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.

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.

The Joys Of Teaching Ballet To Children Under Five

In this article, I will deal with how to teach ballet to children under the age of five as well as the joys of teaching ballet to children.

The views in this article are my views only, and I would love to have some other teachers of ballet commenting below on what they do in their classes.

I particularly enjoy teaching younger children to dance, although it does have its own challenges.

Teaching Ballet To Children Under Five Using Stories

When teaching ballet to under-fives, I try to use stories and relate them to the steps that we are learning.  I have done this in two ways in the past.

how to teach ballet to children
Curtsey to the Queen

1.  Teach separate steps each with its own story.

2.  Makeup one long story and theme that carries its way all through the entire class.

You can find examples of stories that you can use in the ballet class by clicking here.

Both work well, although I find if given a choice, the children more than often want choice number 2. Who doesn’t love a visit to the Zoo or a Magic Castle?

If you prefer using version 1, then you could take a step like plies (knee bends) for instance and relate it to something the children will understand.  If they were doing parallel plies you could tell them their heels are stuck to the floor with magic glue and the only way to break the spell is to bend with nice straight backs and knees directly over the toes 6 times.

If they do plies with their feet turned out, you could say that they must open the window and close the window.   You could then have them stand opposite a friend and let them tell you what they see through their friends ‘window.’

If teaching jumps, you could all be rabbits or jumping beans.  If teaching them to point their toes, use terms like good feet, princess feet, etc.

Children relate far better when they use their imagination for movement, rather than giving them steps to do which have no meaning for them.  It is also good for their developing brains and creativity to use imaginative suggestions when teaching the basic dance steps.

how to teach ballet to children
What is my shadow doing?

If using the number 2 method, you will have to do some homework.  Thanks to the internet, you can get some great ideas and stories off of the world wide web.

I also make use of children’s storybooks and the latest children’s TV programs or movies for more inspiration.

For instance, Frozen, the movie, was a huge hit for children worldwide, and I don’t know any child who hasn’t seen it yet.  Now you can take that story and some of the lovely music that comes with it to do a class based on that story.

Other great stories to use are classics like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding hood, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  All you need to do is decide which steps to teach, and see where you can fit them into your story.

The wonderful thing about using stories is that you can add to them and elaborate on them each time, giving different outcomes and endings. That way the children can’t get bored.

When teaching ballet to children, you could also use everyday events to make up a story.  For instance, you could visit the park.  I would pack a picnic basket using my special fingers.  Then I would skip, run or catch a taxi to the park.

Once at the park, you could sit on the slide and show your good toes.  You could also roll about on the grass.  You could turn on the merry go round or swing (sway) on a swing.  You could smell the roses, or fly like a butterfly or bee from flower to flower.  The ideas are endless.  Once you are done with your park adventure, you could catch a train home, or you could simply wake up in your bed like it was all a dream.

Incorporating props is another great way to keep the children interested in the story. Use hola hoops as boats, or to jump into, or even to run around without ‘falling into the hole.’

Use Props To Keep Things Interesting

Bean bags, scarves, baskets (Little Red Riding Hood or picnic) and stuffed toys can also be used to relate to something within the story.

Jmkcoz 24pcs Square Juggling Silk Dance Scarves Magic Tricks Performance Props Accessories Movement Scarves 24 by 24 Inches 6 Colors

These pretty and colorful scarves are a lovely addition for ballet class and there are a few of each color so the children won’t have to fight over who gets which color.

They can be purchased online by clicking on the link above or on the picture.

Yes4All Balance Pods Hedgehog with Hand Pump – Sensory Stepping Stone for Children, Kids – Hedgehog Balance Pods/Balancing Pods (Set of 6)

These balance pods make an exciting and useful addition to dance class.

Balance and coordination are improved as children have to step on the stepping stones without falling off.

They have a non-slip surface for tiny feet.

Sequin Silver Star Wand – Bulk Pack of 24 Pieces With Rhinestones, Magic Fairy Wand Cake & Cupcake Toppers for Girls Dress-Up, Party Decoration, Princess Birthday Parties, and Small Favors

These miniature wands are perfect for all the fairy princesses in the class.

Aneco 14 Pieces Dance Ribbons Streamers Rhythmic Gymnastics Ribbon Wands for Kids Artistic Dancing, Baton Twirling, 14 Colors

Having ribbons on sticks is a hit with any ballet class as you can do so much with them.

This set on the left is an inexpensive addition to your baby class kit.

This is how I like to do my tiny tots ballet classes and according to me how to go about teaching ballet to children, especially the ones of 5 years and younger. I find this method works very well with most children. You can keep them engaged and concentrating for with this method, and if you can keep their attention for a full half-hour you know you have done a great job.

Last but not least, do not expect perfection. Let each child express themselves in their own way. At the age of four, they do not have to have perfect turnout or beautifully stretched feet all the time. At this age, it’s more about discovering what the body can do and relating it to music.

Ballet class at this age should be a fun learning experience where they can explore the different elements of dance without being too technical.

There is nothing more rewarding for me than a happy group of children who can’t wait for their next ballet lesson.

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.

Who Exactly Is Olga Preobrajenska or Preobrazhenska?

Olga Preobrazhenska

Olga Preobrajenska was born in St. Petersburg on January 21, 1871. I have yet to find out what her real surname is hence the two different ways of spelling it in the title of this page. I have a feeling the one way is the Russian way and the other the English way.

Her mother died shortly after her birth and her father took very little interest in her after that.

Even though she came from a family that had no connections whatsoever with the ballet or any of the other arts, Olga Preobrajenska decided early in life that she was going to be a dancer when she grew up.

Olga Preobrajenska The Dancer

She started lessons with Leopoldina Lozenskaya, who was a former dancer at the Mariinsky Theater.

After numerous rejections, by the age of ten, she was finally accepted into the St. Petersburg Theatre School.

She did her intermediate under Lev Ivanov, Christian Johansson and her advanced with the famed choreographer Marius Petipa.

Olga Preobrazenska had limited possibilities as a ballet dancer, as she was short, plain, had mild scoliosis and a hyperextended knee.

She didn’t give up easily though and over the years with continuous self-discipline and hard work, she overcame her shortcomings and achieved great success as a pupil.

Upon graduation in 1889 she immediately entered the Maryinsky Company for which the theatre school existed.

At first, Olga Preobrajenska was relegated to the back row of the corps de ballet with no hope of becoming a soloist. Nevertheless, she achieved this distinction by 1896 and was elevated to the rank of a ballerina by 1900.olga preobrazenska

Olga enjoyed fame and popularity to equal that of Mathilde Kschessinska who was the greatest Russian ballerina of the time.

She performed a broad and varied range of roles, including almost all of those in ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa, Ivanov, and Legat. She was also the first to perform some of these parts like:

  • Anne in Petipa’s Barbe-Bleu (Blue Beard)
  • Pierette in Petipa’s Les Millions d’Ariequin (Harlequinade, 1900)
  • Henriette in Raymonda (1898)
  • Pavel in Gerdt’s Javotte (1902)
  • Cleopatra’s slave in Fokine’s Une Nuit d’Egypte (A night in Egypt, 1908)

She also danced in Fokine’s Chopiniana (1908; 1909), and as late as 1915 he staged Tchaikovsky’s Romance for her when she was 44.

Olga remained a leading dancer there for nearly thirty years. Despite her poor figure and lack of allure, Preobrazhenska was a hard worker and through sheer determination, her career advanced steadily.

Her greatest triumphs were Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee, Paquita, The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda.

She was gifted with a lively personality, personal charm, and a dazzling smile which she conveyed easily across the footlights, and she became very popular with the St. Petersburg audiences.

She was never satisfied with her art and even though she was a mature and respected dancer, Olga Preobrazhenska took lessons from Enrico Cecchetti and Nicolai Legat, as well as Caterina Beretta in Milan, Joseph Hansen in Paris and Katti Lanner in London.

She also studied music (piano) and took voice lessons.

In 1895, Preobrazhensak made her first trip abroad touring for the Mariinsky in the company of Matilda Kshesinskaia and her brother Joseph Kshesinsky. She appeared in Dresden in Monte Carlo and at La Scala in Malan (1904) and in Paris in 1909.

In 1910 she danced a shortened version of Swan Lake in London for the first time and in 1912 toured in South America.

During the First World War, she trained as a nurse and went on to work in several hospitals in order to learn as much as possible about her new craft. She served in various military hospitals and conducted a small hospital in the courtyard of her home, all the while continuing to teach her classes in ballet under increasingly difficult conditions.

She taught at the St Petersburg Theater School from time to time and after the Russian Revolutions of March and November 1917, she continued with her career by joining the new School of Russian Ballet which was newly founded by Akim Volynsky.

Here the newest and most innovative ballet techniques were being taught and further developed. She served as a teacher until 1921. She worked training the greats like Agrippina Vaganova, Alexandra Danilova, Olga Mungalova, Vera Volkova and even Vaganova who went on to become the greatest dance teacher in the Soviet Union and the founder of Soviet Ballet.

Olga Preobrajenska found the destruction of the old world of Imperial Russia of which the ballet had been so much a part of very difficult to cope with and in February 1921 she left Russia for Finland.

After a few gala performances in Riga, Latvia (which was no longer a part of Russia), she went to Berlin where she danced wherever she could get an engagement.

She wrote to La Scala in Milan where she had performed four times in the past and received an invitation to choreograph there for an entire opera season. After this, she realized that Berlin had nothing to offer her and she left for France shortly after her return from Milan.

Olga Preobrazhenska The Teacher

In 1923 she settled in Paris and opened a private school at the Studio Wacker. As her fame spread, she became one of the most distinguished and sought after teachers in Europe until her retirement in 1960 at the age of 89.

As a dancer, Olga Preobrazhenska was admired for her precision and the perfection of her technique, as well as her soaring leaps. She had wonderful musicality and was a natural actress. She had a gift for improvisation.

Here is a list of the roles that brought out the best in Preobrazhenska:

  • Butterfly in Les Caprices du Papillon
  • Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty
  • Lise in La Fille Malgarde
  • Muzhichok by Petipa
  • Liszt Czardas by Ivanov
  • Swanilda in Coppelia
  • Teresa in The Cavalry Halt
  • Galatea in Acis et Galatea
  • Summer in Petipa’s Four Seasons

She was never considered much of a success as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake or as Gizelle.

However, it was as a teacher that she left her mark on the world of classical dance and she devoted herself to passing on the traditions of the Russian Ballet.

She had an ability to detect and weed out the defects in her pupil’s work that made her a born mistress of ballet instructions.

She was a firm believer in Cecchetti’s code that ballet dancing must be mastered in the classroom first and could not be mastered later on the stage.

With her authority and rigid discipline, she gave her pupils an extraordinary command of technique. When the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was formed in 1930, most of the dancers were former pupils of Peobrazhenska’s including its earliest two stars Tamara Toumanova and Irina Baronova.

Other dancers who studied under her or who came to take classes with her in both St Petersburg and Paris included Margot Fonteyn, Hugh Laing, Vladimir Skouratoff, Mialord Miskovitch, Ludmilla Tcherina, Nina Verchinina, Igor Youskevitch as well as company directors and other well-known teachers.

She was an intensely private person and never married. She tended to keep people at a distance.

Her closest friend was her former pupil and later assistant Elvira Rone, who especially in her later years managed her studio for her.

She never quite accepted that her career as a dancer was over and suffered from recurrent depression over the years. She could be abrupt to the point of rudeness, yet she was kind and generous and often taught impoverished children for free. She was a great lover of animals and birds.

In her last years, she was ill and living in poverty and she depended very much upon the charity of Toumanova. She died in a nursing home in Sainte-Mande, France on the 27th of December 1962, just a few weeks away from her 92nd birthday.

She was mourned as one of the last survivors of the Golden Age of the Russian Imperial Ballet.

Ballet Books Adults And Children Will Love

ballet books

I have a wonderful collection of ballet books at home that I have collected over the years. They weren’t always easy to come by, as the book stores when I was growing up seldom had anything on dance, but when they did, I always snapped it up.

ballet books adults

Now it is far easier to get your hands on great ballet books, as most can be purchased online at reasonable prices. Here are some of my favorites.

Ballet Books Children Will Love

These are four of my favorite children’s ballet books. If you are interested in finding out more about any of the books, simply click on the link or on the picture of the ballet book.

A Child’s Introduction to Ballet: The Stories, Music, and Magic of Classical Dance (Child’s Introduction Series)

Ballet dancers of all ages will love the mesmerizing stories of the world’s great ballets. In this charmingly illustrated hardcover book plus music CD, younger readers will enjoy fun facts, dancing how-tos, some history behind the dances and compositions, plus profiles of famous ballerinas and dancers while listening to excerpts of classical music.

From the Inside Flap:

Welcome to the magical world of ballet!

In this book, you’ll experience dance in a whole new way–by listening and learning at the same time. You’ll read about the history of ballet and its most famous dancers, composers, and choreographers.

You’ll find out a little bit about the different ballet steps and positions (and get a chance to try them yourself). And best of all, you’ll read the wonderful stories of the world’s greatest ballets, and, as the stories unfold, you can listen to pieces of music from some of them.

Soon, you will be a ballet expert!

From The Nutcracker and Swan Lake to Rodeo, Fancy-Free, and Peter and the Wolf, all of the world’s most popular and beloved ballets are included here, illustrated with beautiful watercolors that you will want to return to again and again. Enjoy the stories (and the stories behind):
La Sylphide
Giselle

Coppelia

Don Quixote
Swan Lake 

Sleeping Beauty
The Nutcracker
Dying Swan
Firebird 
Petrouchka 

The Rite of Spring
Peter and the Wolf 
Romeo and Juliet

Rodeo
Fancy-Free

Circus Polka
Cinderella
Daphnis and Chloe
and more!

This 96-page ballet book is suitable for children between the ages of 8 and 13 years.

Ballerina: A Step-by-Step Guide to Ballet (Residents of the United States of America)

The age range for this ballet book is between 8 and 12 years.

Aspiring ballerinas will leap into the world of ballet with this beautiful step-by-step guide. This inspiring book details all of the aspects of the world of ballet.

Richly illustrated photographs, informative text, and an included instructional DVD helps beginners and intermediate ballet students gain a greater understanding of this timeless art.

There are explanations of the exercises and the technique needed to perform them.

This book is also great for adult beginners.

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet

Fancy Nancy is ready for the spotlight! Fancy Nancy and her best friend, Bree, couldn’t be more excited about their upcoming dance show. After all, it’s all about mermaids, and who knows how to be a fancy, glamorous mermaid better than Fancy Nancy herself?

But when another ballerina wins the coveted role of the mermaid, Nancy is stuck playing a dreary, dull tree. Can Nancy bring fancy flair to her role, even though it isn’t the one she wanted? And when disaster strikes right before the big ballet, who will step into the spotlight?

The best ages for this book is between 4 and 8 years old.

The Ballet Book

This is the perfect guidebook for budding ballerinas who are just breaking in their toe shoes.

From port de bras to adagio, young dancers will learn pointe work from any level. Arabesque into the classic world of ballet by finding out about its history. Become acquainted with classic choreographers and composers. This book for children even includes advice on how to do stage makeup and take care of your ballet shoes!

This ballet book is great for 7 to 10-year-olds.

Ballet Books Adults Will Love

Here are my favorite adult ballet books. Enjoy!

Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story

Discover more than 70 of the most famous ballets, from The Nutcracker and Swan Lake to The Rite of Spring.

Learn the stories behind all the renowned companies such as The Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet.

Explore the lives and achievements of all the famous dancers across the centuries, such as Margot Fonteyn, Carlos Acosta, and Darcey Bussell.

Read about the famous composers and choreographers

From Ballet’s origins at court and the first national ballet companies to the contemporary scene and extraordinary venues that stage the productions, this book covers an impressive history of ballet and provides an invaluable overview of this beautiful art form.

The book is filled with beautiful and rare photographs and is an essential gift for all ballet enthusiasts.

The Ballet Companion

This ballet book is one of my favorites and I reference with it often when teaching.

The Ballet Companion is a fresh, comprehensive, and thoroughly up-to-date reference book for the dancer.

It has 150 stunning photographs of ballet stars Maria Riccetto and Benjamin Millepied demonstrating perfect execution of a lot of the positions and steps.

This is every dance students dream as it includes:

  • Practical advice for getting started, such as selecting a school, making the most of the class, and studio etiquette.
  • Explanations of ballet fundamentals and major training systems.
  • An illustrated guide through ballet class — warm-up, barre, and center.
  • Guidelines for safe, healthy dancing through a sensible diet, injury prevention, and cross-training with yoga and Pilates.
  • Descriptions of must-see ballets and glossaries of dance, music, and theater terms.

Along the way, you’ll find technique secrets from the stars of American Ballet Theatre, lavishly illustrated sidebars on ballet history, and tips on everything from styling a ballet bun to stage makeup to performing the perfect pirouette.

Whether a budding ballerina, serious student, or adult returning to ballet, dancers will find a lively mix of ballet’s time-honored traditions and essential new information in this beautiful ballet book.

Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You

The celebrated ballerina, Misty Copeland shares the secrets of how to reshape your body and achieve a lean, strong physique and glowing health.

Misty Copeland believes “There has been a shift in recent years in which women no longer desire the bare bones of a runway model. Standards have changed: what women do want is a long, toned, powerful body with excellent posture.”

In other words, the body of a ballerina. In her first health and fitness book, Misty will show women how to get healthier and stronger and how to reshape their bodies to be lean and flexible with:

  • Step-by-step advice
  • Meal plans focusing on healthy fats
  • Workout routines
  • Words of inspiration, including excerpts from Misty’s personal journal.

Another great book to read from Misty Copeland is Life In Motion below.

Classical Ballet Technique

Classical Ballet Technique is an invaluable guide for students, teachers, and ballet lovers. It not only covers the broad spectrum of ballet vocabulary but also gives sound, practical advice to aspiring dancers.

The clarity of the writing, in a field notorious for its opaqueness, is in itself a major achievement.”–Merrill Ashley, Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet.

“An excellent, comprehensive guide to ballet pedagogy valuable to teachers and students alike. For many years Gretchen’s has been a major voice in the dance community, and this extensive work details the study of classical ballet from her unique and expert point of view. I applaud her, and I heartily recommend Classical Ballet Technique.”–David Howard, International Ballet Master, and Master Teacher.

“Gretchen Warren has undertaken a monumental task and has completed it with distinction. Obviously, a labor of love, this book’s attention to detail and the clarity of its text and photos make it a valuable contribution to the lexicon of ballet. I recommend it to every serious student and teacher.”–Thalia Mara, Founding Director, Ballet Repertory Company and National Academy of Ballet; Artistic Director, U.S.A. International Ballet Competition.

“Congratulations to Ms. Warren for her authoritative book on classical ballet. Thanks are in order too from the many professional teachers, dancers, and students of the art form who will benefit from this book-an essential addition to any dance lover’s library.”–Lawrence Rhodes, Artistic Director, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

This one is a must for older students and adults who are studying the art of classical ballet in a more serious way.

Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet

A distinguished dance critic offers an enchanting introduction to the art of ballet

As much as we may enjoy Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, for many of us ballet is a foreign language.

Ballet as an art communicates through movement, not words, and its history lies almost entirely abroad–in Russia, Italy, and France.

In Celestial Bodies, dance critic Laura Jacobs makes the foreign familiar, providing a lively, poetic, and uniquely accessible introduction to the world of classical dance.

This ballet book combines history, interviews with dancers, technical definitions, descriptions of performances, and personal stories, Jacobs offers an intimate and passionate guide to watching ballet and understanding the central elements of choreography.

Beautifully written and elegantly illustrated with original drawings, Celestial Bodies is essential reading for all lovers of this magnificent art form.

Some more great ballet books adults and children will love that can be purchased online through Amazon.

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.

Ballet Positions Feet – How Do I Teach Them to Little Dancers

ballet steps for kids
ballet positions feet
1st Position

The best way to teach the ballet positions feet to little ones, is to use a language that little dancers will understand.  It is not important in a five year old’s mind to learn what 1st Position is, they are just there to dance and have fun.

With little ballerinas it is best to stick to parallel when teaching them, especially when jumping.  Let them feel their knees over their toes first before trying to get them to dance turned out.

A good way for them to get the feeling in 2nd Position is to get them to stand in parallel 2nd, feet hip distance apart, squeezing a ball between their knees.  Get them to bend and stretch without dropping the ball.  The knees will tend to go inwards when they bend, but the ball will help them to get their knees aligned over their toes.

A good way to teach ballet positions feet, especially for little ones, is to come up with special words for the positions that can help them associate to the positions of the feet. For example you could call first position “smiley feet” or tell them to look down and check that their feet are smiling at them.

You could also try placing their feet in parallel and then tell them to open the door and get them to open up their toes and keep their heels together.

How To Teach Ballet Positions Feet

ballet positions feet
2nd Position

When you approach first position, make sure that their knees are over their toes.  Don’t let them turn out too much as children love to exaggerate and stand with their feet at 180-degree turnout.

I tell my children that this is very bad for making pretty ballet legs.  Let them work to their ability and do some plies in 1st, explaining that the knee must open over the toes.

Using pictures helps. I tell them that their knees are like an umbrella shading their toes.

Young children have a limited ability to understand turnout from the hips so when introducing 2nd Position, you could have them jump out and in.  Try to stop them from going too wide and work in parallel or natural turnout.

Let them try to stand in second and check that the weight is evenly placed in the middle of their two feet.

Make sure that the children have their weight equally on both feet when standing.  All the toes should be on the floor and the ankles should be in a straight line and not rolling forwards.

ballet positions feet
3rd Position

I usually show them 3rd Position of the feet, but at this age we don’t work from third as they are not developed enough to be able to understand using both sides of their body equally, and tend to put more weight on one leg than the other.

I also like to show them 4th and 5th position, although I don’t work from these positions either at this age.  They usually ask as they are curious once they know there is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd position of the feet.

ballet positions feet
5th Position

How Do I Jump Higher As A Female Dancer?

how do I jump higher

If you are asking ‘how do I jump higher in my dancing,’ then I have some tips for you taken from male ballet dancers that just seem to soar through the air so effortlessly.

The aim when you do grande allegro in ballet is to look as if you are flying for an instant. It’s an illusion, but it does take lots of practice as well as strong leg and core muscles.

how do I jump higher

When doing a grand jete for example as the girl above is demonstrating, you need to actually open your legs out in the air again once you are mid-flight in order to stay in the air a little longer and to give the illusion of flying.

So How Do I Jump Higher?

For all the grand allegro in ballet the plie is very important, but if you want to get high off the ground you really need to get down as much as you can before you take off.

If you ask a non-ballet person to jump as high as they can, they will bend in their legs and let their hips go back before taking off into the air.

In ballet, we are trained not to let the hips sink back, but unfortunately that is the only way that you are going to get any significant height into your jump.

You can sink into the hips, but then at the very bottom of that sink, you must immediately throw your whole body, which includes your hips, legs, torso, head, toes and fingertips into the air. The magic must happen in the immediacy and the quickness of the push, and you must try to get to the top of your jump as quickly as possible.

It helps to focus all your energy into the muscles that are pushing you into the jump, so you really need to concentrate with focused energy on the whole leg that is pushing you into the air.

This must show a lot of attack and must be aggressive in its approach.

When you first try this way of jumping, you won’t be able to control your landings. If you can then you are obviously not pushing off the floor hard enough or strong enough.how can I jump higher

The next trick is this. Once you are up in the air, don’t come down. Try to live up there for a little while, as this is where the magic happens.

We can make the audience think we are defying gravity by holding the jumping position in the air a bit longer than we think we can.

Don’t jump and then think about landing straight away. You have more time in the air than you think you do, and the floor is not as close as it seems. You need to challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort level and you will be amazed at what you can achieve up there.

Another neat trick that a dancer can use in her quest on ‘how can I jump higher,’ is to lower the eye line and head slightly before take-off and then lift them both sharply on the push off of the floor. If you can get this coordination working, then the look of the jump will appear higher.

Strength, Speed & Power: More Than 100 Exercises to Help You Run Faster, Jump Higher, and Throw Harder

“An excellent foundation into the key principles of strength, speed, and power.

Clear and descriptive writing, with an abundance of diagrams showing all exercises and muscle groups.

Easy to understand, practical, non-limiting, and functional in respect to varying sports and lifestyles.”

More Tips For How Do I Jump Higher:

  • Use your feet fully. Leave the floor heel, ball, toe and land toe, ball, heel.
  • Experiment with breathing. Sometimes it helps to breathe out as you alight and in as you come down. Try it both ways and see what works for you.
  • Make your jump work with the music you are dancing to by listening to the timing and the tempo.
  • Imagine a harness lifting you and supporting you from your pelvic floor as you take off.
  • Relax your shoulders, arms and neck as many dancers seem to tense this area up as they take off.
  • Core muscles must be strong and activated throughout your jump.

Tips For Teachers:

  • Never underestimate the importance of taking them back to the bar. Here they can do a series of quick jumps and releves. Make sure they keep their weight on the balls of their feet and their knees over their toes as they come down. Repetition with good alignment helps develop the muscles correctly.
  • Do many slow releves and quick releves at the bar to strengthen the feet and legs.
  • Simple things like chasses into jumps, and skips help prepare your students for more complex leaps later on.
  • Let them do petit allegro with their hands behind their heads and they will get a better feel where the power is coming from that allows them to get off the ground.
  • Use imagery in your teaching, like ‘hover like and eagle,’ or ‘take flight,’
  • Let them do vertical jumps a lot in order to improve the height of their traveling jumps.

In finishing, I know this is not what you want to hear, but there are no secrets to jumping. It is just a matter of hard work and a combination of proper alignment and solid technique.

The only other secret to how do I jump higher is practice, practice, and practice some more!

The Elements Of Dance – How To Incorporate Them Into Class

elements of dance

The elements of dance are the tools of the craft. These are things you already do in everyday life but haven’t thought about much.

The elements of dance are the foundational concepts and vocabulary that help students develop movement skills and understand dance as an artistic practice.

In this article, I am going to be relating to the elements of dance as used in creative dance, but you can use them in all types of dance. Creative dance is a great basis for all forms of dance and is a great way of getting the children to move freely, without the constraints of ballet.

Take the elements of dance and study and memorize them. Make them a part of your daily life and think about them each time you move.

For example, you stretch to reach for a jar on a high shelf, you run for the bus, you lower your level as you get into the bath and you twist your upper body to talk to the person behind you. So make these movements a part of you.elements of dance

Four Elements Of Dance

Body

Body Parts

These include the inner parts, like bones, joints, muscles, heart, and lungs (breath).

The outer parts include the head, shoulders, arms, hands, back, rib cage, hips, legs, and feet.

Body Moves

The body moves in various ways:

Bending, stretching, rising, circling, twising, swinging, shaking, swaying and collapsing.

Steps

These include walking, running, leaping, sliding, skipping, hopping, jumping and galloping.

Space

Space is the second element of dance and has various factors worked into it too:

  • Shape – the design that the body makes in space
  • Direction – this can be forwards, backward, sideways or turning
  • Level – this includes high, middle and low
  • Size – big or little movements
  • Focus – the direction of the gaze
  • Place – staying on the spot or moving through space
  • Pathway – curved or straight

Force

Force has its own elements too:

  • Flow – is it free-flowing, balanced or bound?
  • Attack – is the dance sharp or smooth?
  • Weight – is it light or heavy?
  • Strength – is it tight or loose?

Time

Time is broken up as follows:

  • Tempo – fast or slow
  • Beat – the underlying pulse
  • Accent – the force
  • Duration – long or short
  • Pattern – a combination of steps

For some more reading and exercises to do with your class for a deeper understanding you can see more on the Elements of Dance here.

How To Use The Elements Of Dance In A Class Setting

The structure of you creative movement class should have three steps:

  1. Present the element you wish to teach your pupils.
  2. Have your pupils explore the posibilities.
  3. Give it form.

The method used above should be one of questions and challenges.

The children need to learn from the inside out.

They need to discover for themselves what their bodies can do. So ask them what to do rather than show them.elements of dance

How To Present Your Class Using The Elements Of Dance

It helps to use visual aids, words, materials or gimmiks that make it clear what it is you want the children to learn.

For example, if you want to teach swinging, you can try showing them a pendulum made of a string and weight or even a yo-yo. Other things you could possibly use would be plastic packets feathers, rubber bands ect.

These sorts of things can help clarify the movements like stretch and bend, lightness and heaviness, change in size, change in tempo.

Use things like windows, clocks, flags, and bars to make shapes and create pathways for their designs.

Ask questions like how, what and where.

Examples For Working With Swinging

For a swinging lesson you could ask:

  • What parts of the body can swing?
  • What makes a swinging movement?
  • Where does a swing go in space?
  • How does the body swing?

Suggest and define until they understand what the element is. Let them experiment first on the spot and then through space. Try the movements with different parts of the body. Then have them try all the steps with the element and then at all levels and in all directions.

Experiment with opposites. Have them do the movements with different speeds and force and challenge them to do the movement in every possible way.

The elements of dance are explored through the changed movement that is produced by combining or crossing it with other elements. It is impossible for any part of one element to be used without also using the other three elements, but to simplify matters when you are teaching, first consider the element as a separte entity before varying it and combining it with others.

Let’s take the element as swinging. Now go right down the list of elements:

Body:

  • What is swinging – muscles? bones? joints?
  • What body parts can actually swing?
  • Can you swing while you gallop or skip?
  • Can you swing and bend or swing and stretch?

Space:

  • Can you use a swing to propel yourself through space?
  • Can you use a swing to make a curved path in space?
  • Can you swing at a high and a low level?
  • Can you swing in an upside down shape?

Force:

  • Can a swing be tense?
  • Can a swing be sharp?
  • Can a swing be heavy?
  • Show a free flowing swing and then a sudden stillness.
  • Can you swing and then find a balance?

Time:

  • Show an accent at the lowest part of the swing.
  • Show a swing with an even beat.
  • Can you make swings in an uneven pattern?
  • Can you make one long swing and three short ones?
  • How slowly can you swing?element of dance

These are examples of questions a teacher could use, but each teacher is different and may want to find her own questions, as each element of dance has its own challenges.

A teacher must work out how she will use the crossovers between the dance elements to stimulate the children to explore the same basic elements.

Using Breathing In Dance

Another example is when you are teaching breath in movement. You could try the following:

Tell the children to breathe deeply to feel how their bodies move as they breathe. Now have them extend the movement by rising as they breathe in and lowering as they breathe out.

Now try using gasps and add jumps. Have them move around the room through space carrying themselves forward as they inhale and relaxing the body forward as they exhale.

Challenge them to try gallops, leaps, and skips with a breath impulse. Finally, forget the actual breathing and concentrate on the types of movements breath produces.

Exploring The Element Of Fast Movement

Here you can encourage the children to explore which body parts can move fast.

Which movement and which steps can be done fast?

Try asking them to move fast and low or fast and high or even fast and small.

See if they can create a fast, high, light, small sideward movement and see what they come up with.

Conclusion

The trick is to see what you can come up with to bring the dance experience to your children in a way that they can understand and at the same time have fun learning.

Use the list of the elements of dance above and form questions to go with each element.

You will be surprised at how your ability will grow as your memory and imagination is stimulated.

Even if you are not a creative movement teacher, I would encourage all dance teachers to try and use the methods above from time to time to stimulate your students and get them to move in different ways.