Students today receive a lot of conflicting advice about their educational paths and their career goals. Idealists urge students to find what makes them happy and pursue that, no matter what the obstacles. Others take a more practical stance and tell students to look at the job market and just focus on earning a degree for any in-demand field to guarantee job security. Each side just wants today’s youth to make good decisions that will lead them to successful lives, but they believe there are drastically different methods for achieving them. So the question becomes: should you get a dance degree?
In reality, the options don’t need to be so black and white. It’s entirely possible for students to follow their passions to create a meaningful career while still considering the realities of the job market. With the right plan, today’s dance enthusiasts can earn their dance degree in the arts and create successful careers for themselves.
Creating a Plan for Your Dance Degree
A person who loves dance so deeply that she wants to dedicate her career to it needs to start by knowing what her options are. According to Career Igniter, a good place to start in the world of dance is by examining all the roles that go into making a ballet production. Dancers who are drawn to designing movements and routines may enjoy becoming a choreographer, which the source said can sometimes offer greater job security than being a dancer. The ability to be both expands a student’s chances of landing a job after graduation.
Some entrepreneurial types may want to forge their own place in the dance industry by creating and running a new studio or production on their own. These students will want to also take business classes or even earn a separate business degree to understand how to get their company off the ground and keep it operational. Dance administrators are crucial members of the industry, and the role of administrator can make an excellent careers for the dancers very interested in business.
Every dance student should take the time to consider where they would really fit in and enjoy their role in the industry. You know that you love dance, but ask yourself why you love it and which aspects of it in particular make you the happiest. Realizing this while you’re still in school allows you to supplement your dance degree with other classes or certifications that you’ll need to make your desired career a reality. The more well-rounded a dancer you are, the more marketable you’ll be when you graduate.
Working in Dance Education
It takes a great teacher to make a great performer. Talent needs to be trained, energy tempered, form polished before a performer can rise to his/her full potential. As a teacher, many dancers have a unique opportunity to practice their art while also sharing their passion for dance with others.
Shape America reported that dance teachers may be able to enter the field without separate teaching credentials. That means that professional performers retiring from the stage can find ways to begin teaching without needing an additional professional degree. That being said, there are a number of national and international dance organizations that offer additional training and certifications, and many in the dance community recommend or expect teachers to have some level of higher education before teaching classes on their own. Information about three of the larger organizations is available below:
Knowing early that a career as a teacher might be an option can help young dancers to take beneficial classes or volunteer at their studio for extra teaching experience.
Combining Dance With Other Industries
Some students may decide that though they love dance, they may want a career that combines elements of other industries. For those with a wide range of artistic skills, becoming a dance critic or reporter can keep them close to the dancing action as they build their jobs around the written word. Most professional writers have a particular area of interest that they focus their pieces on. Dance writers are able to use the knowledge they gained with their dance degree to publish and share their thoughts on the industry.
The dance therapy industry is another sector that combines dance with other disciplines. Growing in popularity, dance therapy is used to treat physical and mental conditions in the same way as traditional psychotherapy. The American Dance Therapy Association frequently cites studies that support the practice’s role in treating anxiety and depression, among other ailments.
Whatever path you decide, you should know that there are plenty of ways to turn your love of dance and your dance degree into a realistic and enjoyable career, especially if you can start planning for it early.
Flexibility is a building block of ballet – it allows for a wider range of motion, helps protect against injury and enables more elegant lines. And the crazy thing about flexibility is that no matter how far you can stretch already, there’s always more to be done! Stretching to improve flexibility is a critical part of your dance development.
If you’re sweating over a stubborn hamstring that won’t budge or a back that just refuses to arch, fret no more. The best way to improve your flexibility is to consistently stretch – every day if you can swing it – because just stretching once every other week just won’t cut it. And as always, don’t push your body further than it can go! If a stretch hurts, that’s not a sign you’re improving – it’s a sign you’re damaging your muscles and tendons, so move into deeper stretches gradually. Here are two stretches that are very effective for improving your flexibility.
The stretch, “The Superman,” comes from DanceTeacher Connect and is a great way to improve back flexibility. First, lay down on the ground flat on your stomach. Then, raise your upper body off the ground as high as possible without using your arms for support – your chest and back muscles should pull you up. Go as high as you can, then return to the start.
The blog recommends repeating this movement three times then resting to build the muscles around your spine, thereby improving your back flexibility.
Hip Flexor Stretch
DanceSpirit magazine has a great list of dynamic stretches that dancers can do. Brynn Jinnett, creator of Refine Method in New York City, told the magazine that dancers focus too much on static stretches and don’t do enough dynamic stretches that can improve their overall range of motion.
Try their hip flexor stretch for greater hip and hamstring flexibility and deeper splits. First, kneel on your right knee with your left leg in front of you and bend it perpendicular to the floor. Push forward gently with your hips, like you’re lunging, while squeezing your glutes. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.
Stacey Nemour, a flexibility guru, reminded dancers that it’s important to stretch with correct form, to relax and never force the muscles or bounce during stretching. So be careful not to overwork your muscles and gradually up the intensity of your stretching routine.
If you need to get a lively conversation going at a party full of dancers and dance teachers, ask them which ballet method they think is the best. Ballet methods are different teaching styles or schools of ballet that have developed around the world since ballet’s inception in the 15th century. Each method has unique characteristics that define it and special characteristics in the manner it’s taught to students.
Read on to learn about the main methods of ballet – and to make sure you can hold your own in that dinner party conversation.
The Balanchine method is also known as the American method. It was invented by George Balanchine, an esteemed choreographer who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the 1930s, Juliette Dupre of the blog Ballet Scoop explained. Together with Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine opened the School of American Ballet in 1934.
Younger in age than the other main ballet methods, Balanchine’s style is full of energy and vitality. While Balanchine took initial inspiration from the traditional Russian method, he rejected classical stiffness for jazzy, athletic movements, breathtaking speed and dizzying height. Every movement is pointed, emphatic and performed with the utmost expression and force. As Dupre wrote:
“Even a simple port de corp devant was not to be considered a stretch but a fully artistic movement where the aesthetic of the body’s journey through space was the most important thing.”
Consequently, the Balanchine method is considered neoclassical ballet. The modern and fresh approach to movement in the Balanchine method is expressed in other aspects of ballet performance as well. It rejects flouncy and frilly costumes for clean leotards, and scrapped fancy sets for simple backgrounds so that the focus is on the dancers, Ballet In You explained.
The French School
Where the Balanchine method is modern, the French School goes back. Way back – to the courts of Louis XIV in the late 16th century. In 1713, the Ecole de Danse de l’Opera was opened and was the teaching grounds of some of ballet’s greatest masters, according to the American Ballet Theatre.
While the French school traces its influences back centuries, it came into its own under the leadership of Rudolf Nureyev, who was director of the Paris Opera Ballet in the 80s. The French School is a classical ballet style that emphasizes elegant lines, fluidity and graceful dancing along with technical precision. The French school’s true trademark is the petite batterie – a prime example of the method’s emphasis on quick, precise footwork, according to DanceSpirit magazine.
Created by Italian Enrico Cecchetti, the Cecchetti method was invented as a way to teach ballet to new generations, ABT explained. Cecchitti meant business – his teaching method involves eight intense stages of training and includes strict repetition and routines.
The rigid and regimented teaching style is a result of Cecchetti’s scientific attitude toward ballet and the idea that jetes and arabesques don’t just involve one part of the body, but the body as a whole, according to Ballet In You. Technical skill is tantamount, and Cecchetti dancers must practice the same movements over and over again daily. The goal is that heavy repetition, dedicated focus and steady discipline will create dancers that can withstand – and thrive in the face of – the harsh demands of ballet.
The English Style is also known as the Royal Academy of Dance. It was pioneered in 1920 and is a blend of the French, Italian, Danish and Russian methods, explained Dance Informa magazine. The Royal Academy of Dance is also an international dance examination standard. For English-Style-dancers, the focus is on the details and getting each and every movement exactly, with an emphasis on perfecting the basics. Progress is ultimately slow for dancers taught in the RAD method, and it takes countless hours of practicing even the smallest movement to be able to move on to the next stage.
“The most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method.”
Of course, no discussion of ballet methods would be complete without the Russians. This school was formed from a blend of influences. French dancer Jean-Baptiste Landé is credited as its creator, while ABT noted that Italian ballerina Virginia Zucchi had an incredible influence on the Russian School when she performed in St. Petersburg in the late 1800s, along with Enrico Cecchetti, who also spent some time in Russia. Other ballet masters also influenced the Russian Method, including the legendary Marius Petipa.
However, the most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method. It was developed by Agrippina Vaganova, a Russian ballet dancer with the Marinsky Ballet who retired early to devote her time to teaching, explained Dance Informa. Defining characteristics of the Vaganova method include precise, crisp and strong movements that are still artistic and expressive. The Vaganova method is one of the most popular methods used in Russia today.
When performed correctly, the développé is absolutely mesmerizing – just see how long you watch this gif of Maria Kochetkova. Many dancers, though, struggle with the développé, and instead of being a source of beauty and grace, the move is a source of constant frustration. Every dance teacher has likely heard some of their students complain about their dancer flexibility and the développé.
Kochetkova makes the move look easy, but the développé requires several complex muscle groups to work together in perfect harmony. If just one group is underdeveloped, then the movement is failed from the start. A dancer can be able to do the oversplits with ease but lack the core strength to hold her leg over her head, while a dancer with flexible hips that allow for a wide range of movement can have underdeveloped hamstrings that prevent them from holding her leg in a straight line.
The key to stunning développé extension is thoroughly conditioning all the muscle groups that are involved in the move. Here are four ways that dance teachers can help their students improve their développé extension.
1. Work the Iliopsoas
Everyone’s heard of the hamstrings and hip flexors, but not many people are familiar specifically with the iliopsoas. Which is a real shame, because it’s absolutely vital to sky-high développé.
As Nichelle explained in a very informative article for Dance Advantage, the iliopsoas is the group of muscles that enables the leg to move higher than 90 degrees. For many dancers that are incredibly flexible but unable to lift their legs to their heads, an underdeveloped iliopsoas may be to blame. However, they usually aren’t even aware that this is the problem.
Deb Vogel, a neuromuscular educator, shared several exercises for strengthening the iliopsoas that dance teachers should have their students do.
First, sit up straight on a chair, without your back touching, with both feet on the ground. Keeping your pelvis strong and centered, lift one knee up toward the ceiling, then lower it down so your toes touch the floor. Lift your knee back up, and repeat the movement 20 times for each leg.
Sounds easy, but isolating the iliopsoas like that is a real workout. When your students can do this exercise with ease, have them try this next movement:
Sit in a chair with your back leaning against the back of the chair, and bend one leg at the knee while holding the other leg straight. Keeping the extended leg a little turned out, raise it as high as possible and then lower it back down so it’s even with the other knee. Repeat this movement 20 times, then do it on the other leg.
Vogel advised that dancers follow these exercises, or any other ones that focus on the iliopsoas, with lunge stretches. With these two exercises, it won’t take long to strengthen this important muscle.
2. Strengthen the Core
Dancer flexibility gets much of the attention when it comes to working développés, but core strength is also very vital. A strong core supports all the movements of the développé and ensures that the leg can be held up high while the hips and standing leg are stable. Strong abdominals allow the leg to be held up, but as The Dance Training Project explained, they’re also necessary to keep your spine straight, centered and stable. If you spine is not in a neutral position, then the pelvic alignment will be off, which prevents maximum leg extension.
However, contrary to popular belief, crunches are not the answer for a stronger core, according to The Dance Training Project. Making repetitive concentric contractions – like sit-ups – aren’t effective for building the core strength that dancers need. Instead, dancers should focus on exercises that lengthen the abs and other core muscles – known as eccentric training – so that dancers can achieve a greater range of motion. Planks and abdominal roll-out exercises will provide an eccentric workout, but The Dance Training Project put together a PDF that includes great eccentric core exercises for dancers.
3. Embrace the Floor Barre
Practicing floor barre is also a fantastic way to improve développé extension. Dame Lucette Aldous, a ballerina in the Nureyev rendition of Don Quixote, told Dance Australia how she teaches the Boris Kniaseff method of floor barre to improve her students’ développé.
According to the source, floor barre helps increase overall strength, improve body positioning and posture and even boost circulation, which helps expand range of movement.
“When joints are moving, it sends synovial fluid into the joints – it’s like you’re lubricating those joints,” said Aldous in an interview with Dance Australia.
There are different floor bar techniques for dance teachers to explore. Dance Advantage put together a great guide to the different methods here, including the Boris Kniaseff and Maria Fay techniques.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of the iliopsoas.
A dancer relies on her feet, and it takes care and practice through foot stretches for dancers to make sure your feet are at the top of their game. Strong, flexible feet provide the foundation upon which other moves are done – weak feet, and you’re going to have a hard time dancing confidently and fluidly.
Whether you think you have flat feet or arches that need a little more oomph, there are lots of stretches you can do to strengthen your feet and make them more flexible. However, it’s important to be familiar with safe stretching practices and the movements that you should avoid. Stretching too much – or the wrong way – can backfire on you and cause serious damage.
Read on to learn more about stretching your feet.
Popular Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are several different ways that the feet can be stretched. One way is manually – the dancer herself uses her hands to bend her toes and arches to extend their stretch. Resistance bands, such as the Theraband, are also popular. Another way is to have your friend stretch your feet or – as you have probably heard before – to stretch your feet under a piano, door or couch. These last two methods – having a friend stretch you and using an object to stretch – are not recommended, as they can pose serious damage to your feet.
BalletHub explained that these two types of stretches put additional stress on the body. By putting your feet underneath a heavy object, you put extreme pressure on your knee, heel and leg muscles, making more prone to injury. For similar reasons, having a friend stretch out your foot is not recommended, either. Your friend isn’t you, so they don’t know how much pressure is too much – and if they do stretch your foot too far, by the time you notice the damage may already be done.
Stretching your feet yourself, without the use of heavy objects for leverage, and using a band are safer ways of stretching your feet. However, you should still take caution and gently stretch the feet, since it’s very easy to overwork them.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Stretching your feet once or twice a week is not going to get you anywhere. The key to effective foot stretching is consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The author of the blog Ballet Heart described how she saw great improvement from stretching her feet three times a day, every day for four years. She writes that she can’t imagine how many hours have been spent stretching her feet, and that “It probably adds up to at least a week straight.”
Consistent stretching multiple times a day will garner the most results. Just be sure to gradually increase the intensity of your stretch, avoid stretching until it hurts and be careful not to overwork yourself.
Simple Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are plenty of simple stretches you can do to work your feet. The blog Live On Pointe recommended pointing and flexing your feet using a Theraband for resistance, along with doing relevés on each leg.
BalletHub advised doing the “Wrap n’ Push” to improve the feet. You sit on the floor, bend one leg over the other and stretch your feet through several movements using your hands. See their step-by-step guide to the stretch here.
Dance competitions are a real test of endurance. You often have to drive a ways to the venue, spend time warming up, do multiple performances over several hours. Not to mention that you may have a few competitions packed into just one weekend! To dance at your best, you need to be in tip-top shape physically, and it starts with good nutrition and having some high-energy snacks on hand.
It’s vital that you give your body the energy it needs to dance in peak shape, and this means providing it with fuel throughout the day with healthy snacks designed to keep you on your toes – literally. Balanced snacking before and after your competition helps keep your muscles’ stores of glycogen at their highest levels, which improves your performance, and helps ward off the nasty effects of a low glycemic index, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness and blurred vision, according to Central Washington University’s Department of Sports Nutrition.
In an ideal world, chocolate bars would provide all the energy we need with none of the sugar, fat or calories! Until scientists engineer some miracle food like that, it’s important to be strategic when putting together your snacks. Avoid white starches and refined sugars, since these give you a quick boost but then make you crash, noted Harvard Medical School. Instead, opt for snacks that contain complex carbohydrates and a small amount of healthy unsaturated fats or protein. Also, steer clear of “power bars” in stores. While these products claim to have the perfect balance of nutrients to boost your energy, many of the claims are just marketing. An Ohio State University study revealed that power bars aren’t any better at giving you sustained energy than candy bars are.
5 Great Snack Ideas for Energy
Try the ideas below to make sure you don’t slack on the snacks.
1. 1/2 Whole Wheat Pita with 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
This snack idea from the Boston Ballet will help keep you full throughout your competition. Half a whole wheat pita provides you with energy-boosting complex carbohydrates, in addition to 6 grams of fiber, according to Livestrong.com, and pitas won’t make you feel bloated like regular bread might. The peanut butter contains protein and healthy fats, a winning combo that will help you have the energy to perform at your best. For another great-tasting twist on this snack, try swapping the peanut butter for 2 tablespoons of hummus and a hard-boiled egg.
2. 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese with 1/2 Sliced Strawberries and 2 Mini Whole-Wheat Bagels
The cottage cheese contains protein and Vitamin D, which is a source of energy, noted Healthsomeness.com, and will keep you full for a long time. Strawberries add a little sweetness without unhealthy sugars and also give you a dose of antioxidants, while mini whole-wheat bagels provide some complex carbohydrates.
Your Daily Dance recommended that dancers pop a bag of popcorn before they leave the house and tote it with them to the competitions to snack on throughout the day. Popcorn is a fantastic source of whole grains that contains vitamins that help your muscles release and use energy. Mix in a handful of nuts or yogurt-covered raisins with your popcorn for a well-rounded snack.
“Popcorn is a great snack because you get a lot of volume and fiber (which makes you feel full), and it’s a whole grain, so it’s healthier than a snack like pretzels,” said Tara Gidus of the American Dietetic Association in an interview with Fitness magazine.
4. Trail Mix
A bag of trail mix is also great for munching on throughout the day at competitions. Many store-bought trail mixes contain loads of sugar, so it’s a better idea, and more cost-effective to make your own at home. One Green Planet recommended to follow this ratio when putting together your mix: 3 parts nuts to 1 part seeds to 1 part sweet ingredients like dried apricots or raisins. Nuts are a proven energy booster that also contain healthy fats and protein, so choose your favorite nut and get started making your own trail mix.*
5. Sliced Veggies with 1/4 Greek Yogurt Dip
Surprisingly, vegetables contain a high percentage of carbohydrates, according to Livestrong.com, so they’re a great choice for an energy-boosting snack. Pair sliced veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers or zucchini with Greek yogurt for a yummy low-fat dip. The Boston Ballet suggested adding a little chopped parsley or chives and lemon juice to the yogurt to spice up the dip.
The morning before a competition is always rushed, so don’t leave putting your snacks together to the last minute. If you’re scrambling and forget to bring along any snacks, you’re more likely to be tempted to hit up the vending machine or bake sale to ease your appetite later in the day. The night before the competition, package your snacks in plastic containers and baggies to have them ready to go in the morning, along with any ice packs to keep perishable foods cold. Try to avoid eating snacks that easily spill or stain while wearing your costume, but if you must, make sure you wear a sweatshirt or jacket over it just in case. And finally, remember that snacks don’t replace meals, so be sure to eat balanced meals throughout the day.
*Editor’s note: Be sensitive to the possibility of peanut or tree nut allergies among other dancers. Be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.
You’ve spent the year planning a dance recital for your studio, and now, with one month left to go, everything is finally coming together. The next few weeks will bring a flurry of emails and phone calls and the time will pass by before you even realize it. It’s possible, however, to minimize stress and stay sane – the key is being organized and having a dance recital checklist.
One of the worst feelings is suddenly remembering that you forgot to pick up the costumes, enlist volunteers or take care of another vital task. The dance recital checklist below will help you make sure you stay on track with one month to go before the recital.
Check in With the Venue
If you are holding the recital at a venue other than your own studio, now is the time to check-in with them and confirm that the space will be yours for the recital and for any rehearsals. Verify the hours that you’ll need to use the venue, and make sure that you have secured sufficient space for dressing rooms and backstage areas and that there will be enough chairs for your audience and tables for selling flowers and other items.
You also should check that there is an easily accessible parking area for audience members, teachers, dancers and volunteers. Also, make a note of what you’ll need to bring with you for the performance, such as additional lighting and music systems.
Try on Costumes
The last things you want are uncomfortable dancers and curtain-call wardrobe surprises. Don’t wait until the recital gets closer – instead, have your dancers try on their costumes well before recital time to make sure they fit, recommended Crown Awards. Consider offering a “Costume Construction Day” for alterations or provide parents with the contact info of the seamstress so they can arrange any necessary alterations or tailoring if the fit should be improved before rehearsals. Also, check that each dancer has all the necessary accessories and a garment bag for transporting the costume to the dress rehearsal and recital.
Programs can be a hassle to put together, but if they include advertiser pages they can really help boost your business. One month before the recital, layout and print the programs. You can do this yourself on publishing software if you’re design-savvy, but otherwise, you can outsource the programs to an online company. When you receive the draft of the programs, triple-check for typos, misspelled names and other errors.
If you have money in your budget, hiring a professional designer to craft your recital programs is well worth the money, advised Dance Studio Life. This way, you can create custom ads for local businesses who want to be included in your program but don’t have an ad ready, and you can have a snazzy, high-quality program that you can sell as a keepsake.
Finalize Recital Add-ons
It’s important to figure out ahead of time what you will offer at the recital. Dance recital add-ons can be both a service to your dance families and a source of added income. The Dance Exec provided a helpful list of recital “extras” that you should consider: Logo t-shirts, posed and candid recital photos, flowers, trophies, stuffed animals and recital DVDs. If you haven’t already, decide whether you will hire a professional photographer and/or videographer to record the recital, and book them ASAP. Check out this post for tips on choosing the right photographer for your dance recital photos.
Distribute Recital Packets
There are so many details for dance families to remember – make it as easy as possible by providing a recital packet. Some of the information you might want to include is:
Posed/recital photo sessions/information
Recital day schedule/info, including drop-off/pickup information, parking, etc.
Cost of recital add-ons, and any related order forms
In addition to the packet itself, make use of email, text and social media reminders to keep your dance families informed. You may also want to hold a mandatory “recital meeting,” especially for new dance parents.
Want an easy template to start from? You can download our Sample Recital Detail Information template using the form below! It’s a Microsoft Word document, so you can edit the details according to your needs.
Take the time now to confirm that you have enough volunteers to help out with the recital – and recruit some if you discover you’re falling short. It’s easy to forget certain little jobs that need volunteers, so sit down and list out every aspect of the recital to make sure you’ve enlisted enough help. Do you have people to man the flower or recital DVD table? What about someone to help organize the dancers backstage? Someone to take tickets, give out the programs, or direct parking? Make sure you have all your bases covered!
Take Care of Yourself
With all the craziness that comes with recital season, you need to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and opt for convenient, healthy meals instead of fast food after late classes and client visits. You might think that feeling pulled in a million directions all at once is a normal feeling as the recital approaches, but neglecting your health only makes it more likely that you’ll wake up the morning of the recital with a throbbing migraine and a sore throat.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, take a step back and remember – all the little details are fun, but the true value of planning a dance recital is that your dancers get to share their passion and hard work with loved ones and a community who cares.
It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed going into your first ballet class. The plethora of poses and positions to learn might have your head spinning, especially since many of their names are in French. But with practice and time you’ll soon be fluent in the language of ballet. And it’s always helpful to have an easy guide with ballet terms for beginners.
To get you started with confidence, here’s an overview of some common terms first-time ballerinas will need to know:
The Five Basic Positions
Understanding the basic positions is a great place to start when beginning your practice, since they make up the building blocks of ballet. As BalletHub noted:
“The five basic positions are usually one of the first things taught in a beginner’s ballet class but are essential to the technique of classical ballet as practically every step begins and ends in one of the five basic positions.”
The basic positions concern the placement of the feet and are aptly named: first position, second position, third position, fourth position and fifth position.
First position: The heels are together with the toes of each foot pointed out toward either side, with legs straight and turned out, following the position of the feet.
Second position: Legs are straight and the feet are turned out to each side like in first position, but the difference is that the heels do not touch and are instead about hip-width apart.
Third position: This position is rarely used, since it can be mistaken for a sloppy first or fifth position, BalletHub noted, but it is still important to learn. Begin in first position, and then slide the heel of one foot so it lines up with the middle of the other foot, keeping both feet pointing out in opposite directions.
Fourth position: Stand with one foot about a foot’s length in front of your other foot. Each foot should be pointing in an opposite direction, and the toes of the back foot should line up with the heel of the front foot.
Fifth position: This position is the most difficult one. It’s like fourth position, but there is no gap between your feet. The toes of each foot should be directly in front of the heel of the other foot, and make sure your legs are turned out and straight.
Adagio is a series of fluid and focused exercises that are performed slowly in order to improve dancers’ balance, strength and lines. It also refers to the opening sequence of a two-person dance that includes one partner lifting the other.
Allégro means fast, brisk and energetic movements and is associated with jumps.
An arabesque is when the dancer stands on one leg with the other leg extended behind the body. The arms can be held in a variety of positions. Regardless, the goal of the arabesque is to create as smooth seamless a line as possible with the body, from the shoulders through the arms and down to the toes of the extended leg.
This is the wooden bar attached to the walls of the classroom, though some barres stand on their own. The dancer holds onto the barre for support, and a sequence of barre exercises is part of every ballet class.
This when the leg and foot are fluidly swept across the floor from one position to another. Typically, a “battement tendu” starts from first or fifth position, the leg is extended in the motion, and then it returns to the starting position. The leg should be straight and fully extended so that the foot only brushes the ground during the movement. BalletHub noted that many teachers refer to the move as just “tendu.”
When a dancer begins in fifth position, jumps up in place and then switches the position of their feet while in the air so that they land in fifth position with the opposite foot now in front.
“En pointe” is when you dance on the very tips of your toes. Pointe shoes, typically made of satin, are used to achieve this. Students begin dancing en pointe only after they have advanced to a higher skill level, Learntodance.com noted. However, on their way to dancing en pointe, students will practice moves and positions in demi-pointe, which is when a dancer stands on the balls of their feet.
Pas de Deux
Pas de deux means “a dance for two people,” and is sometimes shortened to “pas.”
A pirouette is a 360 degree spin made on one foot that is en pointe or demi-pointe, and is frequently begun from fourth position. The move requires strong core alignment and balance, and, as Balletdancersguide.com stated, “are the mastering ballet move which every dancer is undoubtedly always trying to figure out how to improve.”
Plié means “bent” or “bending,” and is when one or both knees are bent while legs and feet remain turned out, and are done in first, second, fourth and fifth positions. There are two main types of pliés, demi and grand, which George Mason University’s dance department defined as follows:
Demi: This is a small bend of the knees while heels are on the floor which creates a diamond shape.
Grand: A large bend of the knees during which heels are raised off the ground in a motion that mimics a “frog stretch.”
“There are two main types of pliés: demi and grand.”
Ronde de Jambe
Ronde de jambe means “round of the leg.” It is when the dancer rests on one leg and makes a circular movement with the other leg. It may be done “à terre,” which means the circle is made while the foot is touching the ground, or “en l’air,” which means the circle is made in the air.
Sauté means “jump,” and is frequently used in combination with other moves to signify that they should be done with a jump, Learntodance.com explained. The source gave the example of sauté arabesque, which would mean to jump in the arabesque position.
Summer vacation means a break from school, but it shouldn’t mean a break from dance. The summer months are a great time to seek additional training opportunities that you wouldn’t have time for during the rest of the year. Dance intensives and workshops both provide fantastic opportunities to hone your skills and broaden your horizons, and are rewarding ways to spend your summer break and benefit your dance career.
Intensives are generally geared toward higher-level dancers, have a focused lesson plan and long duration- lasting anywhere from a couple weeks to a month. Workshops, on the other hand, are shorter, ranging from a single day to a weekend or full week, and are more open to dancers of all skill and experience levels. Each type of summer dance experience has its advantages, and it’s important to fully understand them in order to make the best decision for how to spend your break.
Define Your Goals
The first step to deciding between an intensive or a workshop is defining your goals. Make a list of why you want to attend a summer program and what specific skills you hope to gain from the experience. Ballet Scoop suggested asking yourself whether you want to just improve your technique or want exposure to college recruiters, directors and job opportunities. Do you want to add a new style of dance to your repertoire, or do you want to learn from a renowned instructor? Once you know what you want to get out of your summer dance experience, you can better evaluate which type of program is the most worthwhile.
Intensives are great for advanced dancers who are working toward the next phase in their careers. Intensives at a company school or university are designed to prep students for entry into a professional position or college career, and connect students with influential directors and decision-makers. Since many dancers attend intensives in a major city, they get a taste of what employment opportunities there are in that area, noted Dance Informa magazine. If dancers have their sights set on certain college programs, then attending an intensive at that school can help them form valuable connections and gain a better understanding of the skills and qualities most desired by the school, which gives them a leg up when audition times come around.
Alternatively, workshops are generally found locally in towns of all sizes. They are a great choice for younger dancers who have never been away from home before and for novice dancers or those looking for a fun dance experience with minimal commitment, since they typically focus more on different styles and techniques than career prep.
Scheduling and Costs
Another important factor to consider are the costs and schedule demands of each program type. Intensives generally cost much more than workshops, though the experience can be well worth the money. Dance Spirit magazine recommended that dancers consider any pre-arranged travel plans or other commitments that they may have during the summer when choosing a program, too. In some cases, a weekend workshop might be more feasible than a month-long intensive in a far-away city that offers little flexibility.
Dance intensives typically include more focused practices and lessons and stick to one style of dance, which is great for dancers looking to advance their skills and gain a professional edge. For dancers of all levels who are looking to learn a new dance style or jazz up their practice, workshops may be the better option, since they generally have a more laid-back environment that’s more open to experimentation. And being able to dance in multiple styles is a great advantage in college auditions. As Steps Dance Studio noted:
“Summer is your chance to move your body in different ways and try new styles. Nowadays, choreographers want to work with dancers that are versatile, who pick things up quickly and who can capture different styles immediately.”
Finally, dance intensives and workshops offer dancers different levels of personal development. Traveling away to an intensive gives dancers the chance to not only improve their skills, but grow as individuals. Dance Informa noted that intensives prepare students to be self-sufficient, which they’ll need to be as professional dancers, and to step beyond their comfort zones. The new and unfamiliar environment enables dancers to gain new perspectives and see themselves in a different light, which forms a stronger self-identity. Dance intensives also provide students with a rich sense of community and can help them form deep relationships with other dancers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a summer dance experience. Consider duration, costs and goals – both personal and dance-related – to make the best choice for you.
Pirouetting around the kitchen or using a countertop as a barre might be fun, but it’s not safe or practical. A better place to practice is in a home ballet studio. Although building a home studio from scratch may sound overwhelming, there are simple and creative ways to create a home dance studio suitable for every household and wallet.
It’s not enough to just throw down a mat and prop up a mirror, however. To build a home ballet studio that will be truly beneficial, and not detrimental, to a dancer’s development, serious consideration should be given to the location of the studio, the materials used and what the studio will be primarily used for. Dancers might want a home studio to practice their skills in between classes, to put in extra preparation before a performance or to simply stretch and do conditioning exercises. Dedicated dancers looking for a quiet space to practice choreography and skills should build a larger studio, while those simply looking for a comfortable place to stretch can get away with a smaller space or portable studio.
Location, Location, Location
One of the most important aspects of building a home studio is determining its location. The main thing to consider is the floor type. Home studios should not be built in rooms and areas with concrete floors, like the basement or garage, since the hard and unforgiving surface can damage the joints. A room with a wood floor is the best option, as it is more forgiving. The space you select should be away from busy areas, be well-ventilated, and have a free wall where mirrors and a barre can be hung. If the only available space for building the studio is the basement or garage, you should build a padded wooden floor over the concrete.
Start From the Bottom
Even in rooms with hardwood floors, a thin layer of padding or laminate is necessary to provide comfort and proper support and decrease slipperiness. If you have a large budget, you can spring for marley floors, the standard floor type in ballet studios, however, rolls of the vinyl flooring, are very expensive. ISport suggested using PVS shower pan liner instead, which feels similar to marley but can be bought for a bargain, at around $4 to $8 per linear foot. The source also recommended installing an underlay of foam-lined subflooring or cushioned laminate to hardwood floors for further support.
Use gaffer’s tape to attach the PVC or other top layer, making sure to smooth it out completely to get rid of any air bubbles. The source also suggested applying a layer of rosin on top to provide greater traction and cut down on the risk of falls and slips. If you’re installing a wooden floor in a garage, basement or other concrete area, varnished ACX plywood is relatively inexpensive and makes for a great base.
Install a Barre
A wall-mounted barre will maximize space in small rooms. While you can order a barre from a studio equipment company, there are cheaper alternatives that you can use to make your own barre. Wooden dowels with a diameter between one and three inches work well, are inexpensive and can be easily found at a hardware store. Basic handrails can also be used to create an inexpensive barre, though you should make sure that they are thick and sturdy and won’t easily break.
Add in Mirrors
Mirrors are essential to the home studio. Dancers need to be able to easily see their form, especially since their instructors will not be there to correct them. If dancers consistently perform a skill poorly, their bad form can become a habit without them even realizing it. You can find large mirrors at a hardware or home furnishing store, but a cheaper option is putting a bunch of small mirror tiles together to form one large mirror. ISport suggested using 12 x 12 inch mirrored tiles, which typically cost only $1 per square foot. Use extra strong sticky tabs or tape to securely adhere the tiles to the wall.
“A wall-mounted barre will maximize space in small rooms.”
Make it Portable
If you can’t permanently designate a room as a home dance studio, you can create a portable studio that can be hidden away when not in use. Although marley is expensive, it is available in smaller, padded versions, like a 4 x 6 feet piece. Purchase a free-standing barre instead of mounting one to the wall, and use a long mirror that’s set on wheels. With these portable pieces, it will take just seconds to put together your home ballet studio.
Creating a home studio gives dancers a quiet space to focus and practice their skills. It only takes a few components, all of which have cheap alternatives, to put together a studio that will serve as a valuable supplement to a dancer’s regular classes and routines.
Dancers get injured from time to time. It might be due to an overly rigorous practice schedule, an accidental fall, a nutritional deficit, or some other reason. However, when it does happen, it can be immensely frustrating and poorly timed. Dancers may have a big performance in a few weeks or may be looking to audition for a prestigious dance group. Whatever the event is, dance injuries aren’t fun. Consider these five common dance injuries and how to avoid them.
1. Lumbosacral Injuries
If you aren’t a dancer, you might think dancers most commonly experience injuries involving the ankles, hips and knees. While those areas are commonly affected by dance, the spine is also affected. Most often, dancers deal with lower back issues from the amount of movement they do during practice and performances. According to the Centers for Orthopaedics, most spine injuries for dancers are lumbosacral and involve intense pain. This injury can be caused by poor stability, uneven leg length, bad technique, scoliosis and even high heels. According to Dance Teacher magazine, some dancers may have lordosis, which can cause muscle spasms that make them more vulnerable to spine injuries. Following proper dancing techniques, stretching, and building core, pelvic and hip strength can help dancers avoid this common injury.
2. Snapping Hip Injuries
This injury sounds just like its name. Dancers will hear, and feel, a loud popping noise in their hip as they dance. This snap is the illiotibial band shifting over the upper leg bone and snapping. It can be incredibly painful, but there are usually a few warning signs. Most commonly, this happens when the IT band is too tight and hasn’t been stretched or warmed up properly. It can also be caused by weak muscles on the outside of the hips and lordosis. Dancers can prevent this these dance injuries by toning and strengthening all of the pelvic stabilizers, such as the hip flexors, abductors and and adductors, as well as working on the lower abdominal muscles and the core.
3. Achilles Tendonitis
Some people forget about the Achilles tendon and its importance on the body. It’s the longest tendon and connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Dancers tend to overuse this muscle, which leads to tendonitis. Usually this injury occurs if dancers experience frequent shin splints or lower their arches during warm ups, such as barre exercises. Overtraining, dancing on a hard floor and lack of stretching can also lead to this injury, which can be immensely painful and debilitating when it occurs.
4. Neck Strain
Many dancers forget about the stress they can put on their necks when they dance. However, a common dancing injury is neck strain, especially for dancers who do a lot of varied choreography. Dancers can prevent from straining their neck by lengthening it and elongating the spine when they move, instead of collapsing it.
5. Rotator Cuff Injuries
Most dances involve plenty of arm movement. If dancers continuously use their arms during practices and performances, they may end up with an overuse rotator cuff injury. This overuse can cause tendons to strain and tear, leading to intense pressure in the shoulders. Teachers should discuss proper form with students as well as the mechanics of movement. If a dancer is able to understand where the scapula is, he or she is less likely to point an arm in that direction.
As with any injury or health issue, please consult your physician. These tips are meant to be informational only, and should never replace the advice of a licensed medical practitioner.
Recital week can be an exciting time, but it can also be very stressful. Between the constant travel and hoping to look your best during every performance, things can get exhausting quickly. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to get through this stressful time of the year. These tips and tricks can help your dance recital week seem like a breeze, instead of an anxiety-ridden event. Consider these suggestions on how to survive dance recital week.
1) Plan Ahead
Plan, plan, plan ahead! Begin setting aside items that you’ll need for the recital, but won’t need to use the week before. That could be pieces of costumes, hair accessories, shoes, makeup and so on. Beginning to pack this far in advance means that you won’t be scrambling at the last minute trying to get things together for your show or series of shows. Instead, you can calmly grab your bags and head to the studio.
2) Label Everything
When you’re packing, you don’t want to get confused or mix things up. That’s why it’s critical to create categories and sections for all of the pieces you need for recital week. Once you’ve got your costumes and essential items organized, labeling them is just as important. Label each with your name and the purpose of the item. You may even want to go as far as listing the recital number as well as your personal phone number. This is a good idea in case you lose your bag or leave it somewhere and another person finds it. That way they can call you and hopefully you can get it before the show!
3) Make Copies of Your Rehearsal Schedule
Rehearsals are just as important as the recital themselves. After all, what’s more important than making sure you completely have the steps down for your routine? Once you get your rehearsal schedule from your teacher, look it over several times to make sure you know where and when you are rehearsing for the dance recital, and write down the schedule in your planner.
If you don’t know these details, you might get distracted and forgot or accidentally arrive at the wrong studio, causing you to be late for the rehearsal and potentially ill-prepared. Though these schedules can seem overwhelming, as you may have several practices in a row before the actual performances, they are critical to you doing well.
4) Bring Extras
It’s always wise to bring extras of things. That way, if you lose one item, you can quickly grab the backup. Also, recitals can be an exciting time, but they can also be unpredictable. You may not anticipate that your tights will rip or the straps to your dress will come loose, but they might. Keeping an extra pair of tights and some safety pins on hand can help alleviate these issues as they happen. Aside from those two items, have extra bobby pins, pain relievers, hairspray, makeup, baby wipes and band aids. That way you can be at your best no matter what happens.
Looking for a guide to help organize these extras? Check out our dance competition survival guide! Competitions and recitals have TONS of crossover materials needed, so you can use this guide be sure to have everything covered.
5) Create a Checklist
Thanks to DanceMom.com, who put together a checklist of lots of items you need to pack and things to keep in mind. Run through that list more than once to make sure everything is on there!
After packing, compare the list with your packed dance bag not once, but twice. Attention to the little details can make a big difference on recital day! Once you know everything is packed, you can head into the studio assured and confident instead of worried and concerned that you forgot something.
6) Eat Smart!
If you’re running from performance to performance, you’re bound to get thirsty fast. That’s why it’s so important that you pack plenty of food and water.
Make sure you bring along a resilient, large water bottle that you can refill and keep at the studio. The same goes for food and snacks. You don’t want to be running on empty during your favorite performances, so pack some healthy snacks to help keep you going.
Dance improvising can be a tricky art to master, especially when dancers are starting out. However, once you’ve got certain skills down pat, it will be easy for you to break out improvised moves pretty much anywhere, whether you’re in a street competition or looking to impress people during a dance audition. Have you ever improvised a few dance moves before? If you haven’t, don’t worry. Use these five starter tips to help you improve your improv dance moves anywhere you go.
1. Don’t Be Scared
Most dancers starting improvised dance moves may not know where to begin, especially if they’ve been given complete guidance and structure on how to dance until now. Dancers might be worried that they will look foolish or weird in front of their colleagues. However, it’s just the opposite! Most dancers don’t realize they have natural rhythm and beat from years of practicing choreography. Have fun with it and have confidence. Improvised dancing can be challenging, but it’s a way that allows people to let loose and express themselves. Regardless of what move you come up with, it will have some structure and flow.
Beginning improvised dance is also a great time to get to know your body and find out what kind of dance you really like. You’ll learn how your body naturally moves and what types of dancing you appreciate most, whether it’s modern or old school. If you’ve already done a little choreographing, improv dance will help you become a better teacher. You might come up with a few moves you really like and learn how to be more creative on the fly, allowing for more original dances.
2. Begin With a Frame
When you’re starting out, it’s good to have a little structure in your improvising. If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, it might be focused on one part of dancing, such as fluid movement, dancing gleefully or even working on space. Regardless of what the prompt is, don’t watch others around you. Instead, watch the instructor and listen to yourself. What do you think of when you picture fluidity? How do you express glee? Starting with your own emotions and feelings is a great way to help guide yourself through the process.
3. Go In With An Open Mind
If you enter an improvisation class and feel embarrassed or judgmental from the get-go, it’s not going to go well. You’ll constantly be judging your moves in the mirror or might be too focused on what others in the class are doing instead of what you are expressing. If you act this way, you won’t allow for any creative energy to develop. Only practice improvisation with an open mind and remember that it’s all about having fun.
If you look a little silly, so what? Every move helps guide you toward a better rhythm and motion. Going in with an open mind helps you stay in the moment and move freely instead of thinking about what’s coming next. Once you’re doing this, you’re improvising dance moves! Then you can work on which moves you like and can perfect them.
4. Follow Others, But Not Too Much
If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, your teacher might ask your class to show each other your moves. When this happens, look at other peers in your class and see what moves they’re creating that make their dances interesting and original. Of course, don’t copy these moves yourself, but notice what works within a dance piece and what doesn’t.
Watching others dance may open your mind to new types of dance that you didn’t initially consider in your own set of moves. If you’re really struggling and finding it difficult to create your own segment, perform in front of a few friends and see what they think. You can also watch tutorials and how-to videos on the best ways for improv dance to help inspire you.
5. Go Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Improv dance is all about exploring new things. If you have a couple of regular moves you always go to, or there’s a certain type of dance you like, leave it at the door. Instead, go outside of your comfort zone and try new types of dance, even if you’re not familiar with them.
If you asked whether your dance students were eating too much sugar, the simple answer would be yes. Research shows that more than 70 percent of Americans consume too much added sugar on a daily basis. So in a class of 10 students, chances are that seven of them eat an unhealthy amount of sweeteners each day – shocking, isn’t it? Read on to find out the significant health risks associated with continued over-consumption of sugar and how this bad eating habit affects dancer nutrition in particular.
“70% of Americans eat too much sugar.”
Health Risks Associated With Sugar Consumption
Most people know that eating too many sugary foods cause weight gain, but there are a number of other health conditions that come along with an unhealthy sweet tooth. A study from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that people who consume 25 percent of their daily calories from sugar are twice as likely to develop serious cardiovascular problems, regardless of whether they are overweight.
Other research has linked sugar consumption to high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, diabetes, dementia and other health problems.
What Happens When Dancers Overindulge?
Those are some of the long-term consequences that come along with unhealthy eating habits. However, there are also immediate side effects for dancers who drink too much soda or snack on sweets all day.
Dance magazine explained that sugar provides empty calories, and while it may give dancers a temporary energy boost, they’ll have more sustainable levels of energy when they eat complex carbs and protein-packed foods. When your students’ diets are loaded with sugary meals, they may also find it hard to build muscle or stay satiated throughout the day.
All of these factors can hold back an otherwise talented performers, so what’s a dancers to do? Don’t fret! There are simple ways that dancers can slowly decrease their sugar consumption and get into the habit of eating healthy foods for dancers.
How to Switch to Healthy Foods for Dancers
Cutting sugar consumption down to healthy levels is challenging, as sweets are addicting. However, it’s doable with the right preparation and attitude.
“Dancers should drink water – not soda or sports beverages.”
The first step dancers should take is to stop drinking sugary beverages, which are the largest source of sugar for many Americans. In general, a 20-ounce soft drink contains around 40 or more grams of sugar – more than the daily recommended intake for women. Sports drinks usually contain some beneficial ingredients like electrolytes, but they still often have high sugar levels. Dancers should drink water instead. One way to ease into the change is to use fresh fruit to sweeten the water that they’re sipping on throughout the day.
Next, dancers should identify the times when they’re prone to cravings and be prepared with healthy snacks.
“When people think they’re craving chocolate, they’re actually just craving calories,” Jan Hangen, a consulting nutritionist for the Boston Ballet, explained to Dance magazine. “Because the body is focused on getting food, the mind goes to the foods that give the most pleasure.”
Performers may want to carry fruit, trail mix or whole-wheat crackers to snack on when cravings strike. Eating a number of small meals (after doing some research and finding healthy foods for dancers) every few hours will keep dancers satiated and energized throughout practice and rehearsals.
Finally, many people think that cutting out their favorite treats completely is the best way to adjust their sugar consumption, but this can lead to binging when you have a moment of weakness. Instead, dancers could allow themselves a small treat after a particularly good class. This will make it easier to stay on track and not undo all the process they’ve made.
Whether you’re auditioning for a high school dance team, studio competition team or a professional company, there’s no denying that auditions can be nerve-wracking. Chances are you’ll be jittery at the audition, but that doesn’t have to affect your performance! With the right attitude and plenty of preparation, you can channel your nervous energy into a powerhouse performance at audition time. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a dance audition.
Fine Tune Your Skills
Many studios and schools have auditions at the end of the season, but some wait until the beginning of the season, after summer break. Whether you’ve been on hiatus of not, make sure that your skills are up to snuff. It’s sometimes too easy to let dance and fitness slip your mind during a long break, and this can hurt your performance.
It may be helpful to videotape your audition piece, so that you can see for yourself the areas that need work. A basic video will do. Grab a smartphone, a volunteer, or a tripod (or even prop your phone up at a suitable height) and get a recording of your full routine from multiple angles so you can see what you may be missing. Work on any skills or techniques you’re not confident with or haven’t yet mastered.
Outside of rehearsal, use our tips to stay in shape during a break to balance fun with training. You don’t have to hit the gym every single day, but try to make healthier food choices and fit in some exercise. This will help your stamina when it comes time for your audition.
What to Wear
Once your skills are where they need to be, you can start thinking about other details, like what to wear and bring to your audition. Tiler Peck, a ballerina with the NYC Ballet, offers some great tips in the video below.
As Peck explained, it’s important that you wear something you’re comfortable in and that will show off your body. Do some run-throughs of your audition piece in your chosen ensemble. After all, you don’t want to risk a wardrobe malfunction or have the judges unable to see your clean lines.
When you’re packing your dance bag for the big day, make sure to include anything listed on the audition info sheet, like paperwork or particular shoes. If you are supplying your own music, make sure you bring it in whatever form is required, plus some form of backup in case something goes wrong. You’ll also want to stash a few emergency supplies, such as extra hair elastics, a spare pair of tights, hairspray, bandages and knee pads. Anything that you would bring to a dance competition will probably help you out at an audition.
Attitude is Everything
Your mindset the day of the audition is crucial not only to performing well, but also to making a good impression on the judges or directors. If you’re jittery, standoffish or rude – even unintentionally – it may hurt your chances of making the team or company.
“Sometimes we don’t even realize what emotion we’re portraying in class,” Jacquelyn Long of the Houston Ballet corps de ballet explained to Dance Spirit magazine. “Take a step back to think not only about your technique, but about what message you’re projecting.”
With this in mind, remember to always keep a smile on your face, even if you’re freaking out on the inside. Be polite and friendly to the other dancers, as they could be your teammates soon. You should also be gracious and take any criticism with an open mind.
Tips to Stay Confident
Need a little confidence boost on the big day? Use one of these tactics to pump yourself up:
Arrive early so you can scope out the audition room and do a few calming stretches.
Put in your headphones and listen to your favorite music. Channel your nerves into adrenaline.
Clear your mind. It won’t do you any good to dwell on what might go wrong.
Think positive thoughts. Picture yourself as a member of the team or company.
Remind yourself that every audition is a learning opportunity. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll come away a better dance.
Focus on dancing! After all, it’s what you love to do, so don’t let jitters ruin that.