Back to the Basics: Five Tips for Polished Dancing

5-Tips-For-Polished-DancingBallet is an intricate, complicated style of dance. Whether training begins at a young age or later in life, the technique is challenging and requires not only great strength of the body, but of the mind, as well. Sometimes, successfully memorizing combinations and releasing the distracting thoughts of the day is a triumph in itself.

At times, the details of the steps may overwhelming. However, by focusing on five key points of ballet technique, your dancing will look polished and clean, even if you muddle up the ronde de jambe combination!

Five Tips for Polished Dancing:

Keep your core tight.

In every movement of every combination, keep your core tight. By pulling your abdominals up and squeezing your glutes together, your dancing becomes a strengthening exercise, in addition to artistic expression.

Fix your gaze slightly above eye level.

A small increase in eye level can do wonders! Try to avoid looking at the floor, which creates a shy, unsure effect. Your upper body presentation will instantly improve, as well as your self confidence.

Release tension in your hands.

Achieving a lovely, gentle hand position is tricky, especially when holding muscle tension in your hands. Try this easy fix: touch the tip of your middle finger to your thumb throughout  the combination. The tension leaves automatically!

Use your back to support your arms.

While performing quick footwork at the barre, your arm in second position may gradually begin to droop. Use your back muscles to support the position, rather than letting your arm grow tired. A strongly held arm completes every position.

Relax and smile!

While a giant smile might come off as a little extreme, maintaining a happy, pleasant expression captures everyone’s attention. Remember, dancing is supposed to be enjoyed, so let the joy shine from your face!

Sometimes, tiny changes bring about grand improvements. By integrating these five tips into your class time, your dancing will look clean and polished!

Image by Gabriel Saldana modified using Creative Commons permissions

Ballerina Profile: Yulia Klim

10931432_10153057791291310_1981081137301356605_nWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

9 months ago, I was 26.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Nope. I was living in a very small city, more of a village, we had one acrobatic center, which I never was interested in trying. Unfortunately never participated in any sport activity.

 Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I am not a big fan of weights and gym, as it is so hard to motivate yourself there, I find it boring but music always helped. So I was looking for a way to stay fit and enjoy it at the same time: salsa, pole dancing… Nothing called my name. And then I tried Beginner Ballet.

 Where do you take classes?

Dubai Dance Academy. I live in UAE, where some people would hear Belly Dance instead of Ballet Dance couple of years ago. However, Art forms are growing here and becoming more popular, and I am glad I found great studio with a great teacher, who is very passionate on bringing this form of art into the region.

 What is your favorite part about ballet?

Love barre work overall and its discipline. Quite enjoy any jumping activity.

 What is your least favorite part?

Grand battement. Already tired, hearing: “Ok, and now let’s do some grand battement” is like a punishment for me. It’s a massive reminder on how much core strength I am missing along with flexibility.

 Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

High arch is definitely something I admire, I’ve always appreciated the beauty of strong lean legs. However, watching any sport or dance professionals is always something inspirational, showcasing the beauty and great capabilities our human body has. In fact, wide range of abilities of our body is something that amuse me, from gymnastic to singing and composing music… We all are capable of A LOT.  Yes, starting something as a kid gives you a great advantage, but just because it is more difficult as adult doesn’t mean you should not do it, nothing is easy.  It is all in our hands to shape ourselves spiritually and physically the way we want it, at any age.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Too many things… First, it’s the challenge. It feels that in ballet there are always new things you learn every day, there is a constant challenge even in the most simple and basic moves. Getting over-confident over something you think you finally got right, and then being told off by your teacher about your hands or chin or shoulders. There is always something more to it, there is always something new you will learn about your body, about ballet and its technique. Constant perfection. And secondly, it is the beauty, posture and elegance that ballet gives your body and its movements. Being quite skinny and light, I still felt like an elephant during my first classes. My moves were so heavy, so terrible. Well, I still feel like an elephant but I notice changes. Your posture slowly is getting better, and you do not want to stop there, you want more and you continue.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Not yet, but always been aiming at trying Jazz or Contemporary classes.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

With my office work I barely squeeze time to do ballet, so if collecting turtle toys counts as a hobby, that would be one.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Be patient and positive. Everyone started somewhere. No one was born a professional and even prima ballerinas didn’t do well back into their beginner years. You are starting now, and doesn’t matter how old you are, taking even one class already makes you better than you were yesterday. Be proud of yourself, take it slow, learn the technique first. Set realistic goals. Build the core strength and try to get closer to the right execution of the move. Technique is the key, our teacher may spend a long time simply explaining how your arm should be placed and which muscles you shall engage and I find it essential. Get the basics first, the foundation. If that requires lowering your leg, lower your leg. Do not rush, do not expect quick results, it will come to you after months and years of practice. You just have to be very patient. And of course, practise every day, even if it is just 5 minutes, anything is better than nothing.

 Anything else you’d like to add?

I heard that those who dance or sing live longer that could be another motivation haha.

Check out these core workouts to help improve your stability + more for ballet!

Featured Image modified from CCFoodTravel.com with CC permissions

Daydream Your Way to Success!

4758088139_bc751bedf3_zIn addition to physical practice, visualization can help you overcome those tricky steps

Have you ever been stumped by a specific element of ballet technique? Perhaps you struggle with a bad habit, such as constantly looking at the ground while dancing. Maybe you dread a specific step in petit allegro, simply because you’ve consistently practiced but still can’t perform the step correctly.

Since dance is all about physical movement, practicing is the key to success. However, sometimes constant practice leads to stress and defeat. If a step is particularly tricky, practice can become tedious. However, there is a way to combat this frustration: visualization.

In her book, Dance Anatomy, Jacqui Greene Haas defines visualization as “creating a picture in your mind without doing the physical activity.” This method of practice requires no additional physical movement but includes positive, daydream-like focus on the step in your mind.

Visualization is easily executed, as long as you understand the technique of the step that is troubling you. Carefully watch the teacher in class as he or she performs the step, and if necessary, ask for the teacher to repeat the step. Be sure that you understand exactly what the body must do and which muscles create the movement.

Then, later in the day, spend time repeatedly imagining the step. Picture the teacher executing the step and then imagine how it would feel if you copied this movement. Imagine the muscle usage, studio surroundings from your vantage point, and musical rhythm. Continue this visualization technique for a few days. When you return to the step in class, keep a calm mindset and refer to the images you created while mentally focusing on the step. Generating positive feelings and decreasing stress, mental imagery will help you approach the step from a new perspective and lead you to success.

Expanding beyond a specific movement, this technique is extremely useful in my own career and helps me overcome the effects of stage fright. In some cases, when I was nervous about a specific role, I spent weeks prior to the performance imaging the character’s traits and expressions. In some cases, anxiety inspired by anticipated audience size or family or friend attendance may have inspired negative effects.

When I expected the presence of nervous butterflies flitting around in my stomach, I would prepare with mental visualization. Days before performing, I would imagine the intricate details; specific sections of choreography that I challenged me, the stage view of the full house, or a loved one’s face in the audience. I would increase the detail of my imagery, so that I would be absolutely prepared for the show. By repeatedly thinking ahead to the actual performance, I was able to transform nervous anxiety into bubbling energy. By mentally preparing myself, all the fears that may have overcome me during the performance became useful tools to enhance my dancing!

Whether you are performing for a crowd or enjoying a technique class, I encourage you to try the visualization method for yourself. You can read an excerpt of Haas’s book online.

Image via Flickr User Rodrigo Denúbila

Adagio Tips from Ballerinas by Night

I’ve shared a lot of allegro tips lately, so here’s some adagio tips!

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