Why you NEED to take ballet!
Why You NEED To Take Ballet
So you’ve decided you’re never going to be a ballerina. Swan Lake isn’t really your style, and you’d rather trade your ballet slippers in for a pair of jazz, tap or dance heels. This means you’ll never have to take a ballet class again, right? Wrong!
Ballet training is essential to all types of dance. It is the foundation that all dance stems from, and its benefits are overwhelming. If you’re considering whether or not you should be incorporating it into your training, the answer is definitely YES. But why is ballet so vital?
Ever seen a jazz dancer wobble out of a turn? They probably haven’t been going to their ballet classes!
Alignment and Technique
One of the key benefits of ballet is alignment. What is alignment? It’s how you hold your body. Think of it as posture, but not just for your shoulders- for your hips, legs, arms and feet too. Alignment isn’t just for aesthetic. Ballet training is a perfect posture corrector to your body. When you understand how to hold your body properly, your muscles can move efficiently. Poor alignment can cause balance issues, or worse, injuries down the road. Think of your body as a stack of cards. If one card falls out of place, the entire structure will fall down. This is the same with alignment in dance. When a hip, shoulder, or ankle is out of alignment it becomes nearly impossible to complete a balance, turn, or jump.
In ballet class you will learn how to keep your pelvis still, rotate your leg from the hip, and use the correct port de bras (movement of the arms). No matter what style of dance you choose to focus on, understanding how to stack your vertebrae in correct alignment is going to be important. Ballet uses repetition and a codified system of positions to create strong dancers. By taking class your body will learn how to hold its own weight correctly. Finding your centre will be a breeze, and once you’ve found it you can then begin to experiment with leaning away from it. You may be drawn to a beautiful contemporary dancer’s ability to dive, roll, bend, and shift direction with ease. They wouldn’t be able to complete any of these difficult movements without a strong foundation of correct alignment. Some of the best contemporary dancers in the world understand that in order to move freely, they must first learn ballet technique.
There’s a secret language that only dancers speak, and ballet class is a great place to learn it. Ballet class is full of terminology. Most of the terms used are French, and they translate through all forms of dance. Even hip-hop teachers use the word “Plíe” (to bend) from time to time. The traditional names for steps and positions all come from ballet instruction, and are an important part of dance education. The beautiful thing about this dancer’s language is that it is universal. You could go to a foreign country, take a dance class, and still understand what step the teacher is referring to. The dance world is a beautiful global community, and to be a part of it you need to understand terminology. In the professional world dancers are expected to understand terminology, and be able to quickly recognize the French names for steps. Often the audition panel will bark a series of ballet steps from their desk without leaving their seats. No matter the style, you never want to be the one left behind in a class simply because you aren’t sure what a word means. Not understanding proper terminology makes you look unprofessional and unprepared. A Jazz retiré may be turned in, but it’s still called retiré! Learning first, second, third, fourth and fifth positions, understanding directional facings, and knowing the difference between en dehors and en dedans, are important in every single style of dance. Your tap teacher may even tell you to stand croisé. You never know when understanding the technical terminology will come in handy.
Strength and Flexibility
Dancers are some of the most elite athletes in the world. Dance requires strength, flexibility, balance, and control. An exquisite dancer has poise, the strength of a warrior, and the grace of a butterfly. You need to keep your muscles long and stretched, while still maintaining control and suspension.
Cue ballet class. Ballet class is designed to warm the body up slowly, working every muscle from the bottom up. Classes start at the barre where you will begin with simple plíes and tendus. Your feet and ankles will gain strength and flexibility. Feet and ankle support aids in multiple jazz pirouettes, high vertical jumps, and quick tap work.
Next you’ll move on to jetés, frappés, and fondus. These exercises are helpful with strengthening outward rotation, hamstrings, and core. They also create beautifully arched feet that look exceptional in a pair of dance heels!
Rond de jambe will help you maintain control and balance on your standing leg. Grand battement will increase flexibility and strength in the hip. Who doesn’t want a strong core, flexible spine, rotated hips and beautifully arched feet? Consider your ballet class the workout necessary to help you achieve all of the stylistic movement of your dreams.
Choreographers and directors now demand versatile dancers who can do it all. This includes ballet. Dancers are hired based on their ability to dance both classical and fashion forward styles. Don’t limit yourself by skipping your ballet classes.
Overall, ballet will enhance your performance in any style of dance. By creating a strong foundation of technique, body awareness, strength, flexibility, and musicality, ballet is the best way to improve quickly. Don’t forget you’ll need the terminology used in ballet class to understand other forms of dance. Take your ballet classes; you won’t be sorry!
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