another teacher the other day, and when the class was completed the pupils rushed off to get their clothes. I shouted at them ‘girls where is your curtsey.’ They looked at me awkwardly and then half-heartedly made there way back onto the floor and did a terrible attempt at a reverence in ballet.

I think that over the years, teachers have forgotten what an important thing a simple thing like a reverence in ballet can be. Not only is it a way to acknowledge each other after a class and show respect, but also a way of thanking the teacher for teaching them, and the teacher thanking the pupils for working hard.

Has etiquette totally flown out of the window in these modern times?

Demonstration On How To Do A Reverence In Ballet

Everyone has their own way of doing a reverence in ballet, and the reverence can vary from a simple port de bras and curtsey to a more elaborate one as seen below.

Why Do We Do A Reverence In Ballet?

reverence in balletIn the picture on the left, you see two dancers who are doing a reverence in ballet after they have completed their show.

This is customary in any dance performance that you go and see and it is the dancers way of acknowledging the audience and vice versa.

In class, especially from the teenagers, I get very sloppy curtsey’s at the end of class, and I think I need to start putting my foot down here, as not only is it disrespectful to themselves and me, but it teaches them nothing about how to handle themselves after doing a performance on stage.

This can make all the difference to how the dancer presents herself on stage. Will it be done with confidence or will it look like she is self-conscious?

If you as a teacher have taken care to correct your students during class, then they should carry that same technique right through to the reverence. Don’t be frightened to make them do their reverence properly with good technique at the end of class.

The reverence in ballet is such a small task that is done at the end of the class. The ladies curtsey and the gentlemen bow and then everyone applauds before going away.

Although the reverence in ballet is a small task, it is so significant as it honours the process and closes the class with grace.

The reverence is a way of showing respect to the struggles, both mental and emotional, the dancer has fought during the class and wraps it all up with a healthy dose of dignity.

So no matter what happened in class the reverence in ballet says you did well, are still standing and should be proud of what you accomplished.

The reverence in ballet is so small a part of the class but so significant.

How To Do A Reverence In Ballet

You can view the video above for a good demonstration of a reverence.

“A reverence at the end of a ballet class is a combination that is done out of respect for the art, a sort of “cap” that both thanks to the teacher (and pianist if there is one) and honours the traditions of this beautiful and classical art form.  

The reverence combination will usually include port de bras in different positions, curtsies for the ballerinas, and bows for the male dancers, all done to beautiful adagio music. It is fitting because ballet is an art, not a sport where the team is given a few high-fives as they chug water running off the field.  While there is nothing wrong with high-fives the reverence at the end of a ballet class is much more fitting to an art form and is almost like the final sentence of an eloquently spoken speech.”

So teachers, even if your teens are giving you attitude, just do it and they will come around. The more they do it the more they will understand why, so all I can say is just keep teaching reverence in ballet teachers.

Here you can read more about the elements of dance.

How To Teach Skipping To A 3 Year Old

how to teach skipping

Are you a dance teacher who is pulling her hair out in the process of how to teach skipping to your babies?

Unfortunately, if a 3-year-old can’t skip naturally already, it is usually quite difficult to teach them the skill of skipping for dance purposes.

All children should learn this skill as it is a fundamental building block for general coordination.

Here is the best way I can think of and use on how to teach skipping to a 3-year-old.

There are also exercises to help with how to teach skipping, and milestones you can check to gauge if the child is ready to learn to skip.

How To Teach Skipping

Sometimes these tactics are successful and sometimes not, depending on the child in question, but generally by the time a child is 4 years old they have developed enough skills to be able to skip.  I have however had varying levels of success with 3-year-olds and teaching them to skip.

How To Teach skipping

How Do You Know If A Child Is Ready To Learn To Skip?

Here is a list of things that can help you to gauge whether a child is ready for skips or not. These types of exercises can also be used on small children to improve their existing motor skills.

  • Can the child do 4 or more hops on one leg?
  • Is the child balanced evenly on two legs when standing?
  • Can the child do smooth and even walks with the upper body relaxed?
  • Can the child run smoothly with equal use of both legs?
  • Can the child crawl using both sides of the body evenly?
  • Can the child sit on the floor with straight legs and lift alternative feet to touch her knees with a controlled back?
  • Can the child flex and extend her ankle joints?
  • Can the child do forward gallops on both legs?
  • Can the child do sideways gallops?
  • Can the child jump and land evenly on both feet?
  • Can the child march?
  • Is the child’s head held upright, level and balanced and is it centred over the shoulders.
  • The child should also be able to do basic head movements like nodding and tilting the head from side to side.

How To Teach a 3 Year Old To Skip

A good exercise to start with in preparation for skips is marching.

Children generally love to march and you can make it lots of fun for them by pretending to be soldiers or ponies.

Encourage the children to get their knees up high, preferably horizontally to the floor, and once they have that right they can practice making their toes touch their knees each time they lift them.

Children will normally learn to do a one-sided skip first with their strongest leg.

To help them along you could skip next to them hold their hand and give a little upward pull on the hand when the hop should come in.

Try letting them skip in partners and pair children who can skip with those who can’t.

Doing some of the exercises in the above list can also help to prepare their bodies and their brains for the coordination needed for skipping. Make the exercises fun and imaginative for them. Don’t focus on one step for too long as young children only have a limited attention span.

Be patient with the children while they are learning to master a new skill, and don’t criticize them individually.  Rather make general and informative comments like ‘my right leg is stronger than my left’ or ‘who can jump really high?’

Let them grow at their own pace and encourage them by complimenting them when they reach another milestone.

Even your older students can benefit from doing skips, and it is actually amazing how many 9-year-olds nowadays battle with this basic skill. Fundamentals on coordination development are crucial throughout the beginning few years of ballet, otherwise how can we build without a foundation?

If you want some more ideas on choreographing for this age group, click here.

Please, teachers, share your comments on how to teach skipping to a 3-year-old and what works for you.

The Ballet Bible – Is it worth it?

the ballet bible

I purchased The Ballet Bible DVD a few years ago, shortly after it came out, to get some ideas to use with my teaching, and these are my experiences with the product.

In order to get your hands on your own copy of The Ballet Bible, click here.

Since then, of course, the product has evolved and gotten even better with more bonuses, which I don’t have, but the fundamentals are still there.

Why Do You Need The Ballet Bible?

the ballet bibleAnita Leembrugge is the developer of this project, and she initially created the Ballet Bible to help beginners with their technique, speed, and precision.

Anita has used her own difficult experience with starting ballet late and all the problems she had to overcome to create this product which is what makes it so special.

She claims that this product will improve your ballet technique in the shortest time possible.

Included in the download is the ebook 3 Simple Rules of a Ballerina.  This is a very insightful read and you will gain a lot of knowledge by just reading this and applying it.

Since I bought the product, she has also added some more useful bonuses that weren’t included back then, like an exclusive interview with choreographer Gareth Belling.  This bonus alone would have gotten me to buy the product back then.

My favorite part of the course are the video’s where she shows you exactly how to execute each step. There is a large collection of different steps to view, but some of them may be a little advanced for beginners.

Who Is The Ballet Bible DVD Aimed At?

This is a wonderful aid to those who are learning ballet and also for teachers like myself. For those that aren’t in formal ballet classes, it can prove difficult to achieve some of the steps without the correct background training and proper correction from a qualified teacher.

The French Vocabulary is also explained in detail in a French terminology module, which is a great resource for any dancer to have.  Once a dancer reaches a certain level, she has to know all the names of all the steps in French, so that if she ever joins a dance company, she can understand what the choreographer is demanding of her.

Even dancers doing their major ballet exams will need to know their vocab.

Although I loved this product and the ideas that it gave me, I tend to worry that some may take the Ballet Bible and exchange it for proper formal dance lessons.

I think that the Ballet Bible was created to help you to further your ballet career with the help of a professional coach or teacher.  It is extremely dangerous to take on training yourself, with nobody to guide you, as you can develop bad habits, and also injure yourself.

What Does The Ballet Bible Consist Of?

Here is a small list of some of the things you can expect from The Ballet Bible – The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina.

  • Advice on how to succeed as a dancer.
  • What you should look for in a dance teacher – If you don’t know what to look for you could end paying good money for bad advice.
  • The History of Ballet – Learn How and Where ballet got its form and its significance in today’s dancing.
  • Ballet Class – From Adage to Pointe. Learn how a class is structured and the significance of each part.
  • French Terminology – How to decipher common words.
  • Incorrect diagrams. See first hand how NOT to perform a movement or stance. No other guide shows you this!
  • Ballet Style – Learn the difference between everyday movement and ballet movement – Includes detailed pictures and explanations!
  • How to make sure you are not weakening your muscles or unbalancing your joints. Many dancers compromise their training with poor habits outside the studio.
  • Classical Ballet Training: From Start to Finish – The method, movements, and technique. You will be blown away at your improvement!
  • Learn the correct way to perform Developpés: Most dancers never learn the correct form and wonder why they can’t balance properly and can’t do it fast enough.
  • Common Errors – Some dancers struggle again and again with the same things. You will be able to quickly identify your weak points and find out exactly how to correct them.
  • The 6 primary positions of the feet. Where every movement starts and finishes. This is essential training!
  • The 9 Arm Poses – Learn exactly how to perform each pose. You will undoubtedly impress others with your comprehensive knowledge.
  • Detailed Movement Guide – From Plié to Pirouette: Everything including Sur le Coup de Pied, Arabesque, Battement Tendu, Glissé, Jetté to Developpé and Grande Battement.
  • High-quality pictures – through each and every step you will be able to see exactly how your body should be positioned for correct form.
  • Styling – Learn how to perform movements with grace and elegance! People will automatically assume you have been dancing for years.
  • Learn how to combine expressive arms with soft flowing hands to make every pose magical.
  • Ever wanted to know how to have total control over your legs as you gracefully perform an arabesque? Now you Can!
  • Learn the best practice exercises to train your leg muscles and prepare you for pointe.
  • Do you know the components of a pointe shoe? Learn how to determine the best pointe shoe for your foot shape.
  • Tying the pointe shoe. Follow step-by-step examples with clear descriptions. You’ll be able to do it blindfolded in no time at all.
  • How to correctly balance yourself for optimum flexibility and performance. Most dancers never learn and constantly struggle with problems that could so easily be avoided.
  • Why stretching is important. If you know how to use it to drastically increase your performance you’ll wonder why everyone else hasn’t caught on.
  • Great looking legs can be created – Have you ever seen a ballerina with ugly looking legs?
  • Warming up and cooling down – Do this one extra thing and notice the difference straight away.
  • Improper stretching – Are you stretching incorrectly and actually hindering your performance (You’ll be surprised)
  • Exactly how to convey the right meaning for your specific movement or expression… (You don’t want to appear as if you’re saying you have big ears when you’re just listening).
  • How to pose for maximum impact… learn how to use your whole body so that the audience understands exactly what you are saying without thinking twice.
  • How to develop your own unique style and personality to your mime (Ever notice how some dancers always seem to have that extra added “character” in their performances? That’s because they’re using this technique.)
  • 5 classic stories of love and adventure. These include popular works like “The Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty”.
  • Want to rendition your own version of Pierre Gardel’s famous play. How to use your new found knowledge of ballet mime.
  • “To the point” recollections. You won’t be bored with uninteresting detail while you fall asleep.

Check out what others have been saying about The Ballet Bible – The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina, Click Here!

Reviews found for The Ballet Bible:

“I’m just getting back into ballet and I can’t thank you enough” “I danced for many years when I was younger but I stopped and have regretted it ever since. I downloaded The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina a few days ago and I feel just as excited about dancing as I once was. I can’t believe how much helpful information there is in this guide. I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off and this is just the thing I need.”Betty Whittle, QLD

“I wish I had this book when I first started out.” “My compliments to the author on the book! It’s written in a manner that makes it feel like she’s there explaining everything to you in person which makes it so easy that even a beginner can understand. As a seasoned dancer, I wish I had this when I started dancing over 10 years ago. It would have helped me develop my technique much better and faster. I expect that when my daughter is old enough, she’ll be reading it too!” Tanya Gould, CO

“Even my eight year old daughter thanks you.” “I bought this guide for my daughter who started ballet 6 months ago. Let me tell you she has improved so much from just following the pictures! She is now one of the best in her class and her teacher is amazed at her progress. It gives me great joy being able to read The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina with her and help her develop into a beautiful little ballerina. Thanks for writing this brilliant book. We both love it.Mary Dixon, LA

Finally, in closing, I would like to say that The Ballet Bible DVD and course is well suited as a supplement to those studying ballet, teachers, and even adults who have studied ballet in the past and would like to get back into it.  

I would not, however, substitute regular ballet classes and proper training with a professional teacher with this course.

Do You Need A Ballet Turning Board To Do Good Turns?

ballet turning board

The new dance rage at the moment seems to be the ballet turning board. This board also goes by other names like dance turn board, pirouette turning board or just plain TurnBoard.

It seems like this is the must have for any dancer who wants to improve their turns.

Training to do pirouettes in ballet requires focused spotting, a strong core, and correct arm placement. Will the turning board teach a dancer all of this?

The ballet turning board was designed to have very little friction, which allows dancers to concentrate on the individual components of turning, with the option of rising to relevé. The skills learned from using the dance turn board lead to better and increased turns, even when turning without the TurnBoard, or so they say.

So let us take a closer look at the ballet turning board

ballet turning board
Official Turnboard

The ballet turning board on the left is the official TurnBoard, and the one below is identical, but endorsed by Kenzie Ziegler. The price of the TurnBoard that isn’t endorsed is about $5.00 cheaper. Nevertheless they are both exactly the same performance wise.

Kenzie Ziegler TurnBoard (Official TurnBoard)

Kenzie Ziegler who shot to fame on the TV Series Dance Moms endorses the official TurnBoard, and this one can be bought on Amazon for about $35.00.  Although this is the official TurnBoard, there are other cheaper options at Amazon that you can also look at.

  • New Limited Edition Kenzie Ziegler TurnBoard.
  • Designed by Kenzie Ziegler and Developed by Ballet Is Fun.
  • Improves Spotting and Balance.
  • World’s Most Popular Ballet Training Product.
  • Made in U.S.A.

Learn with the Best. Turn with the Best.

The Kenzie Ziegler TurnBoard® uses the same proven design as the original TurnBoard®, with several beautiful additions that reflect Kenzie’s personality. Key enhancements include an engraved Kenzie Ziegler signature on the board, a customised foot pad with Kenzie’s unique logo, and a beautiful pink and glitter finish. The Kenzie Ziegler TurnBoard® helps dancers turn better by minimising floor friction and allowing dancers to truly focus on the sensation of turning.

Ballet Turning Board Pros:

  • The ballet turning board or TurnBoard helps a dancer to find their centre.
  • The spotting action of the head is vastly improved upon, as the board spins fast and the dancer really needs to get that head moving.
  • The TurnBoard increases a dancers confidence to actually work towards multiple turns.
  • The dancer learns to feel his or her weight placement while turning and work on correcting it.
  • The ballet turning board is designed to minimise friction between your foot and the floor and let you turn faster.
  • Using a ballet turning board is a great way to experience the sensation of doing additional turns, and gain confidence as your turns improve.

Turn better with the TurnBoard Video’s

Ballet Turning Board Cons:

  • Is very slippery and you could fall quite hard, so can be quite scary until you get used to it.
  • Shouldn’t be used by beginners who can’t even do one turn without the board, or you could injure yourself.
  • Can scratch your fancy wooden floors.
  • If you are not careful, you turn quite easily on your heel, and this is hardly ever done in dancing. Really concentrate on turning with the weight on the front part of the foot so the upper body can also train accordingly.
  • In classical ballet, the turn needs to be done on the toes or demi-pointe, and the TurnBoard promotes turning flat, which may cause problems when the dancer needs to turn without the board. The dancers may start to turn on a low demi-pointe, instead of pulling up onto a high demi-pointe. It is definitely easier to turn on a flat foot than on demi pointe or full pointe.
  • Because of turning flat on the board, the weight will need to be adjusted when turning on pointe, and this could cause technique problems.

Just remember, although the TurnBoard can help immensely, there is no substitution for quality teaching from an accredited Ballet Teacher.

In conclusion, if you are having trouble turning, holding your upper body in position or spotting your turns then the Turnboard is for you. Make sure to use it as a tool for your dance journey, not as a substitute for proper training.

For more tips on turns visit: https://dancersforum.com/how-to-pirouette-in-ballet

How To Pirouette In Ballet – Tips and Tricks

how to pirouette in ballet

Pirouettes are one of those things in ballet that take endless practice, and there are no shortcuts when it comes to how to pirouette inhow to pirouette in ballet ballet.

Here are some tips and tricks to improve your pirouettes

How To Pirouette In Ballet Tips and Tricks From the Pros

Learn to turn first – form and technique will come later. Practice the coordination of the spot first and then clean up your position. Turns can be done in many forms – on the spot, from the corner or even along the bar. Learning to turn parallel is always a good idea.

Practice to balance next to the bar. You won’t be able to do multiple turns unless you have perfect balance. Make sure you practice this on a high releve.

Before you start to turn there should be a moment of stillness before a powerful releve with momentum.

Get to the retire position quickly, and get that retire position as high as you can. Above the knee works well if you can. Be definite about the position of your working leg. Get it into position right away and make sure it stays there.

Gradually pull your arms in while turning to get a tight compact position and resist centrifugal force, especially on multiple pirouettes.

When spotting, just let your head go a quarter over your shoulder before whipping it around. Don’t leave your head there too long or it will pull you over backwards.

How to pirouette in ballet should be about holding your turnout – both in the working and the supporting leg.

Keep your weight slightly forward and your chin slightly lifted.

Support your torso with your stomach and back. They should feel strong and engaged.

Think of initiating the turn with your back rather than your arms. Don’t use your arms to hurl yourself around. Hold them neatly in position, as it is tempting to over cross them in front or let the elbows sag.

At the end of your turn, try to sustain your balance for an extra moment at the end of the turn before the working leg moves gracefully to its final position. You can rescue a turn that has gone wrong by finishing with aplomb- an important survival skill when performing.

Know when you need to leave your pirouettes alone. If you are practising lots and feel frustrated and tired and nothing wants to work, rather stop and resume practice the next day.

If you are one of those lucky natural turners, your challenge is to work on form and go from spinning to turning. If turns don’t come naturally, think of getting up on the supporting leg, practise spotting and work on the feeling of turning. Some dancers need to overcome a little fear about spinning and you may need to force yourself through multiple turns. Once you have the multiple turns going, start working for quality over quantity.

Try using a turning board.

If you want to do a double, then try for a triple.

Don’t move your front heel before you start to turn.

Push off with both legs but keep your weight forward.

Releve strongly and quickly. Think of pulling up from the back of your leg right under your buttocks to get on your supporting leg.

Use a good spotting head. Free the head and relax the upper body.

Work hard on your barre and centre work, as this is what gets you strong enough to do multiple turns.

Don’t sacrifice form. There is no point to doing multiple turns without good form, or your audience will just want them to stop.

Repetition will gain you mastery, but not the repetition of your mistakes. Make sure you practice correctly. Practice your turns over and over again, as turns do take a lot of practice.

Success in a turn depends on a strong centre.

Let the music decide when a turn is done. The momentum of the turn will also tell you when to finish.

I trust that these tips on how to pirouette in ballet will help you with your turns.

 

 

 

Turns In Ballet and Why They Are Done

turns in ballet

turns in balletWhen I think of turns in ballet, I think of the ballerina in a jewellery box turning round and round. You then realise that some of ballet’s enduring magic would be nothing without those impressive turns you see on the stage.

Just like those soaring leaps, turns are what the audience love to see, and if a ballerina can master those impossible and breathtaking thirty-two fouettes turns in Swan Lake, she knows that she has accomplished something that few dancers in the world will ever achieve.

Who Invented Fouettes Turns?

The creator of these turns was Pierina Legnani, who was an early adopter of blocked pointe shoes, and the first to do the famous thirty-two fouettes in Swan Lake.

Since then the modern day ballerina’s have even gone as far as to add double and even triple fouettes into their sequences, making for a truly breathtaking display.

Male dancers don’t do fouettes, because they are more impressive en pointe. But the men do very impressive multiple turns a la seconde.

When the female dancers do their fouettes, the male dancers will normally come out, not to be outdone, and perform a series of turns and jumps circling the stage. The faster the better.

You very seldom see more than one ballerina performing fouette turns at a time, as it is so difficult to get them to turn in unison. The corps normally do single or double pirouettes.

Turns in the Movies

Jumps can lose their impressiveness on film, but turns always look great. Think of those ten pirrouettes that Mikhail Baryshnikov does in White Nights.

In the Red Shoes, Moira Shearer shows the turns from the ballerina’s point of view as she looks out on the audience.

In Torn Curtain, there is suspense as the hero tries to hide in the audience but is spotted by the communist bad girl ballerina played by Tamara Toumanova, who stares at him again and again with each of her turns.

turns in balletDifferent Types of Turns in Ballet

Turns are either done en dehors (outwards) or en dedans (inwards), however, there are many different types of turns in ballet.

They can be quick and delicate or huge, bold and sweeping.

One can turn by spinning on one leg, turn changing legs, turn by leaping and turning in the air. The types of turns are many.

In modern dance, there are turns on heels and on heads, but in ballet most turns are performed with the weight on the front of the foot. There are just too many different types of turns to mention, but these are the most common turns in ballet.

Pirouette

This is a turn in place on one leg. The preparation can be from fifth, fourth or second. Some pirouettes show a straight back leg, others bent in attitude and others the foot is on or above the knee.

Fouette Rond De Jambe en Tournant

These turns in ballet are normally known as fouette turns as discussed above. The term means ‘whipped rond de jambe while turning.’

There is normally a simple pirouette or pas de bourree en tournant en dedans as a preparation, then the working leg moves to a front extension as you plie, then whips out to a side extension and back into retire as your rise. The whipping action propels you around each time you repeat it.

These turns can be done on the spot or travelling, although sometimes the travelling isn’t planned.

Fouette turns can be done en dedans too but these are so difficult to do that they are rarely seen.

Pique Turns

These turns in ballet are also known as pricked turns. They are done travelling on one leg. The dancer steps onto the straight leg keeping it straight at all times.

Chaine Turns

These are travelling turns using both legs. The dancer steps from one leg to another while turning a half a turn on each step. As these turns are always in the same direction, with each step, the dancer alternates the half turns en dedans and en dehors.

Soutenu en Tournant

This is short for assemble soutenu en tournant. It is a full turn in fifth position in which the feet change position as you turn.

 

Allegro In Ballet

allegro in ballet

allegro in balletAllegro in ballet could mean either petit allegro or grand allegro.

The term allegro in music means ‘at a brisk tempo.’ In Italian the word allegro means merry, but in ballet it means jumps. The term grand allegro refers to big travelling jumps and turns, and petit allegro is when the jumps are smaller and faster. If you see the work petit allegro terre a terre, this is the fastest and most difficult allegro of all for a dancer to perform.

How Is Allegro In Ballet Used in The Great Ballets?

Allegro has always charmed audiences worldwide. Allegro adds excitement to watching ballet. Dancers perform allegro to demonstrate their gravity defying and supernatural qualities.

In the Ballet La Sylphide, the sylph barely touches the floor as she floats and hovers with her fluttering batterie steps (jumps beating the feet in the air).

Petipa was famous for his choreographed legendary examples, like the four little swans in swan lake act 2 with their synchronised dancing and petit allegro with even the heads tilted in perfect unison.

In the Sleeping Beauty prologue, the fifth fairy’s finger variation includes a series of pas de chats that take off and land on pointe.

In the Nutcracker, the candy canes and other sweet treats bounce briskly through the Kingdom of Sweets.

In act 2 of Giselle, Myrtha, Queen of the Willis forces Albrecht to dance using petit and grand allegro until he dies of exhaustion.

There is often friendly competition between the sexes, where you see duelling petit allegros like in the Bluebird pas de deux.

allegro in balletGrand allegro in ballet can make the performance both thrilling and unexpected. There are many jumps and leaps where the dancers show amazing elevation and change position midair and afterwards land with neat precision.

Men mostly get to shine in the grand allegro in ballet, as they can jump higher than their female counterparts. You will usually find the men’s elevated turns that travel around the stage are complimented by the woman’s fouette turns or she does traveling turning steps around him.

In Don Quixote, Kitri replies to Basilio’s leaps with a signature jump of her own, which is a grand jete with the back leg bent to graze the back of her head.

Although traditionally grand allegro was left to the men, more choreographers recognise the virtuosity, strength and stamina of the ballerinas of today and more and more we are seeing females doing grand allegro on the stages of the world.

For dancers, the most spectacular allegro jumps are those which change direction in midair, like saute de basque, rivoltade, grand jete entournant and grand fouette saute. Male dancers are known to show spectacular tour en l’air, which is a jump that turns in the air with a straight body.

Allegro In Ballet Technique

There are many different names for the allegro in ballet steps. Most allegro in ballet steps have petit and grand versions, as it depends on the music, personality and the tempo of the music, as well as if there are beats or turns involved during the jumps.

Here are some of the most common ballet allegro steps.

Saute, Changement, and Soubresaut

These are normally petit allegro steps and the dancer pushes off from two feet and lands on two feet. These are relatively simple jumps and are usually the first jumps learned in ballet class. These jumps are also often used as warmups for the more advanced steps.

A saute is done in first position. A Soubresaut is done in fifth position with a clinging action of the legs in the air, and a changement is done from fifth position to fifth position changing the feet at the height of the jump.

Assemble

This step pushes off from one foot while the other brushes out and then lands on both feet. The feet ‘assemble’ in the air before landing. This is an important jump for developing the speed and strength of the inner thighs, which the dancer will need to perform batterie and the more advanced jumps.

Jetes

To do a jete, you brush the leg out to the side fully stretched and then land on it. There are many forms and variations of this exercise.

Pas De Chat

This is the step of the cat and is a light jump from one leg to the other passing through retire with the legs turned out. You can read more about the pas de chat here.

Sissonne

The sissonne pushes off from two feet and lands on one. There is a multitude of variations of this jump. The dancer can either hold the leg up after the jump or close it behind or in front of the other one (ferme).

How To Improve Your Allegro In Ballet

Here are a few pointers to work on for improving your allegro in ballet:

  • Make sure to breathe. If you hold your breath you will freeze in the air and the jump will end. If you find you are doing this, try shouting when you take off.
  • Make sure you are using your arms correctly. Keep your shoulders down and your neck free of tension.
  • Push off of the floor with your whole foot all the way down to your toes. This will increase your elevation and ensures that your feet will be beautifully pointed in the air.
  • Land through your whole foot, toe-ball-heel into an elastic plie. Make sure the heels come down to allow for a more secure base for your landings.
  • Use the music to help you with your timing.
  • Concentrate on landing neatly and making use of your demi plie.

Batterie

To add sparkle and precision to jumps, batterie (beats) are done in the air. This is where the dancer beats their thighs crisscrossing the legs in the air. Almost any jump can be performed with a battu.

Cabriole and Brise

The legs are beaten at an angle to the body. The angle of the legs could be back, side or forward with the angle of the legs going from slight to 90 degrees.

Entrechats

These begin with a relatively simple crossing of the legs in the air, to more advanced entrechat six where the legs are changed three times in the air before landing. Each crossing of the legs raises the number by two, so an entrechat six crosses the legs three times in midair. Entrechats can travel, land on one foot, or land on two legs. The odd counted entrechats usually land on one leg with the other foot sur le cou-de-pied at the front or the back.

In all jumps or allegro in ballet work the dancer will always start and end the jump with a plie (bent legs) with the knees directly over the toes.

How To Improve Your Batterie

Batterie work is all about keeping your footwork clean, fast and precise. Beats come more naturally to some than others, The dancer has to strive to move and change direction as quickly as a hummingbird. If you have a tight body, over extended legs, you may do better with batterie than with Adage.

Here are some tips for dancers when doing batterie:

  • Start to beat on the way up.
  • Strive for clean positions rather than speed.
  • During the bar, work on the ‘in’ part of your battements tendus.
  • Open your legs to a small second position in the air before you beat them, as the extra movement adds clarity and excitement to the jump.
  • Don’t think in out in as you jump, but rather in in in.