Recently, when I was still in New York, I’ve been helping out my cousin with some ballet technique. I’m not really an expert but I think dancing for over 17 years allows me to share some insight in what I’ve learnt through doing the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). For a bit of a background, I started dancing at the age of 3, started doing RAD exams at the age of 7 and danced until I left Barbados at the age of 22. That would be a total of 19 years dancing and 15 doing RAD so I think I know a thing or 2.
The first thing I told her was to make sure she was turned out at the hips. You hear it a lot during classes but its sometimes hard to figure out if you actually are turned out from the hips. A cool trick I learnt to help open up your hips was to lie on your stomach, away from a wall, bend your knees and place the bottoms of your feet together, slowly lowering your feet to the ground.
The goal is to get your heels flat on the ground and closer to your butt. This also helps with your plies to make sure you’re not rolling your ankles.
Something else I also helped her with was keeping her turnout while dancing. It’s all good to have the turnout at the beginning of an exercise but then what happens during the rest of it. For starters I got her to stand in first position and then rise. The challenge is to lower your heels and be exactly where they were before, fully turned out. Doing it in fifth position proved to be a bit difficult but she got it after a couple tries. You can also do this with a plie instead, trying to keep your knees over your toes. I kept saying the same thing most of the time while helping her,
Press your heels forward
Even when I was dancing I had trouble with this and struggled to find a way to do it while dancing and surprisingly I went back to a trick I learnt when I first started dancing. Try thinking of presenting your heel first. We used to stick shiny stickers on the inside of our ballet shoes and the teacher would always say she wanted to see our stickers. Once I thought about that it really helped my turnout while dancing.
Aside from tips and tricks there are some exercises you can do to help condition your muscles to work for you instead of against you. Some that I like that are also easy to do is this one I found online. I still do these whenever i do I pilates and decided to workout and it makes me feel really good the next day. Pilates is also really great for ballet dancers. It targets the same muscles and can really really help strengthen your core which is important for all dancers.
Hopefully some of these help you guys cause I know its audition season and also my favourite time of the year, Nutcracker season!! 🙂 So best of luck to all of you out there whether its auditioning or dancing in the Nutcracker. Leave a comment if you’re in it and what part you’re got 🙂