Personal Stories: My first few months in ballet

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There are many ideals to learn from ballet. I first started researching the topic in hopes to prolong the demise of my decaying body. I was a serious couch potato. I’ve just recently converted my desktop computer to a standup ‘workstation’ (it’s still just a big screen to play video games and watch TV shows on). All in all, I feel better and love what I do, which is constantly practice ballet.

The first ideal in ballet is posture. Core strength is EVERYTHING in ballet. Thus, the most important part of dancing is to activate your core. Spine stabilization allows for other muscles to be used for range of motion to lift your legs past 90 degrees, or just to balance better.

However, the classical teachings of ballet are still in practice, and I believe it is time to usher in a new wave of thought, that abdominal bracing is superior to abdominal hollowing, most notably praised by Dr. McGill. As an adult, I’m most likely not going to dance professionally, so the idea of sucking in your belly button to look pretty (and classically activate your core) are obsolete, according to recent studies. However, showing my beer belly (because I’m 30 years old and like my craft beers) is much more beneficial to spine stabilization than I ever thought possible. I use abdominal bracing when I bend over to brush my teeth over the sink. The entire concept is a revolution to the idea that we would forever be known as hunch-back computer homo sapiens. It could very well be the cure to lower back pain in the majority of adults.

The second ideal in ballet is flexibility. Witnessing those young dancers hyper extend their splits, is almost as psychologically painful as watching The Deer Hunter for the first time.

Jules Mitchell, who is developing the concept of stretching in her master thesis (soon to be a book), processes the exact nature of muscle tissue, down to sarcomeres and myosin. The idea of “tightness” is a fallacy we perpetuate over and over again when in fact we really just need to build strength in the muscles to increase range of motion. Mitchell also adds that regular stretching is not completely bad and that it does add a comfort level, so not to retreat from our maximal range of motion; however, the classical thought, yet again, could be revolutionized by this new way of thinking.

So, I’ve been researching and practicing dynamic stretching. Leg swings, arm circles, squats and lunges, all to help loosen major joints. It’s now known, that passive stretching can decrease your strength in those muscles. Thus, picture yourself doing the splits before class, and then getting yelled at for not going higher than 45 degrees in your developpe. I’ve still been putting off actually pushing my comfort level to increase my range of motion, but at least I know the proper steps, and willing to at least try.

The third ideal in ballet is to love ballet. My beginner class teamed up with the intermediates, and I was so jealous that they could so easily follow the routine. Of course, they’ve been at it longer than I, but WOW! They do the little mimicry with half motions of their arms and legs to get the muscle memory going, and all of a sudden, they can either hear it, see it, or feel it. Me, on the other hand, I was just trying to follow them. I think the ideal to love what you do, is paramount to everything in life.

I might look kind of odd when I’m standing at work doing rond de jambe, and releve, but I love ballet! It is such a beautiful display of art, that when standing at my standing ‘workstation’ I find myself in arabesque, and perfecting my port de bras… and I could care less who looks in on me dancing to my heart’s content.

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