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Ballet Talk for Dancers



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Since this is my first post on this board, I'd like to take a moment to present myself before getting to my specific questions. But before anything, let me apologize for my english which is not my native language.


I started taking dance classes 3 1/2 years ago, first in jazz and then in ballet. I was 48 years old at that time, and of course never expected to develop such a passion for classical dance. After going through the required elementary levels, I now find myself doing prety good at Intermediate 1 level, in a school which is quite strict and demanding. So far so good...


This winter, to the invitation of my teacher, I enrolled myself in a "repertoire" class, in addition to my regular "technique" classes, my purpose being to start working on expression and feelings and emotions using real choreographies. Great...


Then came the first class, which is where my problems began. Knowing in advance that she would have a male student (I don't dare calling myself a dancer yet) in her class, our teacher had chosen an abstract from Raymonda to start with. To my great surprise, and before I could realize what was going on, I was given the part of the Sultan, was assigned a partner and was put to work on a "pas de deux" with her.


To say the truth, I instantly loved the feeling .... until the first lift, which was to be a complete "above the head", full arms extension, lift. First experience for me of course, first experience for my partner also, although she's been in ballet a lot longer than myself. I managed and finally did'nt do to bad: I did'nt loose balance, I did'nt drop her, I even could get her up to my head level, but not past, no way... Forget the full arms extension: I just din't happen to have enough upper body strenght to do this.


This did'nt seem to be much of a problem for my teacher - "...come on Dick, she only weights 50 kilos" says she - who keeps inserting lifts into her choreography. So we've started training on lifts, all sorts of lifts.


With pas de deux, I discovered something beautifull and extraordinary. What a wonderfull feeling... I want to work on it, and be able to do it, if possible in time for our june representation. But there is this limitation with lifts. So my work is set: I have to gain upper body strenght, amongst other things. And this is where I need some advice.


First of all, I would like to know from people who've been through this and know about it if I'm setting myself idealistic goals. After all, I'm doing things now that I would never have dreamed of 3 years ago; with proper training, why could'nt it be the same with lifts? Is there any late adult beginner out there who's been through this and who could comment?


Second, I would need some advice in order to train properly. Is regular weight lifting with dumd bells indicated? Any special precaution doing this? Special diet? Any help or comment will be apreciated.





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Hi, Dick, and welcome to the Men's Forum of Ballet Talk here at Ballet Alert! Online!:)


Lifts are as much, if not more, timing as they are raw strength. The other side of the equation is that the girl has to be strong enough to do the lift as her partner is to be able to lift the 50 kilos. I've suffered through far too many pas de deux with perfectly adorable young dancers who practically had to be held up, let alone be lifted. When you're working with a partner who isn't very experienced in being partnered, you can be headed for trouble!


I'm not, and never was, an adult beginner, but I've found that Pilates is a good supplement to build upper body strength, since I've been recuperating from abdominal surgery. See if you can find a place that works with Pilates, particularly with the apparatus. I'm not that keen on dead weights for strength training, although they have their places. And pushups, forget - they're not good for anything except to build strength and speed straight forward. Only useful if you have to toss your partner somewhere, or maybe punch her, although this latter has always been considered poor form. You can do vertical pushups, with the legs up on the wall, and the push going nearly straight up. Studio owners, however, tend to frown on these, as it marks up the wall.;)

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I am so glad to hear your views on pushups. When I was partnering (stopped due to time limitations) I was doing pushups all the time. It never once helped. I always suspected they were the wrong exercise (at least for me), but our teacher kept making us do them again and again.

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I agree with Mel on pushups; wrong angles for press lifts. But 10 a day doesn't really hurt, and at times I've done that just to feel that I'm working towards something. I try to do my pushups all at once, since that's how you have to do a lift; no stalling.


I've been through exactly what you describe. All men begin partnering as an adult, or nearly as an adult. You're dancing with someone else's body, which is different from dancing with your own body. It's all about timing and correct geomerty and confidence and your muscles knowing EXACTLY what they'll do. You probably don't need any more strength, although extra strength can help with "muscling" her up once you've done the lift wrong.


Just keep working on it and asking people what you're doing wrong, and you'll get the lifts. It takes time and practice.

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Originally posted by Mel Johnson

... And pushups, forget - they're not good for anything except to build strength and speed straight forward.  Only useful if you have to toss your partner somewhere, or maybe punch her, although this latter has always been considered poor form.  You can do vertical pushups, with the legs up on the wall, and the push going nearly straight up.  Studio owners, however, tend to frown on these, as it marks up the wall.;)


Or, you can just hang your feet from a convenient barre.:)

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I've tried vertical pushups. As beneficial as they may be, I don't recommend them. It seems like a good way to risk breaking your neck.

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You can do the feet-on-the-barre pushups if you like, but unless you're really short, they won't do much different from the regular on-the-floor pushup. You don't have to be at a 90º vertical to get the best out of the vertical pushup, should you try it. But I just generally don't believe in pushups. However, if you can't do four reps of an elevated pushup, it may be a sign that something's not right.

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Try facing away from the wall, touch your toes and then walk your legs up it so that you end up looking at the wall for vertical push ups. If you go into a handstand looking away from the wall, you will sway your back and it is somewhat tricky to get into position.


I agree with Mel that these are best for lifting. But I also think fifteen regular pushups with a straight back gives overall strength and some nice definition.

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Oh, gee, and here I was assuming everybody knew how to do a vertical pushup safely - that's right, facing away from the wall can be hairy! But if you can get to a Pilates trainer, I still think that's the best course. Kinda pricey, but it sure works!:)

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Even with those instructions, I'm worried about what happens if my arms suddenly give out: I could break my neck. Not that they are prone to do that. But I think the chance is still there, especially if I'm tired and I've been through many reps. In any case, I AM a lot heavier than the women I lift.

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I've tried vertical push ups a few times. Each time I feel like checking my health insurance first just in case. I'm not really worried about hurting myself. My problem arises when my cats decide they must investigate. There I am trying to do push ups (not at all well) and I've got two cats sticking their noses in my face to make sure I'm all right. I usually end up laughing so hard I give up and flop to the ground.

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I am pretty sure a gym would have equipment for performing near-vertical push-ups without fear or marked walls. Placing the feet on a high-backed sofa (wear socks) has a similar effect. I would also imagine that placing the feet on the highest barre would work...but then I am only 5'8".


Over-the-head lifts are very difficult, and in my opinion should not be inflicted upon a beginning partner of any age, however balletically advanced he may be. Otherwise, it's like putting an inexperienced girl (or woman) en pointe--a recipe for confusion, injuries, and shattered self-confidence.

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Guest boydancer05

My teachers told me when I first started which was lke 2 years or so ago, that it's more in your legs when it comes to overhead presses and stuff. I did my first attempt when i was 14 and got it down ( w/ a different partner) by the summer. Just work w/ your partner. Now at 16 I'm working on arabesque presses with different girls. The main tip i was given was to get her up there as fast and correct as possible then lock my elbows to stablize her. It takes a while to get used to but it works or at least thats what older guys have told me. good luck on getting the lifts.

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Right - in any partnering situation, it's really practice, practice, practice. Even top professionals really can't go on without some time working together, or if they do, they really hold back, to keep from looking bad, or worse, and just end up mediocre. As to any overhead lifting, the big deal is in the legs and not doing the lift with the back, because you can really do a number on yourself using primarily the back for lifting. There are some parts that require a dead lift from the floor, but that's not something a student is likely to encounter, and the people who do, complain about it! One company I knew paid a "hazard stipend" for the couple who did a part like that!

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