If you are struggling to improve in classes and feeling discouraged - it may be time to look beyond the studio. There are a lot of fun activities and sports which can complement your ballet training and help you to become a better dancer. Here are some of my favourites!
A total body workout, great for stamina, endurance and coordination. Swimming relies on a lot of core strength, I also find it great if you are returning to dance after an injury or long break, it is non-weight bearing and therefore relatively low risk. Swimming also develops your ability to consciously consider movement and breath simultaneously. This can help us a great deal in dance, breathing throughout exercises to sustain and enhance our performance is a really important skill
Yoga again teaches us to enhance performance through the breath. A focus on breathing whilst in difficult poses helps us with balance and posture. There are many different types of yoga to try– I personally enjoy Bikram (it is very hot and therefore helps me with flexibility). The heat gives you a greater range of motion and supports deep stretching. Bikram also has a back-bending series which helps to develop upper, middle and lower back flexibility and is therefore great for arabesque lines and overall upper body strength. Other types of yoga have a different focal point – all of them work our ability to hold and fluidly transition postures – this helps to develop the same gracefulness of movement and sense of centre required in ballet
Pilates is probably the most popular form of activity complementary to ballet training. Many ballet schools include Pilates as compulsory training for students. It is excellent for core strengthening exercises and helps to focus our attention on correct alignment, particularly in the pelvis and spine. This means we engage the right muscles during exercises. Pilates has helped to improve my coordination and weight placement. With appropriate placement, we greatly enhance our performance potential, helping us to achieve better extensions, flexibility and balance
Some of the most famous ballet stars of our time (such as Osipova), started out in gymnastics. It requires a great deal of strength and stamina. It is quite difficult to find a good Adult Gynamistcs class, however it is worth it. Handstands against the wall, cartwheels and front and back walkovers are really good training for your shoulders and arms. This is important because stretch or conditioning classes typically focus on back flexibility and turnout as these are problem areas and therefore we often neglect our arm strength and shoulders. Rock climbing is great for the same reason. Strong arms help us to balance, but also provide the impetus for turns and leaps
Pole classes are again a total body workout and help to enhance your flexibility in areas you probably don’t consider during ballet class– including shoulders, wrists and your neck. Lifting our own body weight is great for core strength. Many pole and silks classes also add choreographic elements to acrobatic routines, therefore developing your dance quality in addition to your technical abilities. These classes Improve our overall flexibility, something which is important to prevent injury and ensure we progress in a sustainable way
Any other ideas on how to improve outside of the studio? Let us know in the comments below!