Ballet is a beautiful art to watch. Those deep bends, turns and leaps capture the hearts of audiences all around the world. In order for ballet dancers to confidently execute their given choreography, they must have a strong body to support their craft. Without conditioned and limber muscles, a ballet dancer not only will struggle while dancing, but can become seriously injured.
Strong and flexible hips are vital to a ballet dancer's profession. Ballet does a number on the hips (no pun intended), so strength is very important. The most common issues are snapping hip, labral tears and other forms of tendonitis, which can leave a dancer in pain and out of commission until the doctor approves continuation of practice. Stretches to strengthen the hips, such as the supine butterfly, center split and rond de jambe, can also help increase flexibility, which can prevent injury.
Dancing ballet strengthens core muscles, which in turn increases balance. Nerves sometime arise in performance, and if a dancer doesn't have stability, it can affect execution of choreography. If she has a strong core, it will also help her stay loose and avoid injury. Pliés, passé lifts, battement leg lifts, elevés and relevés are various warm-ups that will help strengthen abdominal muscles needed for ballet.
If you look at a ballet dancer's back, it is apparent that the muscles are well-sculpted and toned. Particular attention to back muscles helps ballet dancers perform effortlessly. The most recognized ballet dance move is the arabesque. The arabesque is difficult to do, but when done correctly, it engages back muscles such as the erector spinae in the lower back, as well as the upper back, abdominal, pelvic, hip and thigh muscles.
The legs are what carry a ballet dancer across the stage. Strong ankles, calves and thighs are all part of a ballet dancer's lower-body package. Dancing ballet regularly will help tone and condition a dancer's legs, which will improve a ballet performance. The adagio portion of a ballet class helps build leg muscles through control and slow movements. Strong ballet barre techniques will help nurture the muscles in a dancer's legs. Exercises such as pliés, passé lifts, repetitive battements and cabriole also help build lean muscle that is required for ballet dancing.
Beautiful ballet arms are the "icing on the cake" -- a seamless and graceful gift to the audience. One of the main arm-strengthening workouts in a ballet class is port de bras, which means "carriage of the arms." A simple, yet effective exercise that requires extreme focus, the most popular sequence is as follows: move from fifth en bas to first arm position, to second, then back down to fifth en bas. If the dancer would like to perform a full port de bras for a more intense workout, she would move from fifth en bas to overhead and back down. Variations are common, and all will provide the ballet dancer with the lithe and strong arms needed to be effective and consistent in her craft.
Ashley K. Alaimo is a writer, blogger and certified teacher in New York. She has a master's degree in elementary education and early childhood education from Medaille College, as well as a bachelor's degree in music and theater from Buffalo State College. Alaimo has also worked as an education specialist with ages birth to 12 years old, creating classroom and enrichment curriculum for various early childhood centers.