The Power of Pilates — Using Pilates to Strengthen Your Core for Ballet


Cross training can sound intimidating: what about time commitment, additional expenses, or  lack of energy? However, don’t let these factors prevent you from adding a new exercises to your daily routine.

During my dance career, I experienced a plateau period when I didn’t notice advancements in my dancing. This was a frustrating time, and I struggled to find a reason why I wasn’t improving and gaining strength. I noticed my most prevalent weak area was my core, so I searched for exercises that would be most beneficial. Over time, I realized that I needed to incorporate some type of cross-training in addition to my usual ballet classes. I found my niche in Pilates, the ultimate core building series of exercises invented by Joseph Pilates. I realized that I needed a strong core, or powerhouse, to get to the next level.

Pilates is a fantastic cross training option that will improve your dancing and overall well-being. Focusing primarily on core strength, Pilates provides the perfect accompaniment to ballet’s core centered exercises. The moderately paced mat classes offer a low impact yet effective workout that will sculpt the body into a long, lean silhouette.

After completing the beginner phase of training, the workout starts with a challenging abdominal series, requiring immediate movement. Not to be mistaken for the series of prolonged yoga poses, Pilates requires swift execution of with rare, brief rest periods between exercises. The movement continues at a steady pace, including targeted leg, arm, and back work. The assortment of exercises prevents loss of interest and provides a full body workout.

Ultimately, the goal of Pilates as a cross training exercise is to enhance the lean muscle mass achieved in dancing. Also, Pilates leads to increased core strength and flexibility, as well as improved posture. For those who are searching for additional ways to improve their dancing, Pilates is a fantastic option for reaching the next level.

Image via Flickr User Migration Museum Project

In Search of Cross Training Tips + DVDs

PilatesFor the time being, I’ve given up on serious running. Not saying I won’t still hop on the treadmill or the trail every once in awhile, but I’ve given up on the idea of running a half marathon or ten miler (there’s a huge one in Philadelphia–the Broad Street Run). My legs seem to take forever to recover from it.

So now I’m on the hunt for additional ways to cross-train. I plan on using the elliptical machine every once in awhile, but I’m mostly trying to find DVDs and videos that I can do early in the morning (so no longer that 35-40 minutes is preferable).

Currently, I have a copy of an old Pilates for dummies DVD I really enjoy (plus, it’s short at about 30 minutes), a copy of Ballet Beautiful, and some Barre3 DVDS (which I’ve pretty much never touched).

There’s a couple more Pilates DVDs I’ve thought about checking out on Amazon, but for now, I’m looking for recommendations before I purchase anything else I won’t actually end up doing.

What cross-training DVDs or YouTube videos are your favorite? I’ll do a follow up post with what I end up liking! 


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My Return to the Dance Studio

I miss blogging about my own experiences, so about once a week or so, I’m going to return to doing so, while still bringing you tips, interviews and more throughout the week!

I finally made it back to the studio this past Thursday after a little over a month off. I was extremely worried that I was going to struggle, but Thursday’s class went well. The class was PACKED. Generally, at PDF, the classes hover around 1o people (although I’ve been in some classes as small as five or six). This class had about 18, and we had to be split up into two groups for some of our center work, and barre space was quite cramped. Still, it was an effective class and quite a workout. I can’t wait until my instructor installs a permanent barre on the wall in the back of the studio. While it will block my view of the mirror, I love permanent barres so much because they’re sturdy and you don’t have to worry about wobbling the barre or having someone else wobble the barre.

Saturday’s class (and pre-pointe class) did not go as well. I was extremely nervous about pre-pointe (because I was two classes behind); I feel as if it’s going to take a lot to get me strong enough to catch up. My brain was completely scrambled and I could not remember combinations and I felt as if I was failing at the most basic steps. I couldn’t even manage to not screw up a basic tombe pas de bourree to fourth position turn preparation because I was distracted (these felt more solid, although not perfect on Thursday). For some reason, my brain and Saturday morning class do not mix, as I never seem to be quite as focused.

Hoping for better classes in the upcoming week to make up for my disappointing weekend.

Do you prefer evening or morning classes?


Core Activation and Pilates

Curso de Instructor de Pilates

Check out this link for Grown Ups at the Barre about core activation and how important it is for ballet dancers.

I completely agree with the author, there is no substitute for actually attending a Pilates class, but like she says, we’re busy adults and it’s not always possible (not to mention, sometimes crazy expensive, and shelling out for ballet classes every week can be enough of a stress on your bank account).

She links to a video on the Five Principles of Pilates as a great starting point for those who can’t make it to a real class.

Do you do workout DVDs?

Beginner Ballet Tips: Using Pilates to Strengthen Your Core for Ballet

Pilates Exercise Video class

P\ (Photo credit: myyogaonline)

After reading this post about Adult Beginner’s Piyo (Pilates and yoga) class, I decided to try out some Pilates. I’d been itching to do some sort of working out beyond the stretching and yoga I’ve been working into my routine, so I decided to try one of my mom’s old Pilates DVDs, Pilates Weightloss for Dummies (yes it’s ancient and isn’t really available anymore).

Like Adult Beginner, I didn’t really “get” Pilates before I started ballet. Now it makes sense. In the standing portions of the DVD, there are series of plies, balances, and stretches which relate to ballet perfectly. Several of the exercises are done in a turned out first, second or fifth position as well, all with pointed (versus flexed) feet.

This article (Pilates for Ballet Dancers: How Pilates Can Improve Your Technique) states that “pilates is a body conditioning method that is focused on developing a strong “core.” The term “core” refers to the entire abdominal region as well as the lower and mid-back.” Core strength is ESSENTIAL for ballet. The article also states that if dancers don’t develop a strong core, it could lead to weaknesses which lead to poor alignment which leads to poor technique.

To me, Pilates sounds like an awesome supplement to ballet, and I quite enjoyed the short 35 minute workout. I’m going to test out another DVD we have, Hilary Burnett’s Pilates Intermediate, which is just mat work.  This should be a more intense workout than just Pilates for Weightloss for Dummies, however, I plan on incorporating the standing work from it to get some plies into my workout.

Lastly, if your in the Philly area, Philly Dance Fitness‘s Pilates Class will be on Sundays at 12 at Major Moment Studios. I’m so excited to be able to attend this class because previously it conflicted with a ballet class. I can’t wait to try it out, it’ll be my first Pilates in a studio.

Have you ever tried Pilates? What do you do to strengthen your core?