Ballet Tips For Beginners

ballet tips for beginners

If you are looking at starting ballet classes, especially as an adult, you will probably be looking for ballet tips for beginners, so these are some of my tips on how to start training for ballet, especially if you start when you are older than the normal age of five.

If you are an adult wanting to get good at ballet you will need to be spending at least three hours a week in class, especially if you are an adult beginner, as your body has set, and the movements will be a little more difficult to master than a child whose body is still soft and pliable.

You will also need a lot of work in the beginning so that your body can learn the muscle memory required for ballet so be patient with yourself during the first year or two while your body learns what it should be doing.

Learning your basic arm and leg positions is a good idea to do before you attend your first official ballet lesson.

Ballet Tips For Beginners

ballet tips beginners

These ballet tips are designed for the older beginner who would like to take his or her dancing to the next level, and not just somebody who is doing ballet for fun and exercise purposes.

Ballet Tip Number One:

Don’t Be Obsessed With Your Body Shape

The body shape is really important in ballet and some people are born with that perfect ballerina body. But for the majority of us, we have to make the best out of what we are given. Learning ballet will give you grace and improve your posture, so already you will have a major advantage over the majority of the population.

Work hard in class and concentrate on what muscles should be activated at what times, and in this way, you will always improve on what you have.

Supplement your ballet training with some yoga and Pilates as this will strengthen and tone all the right muscles.

Ballet Tip Number Two:

Learn To Take Correction

Your teacher is there to give you help and correct your technique. Sometimes it may feel as if she is picking on you, but this is not the case, and you will most likely find that she is only trying to help you to be the best dancer that you can be.

If you get corrected, try to absorb and work on the correction as the smaller details are what is going to make you the better dancer in the end.

Ballet Tip Number Three:

Do It Often

Ballet is not something you are going to improve in if you choose to take one lesson a week. The more you do it the better you will get. One lesson a week students generally are in the class to get some exercise and not to actually improve their dancing skills in a hurry.

Ballet Tip Number Four:

Listen To Your Body

Ballet is a physically demanding art that requires your body to do all sorts of things that are not normal.

Don’t try to get there in a day. Work consistently to strengthen your muscles and don’t force your joints to do things that they are not ready for.

Some of the most common mistakes beginners (and even more experienced dancers) make that can cause damage to their bodies are:

  • forcing their feet to turn out instead of using the hips to turn out the legs and feet.
  • trying to do dangerous leaps and jumps without learning to land properly first.
  • going into pointe shoes before the muscles are sufficiently trained.
  • doing backbends without supporting them with your core muscles.
  • forcing or bouncing stretches. Consistent gentle stretching will get you there in the long run.
  • only do what your body feels comfortable doing, so if you have bad knees, don’t do full plies, or if you have back problems don’t kick your leg too high behind you.

ballet tips for beginners

Ballet Tip Number 5:

Stretch Often

Try to do some stretching every day, as having a flexible body will leave you less prone to injury, and your dancing will also look better if your body can move freely.

For some great stretching routines I highly recommend this stretching article and the course recommended at the end of it.

Ballet Tip Number 6:

Practice, Practice And Then Practice Some More

During class time, take advantage of the time you have in the studio and with a teacher.

Put in your best effort all the time and don’t be tempted to do anything half-way because you are getting tired. If you channel your energy into the right places, you will get the results you are wanting.

More Ballet Tips For you:

Here is a great video to give you more tips on the actual ballet steps that you are learning and doing.

If you have any more ballet tips for beginners, please feel free to add them to the comments section below.

Teaching Dance Online – It’s Not Easy But Doable!

teaching dance online

As dance teachers worldwide are facing the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are looking at ways of teaching dance online. This is something that may come naturally to some of the younger teachers, but most of us are in a whole new world, and it is posing somewhat of a challenge.

It is each teachers decision on what or how they are going to handle this crisis. Some are forging on ahead with online classes for their pupils, or even online classes for the worldwide public, and others like us are trying to keep our pupils motivated and practicing by sending them homework each week.

No matter what you decide to do, the important thing is to stay connected to your students and keep them enthusiastic about their dancing. Thanks to the world wide web this is entirely possible, no matter what platform you choose to do this from.

Platforms For Teaching Dance Online

teaching dance onlineOver the last week I have been looking into various platforms to enable teaching dance online and these are some of the best ones that I have come across.

ZOOM

Zoom seems to be the most popular method with most of the teachers at the moment. I think this is because it offers the best options when it comes to live streaming your dance classes.

Personally I find it cumbersome, and it is maybe due to the fact that I don’t own a laptop. The office where my desktop is standing has no space to even swing a cat, and on my IPad you have to stay in a small contained area so that your students can see you at all times.

Zoom works well if you want to teach a stretch class or Pilates as you don’t have to move around too much.

It also only works well if all your students have a good WiFi connection otherwise things are slowed down considerably.

With the free version you can host meetings or classes of no longer than 40 minutes.

Check out the Zoom Basics for Teaching Ballet Online article from The Ballet Source to get all the technical teaching dance online pieces in place first. Then, you can begin to schedule and prepare for teaching your classes live or prerecording using some of the best practices shared.

BAND

This is the one that we are using at present. What I love about Band is that you can organize your classes into different bands and invite all the students into the particular band that is their class. It then works almost like FaceBook as you can post video’s of what you want your students to work on, and they can post video’s back on the group so that they can be corrected, or if they are shy straight back to you via WhatsApp.

BAND is also super easy to use.

teaching dancing online

There is a live streaming feature, but one of our teachers tried it and wasn’t very successful with it. Zoom may be the better option in this regard.

I find this app is great as you can control who you invite to the group, and you have full control of what gets posted. Unlike WhatsApp, if people come into the group at a later date, they will be able to view everything posted on the group so far. This I feel will make an excellent resource for students to refer back to even once we go back to normal lessons.

BAND is an Android and iOS app where you can not only Group chat, but you have timelines to post to, albums to create, the ability to share photos from a particular event or get together, calendars to mark important days or meet ups, share files with whole group and have polls when you want to decide something and have your opinion heard.

It is an app which is great for every type of group. Whether you are a study group where you want to share notes, a music band who wants to decide on the songs you will be playing for the next concert, a football group who wants to decide on the next day of match or just a group of old friends who for some reason don’t want to use WhatsApp or Facebook and would like to have more privacy.

You can also access BAND from your computer. So even if you don’t have data plan from your operator, you can open band.us in office and see the latest happenings right from your desktop.

The app is simple to use and as soon as you have the app you can start a BAND, which is just a matter of giving a name to the group and you are done. After that you can use SMS, email or a link to invite other people to join the group. By default, the group made is Secret. You can choose if you want to approve members who put in requests to join. This is a great way to keep the bad apples at bay

Cons are there is limited storage space on the free version, and video’s over three minutes get taken down after 30 days. Also, BAND is not available on Windows phone platforms or on Windows.

Band is free to use but you can upgrade if you need more space.

Other applications that are similar to BAND that you may want to take a look at include Marco Polo – Stay In Touch, GroupMe, WeChat, and LINE.

WhatsApp

teaching dance onlineWhatsapp is still probably the most famous way right now to have group communications.

This platform is also a popular platform amongst dance teachers for getting video’s across for your students. The teacher simply creates groups for her dancers and sends them information. As the admin you can set if you want the admin only to post or allow the group to comment.

Here are some ideas of how WhatsApp can be used for teaching purposes:

  • You can create lessons in the form of text, video and audio messages and send one lesson per day to your students.
  • You can send your students assignments to complete.
  • You can also send personalized feedback as well as daily tips.

The reason I chose not to use WhatsApp is that it is too easy to share the content, and I didn’t want to see myself on video being distributed all over the entire net. I also think that people are getting tired of being on groups that continually interrupt them with notifications (which can also be managed).

WhatsApp groups lack features for more meaningful tasks. While it is easy to do meaningless banter there, but if you are a professional or even a semi-professional group then you will feel it difficult to actually synchronize with your group on any task. That is where BAND above can fix those holes.

FaceBook

Facebook is another popular option and you can also create private pages and content for your pupils. With this method it is also best to take video’s and download them into the relevant FaceBook page.

You can also do live classes via live stream on FaceBook which would probably work much the same way as ZOOM.

Teachable

Teachable is another great option for teaching dance online in the form of courses which you develop and sell. I think that this platform is designed more for teachers who want to develop courses to sell online.

There is a free limited version and then the next cheapest option is $29 per month.

This is a very professional platform for getting your classes across to the public with space for pictures, video’s and modules and then anyone can purchase the course with Teachable taking a percentage of the profits, depending on the upgraded level you are on.

Teachable is one of the leading platforms in the online course creation world. You can use the platform to build video, audio, and text-based courses that help you to monetize what you know and build on-demand products that earn you money.

Other similar platforms to this include:

  • hinkific
  • Learnworlds
  • Kajabi
  • LearnDash
  • Podia
  • Ruzuku
  • Academy of Mine

Tips For Teaching Dance Online With Either Video Or Live Streaming

teaching dance onlineCreate a Calm and Tidy Background

Remember to check what is in the background of the space you will be using to video. If you are just talking and not planning to do any demonstrating you could sit in your (neat) bedroom where it is quiet and you won’t be interrupted. Make sure your viewers can’t see your washing or untidy closet space in the background.

For the sake of keeping everything uncluttered and the focus on you, keep the background as clear as possible and close the door to any pets who may decide that they also need a ballet class today.

If you are demonstrating, make sure to move the furniture out of the way before you start. You could even try making a backdrop using a sheet or blanket to keep your viewers focused on what you are doing.

If you are videoing yourself, set your laptop or recording device up at a good height and step far enough away so that you can be seen from head to toe.

Try to demonstate a new step with your back to the camera as this makes it easier for pupils to copy you without having to think about what foot they are supposed to be using.

Lighting

Good lighting is often underestimated. Of course, most of us do not have professional lighting equipment at home to be able to establish the most picturesque of lighting situations, but many of us do have some degree of access to the natural light coming through our windows.

Try to put the back of the camera against a window so that natural light is on you with as few shadows as possible. This will make you look happier, brighter and more attractive to your students watching.

If using a light, set the light source right behind your camera and shine it towards the space you want to video.

Sound and Audio Settings

It is best of course to play your music through your device to a set of speakers. Test the volume and see if you can talk above the volume if need be and your pupils will hear you.

You could also capture your voice through a built in microphone on your computer or wireless headphones which will enable you to capture your voice with the best sound quality. Obviously most teachers will prefer using the built in microphone on their devices so that they don’t have headphones on while they are teaching.

If you are live streaming it is a good idea to mute your students while they listen to you teach. Because there is usually a slight delay in the connection, various voices trying to talk at once can be distracting and frustrating, especially for the younger classes. The older students can turn the audio on and off as need be, but otherwise you will need to mute and unmute them.

Please share any other tips you may have on teaching dance online below, as we are all scrambling for as much information we can get on this topic at the moment.

Ballet Barre Exercises

ballet barre exercises

Ballet Bar Exercises or as ballet students call it ballet barre exercises are an essential part of Ballet Training.  In fact there even those who look towards a Ballet Bar Workout to get fit, strong and supple.

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Ballet Barre Exercises

ballet bar exercises
Fingers should rest on top of the bar. Do not grip as in the picture above.

All ballet classes normally start with ballet barre exercises.  This is a very important part of ballet training, as it trains the muscles of the body to apply the correct technique when dancing in the center.

At the barre you have a support so that you can concentrate more on getting the exercises right without worrying about falling over.  This said, one should never hang onto the bar.  Fingers of the hands should rest on it lightly, just as one would do if one had a partner.

Most ballet classes will start the bar with a plie exercise.

This is a simple bending action of the knees, making sure that they are placed well over the toes.  Beginners will start with demi plies in first, which is a bend with the heels still on the floor, while more advanced students will do full plies in first position, where they go further down with the heels lifting slightly off the floor. to aid the bend.

Plies can also be done in 2nd, 4th and 5th position, and you can read more about bar work here.

The next series of ballet bar exercises include tendus, battements glisses, batements jetes, ronds de jambe, battements fondus, petit battements and frappes.

These ballet barre exercises are all designed to work the muscle memory, improved technique, improve balance, learn how to use the legs and feet correctly while maintaining a good posture, and last but not least to develop precision and speed in the footwork.

Adage ballet bar exercises normally follow, which include slow movements with one leg in the air.  This builds up strength and flexibility in the dancer.  Adage also works the turnout within the hip socket.

The bar exercises normally end with grand battement, which is a throwing action of the leg with a controlled coming down.  Bar could also end with a series of releve exercises, which strengthen the feet and ankles and prepare the dancer for pointe shoes.

What If I Can’t Get To A Ballet Class?

These resources below give you some great ballet barre exercises and are structured in a way that anybody can follow, regardless if you are a dancer or not.

They can be purchased online and assist you in getting a great ballet bar workout.  Here are a few.  If you want to find out more about a certain product, simply click on the picture next to the description.

Cardio Barre

This Cardio Barre DVD is a bonus, as it contains four different bar workouts for the price of one.

Intro – 20 minutes

Beginner – 37 minutes

Intermediate – 40 minutes

Advanced – 52 minutes

Each workout progresses to a more difficult level by increasing the tempo of the music, the length of the workout, the amount of repititions in each exercise, and the difficulty of the exercise.

” I LOVE this DVD. I asked for it as a Christmas present and I’m still enjoying the beginner level workout. I use it 1-2xs a week as a full body strength workout. I rotate using it with cardio/treadmill workouts and other strength dvds. I always feel wonderfully energized and stretched afterwards.
I’m a former dancer and really enjoy the barre training and the low-impact cardio. I did not purchase a barre, but instead I use a high-backed kitchen chair.”

The Booty Barre

The booty barre by Tracey Mallett is a great way to work out and is getting very popular.

The Booty Barre DVD is a fun, unique, high energy class.
It fuses legendary fitness techniques from Pilates, Dance, Calisthenics and yoga.
You will streamline, firm, tighten and tone your entire body without adding any bulk. creating balance, posture, body awareness, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.
The result is a body that looks and moves 10 years younger!
What’s the secret behind The Booty Barre?
  • Fat Burning Interval Training
  • Deep Toning Isometric Conditioning
  • Elongating Techniques inherent in Pilates and Dance. These are mixed together to create a NEW workout that will change how you exercise forever!
    Say goodbye to cellulite and belly fat with The Booty Barre
  • For this workout you will need a chair or a ballet barre and a set of 3-5 pound dumbbells

Review

Awarded Top 8 Workout DVD! –Best Health Magazine

Fluidity Fitness Exercise Barre

Beginner Workout – Fluidity founder Michelle Austin guides you through Fluidity’s beginner movements with foolproof instruction that guarantees you proper form and maximum results.

  • Intermediate Workout – Take your workout to the next level with intermediate positions and resistance bands to intensify your upper-body workout.
  • Advanced Workout – The ultimate whole-body challenge! Evolve your workout to a whole new level of intensity with advanced movements and the Fluidity Ball, designed to increase the challenge while adding a little fun.
  • Fluidity Ball, Pump and Resistance Bands – The Fluidity Ball is designed to make even our most advanced Fluidity positions more challenging and fun. Therapeutic movements with the Resistance Bands develop functional strength in the complicated shoulder joint where weights just won’t cut it.
  • FluidityFit Guide to Healthy Eating – Boost your energy, strengthen your immunity and accelerate your workout results with our nutritional guidelines to living a healthy and delicious whole foods way of life.

Need Your Own Ballet Bar?

Ballet Barre Portable Double Freestanding Ballet Bar 4’ Height Adjustable 29″ Base Anti Slip Aluminum Light Weight Sturdy Rust and Smell Free Fitness bar with Dance Stretch Band Carry Bag for Home

  • You can order this non slip bar online by simply clicking the link above.
  • Light weight premium aluminum and rust free.
  • Stretch band included as well as a carry bag.
  • Adjustable height and 4 feet long.
  • Easy to assembly and totally portable.
  • Exercise guide included with illustrated stretching exercises.

Please comment below if you have any other ideas on ballet barre exercises and how they will help you or if you have any questions.

Who Was Rudolf Nureyev?

Rudolf Nureyev

If you do ballet then you probably don’t need to ask ‘who was Rudolf Nureyev,’ as anyone who has been dancing for some time has heard of this famous male dancer.

So Who Was Rudolf Nureyev?

Rudolf Nureyev is regarded as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century.

Rudolf Nureyev History

Rudolf Nureyev was born on the Trans-Siberian train near Pysinky, Irkutsk on the 17th of March 1938. His mother Farida was traveling to Vladivostok where his father Hamat who was a Red Army political commissar was stationed.

Rudolf was then raised as the only son in a Tatar family in a village near Ufa in the Soviet Republic of Bashkiria.

When his mother smuggled him and his sisters into a performance of the ballet Song of the Cranes, he fell in love with dance.

As a child he was encouraged to dance in Bashkir folk performances and his talents were soon noticed by teachers who encouraged him to train in Leningrad.

who was Rudolf NureyevOn a tour stop in Moscow with a local ballet company, Nureyev auditioned for the Bolshoi ballet company and was accepted. However, he felt that the Kirov Ballet School was the best, so he left the local touring company and bought a ticket to Leningrad.

Due to the disruption of the Soviet cultural life during World War II, Nureyev was unable to enroll in a major ballet school until 1955 when he was 17 years old. This is when he was accepted by the Leningrad Choreographic School which was the associate school of the Kirov Ballet.

Despite the fact that he had such a late start, he was soon recognized as an incredibly gifted dancer. He pushed himself hard rehearsing for hours in order to make up for the years of training that he missed.

Under the tutelage of a great teacher, Alexander Pushkin, he blossomed. Pushkin not only took an interest in him professionally, but also allowed the younger dancer to live with him and his wife.

Upon graduation, the Kirov and the Bolshoi both wanted to sign him, but he continued with the Kirov and went on to become a soloist, which is extremely unusual for someone of his age and experience.

In his three years with the Kirov, he danced fifteen roles mainly with partner Ninel Kurgapkira with whom he was very well pared, even though she was almost a decade older than he was.

Rudolf Nureyev became one of the Soviet Union’s best-known dancers, in a country which revered the ballet and made national heroes of its stars. Soon he was enjoying the rare privilege of travel outside of the Soviet Union, when he danced in Vienna at the international Youth Festival.

Not long after that for disciplinary reasons, he was told he would not be allowed to go abroad again.Rudolf Nureyev

In 1961 the Kirov’s leading male dancer, Konstantin Sergeyev was injured and at the last minute Nureyev was chosen to replace him on the Kirov’s European tour.

In Paris his performances electrified audiences and critics, but he broke the rules about mingling with foreigners and allegedly frequented gay bars in Paris, which alarmed the Kirov’s management. The KGB wanted to send him back to the Soviet Union immediately.

He was then told that he would not travel with the company to London to continue the tour because he was needed to dance at a special performance in the Kremlin. Rudolf Nureyev believed that if he returned to the U.S.S.R., he would most likely be imprisoned due to the fact that KGB agents had been investigating him for being gay.

It has been the more popular and accepted belief that he ‘leaped to freedom’ in order to be a ‘free artist,’ though many of Nureyev’s private accounts, as well as the accounts of many of his close friends tell that he stayed in the west due to the dire consequences of being gay in the Soviet Union.

On June the 17th, 1961 at the Le Bourget Airport in Paris, Rudolf Nureyev defected.

Within a week he was signed up by the Grand Ballet Du Marquis de Cuevas and was performing the Sleeping Beauty with Nina Vyroubova.

His dramatic defection, outstanding technique, exotic looks and his astonishing charisma on stage made him an international star. His defection also gave him the personal freedom he had been denied in the Soviet Union.

On Tour in Denmark, he met Erik Bruhn, a dancer ten years older than him and they became lovers. Erik was also his closest friend and his protector for many years. Bruhn was also the director of the Royal Swedish Ballet from 1967 to 1972 and Ballet Director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983 to 1989.

Rudolf Nureyev petitioned the Soviet Government for many years to be allowed to visit his mother to whom he remained very close, but he was not allowed to do so until 1989 when his mother was dying. During this visit even with his diminished physical ability, he was invited to dance in Leningrad. This visit gave him the opportunity to see many of the teachers and colleagues he had not seen since his defection, including his first ballet teacher in Ufa.

The Perfect Partnership

who was Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev’s first appearance in Britain was at a ballet matinee organized by the Royal Ballet’s Prima Ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. This event was held in aid of the Royal Academy of Dance, a classical ballet teaching organization of which she was the President.

He danced Poeme Tragique, which was a heavily symbolic solo choreographed by Frederick Ashton and he brought the house to its feet in the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.

Nureyev was so well-received by London audiences that Dame Ninette de Valois offered him a contract to join the Royal Ballet as Principal Dancer.

His first appearance with the company was partnering Margot Fonteyn in Giselle on the 21 of February 1962. Fonteyn and Nureyev went on to form what became known as the perfect partnership which became perhaps the most famous partnership in modern theater history, despite Nureyev being 19 years younger than Fonteyn.

They danced together for many years and their last performance together was in Baroque Pas de Trois on the 16th of September 1988, Fonteyn was 69 and Nureyev was 50.

Together they transformed such cornerstone ballets like Swan Lake and Gizelle. They also premiered in Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballet Marguerite and Armand, which was a ballet danced to Liszt’s B minor piano sonata, and this became their signature piece.

Between them they always completely sold out the house, and this led to some injustice, notably when Kenneth Macmillan was forced to allow them to premier in his Romeo and Juliet. Between them they always received upwards of 20 curtain calls together.

Nureyev stayed with the Royal Ballet until 1970, when he was promoted to Principle Guest Artist, enabling him to concentrate on his increasing schedule of international guest appearances and tours. He continued performing regularly with the Royal Ballet until he committed to the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980’s.

In 1982, Nureyev became a naturalized citizen of Austria and in 1983, he was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where, as well as directing, he continued to dance and to promote the younger dancers.

He remained there as a dancer and chief choreographer until 1989. Among the dancers he groomed were Sylvie Guillem, Isabelle Guérin, Manuel Legris, Elisabeth Maurin, Élisabeth Platel, Charles Jude, and Monique Loudières.

His artistic directorship of the Paris Opera Ballet was a great success as he lifted the ballet company out of a dark period. His version of The Sleeping Beauty remains in the Company’s repertoire and was revived and filmed later with his protégé Manuel Legris in the lead.

Despite his advancing illness towards the end of his tenure, he worked tirelessly, staging new versions of old standbys and commissioning some of the most ground-breaking choreographic works of his time. His own version of Romeo and Juliet was a huge success.

When he was sick towards the end of his life, he worked on a final production of La Bayadère which closely follows the Mariinsky Ballet version that he danced as a young man.

When AIDS appeared in France’s news around 1982, Nureyev took little notice. He tested positive for HIV in 1984, but for several years he simply denied that anything was wrong with his health. However, by the late 1980s his diminished capabilities disappointed his admirers who had fond memories of his outstanding prowess and skill.

Nureyev began a marked decline only in the summer of 1991 and entered the final phase of the disease in the spring of 1992.

Nureyev re-entered the hospital Notre Dame Du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret on 20 November 1992 and remained there until his death from AIDS complications at age 54 on 6 January 1993.

His funeral was held in the marble foyer of the Paris Garnier Opera House. Many paid tributes to his brilliance as a dancer. Oleg Vinogradov of the Mariinsky Ballet, stated “What Nureyev did in the West, he could never have done here.”

After so many years of having been denied a place in the Mariinsky Ballet’s history, Nureyev’s reputation was restored and his name was reentered in the history of the Mariinsky. Some of his personal effects were placed on display at the theater museum in what is now St. Pietersburg.

Competitive Dance Competitions – The Good And The Bad!

competitive dance competitions

In this post I want to look at competitive dance competitions, who should be doing them and if there are any advantages to taking part in these.

Competitive Dance Competitions have been around forever, but in recent years there has been a huge spike in these competitions with more and more of them opening every year.

In the past our studio has always taken part in our local annual competition and our dancers have enjoyed both positive and negative experiences, but luckily more positive as they have gotten a glimpse into the professional world of dance and can compare their own progress with others from all over the city in similar age groups.

Many professional dancers speak of how competitive dance competitions gave them some life-changing opportunities in the form of bursaries to continue their dance education or places in prestigious dance schools or companies.

It’s Not Just About Winning

competitive dance competitionsOther than the chance of wining a gold award, students’ can gain so much more like meeting like-minded people, making new friends, comparing differing dance and teaching styles and measuring their standards against their peers.

This is a good thing, as more students’ gain opportunities to compete and be seen. It gives students’ something to work towards, and they set their goals higher and push themselves harder than they normally would.

The Not So Good About Competitive Dance Competitions

I find the main problem is that dance pupils are being pushed to perform physical and technical feats in these competitions that their bodies are not ready for yet, thus risking the incidence of injury and at worsted case scenario cutting a dancers career short.

The students’ are often so busy getting ready for the numerous competitions out there that they fail to work on their basic technique, which is important for them to develop strength and improve. Often a students’ artistry is compromised in order to perform tricks to wow the audience.

Instead, that dancer should be working more on technique and deliver a more expressive performance with emotion, dynamics, musicality, storytelling ability alongside clean and accomplished technique relative to their age. This is what dance is truly about, not about how many pirouettes or flick flacks you can do.

As a teacher I find it harder each year to find the time to develop healthier and more resilient dancers if they are always wanting to practice their competition pieces. As instructors we have a duty to point these out to young people and to make changes if we see that they are doing potentially harmful things to their bodies.

Unfortunately it is still common to see girls as young as eight years old on pointe with some of these competitions even permitting this to take place. Don’t they know the long term damage this can have on a child s body?

Pointe work requires a great foundation of strength, which takes years to train, and I for one don’t let my girls go onto pointe before they hit puberty.

Same thing goes for boys. Some competitions permit boys to perform pas de deux work with lifts when their bones are still developing. Imagine the damage to a shoulder joint or the vertebrae in the back if a boy tries to lift a girl before he is physically strong enough.

competitive dance competitionsSo competitions encourage teachers to push children into things that they are not ready for way to early, and this is the part of competitions that I don’t agree with.

The other problem is that by entering too many competitive dance competitions, a young dancer can be pushed so hard that they end up burning out by the time they are 15 years old. Nobody gains anything if this happens.

A lot of dance studio owners say that they feel pressured by the parents to enter lots of competitions and if they don’t produce winners the child gets moved elsewhere.

In order to win competitions a dancer will need to dedicate considerable time each day in the training and perfecting of both competition routines and technique. When there are too many competitions, a lot of time is taken away from the dancers technical training, and this is where they also develop strength and stamina, which leaves them less prone to injuries.

In order to achieve the above some schools are training dancers between six and eight hours a day seven days a week to perfect their solos, and because only a few steps are done in a variation, other areas of their training are neglected.

Some children even neglect their academic education and reduce this to just a few hours a week. Unfortunately it is the academic subjects that will help them after their dance careers, which are normally short-lived, and think about it, an educated dancer also makes a far more successful artist in the end.

The top ballet schools schedule three or four hours of ballet training a day for under 16s five days a week and they encourage rest over the weekends. In order to grow healthily during adolescence, the body needs to rest to avoid long-term and irreversible damage.

If all a child’s energy is used up training intensely for long hours, then there is little left for growth and mental focus.

Remember that good training is about building the foundation blocks carefully and steadily so that dancers can achieve their full potential and longevity in their dance career.

So I believe competitive dance competitions can be a great platform for dancers to gain valuable experience, but within reason and not too often.

It is a dance teachers duty to place strict criteria in place to protect the children in their care and ensure that all the vocabulary in their students’ dances is both artistic and age appropriate.

How To Dance Musically

how to dance musically

Every dancer needs to know how to dance musically. This is because dance and music go together. They are interconnected.

Ezra Pound wrote, “Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance.”

It is so easy to take music for granted when you dance, as it is always playing in the background. Don’t treat the music merely as a means of keeping time, really listen to the music, as it will inspire, motivate and actually make you a better dancer.

how to dance musicallySo Why Do We Have Music In Dance?

Music provides the rhythm, tempo and fundamental pulse to which the dancer should dance. It indicates where you should be at certain moments.

Even if you are simply dancing to a drum beat, you need to dance forcefully and listen for the accents.

When melody and harmony join rhythm and tempo, the music offers abundant information and guidance to the dancer.

How To Dance Musically

You as a dancer needs to find out what the personality of the music is and then bring it out in yourself. This is the path to take if you want to know how to dance musically.

So as delicate music will call for delicate dancing, loud strong music will call for bigger and bolder movements.

So you need to be versatile as a dancer so that you can dance sharply to staccato or pizzicato music and more fluidly to legato music so that you can connect your steps in smooth fluid elongated and beautiful lines.

The next level on how to dance musically is to consider the phrasing of the music.

Just as music phrases connect individual notes, movement phrases connect individual steps. Your dancing should be like a pearl necklace. Although each pearl is beautiful by itself, the whole necklace is even more so.

Train your ear to listen for the way that the music changes dynamics, climaxes, and cadences and think about what you would emphasize were you to sing the melody line and shape your dance accordingly.

Musicality is more than simply dancing in time with the music. It is the ability to hear subtle qualities and structures within the music and then have the gift to be able to communicate them through your dancing.

As a dancer, you should also be having some sort of music training as learning to read music and help you tremendously as a dancer. Try listening to different types of music outside of dance class and try and identify the rhythm by simply allowing your hand to beat gently along with the music. Your hand should automatically accent the downbeat, enabling you to differentiate between a march (4/4 timing) and a waltz (3/4 timing). Once you have your timing off pat, you can graduate to more complicated music.

If you know how to dance musically, you can solve a lot of dance problems too. When a turn, for instance, isn’t working or you’re behind in a tricky combination, listen to the rhythm and accent of the music. You may turn better by changing the rhythm or jump a bit quicker by changing the accent.

Music can give you that push that you may need to get through a long and tough variation. Simply think of riding the music the way a surfer rides the waves and you won’t run out of breath so quickly.

Should You Count Your Music?

developing musicality

Well, the answer to this is yes and no. It is important sometimes when you are developing an ear for the music in the beginning stages of your dance training to be able to count the music and hear the beats, but you don’t want to end up being a robotic dancer, so sometimes it helps just to listen and interpret.

I am sure you have heard your teacher saying on occasion, ‘count money, not music.’ This is so that you can develop musical sensitivity.

While cultivating your own musicality, it also important not to lose sight of the fact that counting is still an essential skill for dancers. Some dancers are naturally musical while others need time to develop an ear and in this case, counting does help a lot.

Sometimes the choreography in a group requires counting so that the group can move in unison, but if you have a solo, try and interpret the music as you are dancing to make it your own.

With some music, it is impossible to count like the music in Stravinsky’s complex ‘The Rite of Spring.’ The dancers had such trouble with this music that the choreographer Nijinsky had to stand in the wings and count it for them. Unfortunately, the audience rioted because they did not like the ballet, so the dancers could not hear him.

Ballet Turnout – The Good And The Bad

turnout in ballet

If you are a dancer, especially a ballet dancer, then you will know the endless fights you have with yourself to improve your ballet turnout. In this article, we will look at the right and wrong ways to turnout your feet, and also try some exercises to improve your ballet turnout.

What Is Ballet Turnout?

ballet turnout

Ballet turnout is the rotation of the leg at the hips which causes the feet to turn outward, away from the front of the body.

This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. Turnout is an essential part of the classical ballet technique. Without turnout, ballet simply does not look like, well, ballet.

The more turned out the dancer’s legs are, the more pleasing to the eye the dancer is to watch.

When a child first starts ballet he or she will learn about the first position as pictured below. It may be one of the first things you learn in a ballet class but turnout in ballet is one of the most difficult things to master because turning out is a very unnatural thing to do for most people.

first positionContrary to belief, the dancer is taught not to only turn the feet out, but to turn the entire leg out from the hip joint.

The knees should be facing the middle toe at all times and the dancer will have to elongate the lower spine and rotate the femur in the hip joint in order to get his or her maximum turnout.

The dancer will do most of her ballet class with her feet in a turned out position. This, in turn, trains the muscles to hold the turnout when more intricate steps are performed later.

In the photo below, you will see a classic example of a dancer who is trying to turn out more than they are able. You will notice that the arches are collapsing forward causing a huge strain on the knees.

turnoutVery few people have a natural 180-degree turnout, as this dancer is trying to demonstrate.

The turnout happens in the hip area and if the bone structure in your hip limits your turnout in any way, you have to learn to work with what you have got.

Never ever force the turnout, as you will only cause long term and permanent damage to your knees and maybe even your hips, not to mention the alignment in your feet.

A dancer who forces their turnout will have a better chance of injury while also decreasing their own overall ability to do steps.

What If I Don’t Have Perfect Turnout?

Remember that it’s okay not to have perfect turnout. There are many famous ballerina’s that didn’t have perfect turnout, but they still had that star quality. One example of this is the late great Margot Fonteyn.

Many dancers may try to force turnout because they’re trying to be perfect. Well, the sooner a dancer realizes that perfection doesn’t exist in ballet, the sooner they can relax and properly use what they have.

This takes some practice and maybe some internal searching, especially for professionals. The best way to get over it is to make a simple “would I rather” list. For example… Would you rather force your turnout or jump higher? Would you rather force your turnout or dance longer? Force your turnout or be more stable on your legs? Force your turnout or have less risk of injury?

Ballet Turnout Exercises To Try?

First, try this simple exercise for more functional turnout.

Stand at the barre in your usual over turned out fifth position and plie. Feel where your knees are, whether you are square or not and if your back is arching and your butt sticking out.

Try to feel how “strong” you feel in this position. Could someone walk right by and knock you over with a little push?

Now, let your feet turn in one inch on either side. Plie again and now try to feel how it feels in comparison to when you were forcing your feet open. Does it feel like you could spring off the floor easier? Do your back and hips feel less pressure? If you’re most dancers, the answer to these will be “Yes!”

Almost every dancer is guilty of forcing the turnout at some point or another.

If you want to have a longer career with fewer injuries while also gaining more function and strength, don’t force your turnout. Turn it in an inch and you may be amazed.ballet turnout

Just remember that pushing your turnout isn’t the same as forcing it.

Never turn out to the point that your hips, knees, and ankles aren’t aligned in a plié, your hips are tucked under, your feet are rolled in or your back is swayed.

The trick is to use the maximum turnout that you naturally have and work in that range.

Most good dancers don’t have perfect turnout—they just have the muscle control to make the best of their existing rotation.

The stronger your turnout muscles are, the easier the steps will be to do.

Having turnout and working with the correct amount of turnout and the correct muscles give you a greater range of motion and allow you to move more freely, bigger, and faster.

Checklist For Dancers When  Standing In 5th Position

  • Is the pelvis in neutral?
  • Is the tailbone down but not tucked?
  • Are the hips opening like a book from the center of the body?
  • Is the upper body lifted?
  • Is the weight over the front part of the foot and not on the heels?

Products To Purchase Online To Help With Your Turnout

Ballet Turnout Training Boards 2 Discs

This excellent tool teaches the foot, ankle, and hip to work together correctly and also shows up the incorrect alignment you may or may not have.

The boards are 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. There are two boards in a package.

There is a video below with examples of how these boards can improve your ballet turnout.

Reliable4Life Stretch Bands for Ballet and Dance with Resistance Band Included, Perfect for Kids and Adults, Improves Splits, Flexibility and Strength plus Carry Bag and Illustrated eBook, set of 2

These bands can help with both your stretching and your turnout with the many different types of exercises that you can do with them.

How To Improve Your Turnout

This is a wonderful video done by Kathryn Morgan to show you what sort of exercises you should be doing to improve your ballet turnout. In these exercises, you will be using both the bands and the ballet turnout board featured above.

Ballet Games For Dance Class – Make Your Dance Classes More Fun

As a teacher of ballet, it is always useful to have some ballet games for dance class that you can use on occasion to make your lessons more fun for the little ones, and also to give them a break from concentrating on technique all the time.

If you incorporate ballet games for dance class, try to do games that teach the children something relevant to the dance class they are attending, within the game.  In that way, the children are both having fun and learning at the same time.ballet games for dance class

Here are a few ideas that you can use in your dance class to get your kids going.

Ballet Games For Dance Class

Musical Chairs:

This is an old favorite ballet game for dance class and one that I use quite often.  You will, however, have problems with musical chairs if you have a child in the class who does not like to be the loser. I usually let the children who are out go and choose the next chair to take away so that it makes them feel important.

First I set out enough chairs in a row back to back for all the children to sit on. Make sure there is enough space around the chairs so the children can skip or dance around them.

I then play the music and give the children appropriate ballet steps they can do around the chairs.  Sometimes we skip, sometimes we walk with pointy toes, sometimes we run on our tippy toes and other times we march.  Now and then I also add in a pony gallop or two.

On the first round, I normally don’t remove a chair so all the children get a chance to sit on a chair when I stop the music.  I start removing chairs from the second round or as I said above I let the child who came out last remove the next chair.  She then sits and stretches while she waits for the next one to be out.ballet games dance class

Musical Statues:

The children just love this one.  It is also a very easy one for everyone to participate in.

The aim of the game is for the children to freeze when the music stops.  This teaches them to listen to music.

Once they get this right, you can give them instructions on what to do the next time the music stops.  For instance, they can balance on one leg, or touch the floor with both hands.  This teaches them to listen to instructions and remember what to do.

A great song to use for this game is The Tricky Freeze Song by Jason and Nancy Levin.

Exploring Emotions:

In this game I let them show me what sad, happy, excited, grumpy, silly and sleepy look like.

I then play the appropriate music and then say ‘be sad’ or ‘be silly.’ For older children, I play music and let them interpret what sort of emotion the music makes them feel and dance accordingly.

Clap Clap Rhythm Game:

I normally do this one at the end of a class.  All you need to do is find a lively piece of music with a chorus and a few verses. ballet games

You then give them a rhythm to clap that goes with the chorus and let them practice it a few times.  Once they have it, you can start the music.

Tell them what steps you want to see, and once the chorus comes on you shout stop and the children have to clap the rhythm that you gave them in time to the music.

This game is also great for musicality as well as reinforcing the dance steps that they learned during the class. You can also try this game using musical instruments like tambourines, symbols, drums or bells.

Concert Time:

Sometimes at the end of the class, we have a concert.

I divide the children into two groups and make one group the audience, and the other has to dance on the stage for their friends. ballet game

Give them a theme and play some appropriate music and you will be amazed at what they come up with.

Most of the children love this game, but if you have a shy child, let her stand next to you and help you pick a winner from each group.

Hula Hoops:

For this ballet game for the dance class, you will need some hula hoops – four or five of them.  Line them up in a snake type shape, with each hoop touching the next.  Count the number of jumps the children will need to get from one side to the other.

The aim is for the child to jump from one side to the other without separating their feet.  Put imaginary super glue on each child’s feet before they start.  Once they have jumped over the last hula hoop they can run around on their tippy toes and stand at the end of the line.

Once they have mastered the jumps with their feet together, you can add in pointed feet.  Then you can make a hopscotch game out of it by making them separate their feet in a certain hoop.

This teaches the children to take turns, jump and you can focus on them landing softly and on bet legs.

If you are looking for a dance plan for 3 to 5-year-olds for an entire lesson of fun, try this circus theme.

Feel free to leave any other ideas on ballet games dance class and comments you may have below dance teachers.

Dame Margot Fonteyn De Arias

dame margot fonteyn de arias

Because the 18th of May is the birth date of Dame Margot Fonteyn De Arias, and she will have been 100 years old this year, I thought it fitting to write an article about this wonderful lady and dancer.

Dame Margot Fonteyn was born on the 18th of May 1919 as Peggy Hookham in Reigate, England. She was a solemn little girl with a thick page-boy haircut, a pet chipmunk and had a love of vigorous character dancing.

Pavlova who was a star at the time made very little impression on the little girl and who would have known that she would become Britain’s prima ballerina absoluta.

By her own admission, she was not an exceptional ballerina, and there were many others who could do things better than she could in her time. She had no elevation, no instep, and feeble pirouettes, but there was something special and touching about her and when you watched her performing, you simply fell in love with her.

The qualities that made Fonteyn exceptional were drawn out and developed by several instrumental figures – Her mother, whom she inherited her dark Latina looks and striking eyes, to a determined approach to her daughter’s training. The best teachers were sought out wherever the Hookham’s moved.

Ninette de Valois was the next one who saved her feet by making a change in her shoe and giving her intensive footwork practice.

Ashton was the next one who choreographed for her and on the advice of Tamara Karsavina, instructed her in the angled aesthetics of epaulement.

The Vic-Wells musical director Constant lambert imparted his knowledge of the arts and literature to the young performer who felt the lack of her academic schooling keenly. They had an affair that ended disastrously and she didn’t even mention him in her autobiography.

So Who Is Margot Fonteyn?

Peggy Hookham

In case you are wondering who she is, she was an outstanding and beloved classical ballerina with an extensive career that spanned from 1934 to 1979.

She danced for England’s Royal Ballet which put British Ballet on the international map.

dame margot fonteyn de arias

Her father was British and her mother, Hilda, was the daughter of an Irish mother and a Brazilian father. Margot had one brother called Felix.

They both grew up happily in the London suburb of Ealing and Margot began dancing classes at the age of four at a local dance school.

Her father accepted a position as chief engineer of a tobacco company in Shanghai when Margo was eight, so that is where they moved.

In Shanghai, she took lessons from George Goncharov. She loved moving and was always creating dances of her own.

When she was fourteen her mother brought her to London to give her a chance to develop a dancing career.

She started lessons with Serafina Astafieva and then moved on to the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School with Vera Volkova.

In her teenage years, Peggy Hookham was singled out by the formidable Ninette de Valois as the prized practitioner of the fledgling Britsh Ballet.

Her identity was changed at de Valois’ bidding.

Since Peggy’s mother had been born illegitimately to an Irish mother, the well-to-do Fontes family refused to lend their name to the burgeoning ballerina of the Vic-Wells Company, so she became Margot Fonteyn and was transformed over the years into Ashton’s muse and custodian of the Petipa classics, as well as an international star way beyond balletic enclaves.

Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias devoted her entire career to the Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet was founded by Ninette de Valois in 1928 as the Vic-Wells/Sadler’s Wells Ballet. Ninette de Valois believed in Fonteyn’s talent and pushed her through difficult moments.margot fonteyn

She made her debut as a snowflake in the Nutcracker in 1934 and then the next year in a wealth of dance roles in the standard classics such as The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, and Swan Lake. Due to the departure of the great ballerina Alicia Markova, Fonteyn then moved up the ranks quickly.

She loved dancing the romantic heroines and her first major role was in Frederick Ashton’s new ballet Le Baiser de la Fee in 1935. Fonteyn was Ashton’s muse and in her autobiography, she writes that although she had to work hard to master his creations, her happiest moments on stage were dancing in his ballets.

He created leading roles for her in Apparitions, Nocturne, Les Patineurs, A Wedding Bouquet, Horoscope, the Wise Virgins, Dante Sonata, The Wanderer, The Quest, Ondine and Daphnis, and Chloe.

De Valois also created roles for Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias in Orpheus and Euridyce and Don Quixote.

She was the first ballerina in George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial.

During World War II the company had a full schedule and were performing to all types of audiences including troops in Brussels.

In 1949 she danced her first performance in the United States which was triumphantly received.

Dame Margot Fonteyn De Arias

Fonteyn was well known for her pas de deux work (partnered work). She worked with both Robert Helpmann and Michael Sommes for many years.

She danced in Paris in Les Demoiselles de la Nuit in 1948 with Roland Petit.

In her forties, she started thinking about retirement, but then met Rudolf Nureyev who had just left Russia at the age of 23.

They became a dynamic team and became known as the perfect partnership. The combination of his spirit and her technique which was at its best made it joint artistry.

They performed Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo, and Juliet. Ashton created Marguerite et Armand especially for them and Martha Graham created Lucifer just for them.

For the next fifteen years, they performed all over the world. It is rumored that they once received a 40-minute ovation and had 43 curtain calls.

Dame Margo Fonteyn De Arias was the most versatile British ballerina after World War II. Her black hair, pale face, and luminous eyes, as well as her engaging smile, were her trademarks.

She also had amazing musicality, a beautiful physique, a gentle loving manner and a soft style of movement with exquisite lines. This created a strong connection with audiences all over the world.

Her presentation of Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty is considered the ultimate interpretation ever of that role.

She had an exceptionally long career and only had her farewell performance in London’s Royal Opera House at the age of 60.

Dame Margo Fonteyn De Arias’s Personal Life

Margo Fonteyn got married at the age of 36 in Paris to a man she had met in her youth – Robert E Arias, also known as Tito.  He was the son of the former president of Panama. He became the Panamanian ambassador in London and was actively involved in the politics of Panama.

He became paralyzed when he was attacked by a political opponent and the couple continued their separate careers, yet always remained connected, even when they were working far apart.

In 1956 Dame Margo Fonteyn De Arias was made a Dame of the British Empire.

In 1979 she became ‘prima ballerina absoluta’ which is a title only given to three ballerinas in the 20th century.

She became the president of the Royal Academy of Dancing in 1954 and annually organized and presented a gala matinee, persuading famous dancers from all the major companies to appear.

She wrote her autobiography while still dancing in 1975 and in 1979 she presented the television series and book The Magic of Dance.

A documentary was made about her on her Panamanian ranch to celebrate her 70th birthday.

She died on the 21st of February 1991 at the age of 72, two years after her husband.

If you would like to find out more about Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias and her life story, these books below can be purchased online by simply clicking on them. You can also watch the most interesting documentary on her below.

Fix Slippery Shoes, Stop Slippery Shoes – Advice For Dancers

fix slippery shoes

Here are some ideas to fix slippery shoes and stop slippery shoes for dancers. Did you know that there is also a way to slip-proof your pointe shoes?

Often as dancers, you will find that the stage or even your studio floor is way too slippery, and there is nothing worse than trying to dance carefully all the time in order not to have a fall.

How To Fix Slippery Shoes

A slip-resistant outer sole is softer and made of rubber that is more slip resistant when exposed to water and oil than other outsole compounds. This softer rubber outsole means that a slip resistant shoe can more effectively grip a slick floor.

In ballet, it is not always so easy to put a rubber at the bottom of your shoes but to glue to circles of rubber to the heel and the upper sole may make the shoes grip the floor a bit better, thus making a better dance experience for you all around.

Other ways to fix slippery shoes could work short term such as:

  1. Scuff the soles on abrasive surfaces. If your slippery shoes are a new pair, there’s a good chance that they’re slippery simply because their soles are perfectly smooth and unworn.
  2. Sandpaper the underneath of the shoes to rough them up a bit.
  3. You could also try a nail file in the same way.
  4. The slower method is to wear your shoes and wait for the soles to naturally wear down.
  5. A metal brush is great for ballroom shoes, and it can be used to brush off the polish and debris collected off of the floor and rough up the leather a bit.

The shoe brushes below can be purchased online.

  • Brush Material: Copper Wire
  • Handle Material: Wood
  • Ideal to clean ballroom shoes, dance shoes, Latin dance shoes etc.
  • Come with a black bristle cover, you can keep it in the shoe bag without harming the shoe.
  • Dimension: Approx. 17*3*3cm

Below are some anti-slip nonskid shoe pads you could also try to fix slippery shoes.

  • Self-adhesive, strong and durable and can provide extra grip on the sole of shoes to prevent slips and falls.
  • Fits any size shoe, male or female (unisex).
  • Ideal for ladies shoes, high heels, boots and sandals and gents shoes.
  • Made from a hard wearing and durable material giving extra gripS on slippy and icy surfaces.
  • Easy to use, just peel off and place the adhesive pad on the sole and press firmly.
  • If you apply to old shoes, please clean the sole first, and then place the anti-slip pad. Leave it for a few hours to dry before first use.

fix slippery shoesHow To Fix Slippery Pointe Shoes

If you know well in advance that the stage or floor you will be dancing on will be very slippery, you can take your pointe shoes to your local shoe repair shop.  Ask them to put rubber on the platform and sole of your shoes.  Be sure to specify tan as the color, or they will automatically use black if you don’t.

Ask them to extend the rubber to the place on the sole where the shank bends.  In this way, the rubber will cover the platform of your pointe shoe and about three-quarters of the sole.  They will be able to use the leather on your soles as a guide. Ask them to put a circle of beveled rubber on the heel side of the shoe about the size of a large coin.

This tactic will work wonders for you when you need to dance on a slippery floor.  You will also be pleasantly surprised at how normal the shoes still feel to dance in.

If all else fails, we have also poured coke all over a stage to sticky it up.  This method, although it works well, may not abide well with the owners of the floor space you are renting.