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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet and Gymnastics - Beneficial or Detrimental?


MyDancinGirl

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MyDancinGirl

Hello! My dd is a very active 11 year old who enjoys multiple activities. She has been doing gymnastics (level 4 and 5) for the past 3 years and wants to continue, but now is becoming more involved with ballet, taking 3 classes a week and starting pointe work next month. Her gymnastics is 2 days a week for a total of 10 hrs and competes in about 6 meets a year. I have heard pro's and con's of doing both gymnastics and ballet, but the majority I have heard says that ballet training is more beneficial to gymnasts and not necessarily the other way around. My dd is still somewhat young so I don't want to keep her from doing anything that she enjoys, but realize that she will eventually have to choose between the two. She is a talented gymnast (very flexible and a good bar worker with her strength and long lines), but has serious fear issues when it comes to tumbling elements. This fear issue will probably shorten her gymnastics career because of the nature of the skills getting more difficult and scarier the higher you go.

 

So, my question is really if there is anything I should be concerned with at the present moment at her age and level of activity.

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Victoria Leigh

We had a discussion about this some time ago, but I'm not sure where it is. I'm sure one of our super-sleuths here on the board can find it, though! :wink:

 

In the meantime, my biggest problem with gymnastics is the posture. If her training allows the thrust of the rib cage/super arch of the back, then that is extremely antagonistic to what she should be learning in ballet. And, it's a habit that is very hard to break once someone has done it for a long time. The other thing is stress on hyperflexibility. Flexibility is certainly good for ballet, but working for excessive flexibility can be detrimental for everything, not just ballet. (Example: over-splits) And then there is, of course, the injury factor.

 

There will come a time, and probably before too long, where a decision will need to be made. If she goes on a pre-pro track in ballet, that would most likely preclude gymnastics due to time alone. But, at this point in time, I would discuss it with her ballet teacher and see if the gymnastics is working against her, or if it has been okay so far. I'm hoping that she is in a very good ballet school, though, because otherwise that alignment and posture problem might not be carefully addressed and stressed.

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MyDancinGirl

Thank you so much for the reply Ms. Victoria! Actually, her ballet teachers have already pointed out the posture issue with her to me so they are on top of that already. She does seem to have that gymnast's arched back when she stands. The school is small but has excellent teachers with extensive dance training and education. The company has put through some talented students to a few prestigious conservatories after HS graduation, so it is good to see the dancers (and teachers) hard work pay off. I will do a little hunting around here and see if I can find that other previous thread.

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We had a discussion about this some time ago....

 

Knock Knock - here some links that might be of interest...

 

Teachers

 

Teachers

 

Parents of Dancers under 13

 

Parents of Dancers under 13

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MyDancinGirl

Thank you so much Innopac!!! There is quite a lot of information there to read! Thanks again for taking the time to pull these old threads up.

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I am coming at this from a different angle as I coach gymnastics and have a dd. From all my years of experience coaching, I will tell you that they probably do help each other at the early levels. What I have seen as the girls are around Level 5 and are probably at a comparable level in dance is that the way a gymnast uses their muscles to create a movement is different than how a gymnast uses their muscles to create skills. I see this mostly in tumbling where explosiveness is both viewed and taught differently. What I mostly see happen is that the tumbling suffers.

 

As far as gymnastics affecting ballet - I can only say that i never mess with what a ballet teacher has taught my gymnasts unless it will incur a deduction. I also never encourage my gymnasts to over arch their backs - this is really not a desired position in gymnastics. Gymnastics is all about body line - and being tight. I would worry more about the over development of the shoulders as there is a lot of emphasis on the hollow body position.

 

From what I have seen from my dd's studio - the girls who have a gymnastics background tend to have more "tricks" earlier and stronger than the ones that are purely ballet trained. (Turning and leaping/jumping) They are also much more conditioned and therefore stronger at an earlier time than those that are just dancing for the obvious reasons.

 

HOwever, I really don't know ballet enough to know how it actually affects ballet training....just showing the other side.

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MyDancinGirl

Thanks for your insight balletnast! My dd is a lower level gymnast at the moment (Level 5) and she competes in a different league from USAG so her training hours are much shorter so there is less wear and tear on her body. So far, her ballet teachers have been impressed with her physicality--they say she has a great body line for ballet and that she has great muscle tone, strength and flexibility. They love the fact that she has arm muscles and her jumps and leaps are very good (from that gymnastics training). She is naturally flexible and doesn't really have to work at it too much. The only thing that they have criticised so far that I mentioned before is her posture and her arched back and they are already working with her on that issue. I do see how the higher level gymnast training could interfere or counter-balance the ballet training.

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My DD did Rhythmic for 3 years. She tried the equipment oriented gymastics, but being visually impaired it wasnt her thing (yep, I even let her try the parallel bars and covered my eyes the entire time).

 

However she florished in the Rhythmic and she learned how to move in rhythym to music, a skill that has been beneficial to her. She has learned how to move her body and how to place her feet and hands to create different shapes.

 

They even had Mary Fuzesi come into her class and teach class for a day.

 

However I do see that now she wants to put her hand on her waist constantly and she has to correct herself. I guess this comes from using the ribbons. That was the posistion that they trained in, so it became her fall back position (the Ready, set, go posistion that she needs to get out of).

 

She had gained so much core stregnth. And now that she has stopped it I do see that her core muscles arent as strong as they used to be. I am sure that over time they will build to where they need to be again. but that was my only concern about her not doing gymnastics the last few months. She asked to take a break from it.

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Oops! a student wandered into the Parents Forum and a post was removed . . . :)

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  • 3 months later...

I just stumble upon an announcement from Boston Ballet in August 2010 for new promotions and additions of new dancers(http://www.bostonballet.org/Press_Releases/BOSTON_BALLET_EXPANDS_ROSTER_FOR_THE_2010-2011_SEASON_ANNOUNCING_ADDITIONS_AND_PROMOTIONS_TO_THE_COMPANY.html) . Congratulates to Rachel Cossar, a gymnast retiring at age of 19 to take on ballet, who made it to the company. While I think this doesn't prove you have to be a gymnast to be a ballerina, it does say your extended gymnastic training doesn't deliver a death penalty for your ballet career.

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Here is the beginning of her bio:

 

Rachel Cossar, of Toronto, Ontario, began her training at the National Ballet School of Canada, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, École Supérieure de Danse Contemporaire before joining Boston Ballet School as a trainee. Cossar danced with Boston Ballet II for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons before she was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2010.

 

Yes, in her case, her gymnastics did not mean the death knell for a ballet career. She is however, a rarity and I wouldn't consider this to necessarily suddenly indicate a trend. This young lady has the facility combined with the ballet training necessary for a ballet career.

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Thanks for the info tzbutterfly and clara! I also read in her bio that she was a rythmic gymnast (which is much more dance-oriented and balletic than artistic gymnastics). I think what it shows anyone interested in pursuing ballet or dance is that it is never too late to get into ballet! Thanks again for linking that article!!

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When I was a child I studied both ballet and gymnastics. I did not take gymnastics as seriously as I did ballet, but I just thought I'd mention one thing which I think would be a negative impact on any potential for a ballet career.

 

I have the type of muscle tone that can bulk if I'm not careful. I think that it was gymnastics that over-developed the muscle at the top front of my thighs. I'm sorry I have no idea what the muscle is called, but you often see it on gymnasts. I can't imagine that it's a look that many companies would like!

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The biggest issue for us (in deciding ballet over gymnastics) was time. We simply could not make the schedule work-6 hours in the gym per week with competitive team+ 4.5 hrs of ballet class+travel to away meets+homework+ family life. As DD advanced in both, so did the time commitments. Something had to give. Ultimately DD loved the aesthetics of ballet over gymnastics--beautiful costumes, performing onstage to live music, and of course, pointe shoes!

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