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Pilates, Upper Body work, Interval Training, Tai-Chi


These classes added to four ballet classes weekly leave no time for Yoga!


If you start ballet as an adult, unless you are already very fit, chances are you won't really get the strength you would like to have just by trying to execute the moves year after year in class.


For many years I only worked Pilates with my ballet classes because that was what was recommended. Just listening to the ballet talk, I was convinced that any alternate exercise would develop the wrong muscles for ballet.


Pilates saved my back, to be certain, but in 25 years of steady adult classwork I did not become strong enough to truly execute ballet moves until I started in a hospital fitness program where physiotherapists and people with actual college degrees conduct regular classes. I discovered how extremely weak my arms and shoulders were, and what a difference a year of one "Total Body" class weekly made in my ability in ballet.


Neither ballet class nor Pilates strengthens a woman's upper body, yet how can you disconnect it from the indispensable and constantly remarked upon CORE? Not to mention, there comes a point when youth gives way to flapping upper arms, especially when there is no biceps or triceps to mask the inevitable sub-dermal collagen meltdown.


Tai-Chi is so complimentary to ballet that Masters have been known to hire ballet dancers for their demonstration DVD's. The form has philosophical beauty and though bewildering to many, is easy for dancers to learn and give the appearance of the "Tai-Chi Body" in short fashion. It is perfect for recuperating from an injury and provides a study in balance, relaxation and unitary movement.


I alternate intense days (considering ballet day intense) with Tai Chi, and rest completely on Sunday.

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  • Victoria Leigh


  • mrsmanners


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Just a couple of thoughts. You are doing a lot (which personally I think is good, at least from a health perspective) and mention that you have no time for yoga. If you do yoga only for stretching (of course a yoga person would say that if so you weren’t doing yoga to begin with) you can work yoga poses into Pilates or other fitness activities. I do that all the time and prefer doing both stretching and the other fitness activities that way. I’ve done that for years and enjoy it very much and it has essentially “killed” my interest in yoga.


Personally, I think the strength requirements for ballet are minimal. It is more a matter of using muscles that you don’t often use in ways you don’t often do than it is a matter of strength. I also think that ballet class is by far the best way to gain the very specific strength you do need.


Pilates classes are very popular among dancers it is true. From strictly a ballet perspective, however, I don’t think they are necessary or particularly useful. I wouldn’t say that for the modern or contemporary dancer, as most modern styles actively use the torso to create movement. In my mind ballet is more about maintaining alignment while moving. I agree that Pilates exercises do little for strengthing the arms or more importantly the legs.


I do think that once we get older (I’ll say over 50) general fitness is more important to us health wise. I think the older dancer will benefit from making general fitness a priority over dance (even though one prefers dance to fitness activities) in that being fit will slow the inevitable decline in function. I’m not saying that we can’t aspire to become better dancers, rather that we don’t need to spend as much time or energy trying, at least compared with a 25 year old.


Oh yes, I’ll define fitness as a combination of cardiovascular capability, strength, flexibility, and balance. Any activities that improve those factors are good for fitness.

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I have to disagree with some things here. Ballet dancers are some of the strongest athletes there are. They've done studies comparing sports athletes and dancers, and the dancers won consistantly. The difference has to do with your experiences as a student, and what a professional dancer's body is actually required to do. That's a chasm of difference.


There's certianly nothing wrong with cross-training, and if you feel that it helps you, by all means do it.

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My dd's pilates instructor focuses quite a bit on developing her upper body strength, but in a manner appropriate for a ballet student.

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Which kinds of additional exercise can be undertaken that won't actually interfere with ballet? I'd like to do some extra training for strength (there have been some attacks on women in my area of late), but I don't want to do anything that would make me bulky - it's taken me so long for my legs to start looking like 'long' muscle as opposed to bulky muscle.

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Take a self-defense course.

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Shotokan Karate. My kick partner was a 6'5" 250 pound guy. He had to use 3 pads because my kicks were so hard. Anything less and I would knock the air out of him. Shotokan is the "fighting" form of karate, but you are taught to NEVER use it unless it is absolutely necessary. You will also learn katas, which you should excel at because of the ballet training.




I did an elliptical machine today for the first time ever. I had no idea how horrible my cardio was. I could only go for 30-60 seconds at a time then I would have to rest for a minute, then go again. It was pitiful. No cramps though, which I'm really surprised about. I spent about 20 minutes stretching afterwards. My legs were so warm I actually did splits TURNED OUT (Ms. Leigh!) and it didn't hurt. So, yeah..........I need to seriously work on the cardio. I'll go back tomorrow for more and more and more and more and more and more :D



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For me elliptical cycle was A-1 for burning fat, and it really helped my unfreeze my ankle after coming out of a hard cast, but I'll be darned if after about three months the front of my quadriceps became noticeably pumped up. I was horrified and none of the therapists understood- they said, "you should be happy about this!" But indeed, I wasn't, so I moved on to "interval training" :D for cardio and fat burning.

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Pilates classes are very popular among dancers it is true. From strictly a ballet perspective, however, I don’t think they are necessary or particularly useful. I wouldn’t say that for the modern or contemporary dancer, as most modern styles actively use the torso to create movement. In my mind ballet is more about maintaining alignment while moving. I agree that Pilates exercises do little for strengthing the arms or more importantly the legs.


Gary, I'm afraid that I will have to take issue with that statement, in terms of the idea that ballet does not actively use the torso to create movement. If it is not being used, then a dancer is not dancing, but merely posing. Pilates classes can help abdominal strength, which helps back strength, and then allows a ballet dancer to move more freely from the torso without destroying necessary placement and alignment. It improves it.

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I thought the point of pilates combined with ballet was to increase core strength because of 1) alignment and 2) strength in the core helps with balancing?



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In support of Ms. Leighs point - the torso is not just a passive support for the arms and legs (and therefore needing strengthening only as such), but is an active support, in the sense that movements are initiated (even only briefly before) by bracing in the torso, which then provides an active base on which the arms and legs move. In other words, the muscles of the torso are activated just ahead of the limbs. Someone who has good core strength and a high degree of core "reflexivity" has the appearance of lightness of movement that dancers aim for. Some who does not - well, we see them all the time - they seem to sag as they move, and their movements appear effortful.


Sorry if I'm restating what is obvious - but the implication is that exercise regimes that emphasise the rapid readjustment of the core in dynamic situations - such as happens in many Pilates exercises - are particulary beneficial, while static strengthening exercises are less so.



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Movement is initiated from the torso. Dance is movement, and ballet is dance. Nothing more needs to be said.

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:shrug: No matter what dancing is or where it comes from, if it isn't healthy, what are we talking here? :shrug:


(Plus, I know those amazing men dancers are doing more than Ballet and Pilates!)


:) Oh dear, time to go!


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Not sure what you are talking about here, mrsmanners. :lol: What are you referring to as not healthy? Also, I did not really understand the point of the original post. It did not ask a question nor bring up a point of discussion, and the follow up posts really do not relate very well to the original post other than to defend Pilates as being valid for ballet.

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