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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Increasing stamina for variation


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As an adult dancer, I'll take exams (with the teens) in 3 weeks now. However, the closer we get to the date, the worst I'm dancing the exam variation. The 1st 2/3 is however getting better, but the end is just a pure mess ( and getting messier) I'm hitting a wall glike the runners) after the small jumps part, where both my legs and breath can't take it anymore (there's bourré, fouettés (not en tournant though, the standard arabesque ones) and a diagonal of piqué en chainés). It's not cramping or anything, I just can't move anymore, like the energy is missing. From my dancing, as for now I won't pass.I'm getting frustrated, the teacher is getting frustrated (he's also more stressed than  anyone else that we'll pass the exam), I know you can pass, and you've do much better in december... (I know...)

It's getting so warm here (not the usual weather, and no A/C, it's europe not america), and I've never done well in warmer temperature, I get tired quite fast. In pointe class, I even it that wall at the end of the barre, I had to modify the grand battement as I could barely move at that point.

My question is what can I do to overcome that wall and getting more stamina ? Don't say running, I can't (I got knee pain from my hyperextended knees).

Currently we're going through the variation twice a week after a 1h15 warm up class, but only once per people. I asked if I can do it twice each time and the answer was no (no time, what about the other....), but this is what I need in my mind (we're the last class, and I cannot stay after just to go through it alone, as there's no one else in the building).


Thanks for your help !

Ps: I'm currently taking 6 classes a week in 5 days, 4 of them with pointe shoes ( 2 proper pointe classes, and the 2 preparing the exam, where it's mandatory to put the pointe shoes, even though it's not mandatory to be «on pointe» all the time). I'm walking quite a bit and do a bit of pilate as a warm up before class (abs, back muscle, and toe exercise)

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What I found that helped me increase stamina was to do interval type training. I like the elliptical or the treadmill, but it can be done with cycling,as well. Time it... Say 5 minutes at standard pace, 1 minute at speed burst, then 5 at standard, two at burst. Or 1.5 if you can't manage 2. 

On an elliptical, I would start at, maybe level 12 for 2 minutes, the up it to 15 for 1. 13 for 4 minutes, 16 for 2, 14 for 6 minutes, 17 for 3, then down again but keeping the burst at 3 minutes.

It worked for me. Dance is almost like interval work.

Another trick, for me, was to find the "rest steps" in the variations. Those were the places I could sort of use to relax and breathe. Not every variation has them (e.g. Silver Fairy is nonstop, but mercifully short!). If yours has a pause or two, renew your oxygen level during it.

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For the strength part of the energy, I don't have advice.  I could use that myself.  AncientDancer's sounds good.

I just want to put in a reminder to stay well hydrated.  It's easy not to, especially on hot days and classes that are 2-3 hours (I'm including your pilates and rehearsal).  If I'm not hydrated, I will fatigue super fast.  If you're sweating a lot, something salty helps too.  You have to drink all day, not just during class.

Good luck with your exams!


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Breathing! Try to work out where you breathe, and how you breathe to help with effort.  As well as working out where the "rest" steps are - and doing this will help immensely with artistry as well because you'll get a better sense of the rhythmic flow of energy - working out where to breathe gives your body the oxygen it needs to refresh the blood to feed the muscles. 

Also, maybe you're trying too hard, and getting too tense? That is wasted energy. Can you try on your own in the studio, to dance it in a very relaxed way? I'm still working with advice given to me by a physiotherapist whom I saw for a running injury, who said I should try to dance without tension. I realised I was using tension rather than strength to get effects in dance. It's an ongoing search to realise how to do this. 

The other thing is, although you are doing a lot of dance, it isn't aerobically training you. That's where interval training might be useful. Maybe search on line for a reputable High Intensity Interval Training programme you can do at home 3 times a week. These are usually structured around 30 minutes of exercise, in which you do bursts of around 30 seconds to a minute of a variety of exercises. I used to do one at my dance studio: the instructor set up 6 stations: burpees; wall climbing (on the floor); running up and back across the studio; sit ups; squats; jumping jacks. So strength-oriented exercises eg squats or sit ups were alternated with jumping jacks. And so on ...

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Another possibility for aerobical training:

A real "killer class" in dance. In ballet, this is not often but exists. I know from  teachers who do such a class (with aerobical training in mind ) where for example the barre only changes once half a year, and goes through without breaks - and in the middle similar, no or almost no breaks, and a long allegro part.

More often this is in Jazz or Hip Hop, some modern teachers like this, too. I had a modern teacher where the pulse was at 140 at minimum. Infamous was his across the room section - he did something everyone follewed, and so on, without break. Or he repeated the combo(which contained jumps, down the floor up the floor and fast) at the end of the class several times, without much break.


Reds tips are right, and another one from me: Don't train too much, a marathon runner doesn't do anything the last 3 days before the run. Running is much about not running, in the right time. And to get the steps of the combo, just mark ist without much effort several times until it's fluid - then you can try to express something, without being bothered by the steps. Don't waste your scare energy on remembering the steps.

Marking can even be done at home, too, just play the music (you have it?) and simulate the steps. Imagine the lines in mind when marking. I did this for a private show, too (I'm only hobby dancer), the whole combo of 7 minutes I can't do very often a day, because there are very hards parts in it - after 3 or 4 repetitions it gets worse because of loosing strength, after 5 I'm done. And I'm not that unfit, I'm running half marathon.

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Redbokish: there's definitely a tense situation going on. According to the teacher I waste too much energy on being tense. The fact is, he's so stressed (even more than I do, and I'm «always» stressed) when we're going through, that it doesn't help. I got the beginning flowy becaise it's not that fast and there's a lot a breathing moments. From the small jumps to the end, the only breathing moment is right before the last diagonal, and it's not enough for me (at least now). The weirdest is that in december I did it well enough that the teacher said you're passing the exam this year gje was really surprised of my dancing at that time and wasn't expecting that I'll be able to do it), and at that time my work and personal life was crazy, I was anxious, stressed, and overwork but I danced well. Now that I'm more relaxed in my own life, I dance more badly.

I injured my ankle (old injury flaring up), in February and rehearsed the piece on flat at thayt time and that was good (no wall, but it was also cooler weather).

I have issues with studio, as the more advanced adult classes are always the latest class, we cannot stay after class to rehearse  as they close the school nor come before as the studio is occupied by the smaller kids. When, I tried myself in the back while someone else is going through I still struggle to finish but it's definitely better (that's why the teacher keeps telling me, right now you won't pass, but from I saw in the back you can do much much better). It's getting more frustrating, which tense me up which get more frustrating and so on... ahhhhh

I'll try the breathing advice, and find the better place to do so. 

If the weather allowed it, I'll try and roller blade for interval training (I guess my dog will be happy about it).



Currently, the class with this teacher is run as so : we change the barre exercises every 6 to 8 weeks. Now we're also running through the barre with almost no break which means I'm already tired by the time we're going through the exam piece. It's not a real killer class like your jazz class but it's tough.

I have the music, I marked it often, so there's no memory issue (that's the only issue I'm sure I don't have ? ). 

We'll have a long holiday weekend before the exam so that should ease the tiredness at that moment.

So aerobic training and breathing/relaxing. I'll do my best but the relaxing part is not the easiest for me ! 

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I'll do my best but the relaxing part is not the easiest for me ! 


Well, you can only try. But it can be done - I"m finding a way to use my muscles, without holding them, if you can try to find the difference. But these are lifelong habits aren't they, so require conscious thought to break. 

I was in our special ballet conditioning class (Progressing Ballet Technique) last night, and we were doing something with the big Pilates ball. I was doing fine, except that, as my teacher passed  by me, she said "relax your neck" and I realised that, although my neck & head were resting on the floor in that exercise, I was tensing my neck unnecessarily. So then I breathed, and consciously relaxed my neck & jaw. And it was easier ... :D

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Update: there's no need to worry about anymore. I just learnt today, and in front of the whole class that I won't pass my exam on pointe but on flat instead. The teacher is to worried I won't have it. Now I'm feel ashamed (why telling that in front of everyone ?) and so disappointed. I'm wont probably pass it, because passing it on pointe was the goal and a challenge, on demi pointe I don't care anymore... it's even more disappointing when today was better, and the teacher didn't said it, he asked a delow student to said it to me, because quote: he doesn't want me to have any hope». Hopefully, I'm a grown up and kept smiling until I was alone in my car (even in the dresding were the ten were like it was so rude because you really did better... The joy of being a grown up !


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