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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Weights at the barre?


Balletmartyr

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My daughter has been checking out different ballet schools. She took a class and while at the barre the instructor suggested they put weights on their ankles while doing battements(spelling?) I thought this was strange. He brought out weights and some girls had their own. He told me that she(DD) should get ankle weights to help strengthen her legs. Huh? Is this commom? :)

My daughter is very petite and not very muscular, but she is a very strong dancer...

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I have heard of this being used, but I'm afraid that I do not agree with it myself. I don't like the idea of adding weights in ballet training, but I am open to hearing why some might consider it to be a positive thing.

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How old is your daughter? My thoughts are that if she is still growing, that could put too much stress on her growth plates, joints, etc. Also, how much weight was suggested to use on each leg? I am curious to see what the other teachers have to say about this one :)

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When our DD was ice skating, weights were used at barre and other stretch classes as a way of simulating the weight of the ice skates. Usually 3-5 lbs. on each ankle depending on the age of the skater. I have never seen a dancer use weights at the barre. DD will use weights for floor exercises at home but never at the studio.

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I'm curious, too. My instinct is that grand battements would put too much strain on a lot of things, knee joint, inner thigh or groin and lower back on the side of the working leg, and I wonder what muscles they think would be strengthened. I would want the instructor to be able to tell me exactly what muscles were expected to be targeted and why grande battements instead of any of a number of slower movements. Further, if this were a great idea, don't you think we would have heard of it by now? Pulling against weights (as in Pilates) makes more sense to me...but, I would be interested to hear the report back if you get one... :)

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I don't like the idea of battements with weights, either. I do own ankle weights, but I use them for stretching, and not barre. I'd be interested to hear the logic behind this practice.

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I've heard of it being used before during barre adagio as a way of strengthening the muscles that hold up the leg, but I've never heard of it being very effective. I would think that during an exercise that involves less control, such as grand battement, it could be harmful, and also that one must be extremely sure of using the right muscles; otherwise, some very grave imbalances could occur.

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Placing an ankle weight on the leg during barre work or even just walking is very risky, especially in dancers who are anywhere in their pre-teen through teen years.

 

Females' pelvic structure is beginning to open at this time and tracking problems that never existed before are now starting to show up. The idea of adding more resitance during this adjustment is dangerous.

 

Placing weight on the ankle while doing a battment movement can cause strain to ligaments and joint stability in both the ankle and knee joints.

 

The liklihood of the student using their foot correctly and brushing through the foot to begin the battement is greatly reduced. The ankle's movement is restricted by the placement of the weight and the effort needed to articulate through the foot is increased well beyond what is neccessary.

 

Chances of the knee flexing as the leg is brought through the battement increase because of the additional weight.

 

If the dancer is not very stabile and well aligned there is an increased chance that they will be using momentum to move the leg instead of proper muscular control.

 

Stability of the ankle and knee joints is compromised.

 

If a dancer is hypermobile there is a greater chance that they will hyperextend in the knee due to the extra weight. Where the hyperextension is normally not a injury causing alignment problem when it is happening on the gesture leg of a grand battement, it is now weight bearing (due to the ankle weight) and injury can easily occur.

 

The addition of weight encourages the stronger muscles of the legs to fire up and take over the movement. This often translates to decreased turnout and more gripping in the quads.

 

The leg line is different. The body is now "thinking" it needs to lift a leg and weight instead of the body lengthening the leg and working for a longer leg line.

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There are about five of us who wear ankle weights in our floor barre class. Only one student is wearing more than a pound on each ankle (I believe she wears two) and she's exceptionally strong. The rest of us who wear them are all very well versed in the exercises. None of the children who take the class are encouraged to do so. From what I've seen, even the most talented, serious, children don't have either the physical strength nor the discipline to work safely with them. They are constantly being corrected and "reigned in". "OK, you can yank your leg up there, but how are you doing it?" Perhaps in a one on one environment this could work, but probably not in most classroom settings. I wouldn't think it would be at all necessary in someone under 15 at least....

 

I have the same instincts as mcrm55. My adductors and knees hurt just thinking about doing grands battements. We always remove the weights for anything standing up (I'm talking about a very unique floor barre class too--not Zena Rommett)

 

For me, the weights have helped me build strength very quickly. I noticed a huge leap forward in my strength for supporting turnout when I started using them. Again though, I'm an adult with 15+ years of previous training. We do a very "set" class and the weights are really introduced when it becomes too easy. The exercises we do are designed to specifically work the musles ina very specific way. I don't think a regular ballet class is "controlled" enough. Too many ways to build the wrong muscles and cause some huge problems and imbalances. Thunder thighs and so forth...

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The use ankle weights was very popular in pro classes in NYC in the 70s. I can't begin to tell you how many people had injuries as a result... I have however, used them for 'floor-barre type' exercises and only under the strictest of supervision. As this is a board for parents, I would caution any young person against this at the barre, etc.

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Thanks for the comments. I had my misgivings about the practice. Being that my daughter is 13, I didn't want her to bulk up during a critical time in her growth. I was just curious if the practice was common or if this teacher was unusual. It seems to be used in various ways. We will leave the weights off and hope DD does fine without.

:D

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