Has Anyone Seen My Technique? I Seem To Have Lost It!

August 1, 2013

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I want to share a little insider information on what many of you may experience upon being newly employed. Hearing this information prior to starting your career will be invaluable to you. Here it is: When you begin your new career, you might find something missing — your technique.

You may, in fact, find that it will go something like this.

Your dream has come true…
after many years of hard work,
after many tears and plenty of sweat,
after many performances – good and bad,
you’ve got your job!

The contract is signed.
Your special order shoes are on their way.
Costume fittings and rehearsals have begun,
but you feel as if something is lost.

What could be amiss? What iss missing? Of all things, it is your TECHNIQUE!

Raise your hand if you have experienced your technique slipping once you got hired as a professional ballet dancer. My hand is definitely up! I so vividly remember thinking to myself, “How is it that I am now getting worse?” Relax, though – this is a normal shift that can be corrected. Everyone knows that learning is a verb of infinity, and so it goes with your technique. The learning never ends.

Your technique will naturally slip in the beginning as you switch your focus to rehearsals and performances versus the daily mind set of train, train, train you were used to. The hours you previously spent in class are now filled with learning new choreography for anywhere between one to six ballets at a time. Here are a few ideas to help combat against this natural occurrence.

  • During off hours, find extra classes you can take.
  • Tap into your memory and recall some of the corrections you remember hearing.
  • Partner up with another company member and stay after class to work on a step you’re hung up on.
  • Practice perfecting your technique within the choreography you are learning as you will rehearse those steps repeatedly while trying to get it polished and ready for the stage.
  • Do not let frustrations stand in your way of what you know your body and mind can achieve.

Do you have any tips you can share that you have found especially helpful with a slip in your technique? I would love to hear them.

2 responses to “Has Anyone Seen My Technique? I Seem To Have Lost It!”

  1. Lauren Stenroos says:

    My biggest advice would be to become aware of your body’s strengths and weaknesses and address them by devising your own cross training plan outside of the dance studio.

    Company class is usually easier and a slower build up than a school class, because it is designed for maintenance and to warm up the body for an entire day of rehearsals. This transition can be shocking at first. Therefore, I believe cross training becomes more important at this time in a dancer’s career.

    Ballet is an anaerobic activity (stop and go) and it only utilizes certain muscles, in particular the muscles used to externally rotate the legs. If the other muscles aren’t strong and balanced, you’ll have a greater risk of becoming muscularly imbalanced, which leads to injury.

    There are two elements of cross training that I believe are very important for a ballet dancer: cardio work and core work.

    Since ballet is anaerobic (stop and go), doing 20-30 minutes of cardio work 2-3 times a week will provide stamina for those long rehearsals.

    Core work is also imperative for any dancer because all movement originates from the center of the body and without a strong core you will not be able to move organically or be coordinated in your movement.

    Some good examples of cardio for dancers include:
    -running on an elliptical (less impact on joints than just running on a treadmill or pavement)

    -swimming (even less impact on joints and works muscles in your entire body without gravity pounding into your joints)

    -Zumba is also a great new way to get your heart pumping and it’s so fun you won’t realize you are sweating!

    For core work, you can do pilates exercises, gyrotonic work, and you can always find group exercise classes at your local gym that focus on the core. Or devise your own plan. You can be creative-include sit ups, planks, and use an exercise ball, dyna disc, or balance board for more balance and stability.

    The stronger your center, the better.

    Also I have found that doing exercises to strengthen my hamstrings and rotator muscles have helped my placement. Dancers usually have tight and/or weak hamstrings. Balance everything and avoid bulk by making sure you stretch a lot after doing any strengthening exercise so that your muscles don’t bulk.

    If the ballet company you work for is lucky enough to have a Physical Therapist on staff, you can ask them to do an evaluation on your body to devise a plan with exercises to specifically target your weaknesses. Some companies already do this, but if yours doesn’t, ask on your own. After all, it’s for your own good.

    I believe that cross training will balance and strengthen your body, which will in turn give you the strength and stamina to properly maintain your technique. Of course it is up to you to keep working the right way in your ballet classes.

    Everything is a process and you will keep learning new things about your body every day. Embrace the process and be open to learning and growth and you will have a long lasting, healthy career!

    Lauren Stenroos, dancer at Dayton Ballet

    • Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet says:

      Hello, Lauren! Thanks so much for sharing with us your ideas and advice. We agree with you wholeheartedly. Cross-training indeed helps to strengthen the overall body and supports your technique for those long days of rehearsals and performances. The demand and vocabulary that is being asked of dancers today is at an all-time high, so cross-training becomes essential. Such training is imperative for those trying to return to the studio and stage following an injury, as well as those trying to get back in shape after a vacation or scheduled lay-off. In fact, the May 2012 DanceSpirit Magazine included some dos and don’ts of cross-training. http://www.dancespirit.com/2012/05/the-dos-and-donts-of-cross-training/

      Stay tuned for when I interview Chris Fisher, a physical therapist who often visits the CPYB Warehouse studios. We’ll get his input on cross-training, the benefits for today’s dancers, and how it can help with injury prevention.

      Thanks again for your comments!

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