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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Weak legs


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I have taken ballet for over ten years now, and I am happy with my progress at the barre. However, I am not improving at exercises in the centre at all. Any combination with jete, glissade, etc. that involves jumping from one leg highlights how weak my legs are. I am unable to improve or master these steps because of my lack of strength. Obviously, ballet classes alone aren't giving me the basis I need. (I don't know if this is because none of the barre is done on a rise--would it be in a more advanced class?) Does anyone have suggestions for strengthening exercises outside of class? Plie/rise on one leg is all I can come up with...



Edited by paloma
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When you say "rise," do you mean relevé? A more advanced class would almost definitely involve at least some relevés at the barre - it's hard to imagine a class without them, even at a beginner level.


In terms of the center work, do you have difficulty with the combinations because of the sequence of steps, ie, remembering the difference between a jeté and a glissade, or do you feel that your legs aren't physically capable of executing the combinations, even if they're broken down or presented more slowly? If it's the strength, how do you feel when doing jumps from both feet?


I'm sure the mods/teachers will have more suggestions, but doing exercises with a theraband helped increase my strength. You may also want to speak with your teacher - if you're comfortable at the barre and with some center exercises, he/she may be able to suggest additional ways you can improve. Good luck!

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My legs and feet improved their overall strength after I started doing work at the gym - not just weight-training but just the elliptical, starting low and moving to more tension on it as I improved.


AND the theraband was instrumental in helping strengthen my feet, as well.


You may need to branch out from just doing ballet to get the strength you want in your legs. Adults take a bit longer to build it up, in my experience.

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I'm confused, you say you've been taking class for 10 years, but you're not doing relevés at the barre? You should be doing relevés in many of the exercises at the barre, and yes, this would help strengthen your legs. But, if you're not doing any relevés at the barre, then yes, you'll need to do leg exercises in the gym. I use ankle weights at the gym which helps in class because my legs feel really light without them! If you can get to a gym and have a trainer assist you with one session, you could focus on any areas you want. If you cannot get to a gym, ask your teacher to assist you with some exercises that you can do at home, such as relevés.


However, it could also be that you're not getting down far enough into your plie to allow you to get enough relevé in your center work.


If it was me, I'd ask my teacher for an opinion and suggestions for improvement.

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Just out of curiousity, do you have any issues with hyperextension? I've noticed over the years that sometimes people who have hyperextension in their knees and other joints often look great at the barre but when it comes to center they can be very wobbly and sometimes just don't get off the floor very high in jumps because their joints are just too mobile to support them. If that is the case, maybe you need to talk to a personal trainer or physical therapist who can help you work on building strength and stabilizing your joints. Just a thought.


And yes, it seems odd that you wouldn't be doing any releves at the barre in your classes.

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Boots - I definitely have the problem you noted above. I had to stop jumping in skating for that very reason... After 17 years of skating, I have very poor balance in the centre during ballet and I dread any jumping combinations in fear of falling (as I have already done once since the beginning of April). I have extremely hyperextended legs as I mentioned in another post, so this could possibly be Paloma's problem as well? Very interesting!!

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Paloma, do you test your balance at the barre by removing your hand from the barre during different movements/steps? I know there was a time when I was pleased with my progress at barre but was also very shaky in center. It was frustrating. (Aside to boots and AerBear: I also have hyperextended legs!) Anyways, my teacher said that if I wasn't on my leg and was having trouble during center, then I wasn't really on my leg at the barre, either. She suggested testing my balance during all of the bar exercises, not just during the ending balances or poses (at the time I only did this for ending poses like retire on flat, arabesque at 45 etc). Slowly I began to remove my hand from the barre for a while during rond de jamb (a terre and en l'air), tendu, grand battement, degage, etc. It was amazing how quickly the strength and coordination built up! I learned that I wasn't engaging all the necessary muscles because I was relying on the barre.


You may already be doing this, however. If that is the case, I agree with the other posters who have suggested a bit of weight and resistance (theraband) training on the side. If you can afford it, you may also want to look into pilates.


You could also try lunges and squats if your knees are not problematic, and calf raises on the edge of a step (always stretch afterwards). I assume that when you say you don't do anything on a rise, you mean you don't tend to work on demi pointe, but rather, on a flat foot. That's okay, you can still build strength on flat... in fact, you really need to build it there in order to progress to working on demi, because otherwise you will be putting yourself at a greater risk for injury.


In terms of ballet exercises that you could do outside of class to build strength, I suggest echappe, releve and eleve on one leg, fondu, forced arch in parallel (6th) and turned out (maybe just in 1st and 2nd if doing it at home). Also, try holding balances and see how you do. On demi, try holding sous-sus, first, second, and fourth. On flat, try balancing sur le cou de pied and in retire. Really feel the muscles engaging and try not to grab onto anything... let your body adjust to maintain its center.


After class, when you are nice and warm, you could try doing a few sautes, changements, glissades, petit jetes, etc at the barre, really focusing on pushing off through the foot and stretching the feet fully in the air. I still do this every now and then if I feel myself getting lazy. that brings me to another question... how is your foot strength? If your ankles and feet are weak, even if your legs are strong that strength will not be fully utilized.


What else? Hmm. You didn't say how many classes per week you've been taking or if you do any other forms of dance. If you're only taking one or two classes per week, is there any chance you could increase that number?


Best of luck, and keep at it!

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Read this thread:

Centre Work

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Thanks everyone for the great tips! My problem is definitely one of strength in my legs, and not balance or hyperextension. I suspected some outside work would be needed to supplement what goes on in class. The weights sound like a good idea--I have seen people wear them even when walking laps or outdoors.


Although the barre exercises do include rising to demi-pointe to find your balance, we rarely do so on one leg. So I assume rising on two legs does not develop muscles to the same extent, since there is less weight on each.


As an aside, my school teaches Cecchetti/Russian, and they try to use the word "releve" when referring to rising with a little spring (http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/releve.html). "Rise" is a smooth roll up to demi-pointe. Pardon my confusing everyone with the terminology!

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You're welcome! Good luck with this. One little note, in most studios (and everyone please correct me if I'm wrong), there's a difference between relevé and a rise. A relevé is done from a demi-plié and a rise is from flat, no plié.

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dancepig, I think releve is done from demi pointe and eleve from straight legs. I've had teachers who call both 'rise' when they get lazy, but usually, as you say, rise seems to mean eleve.

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