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Ballet Talk for Dancers

oh my! my legs are screaming that its been WAY too long...

Guest Aria

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I didn't get to go to ballet last week because I was sick, so last night was my first ballet class in 12 years...


I thoroughly enjoyed it, but oh my how sore I am today! I was never particularly flexible but oh my goodness I've stiffened up... I almost couldn't get my foot up on the barre for barre stretches, and the one time when I went to do it, my hip completely cramped up... Certainly is going to be something I've got to work on! Any suggestions on the best stretches to start doing at home to help? I think the being stiff was part of what made the rest of class rather painful at times (I mean things that I would have never thought could possibly be painful were - it was so weird!). I remember a lot, and its like there's part of me inside that knows what to do, but the outside is too stiff to cooperate (which is frustrating - it would be one thing if I was just learning and therefore a bit sloppy and uncoordinated, but when you can feel how far off of correct you are, and can't seem to do anything to correct it - that was rather frustrating...)

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My first adult ballet instructor would always watch people returning after a long lay off like a hawk. In their first class, she would actually give them a little lecture about how their mind would think they could do something but their body wouldn’t. She would even specifically tell them not to do certain things you could tell they wanted to try. Her point was that in those early classes back they were most susceptible to injury. I hope the pain you’ve experienced is only soreness and you haven’t actually injured anything.


I think you’ve got the right idea about stretching regularly at home. But again, at this point, caution is more prudent than speed of progress. Regarding specific stretches that would be best for you, you might ask your instructor.


More important than where you might be right now is that you are back!!! Hang in there, go slow. You have a lifetime of enjoying the wonderful process of ballet to look forward to!


Best wishes, have fun!

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Gentle stretches and work on your core would be good. But not stretches where you put your leg up on the barre except in class! That kind of static stretching can be quite difficult and potentially not great for your body.


For example, here's a standard actor's warm up exercise I do with my students who need to be able to move at some physical extremes, but who aren't necessarily trained dancers. It gets your hamstrings used to stretching and letting your back unkink by doing "hangs" -- loosen and perhaps slightly bend your knees, stand feet in parallel a hip's distance apart, and then drop your chin to your chest and let the weight of your head help you to curl your spine down until you're "hanging" from your hips over your legs. Keep it really soft -- don't try to stretch or lock your knees but just let gravity help you stretch your back out and free up your head and neck. Don't "hold" your head but let its weight (our skulls typically weigh about 2-3 kilos) help you to "drop".


Then return to upright by rolling your spine up, thinking about aligning your pelvis and spine as you roll up. Clara76's sticky on Alignment at the top of this forum is a really good guide to correct alignment (particularly keeping the pelvis in neutral).


When I returned from 9 months out after a broken wrist (long complications) my teacher watched me, to. Her coment was that I needed to work on core and alignment. That makes sense as they're the central things for a dancer. The stretching and flexibility are nice (and showy :yes: -- make you look and feel like a "proper" dancer!) but they come later.


I'm going to move this topic to Adult Balet Students, where some of our Teacher mods can come in with more technical advice.

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I experienced exactly the same thing about a year ago when I started adult ballet class after not having done any form of dancing for 25 years (I still can't believe I let that happen)! Soreness all over... couldn't move my legs properly, etc. That's because you have used muscle groups that have been "at rest" for a long, long time and probably have gone into atrophy. Well, don't let that word scare you though. All it means is that when certain muscles have not been used for a long time, they lose the functions they are supposed to perform. Besides, ballet requires the usage of muscles in such a way that a non-ballet dancer would never do.


My reason of starting ballet again as an adult was that I had a terribly stiff lower back. My pain was almost unbearable. So I wanted to do some physical exercise again and found dance to be something that I would actually look forward to doing on a regular basis. However, the ballet class itself was taxing for a beginner with a stiff back. Luckily, things started to improve as time went by. And even more fortunately, I came upon the book "Pain Free" by Pete Egoscue.


The Egoscue Method is a wonderful method to train the muscles into performing the functions that they are supposed to perform, and reactivate the muscles that have gone into atrophy. For example, we often sit so much at work or in everyday life that our pelvis position could be altered due to the tightening of the lower back muscles. Our groin muscles are so tight they could affect the alignment of our legs, knees, ankles and feet. Our shoulders might be rolled to the front. All of these affect the proper alignment that we need for ballet. What the Egoscue Method does is to give specific muscle groups little exercises (not hard at all), so that they relearn their proper functions. Because it is a system approach that treats the body as one unit, it is a great way to help the body get back into shape and get it ready for ballet.


For a quick fix, though, why not try to take a bath with epsom salt. It helps relax those tense muscles instantly!

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Hello Aria, qudos on going back to ballet after the long break!


My teachers used to say, warming up before class sufficiently helps to prevent any cramps or soreness that might come up after class. Some of us ache even when we've been going to class regularly. So, do remember to go early before class and warm up those muscles! Also, they used to tell us not to do any extreme stretches when the muscles are not warmed up enough i.e. suddenly sitting down at home and doing a split. Its best to do stretches at home after you've done some physical activity (after a walk) and not when you've been sitting down most of the time.


Hope this helps! Good luck and hopefully the aches subsides with more classes..

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