Frequently Asked Questions


Ballet is the ultimate interval training so can it replace all my former workouts?

No longer do so many of us have time for an hour of aerobics. We need a workout fast. Aerobics is good for the cardiovascular system, but only burns 80 calories an hour as do most sub-maximal workouts. If you don’t want the pounding that running on cityscape gives you (the automatic answer is NO!), then rethink ballet. Short burst of maximal energy output followed by less intensive ones defines what ballet is and how it is executed in class.

Class

Is it too complicated for me?

No, it’s only complicated at the professional level. Here we are at the beginner level and since you will have all this time to do and rewind (also interval training), we will take each step by itself until you have mastered it. It’s like walking. You had to think about every part including the balance (although Ballet has a barre, or in your case, something to hold onto), until you have mastered the basics. This will work you out while you are learning and you only need to do as much as you want and you will still get the workout.

Men and women alike earn fabulous “ballet” bodies by learning and repeating this work. On the bright side also is the fact that you will learn to connect your body with your mind and become more aware of your body. This is a great health benefit because if anything feels uncomfortable in your body, you will feel it. When you are healthy, you will also enjoy that more!

Where do I do this workout?

The beauty of this workout is that with the proper surface and something to hold on to, you are set. The surface can be linoleum, wood, flat tile or if you really want to invest, then try a truly professional marley floor. A marley floor is a 3 foot wide strip of linoleum-like material that dance companies usually take with them to lay on the stage they perform on. The strips are held together by heated adhesive or special tape so it can be fitted to any floor.

If you have a wood or metal barre, that’s great, but it needs to be around 3 -3.5 feet high. Kitchen counters are good. Bathroom counters are good. Backs of chairs are good. Just make sure it doesn’t move for you will be placing some of your weight on it. With these things you will need about 4 feet to your side, and around 5 to 6 feet (depending on your leg length), total in front and back so you won’t hit something. Now you are ready.

One note is the question of a mirror. Mirrors in ballet were designed as a learning aid so the participant could see if they were correctly performing the routine. Later it became a source of self-criticism about the person’s weight. I recommend that you NOT start with a mirror, until and unless you can use it as a tool ONLY. Otherwise, it is a distraction.

What do I wear?

For minimum investment, I recommend you start with a loose but long t-shirt and stretchy pants. Wear cotton socks on your feet. Your hair should be configured in such a way as to not get in your face while you work. In other words, any workout clothes are fine, but instead of ballet shoes, start with cotton socks.

The first investment you should make is in soft ballet shoes which you can get many places. Ballet shoes help you push against the floor during the workout and allow your feet to move freely without slipping. On my resources page you will see some websites where you can purchase shoes. However, remember that ballet shoes should fit like slippers, not street shoes, without any space between the toes and the shoe.

Leotards and tights become more important when you want someone to help correct you and be able to see what you are doing. The sooner you feel ready for that, the better, as watching form is very important so you do not create bad habits. However, you should not take this on until you feel less self-conscious.

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How often should I do the barre?

I tell students to start with 2-3 times a week. At this frequency, you will see a lot of changes in the body within 6 months. We all have our falling off the wagon moments, so just get back up and start again! The great thing about ballet is that you never forget what you have learned, so the body will remember what you have done, even after years! Once you feel ready, I recommend a minimum of 3 times a week and to really develop a dancer’s body you should work your way up to 4-6 days a week. Always take one day off a week to prevent injury.

What are the basic terms I should know?

Standing leg: the one you are standing on.

Gesture or working leg: the one that is moving.

Downstage: towards the mirror or camera.

Upstage: the side of the room furthest away from the mirror or camera.

Inside: the side of you closest to the barre.

Outside: the side of you furthest from the barre.

En dehors: circling the arm or leg away from your center or standing leg: as in “en dehors-open the door".

En dedans: circling the arm or leg toward your center or standing leg.

Turnout: rotation of the legs at the hip joint allowing you to stabilize the pelvis.

Pull-up: active placement of the entire body over the body’s center.

What's the point of working my feet?

All of the muscles in your feet need a workout to keep you from losing your footpad as you age. Working your feet and ankle strengthen all the muscles of your lower legs, add control and balance and even work your butt and thighs. Locking them up in workout shoes simply lessens the work the legs and butt can do.

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Is it true that ballet will ruin my feet, knees and/or hips?

No. Professional ballerinas over-work these joints from an early age and continue to use them so much, they develop overuse, arthritis and eventually injury. You will NEVER dance when you are fatigued or injured and you will never overuse them. Regular turn-out is not injurious to the body. Using your feet properly without pointe shoes will actually strengthen and make them healthier. If you bend your knees consistently over your toes in turnout and perform the exercises as described, your knees will be strong via the quadriceps and also should be fine.

I heard that ballet is only for girls. Is that true?

Absolutely not! Ballet is considered one of the best exercises for humans on the planet. Male ballet dancers are very strong. Most sports like football and basketball have ballet classes for their athletes.

Does ballet take too much coordination for the average person?

No, not necessarily. It depends on how you use ballet. If you are using it as a means to be strong and centered, it takes very little coordination. It really becomes more demanding when you are learning dances and considering becoming professional. Also, ballet connects the mind to the body so you will be learning to feel yourself on a whole new level.

I am so stiff! Will ballet help me become more flexible, or should I be more flexible for ballet?

Unless you plan on becoming a professional, ballet can be done with any flexibility range. It is actually better for your flexibility because at whatever range you begin, you will become more flexible.