How to Skip and Tips!

If you have a 3 – 5 year old enrolled in ballet or creative movement for the first time, chances are they are learning how to skip. Why skipping? The reason many schools teach young students to skip is because it teaches so many things like coordination, opposition, traveling, and rhythm. The simple act of skipping is a bridge to teach students how to connect one dance step to another. With a simple transfer of weight, a hop, and pointed toes, your tiny dancer is on their way to perform on the big stage.

Simple Exercises to Prep for Skipping:

1. Marching with high knees and pointed toes

  • Stand up tall with hands on hips
  • Bend the right knee into your chest and point your toe
  • Place the right foot firm into the ground
  • Step forward and bring the left knee up into your chest with a pointed toe
  • Continue to march across the floor

Tip: Try practicing to a Madagascar’s “Move It.” It’s a great song to hear the beat and get kids marching!

2. Hopping With a Stuffed Animal

  • Place a stuffed animal in your hands in front of your belly button
  • Bring your right knee up with a pointed toe to “kiss” your stuffed animal
  • Repeat with the left
  • Now try to repeat again with the right knee, but this time hop into the air
  • Repeat with the left
Tip: Once you have the coordination of switching legs and hopping, try traveling the hop forward.

How to Skip:

1. Skipping

  • Stand up tall with hands on hips
  • Bend the right knee into your chest and point your toe and hop
  • Step forward to bring the left knee up with a pointed toe and hop
  • Continue to step and hop (skip!) across the floor
Tip: Say “step hop left, step hop right” in rhythm with the music to help your child learn their left and right legs.

 

2. Ballet Skips (Sauté Passé)

  • Stand up tall with hands on hips and feet in “V” (first position)
  • Slide the right knee into passé as you hop
  • Step forward to bring the left knee to passé as you hop
  • Continue to step and sauté passé for a perfect ballet skip.
Tip: Remember ballet skips must stay turned out. The knee points to the dancers side in passé.

 

Now that you have learned how to skip, want to try something more difficult? Try to skip backwards! Your dance teacher will be impressed!

Pilates for Dancers Best Exercise #3

White House Pilates is back with another tip! I have to admit, this exercise is one of my favorites.

A flat board that replaces the foot bar on the reformer. You’re springing horizontally while engaging your core to initiate the jump rather than your legs. The lighter the spring, the more your abdominals have to work to stabilize your pelvis and back.

Upon take off- the abdominals initiate almost automatically to counter-balance the legs in the air. Think of pulling your navel down to the spine and draw it up towards the ribs. This exercise is excellent for teaching dance students to properly pull their weight up away from the floor and therefore, helping increase the height and form of the jump.

The landing is all about control. Rolling through the feet and getting the heels down in between jumps is crucial for injury prevention. Controlling the landing of your jumps is often the hardest thing to perfect in a dancer’s performance of petite/grande allegro. Dance teacher’s are always saying, “you should land your jumps with little to no sound at all.”

Increase your abdominal strength: While jumping curl your head and shoulder blades off the carriage of the reformer. This will help you engage your upper abominals and make you work harder!
Get Creative! Play around with seeing how many ballet jumps you can simulate while on the jump board. Most likely, you will master aentrechat six in no time!

 

How To Point Your Feet

Follow the steps below to train your feet how to point perfectly.

How To Get Splits

Below are a list of stretches that will help you achieve the perfect splits. Remember to warm-up before stretching to prevent  pulls, tears and other injuries.

1. Lunge With Bent Back Knee

Set-up:

  • Lunge forward with the back knee bent at a 90˚ angle
  • Front knee should also be at a 90˚ angle with the knee in line with the ankle
  • Place hands on the thigh or floor for support

Action:

  • Press hips forward to stretch

Reps:

3 reps each leg, hold for 30-60 seconds (3 times a week)

 

2. Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

Set-up:

  • Kneel and extend one leg forward with a pointed or flexed foot
  • Back knee should be at a 90˚ angle with the knee in line with the ankle

Action:

  • Forward fold over the front leg
  • Place hands on the leg or floor for support

Reps:

3 reps each leg, hold for 30-60 seconds (3 times a week)

*For best results, try exercise #1 followed by #2*

3. Over Splits

Set-up:

  • Kneel and extend one leg forward onto a stair or stool
  • Place hands on the ground for support

Action:

  • Extend the back led as straight as possible *It might be difficult to fully extend the leg right away*
  • If available, forward fold over the front leg

Reps:

1 rep each leg, hold for 30-60 seconds (3 times a week)

*Also try rotating into a center split and a split facing the opposite direction*

With dedication and practice you’ll have your splits before you know it!

 

Yoga

Yoga is everywhere you look. Driving through my town of Naperville, I pass ten yoga studios on my way to the store. For many years I dismissed yoga because I thought it would make me (get this) too flexible. However, recently I’ve found yoga in my life and its turned out to balance my Pilates and ballet training. I started practicing as a cross training method for marathon training, but soon realized how much strength I was gaining in body and mind. In the past few weeks my legs have reached new heights in développé, I can balance longer, and I’ve been able to let go of stress easily. Although there are some aspects of yoga I struggle with, I do appreciate the strength of Om.

Ever wonder what yoga is all about? Here’s some basic information for your education:

– It was created in India and has been practiced for over 5,000 years.

– The word Yoga is derived from the word yugam which means “unite” or “to join.”

Yoga aspires to liberation and self-knowledge through meditation.

Yoga is a series of specific poses with controlled breathing, that start by standing, then sitting, and finish laying down. In some forms of Yoga meditation and chanting are involved.

– Breath in Yoga is used to center the body in meditation while performing “asanas,” postures.

Yoga at times requires tools such as towels, blocks, or straps to help attain positions or increase a stretch.

– The full body and mind are used throughout each Yoga pose to make the position complete.

– Benefits of Yoga are strengthening your cardiovascular system, toning and stretching your muscles, and improving your mental fitness.

Photo by Andrew Grant

Have you notice yoga has changed the way you take class? Tell me how!

What Is Pilates?

Pilates has gained a lot of media attention recently for its benefits. However, many people still don’t understand what it is. In attempts to educate, I came up with this brief list to describe Pilates.

– It was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century.

Pilates was originally called Contrology, which means the study of controlling muscles.

– The principals of Pilates are centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flow.

Pilates is a series of flowing exercises that start on the ground and progressively transition to seated exercises and finish with standing.

– Breathing in Pilates should coordinate with the movements, full inhalations and complete exhalations are thought to circulate the blood to renew the cells and refresh the body.

Pilates uses apparatus like balls, thera-bands, and even machines to help assist in movements or to challenge your strength.

– While the “powerhouse” (the abdominal core) is the main focus in every Pilates exercises, active engagement of the muscles and concentration are need as well.

– The benefits of Pilates are: improved strength, flexibility, balance, toning, long muscles, body awareness, and improve circulation.

 

Photo by Andrew Grant

On a personal note:

As a dancer, injuries are something I dreaded. Every time I found myself at the physical therapist it was the same thing, “do this exercises, for this long, and this many times.” Can I say boring!? After spending weeks on workers compensation for a bum back, I decided no more injuries and Pilates became my cross-training method. Not only was it valuable for my career but it improved my endurance, accuracy, and my overall technique. Today I’m a certified Pilates instructor and wholeheartedly believe in its teachings. In fact, it has been just over five years that I started practicing and I’m still injury free!

Core Conditioning With Balance Ball: Part 3

 

Can’t get enough core conditioning? Here are four advanced exercises to add to your strength training regiment.
1. Plank

Set-up:
– Kneel with the toes tucked
– Forearms rest on the ball, shoulder width apart
Abdominals are engaged, creating a straight line through the body
Action:
– Press forearms into the ball to stabilize
– Keep abdominals strong
– Straighten knees
Reps:
– 3 reps, hold as long as possible (3 times a week)

2. Rolling Half Plank

Set-up:
– Kneel with the toes pointed
– Forearms rest on the ball, shoulder width apart, hands clasped
Abdominals are engaged, creating a straight line through the body
Action:
– Press forearms into the ball to stabilize
– Keep abdominals lifted
– Stretch arms out to roll the ball forward
– Pull elbows back and return to starting position
Reps:
3 reps, 10x – 20x (three days a week)


3. Reverse Plank Pull In’s

Set-Up:
Arms are shoulder width apart with hands flat
– Ball is under the legs, as far back as comfortable
Abdominals are engaged creating a straight line from head to toes
Action:
– Maintain a long back with abdominals pulled up
– Draw the the knees towards the chest
– Extend the legs back to the starting position
Reps:
3 reps, 5x – 10x (three days a week)

4. Jackknife

 Set-up:
Arms are shoulder width apart with hands flat
– Ball is under the legs, as far back as comfortable
Abdominals are engaged creating a straight line from head to toes
Action:
– Press hands into the ground
– Pull up strong in the abdominals
– Lift the sit-bones into the air while rolling the ball to the body
– Reach the feet back to return to the starting position
Reps:
3 reps, 5x – 10x (three days a week)


 

Quick & Easy Arm Strengthening Exercises

 

Bicep Exercise

1. CURLS WITH THERA-BAND OR WEIGHTS
Set up:
-Stand on thera-band with legs about hip width apart
-Hold on to the end of the thera-bands
Exercise:
-Keeping arms hugged close to the body curl arms forward
Reps:
3 sets of 8-12 curls
Variations:
1. Rotate arms side and curl arms up
2. Hold arms at 90˚ and curl one arm at a time
Triceps Exercise

1. DIPS
Set up:
-Sit on a chair or come to a half bridge position on the floor
-If sitting on a chair, place hands at the edge of the chair and scoot your sit bones off the chair
Exercise:
Bend the elbows and stretch
Reps:
3 sets of 8-12 curls
Variations:
1. Straighten the legs
2. Lift one leg at a time into the air

2. KICKBACKS WITH THERA-BAND

Set up:
-Stand in a wide parallel fourth position with your arms along your body
-Place one end of the thera-band in your hand and the other under the front foot with bend the knee
-Lean forward to a 45˚ angle
Exercise:
-Bend the elbows and pull back with the thera-band until the arm is fully stretched
Reps:
3 sets of 8-12 curls
Other Great Exercises:
1. Push ups
-Pilates push ups (keep elbows pinned to the body)
-Push ups on the wall
2. Balancing in a plank/push up position
3. Side Twist Balance
Photo by Liz Payne

 

 

 

Core Conditioning With Balance Ball: Part 2

 

Here’s more great exercise with the balance ball and improve your stability!


1. Ab Knee Lifts
Set-up:
-Lie on the ground
-Knees bent and placed on each side of the ball
-Lay on Back
-Hands behind head
Action:
-Engage abs
-Squeeze ball
-Bend knees towards chest
Reps:
20x (3 days a week)


2. Ab Pelvis Lifts
Set-up:
-Lie on the ground
-Knees bent and placed on top of ball
-Lay on Back
-Arms down near your sides
Action:
-Engage abs
-Roll up to a bridge (starting with the tailbone)
-Pressing heels into ball, stretch legs out and in (maintain bridge)
Reps:
10x (3 days a week)

 


3. Ab Pelvis Lifts Variation
Set-up:
-Lie on the ground
-Knees bent and placed on top of ball
-Lay on Back
-Arms down near your sides
Action:
-Engage abs
-Roll up to a bridge (starting with the tailbone)
-Lift one leg into the air
-Pressing heels into ball, stretch legs out and in (maintain bridge)
Reps:
5x right then left (3 days a week)


 

Foot Strengthening Exercises: Part 2

 

Last week we looked at non-weight bearing exercises for foot strengthening. Today we are going to examine three exercises that incorporate resistance training using thera-bands. Thera-bands come in various strengths, widths, and materials. I recommend buying a few different strengths to accommodate your weaker and stronger muscles. So, grab your thera-band and let’s strengthen those feet!
1. Point & Flex
Set up:
-Sit on the floor with a long back, shoulders over sit bones
-One legs is lengthened long in parallel while the in pulled into passe’
-Wrap the thera-band flat around the ball so there extra above the toes
-Hold the thera-band with both ends in one hand, the other hand should hold in front for security.
-Now choose the resistance that’s right for you, hold closer to the ends for less resistance or towards the feet for more
Exercise:
-Pull the heal back to point the ankle
-Press through the ball of the foot to lengthen through the toes (point)
-Now reverse by pulling the toes back
-Pull the heal under and flex the foot
Reps:
-16 – 32 times with both feet



2. Lateral Rotation
Set up:
-Sit on the floor with a long back, shoulders over sit bones
-Both legs lengthened long in parallel
-Wrap the thera-band flat around the ball so there extra above the toes
-Hold the thera-band with both ends in one hand, the other hand should hold in front for security.
-Now choose the resistance that’s right for you, hold closer to the ends for less resistance or towards the feet for more
-Now place the opposite foot around the thera-band, so thera-band is now around one foot and behind the other (legs are parallel).
Exercise:
-Using the outside of the foot (little toe side) press the thera-band out
-Now reverse and control the foot as it returns to center
Reps:
-16 – 32 times with both feet



3. Medial Rotation
Set up:
-Sit on the floor with a long back, shoulders over sit bones
-Both legs lengthened long in parallel
-Wrap the thera-band flat around the ball so there extra above the toes
-Hold the thera-band with both ends in one hand, the other hand should hold in front for security.
-Now choose the resistance that’s right for you, hold closer to the ends for less resistance or towards the feet for more
-Now place the opposite acros the front of the foot and around the thera-band, so thera-band is now around one foot and behind the other (the legs are crossed)
Exercise:
-Using the inside of the foot (Big toe side) press the thera-band out
-Now reverse and control the foot as it returns to center
Reps:
-16 – 32 times with both feet



 
Answers to common questions:

Where can I buy thera-bands?
Your local sporting goods store!
How often should I perform these exercises?
You should try to do these exercises everyday. Remember the more you practice the quicker you’ll see results.
Why are my legs so sore?
These exercises are helping you build more muscle which causes tearing in your muscle tissue. These tears allow your body to rebuild and make more muscle fibers. Stretching you calves, hamstrings, quads, and achilles will help alleviate some of the discomfort.