Ballet at home- DVDs, YouTube, and Tips

I am starting to feel like there’s an overarching theme to my posts- I’M BUSY! haha. But, to be honest, a big part of my life as a grad student who is also in the beginning stage of an internship is that I don’t have a lot of free time and the free time that I do have is at weird hours. I’m sure there are plenty of ladies and gents who may be reading this can relate to this! One of my favorite ways to get around this issue is to do ballet at home. This can be a real challenge, especially for beginners who haven’t had much experience taking a class. Where do you even begin? Well, luckily I spend the time between classes on YouTube doing mindless searching and have created a nice list for you along with some of my favorite ballet at home tips!

dvdsDVDs

  • “Ballet Class for Beginners with David Howard”. This DVD is my favorite for home ballet. It can be a little bit frustrating because you have to play some parts twice in order to do both sides, but it’s a minor inconvenience in my opinion. I was able to find the DVD on Amazon for about $6 and got it in a matter of days. Smoking deal! It covers a ton of different techniques and the run time is about 40 minutes, but that doesn’t include repeating. What I like about how it comes in chapters is that you can choose to mix and match your workout so that it never has to be exactly the same. 
  • The NYC Ballet Complete Workout. This DVD is less ballet class, more ballet fitness but it has much more ballet in it than most ballet inspired workout videos do. It takes moves like pliés and mixes them in with bicycles and crunches. It’s rough! I have managed to rope my fiancé into doing the videos with me and they even make him sore. The video isn’t necessarily the newest so the video and the music is super cheesy but thankfully you can choose to use the classical music in the startup menu rather than the awful “hip” background music. You can get it here on Amazon. 
  • Ballet Beautiful by Mary Helen Bowers. Holy grail of ballet fitness. The workouts are more based around the idea of sculpting a lean ballet body rather than ballet technique but I find that the workouts greatly improved my posture and technique in class. She has a few different DVDs. I have the “Classic 60 – Minute Workout” (which has since been rebranded as “Total Body Workout”) and “Body Blast”. Both are available here at the Ballet Beautiful website.  The DVD’s consist of approximately 15 minute workouts including two butt series, her bridge series, her famous swan arms series, total body workouts, and more. What I like about this format is that the workouts are totally mix and match-able. You can do 15 minutes of a total body workout, or you can build up to about an hour or more of workouts. It really just depends on what you have time for! Another wonderful asset she provides are her online streaming videos. They are similar to the DVDs but you can have access to them any time you have access to the website.

YouTube

  • Dancing’s technique based and educational videos. These videos are great! They’re made by eHow… Ok, slightly cheesy seeming but they have been so helpful to me. I suck, like bad, at things like rond de jambe and I love being able to watch these videos at home over and over again to see how it’s done and to try it. I have found value in almost all of their ballet videos. There is such a wide variety- warming up, technique, how to care for ballet shoes, how to do your hair.  Click here and start checking it out! 
  • Maestro Greenwood Online Classes. These videos are also really great. They have a lot of technique practice and they include some video with verbal instruction as well as video with just music. I enjoy that because there are times where I just want to hear classical music and copy what I see, but then there are other times where I really want to focus harder on exact technique. I also really appreciate the stretching videos! Click!

General Tips

  • Keep an inner instructor in your head. I try to my best to focus on my technique at home. It can be really hard to make sure you’re doing some things well when you don’t have someone there watching to correct you so try to remind yourself “posture”,  “breathe”, “stomach tight”, etc. Focus on technique because if you keep practicing it incorrectly at home, you may find yourself in a sticky mess when you finally get to a class and it’s twice as hard because you need to forget how to do it the incorrect way and learn to do it the correct way. 
  • Invest in a full length mirror you can move around if you don’t have one. It’s important to be able to see what your body is doing in order to do the step above. There are some pretty affordable mirrors at Target, Walmart, and thrift stores.
  • Build a barre (shameless plug to my DIY post! haha), or use a counter/chair/couch/railing. That extra balance is important, particularly for beginners, in order to help you learn the best technique and also to prevent injury from falling face first into the floor. haha.
  • Try to avoid doing ballet on carpet, it can be a little extra sticky under your feet and cause some tripping/toe injuries. If you do ballet on tile or wood flooring make sure you have proper traction.
  • If you can, try to video even just a portion of your workout… I totally get what some of you may be thinking: AWKWARD, I don’t want to see myself dancing. But I assure you, it will help you get better! You’ll have a nice opportunity to watch back the video and see that this whole time you thought your ronde de jambe was perfect but alas you forget to point your toes in the back! Or maybe you might even find something you’re doing better than you thought you were.

For now, I think that’s all I have for videos and tips but I will be sure to post again when I have more. I hope that you at home ballerinas find this a little bit helpful. Does anyone else have any home ballet tips or favorite videos to use? Let me know in the comments!

-Caysie

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  • I have just set up my home “dance studio”. I have no room for a barre, so I have had to make do. Love your tips, have implemented several already. Have a good book, DVD’s (though will take a look at a couple you suggested), and online sources as well. There are some interesting foot exercise vids out there, which I have also been doing every single day (some just plain, others with theraband).

    Thank you for this entry! Love coming here!

  • Emma Woodhouse

    Hi! I love your blog!!!! Thank you for all the wonderful information! What do you think of Finis Jhung’s videos, particularly the pointe work videos? It is so tempting to strap on a pair of pointe shoes and learn with his video, but it seems kind of reckless to bypass a real life teacher . . .

    • Caysie

      Thanks! I haven’t watched/used a complete Finis Jhung video, which is why I didn’t mention them. I liked what I saw and have heard wonderful reviews, but I am super cheap so I couldn’t bring myself to spring for the DVDs as they are a bit more expensive than other options. While I totally empathize with the temptation you’re feeling about the pointe shoes, I cannot recommend enough to NOT do it. As a beginner, I’d seriously do anything to get into pointe shoes ASAP but the very hard journey to that level will make it more valuable in the end. All you really have to do to see why people need a real life instructor for pointe is look at self taught pointe videos on YouTube… not only is the technique super sloppy (and therefore loses the grace that makes pointe pretty) but you can also see the wobbles that will surely lead to a broken ankle in the near future. Seriously, go watch. Its a life lesson… and kind of hilarious. 😉

      • Emma Woodhouse

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. It gave me courage to ask my teacher last night if I could work towards pointe, and she said yes! She said it was absolutely possible, but I must get stronger, first. What a relief!

        • Caysie

          I’m glad you got the courage to ask and it worked out! That’s awesome 🙂

  • Lisa Blanchard

    This was a great article. Maestro Greenwood teaches in a very understandable but captivating style, could watch him all day.

  • Sharon

    In a response to one of your responders you wrote “All you really have to do to see why people need a real life instructor for pointe is look at self taught pointe videos on YouTube… ” Alas this isn’t only applicable to pointe, but also studying ballet in general. Self-taught ballet is asking for trouble, possible injury, and just play bad technique. What happens when a self-taught ballet student decides to take class at a real ballet studio? You certainly can’t self correct mistakes or bad habits. It seems to me that learning ballet from videos, YouTube, and or books is just asking for trouble.

    • Caysie

      Thanks for the feedback. I understand your point that it can be dangerous to learn ballet on your own at home but I also understand that some people may not have the resources or time to go to classes all the time or at all. So what I like about videos is that it makes dance, an art form that should be open to everyone as a form of expression, available to those people. I self taught myself all the different positions, plies and a few other things at home using videos for over a year because I was too sick to go to a class. Then went I went to class finally, I got corrections but I was able to make them. The benefit was that I had made my muscles ready for what I needed to do and was able to try to do ballet (and feel the spirit of ballet) in spite of the circumstances that may have prevented me otherwise.

      Keeping what you said in mind, it is definitely something that the person should keep an “at your own risk” philosophy about doing any sort of exercise at home. While there is some risk doing ballet at home, there is definitely less than there is teaching oneself pointe. I think that anyone should exercise caution no matter what.

    • Caysie

      But I do absolutely understand and respect your opinion on it. I just have a slightly different one based on my personal experiences which is what I base my posts off of.

  • Andy

    Thanks for reviewing these. I have been looking for videos that are not so much instruction on the steps as something where you just run through a class – barre, center or both. I’d rather not spend time watching demos of steps I already know. Looks like I should check the Greenwood lessons.

    • Hi, Andy!

      If you are looking for a class that goes straight through, we hope you’ll check out ‘Find Your Fifth,’ a new instructional video from Matthew Powell! We offer handy tools and tips, but the 90 minute class pretty much runs straight through, and as a bonus feature, there is a 20 minute talkback at the end with the dancers about life as a dancer in New York City! Check it out at http://www.FindYourFifth.com

  • Guest

    Those are really good videos to help for class or just practising at home, also Kathryn Morgan has some good videos on YouTube that will help, too!

  • Vince S

    The image below I received when I received a new DVD from Amazon, “Ballet Class: Intermediate & Advanced with David Howard”. Both his DVDs are very good, but also Kathryn Morgan’s videos on YouTube are really good, too, which I usually do when I don’t have class. She also has an online class that you can take, if you don’t have time to make it to your own classes.