A series of dance-focussed conditioning exercises suitable for our grade students
To see the video click on the letter title, or follow instructions in the text.
From a standing position, feet parallel first
Bend over at the hips as you balance on one leg with the other leg fully extended behind you in an arabesque line. Make your body into a flat line holding your tummy muscles (abdominals). Place your arms out to the side to balance your body, like wings on a plane. Hold this position for 10 seconds (or with the music in the film) before switching legs and balancing on the other side. Add challenge – plié in this position – work up to 5 pliés.
Lie on your back, arms in low V palms on floor. Pull your tummy to your spine (as if you have a string from your tummy button out through your back and it’s being pulled tight). Lift your legs up so they are at a right angle to the floor. Turn out your legs pressing your heels together then place in fifth position (with toes pointed). Open your legs in a v shape and beat your feet sideways changing the foot in front each time x 4 then open to a v shape again. Repeat 10 times or follow the video.
Added challenge – lower your legs towards the floor and then raise them up as you beat continuously. But be careful , this is hard on your back and abs – don’t let your back pull off the floor.
Lie in a straight line on one side with your shoulders and hips stacked. Put your underneath arm under your hear or bend at the elbow and rest your head on your hand. Stretch your top arm out in front and use to balance yourself by putting your palm on the floor. Bend your knees to a demi plie in parallel (try to make sure your feet are still in a line with your body). Raise your top knee as far as you can without rocking backwards in your shoulders or hips. Repeat 10 times or with the video.
Place your top foot on the floor in front of you and stretch out the lower leg. Raise the lower leg off the floor and pulse upwards (keep it off the floor all the time). Repeat 15 times
Turn over and repeat on the other side
Added challenge – tie a theraband or pair of tights loosely around your knees to add resistance
Start at the back of a room or the end of your hallway
Feet in parallel first, arms hanging by your side
Bend your knees into a plié or squat, powerfully explode and jump forward as far as you can
Control your landing through your feet and hold your balance
Repeat the jumps to the end of the room, turn around and head back down the room.
Use your arms to help you travel forward (challenge – have a go without your arms – is it easier or harder without your arms?)
Step together, step point. See video – stretch your legs and feet as much as you can performing step together step point (preparation for polka). A simple exercise like this gives you a chance to really concentrate on stretching and posture.
Sit at the front of a hard chair – sitting up on your sitz (pelvic) bones with a straight back and abdominals pulled tight. Feet are resting on toes with knees at a right angle. Keeping this position raise the right leg pulsing upwards 8-16 times, repeat left leg.
Lay on back with neck and back lengthened and abdominals pulled down towards the floor – keeping the back from lifting away from the floor. Arms in low v with palms pressed into floor. Legs raised to table top (knees bent above hips). Glide the right leg out to straight and return to bent keeping the abdominals held. Repeat 7 more times and then repeat with the left leg.
Lay on side on the floor in straight line with abdominals held and shoulders, hips, knees and ankles stacked on top of each other. Legs are parallel. 6 leg lifts with the top leg. Turn the legs out as if in 1st position, 6 leg lefts turned out. Repeat on the other side. Be careful not to roll backwards or forwards during the lifts but to keep hips stacked. Use your top hand on the floor in front to aid with balance.
Sit with straight back on floor with knees bent and hands held behind thighs. Pull in abdominals to round back into a c shape and return to straight. Keeping lower back held, bend the top of the back to look upwards and backwards (don’t let head drop backwards). Repeat 2 times then stretch arms upwards, straighten legs and bend forward from the waist stretching towards toes. Link hands together and return knees to bent. Scooping hands towards your tummy, roll down and up in a sit up 4 times, stretch hands to the ceiling and bend forward from waist to stretch towards toes.
3 petit jetes, temps leve – repeat twice then 4 petit jetes (repeat all)
1 jete, temps leve – repeat 2 times then 2 coupés and repeat all
Concentrate on stretching the underneath foot in the jumps
Hold yourself in a push-up position (elbows on the floor) for 30 to 90 seconds. Make sure your back is straight and tummy muscles are contracted.
Good Toes and Naughty Toes – follow the video stretching and flexing through the feet.
For more challenge wrap a theraband or pair of tights around the toes or ball of the foot. Slowly point and flex the foot, using the band as resistance. This will help to build the muscles in the foot and strengthen the ankle joint.
M = Back Strength (mermaids)
Lie face down on floor with arms resting on floor and shoulders and elbows at 90 degrees. Legs are extended along the floor, slightly turned out and just wider than hip width apart. Lengthen through the back and squeeze the lower buttock muscles.
Inhale and lift the upper body off the floor pushing into the floor with hands repeat 3 more times to work you back flexibility.
Repeat the lift with arms in 2nd or keeping them in the bent 90 degree position. Exhale and elongate as you return to start position. Repeat 3 more times
Added challenge – take arms from 2nd to 5th en haut in the lift. (see video).
Make sure you lengthen through the back of the neck to avoid overextending or straining the neck – try to feel the movement along the whole spine.
Follow the port de Bras exercise on the video.
Kneeling up on the floor, practise the head and arms movements for the 1st and 3rd port de bras. Think about your neutral alignment (lengthen your tailbone and hold your abdominals, feeling a lift through your waist). When your lift your arms try to keep your shoulders down feel your shoulder blades lengthening down your back like angel wings and make your neck long.
Lie flat on the floor with both legs and arms extended, tummy muscles pulling down into the floor. Lift right leg up above your hip lengthening through the leg, keeping both hips on the floor. Circle the leg outwards (en dehors) 6 times, lower leg and raise left leg. Repeat circles with left leg. Repeat with both legs en dedans (inwards).
Plié is the basis for almost all movement in dance. Throughout your plié you must feel equal weight placement through your feet and a neutral pelvic position (imagine there is a wall right in front of and behind you). Stand in a firm turned out 2nd position with weight equally distributed (press your first and fifth toes into the floor as well as your heels). Elongating along your spine, demi plié, keeping your knees turned out over the toes and as you come out of your plié press the feet into the floor and feel the inner thighs pull inwards.
3 slow controlled demi pliés in 2nd, tendu and close right foot to 1st position
3 demi pliés in 1st position, tendu left foot to 2nd position
3 demi pliés in 2nd position, tendu and close left foot to 1st
3 demi pliés in 1st. Rise and hold to finish
Listen to the music and choreograph your own section of dance – you can create a dance for 8 or 16 counts or as long as you like. Video yourself performing your dance (maybe in your garden?) and send to us to put on our Challenge 2020 page! (you don’t need to start at the beginning of the music). Think about what steps you might use and which pictures the music puts in your mind and have some fun!
Stand with feet in a parallel 1st position using a chair for balance. Rise slowly through 1/4 and 1/2 point to 3/4 point keeping a straight line down through the legs and ankles. Lower with control. Perform 8 or 16 slow rises. Add a balance to finish.
Begin in 1st position keep arms in 5th en bas. Find your correct posture and placement as you lengthen through your centre. Try to keep your breathing regular through the exercise (breath in for 2 sautés and out on the next 2 sautés) and use your feet to push into the sauté (landing quietly!)
Demi plié and push up into relevé, lower to demi plié and stretch
5 sautés in 1st position then echappe to 2nd position
Repeat in 2nd position closing to 1st on the last sauté
Practice to sharpen your head movements – crucial for good pirouettes!
Face 5 (the front of your space) and find something at eye level in front of you to spot (stare at). Keeping your head still and concentrating on your spot, turn your body (rise on toes and take little steps) 1/4 turn to the right, lower heels. Now, sharply whip your head around to complete the turn – your head should arrive before your body and you shouldn’t see anything other then your spot. Repeat 3 more times.
Repeat all to the left.
Strong Feet are a must for all ballet dancers! Sit on a chair and place your right foot on a small towel or flannel (or roll two flannels and place one under the ball of the foot and one under the heel), make sure your weight is even between the two flannels. Lift all your toes upward without lifting your foot off the towel, try and separate your toes to make a space between each one, keeping them long and stretched, press them back to the flannel. Use the muscles in the arch of your foot to draw the ball of your foot towards the heel. Don’t curl your toes. Repeat 10-15 times and then repeat with your left foot.
Sit in a chair with erect posture, arms by your sides with palms forward (for more challenge hold small weights like bean bags or cans of beans). Lift your arms to the sides in a high V, feel your shoulder blades lengthening down your back like angel wings and lengthen through your body and neck. Hold for 4 counts and return with control. Repeat 3 times, holding arms in the high V the last time.
Lengthening through the body, twist from the waist to face the right and return to centre, repeat to the left and return to centre. Repeat all and lower your arms with control.
W = Wall Push Ups
Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart.
Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your body held in alignment.
Hold the position for 1 second. Breathe out and slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight.
Repeat 16 times.
To add challenge, walk your feet away from the wall or progress to using a bench and finally to floor push ups.
X = Cross Touches
Sit up tall with your legs outstretched and apart in a V shape. Reach your arms out to the side. Lift out of your hips and draw in your abdominals as you twist from the waist and reach your right hand to the outside of your left calf. Keep your shoulders down and try to keep both hips on the floor. Hold and stretch a little further before returning to the start position. Repeat to the other side and repeat all 3 more times.
Y = Arabesque Prep
Stand on a hard floor upon two pieces of paper/tablemats (anything that will slide). From a standing position with your legs hip-width apart (no turn out), slowly roll down until your hands are touching the floor (into an inverted V position). Hold your abdominal muscles and slide your feet away from your hands until you reach plank position, keeping your abdominals held (don’t let your back arch) hold and then slide your feet back in to your start position. Repeat twice. For added challenge at the end, tendu right foot derriere, lift to 90 degrees and hold before lowering and repeating with left foot.
Add challenge by repeating with turnout.
Z = Closed Eye Balances
No video for this one! All you need to do is try to balance for as long as you can in the following positions – once you can comfortably balance for 20-30 seconds in the first position move onto training yourself to balance in the next position. Warning – it’s really hard – don’t expect too much!
Make sure you are in a safe place on a soft floor and aren’t going to hurt yourself if you fall. Use a chair at first and take your hands off to balance – keep eyes closed tight but use your ballet posture with a strong core and imagine you are spotting at the wall.
1. Feet parallel, both feet on the floor
2. Feet parallel, one foot raised slightly off the floor and held next to the ankle – get this balanced on the right and left
3. Feet parallel, one foot raised slightly off the floor and held next to the knee – get this balanced on the right and left
4. As number 1 but on a low rise
5. As number 2 but on a low rise
6. As number 3 but on a low rise
You can increase your challenge further by increasing the height of the rise and by turning out your legs.