As a dancer in training, when it comes to ballet technique, all I want is to notice progress quickly. I don’t have much time to be ready to audition for companies and I know how relatively short a dancer’s career actually is. I’ve always worried about not wasting my time.
I’ll share with you my secret to quickly improve my technique because I feel that every dancer and every teacher should include it in their training.
I used to believe that progress could only happen if I dedicated many hours to physical training. My schedule was filled with dance classes, conditioning, stretching sessions and gym workouts. I was doing a lot, always choosing each activity based on the latest piece of advice given by professional dancers and teachers on social media (wearing ankle weights, trying Gyrotonics, jumping the rope or doing sit-ups are some examples). I was improving for sure, but very slowly and not as consistently as I would have liked. Also, I was exhausted and did not have time to do anything not related not ballet.
This year I made a change in my training program, one change that made a whole difference in my progression. I’m seeing improvement in my technique to a speed and level I’d never experienced. I did not change the number of hours of training. Actually, I am taking less classes. There is truly no point(e) in taking classes after classes if my focus drops because I’m too tired. Less is more, most of the time. So a personal advice is to always prioritize quality over quantity.
The element every dancer and teacher should include in their training.
My secret is that I started learning how my body moves: I started learning anatomy and applying what I was learning into each and every training session of my schedule, as well as in my daily life outside of the studio.
By learning more about my body I also started learning more about myself and distinguishing between what is helpful in my specific case or not. It is one of the principles of anatomy for dancers that I learned during my first ever class: making the distinction between principles and corrections.
I always sort of knew about the huge importance of anatomy knowledge for a dancer, but never understood how to make sense of anatomy in my ballet technique. I also never found a valid and easy-to-use platform to study on my own. I read some anatomy books and I did not know what to do with them. How helpful it is for me to learn the names of the bones in my feet when I am trying to improve my feet lines? Why would I learn the number of muscles in the back when I am focusing on deepening my cambré or lifting my arabesque higher? The books seemed written for a doctor and I couldn’t see how helpful it was for me, as a dancer in training.
Core de Ballet came up with this wonderful project: delivering anatomy courses specifically for dancers, in order to provide all of us with the most relevant information, explaining key concepts in a simple and fun way.
What is so special about anatomy?
Even though I expected to enjoy the anatomy classes as soon as I discovered they were being created for dancers, I did not expect them to be so (ballet)life-changing. The progress I started noticing in my technique left me very surprised at first (and it still does sometimes).
First, I noticed the greatest improvements in my posture and placement, which I consider the key to master anything in ballet as without a solid base, nothing can be done well. In fast, many of the technical issues, like balance, turns and pointe work that I had been struggling with for years, suddenly started to unlock.
The way I now practice is also more positive: learning anatomy for dancers has tremendously helped me in identifying what corrections to work on first. I used to feel overwhelmed and depressed reading the long list of corrections I would note at the end of classes. With my new knowledge, I can now identify the building blocks on which I should focus first and realise that some of the rest will naturally follow. For example, working on aligning my rib cage with my hips was fundamental to replacing my shoulders and relaxing my neck. I focused on my rib cage placement and my neck line and shoulders improved: three birds with one stone. Ballet is still challenging but much less overwhelming that it used to be.
With all that said, I highly recommend starting with the “Do dancers need to know about Anatomy?” Masterclass by Paul Thornley. And there is a lot more material on Core De Ballet in their tutorial and masterclasses. Each series focuses on what is essential for dancers to know and gives easily applicable cues to link the anatomy concepts to your daily dance practice.