Ballet Basics: New Video Tutorials!

Happy Wednesday, Spartan dancers!

As many of you are aware, I took last year off for maternity leave. I’ll fully admit to spending a lot of my leave time cuddling my son on the sofa – and cruising YouTube during the wee hours of the morning when he decided not to sleep. Though I chided myself on my post-partum television binge, I was able to find a couple of very neat things to share with you!

Last October, the Royal Ballet in London published three videos as part of a new series entitled “Royal Ballet Fit.” The videos are hosted by ROH First Artist Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, and are perfect for working out some of the key fundamentals that we’ve been discussing in class. Best of all – they’re FREE! I’m often asked for resources for at-home practice, so please take a look at these videos and give them a try!

Remember to follow the same rules in your practice at home that we observe in the studio: warm up fully before moving towards more strenuous exercises, cool down appropriately after your workout, stop if anything starts to hurt or feel truly uncomfortable, and keep your body well hydrated and nourished.

Happy, healthy dancing! See you in class next week.

~ Kitty 🙂

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Technique Spotlight: The Battement Family

When poor posture and ungraceful movement strike in Gotham City, who do you call?

Batman! Err, no… Battement!

Ballet-I-am-Battement

Though battement might not help you fight crime, it will help you build long, lean muscles and improve as a dancer. Battement is actually a group of movements all consisting of a strike (that’s literally what the word battement means – to strike out or beat) of the leg. There are lots – and LOTS! – of different kind of battements, from tiny little motion (petit battements) to the biggest leg movement of them all, the grand battement. Battements can be found throughout the classical ballet barre program, with three or four different types performed during a standard barre workout.

With so much variety, the battement family makes up a huge fundamental element of ballet. It is also one of the best ways to grow in ballet as a dancer. All dancers (no matter their age) start out by learning the battement tendu par terre, the simple strike-out extension of the leg with the toe kept on the floor. Once that is mastered, it’s time to start lifting that foot! At 45 degrees, there’s the battement dégagé (the disengaged foot, sometimes also called the battement tendu jété or just battement jété, the “jumping-up” foot), and ask the foot moves upwards so that it is more parallel to the floor or beyond, that’s grand battement territory. Battement also start getting faster as the levels of ballet training progress – petit battement, wherein the working foot is moved quickly back and forth around the supporting leg, is one of the most challenging and quickest motions to learn.

So how to learn all this beating – without beating yourself up in the process? Here are a few tips for getting the best out of your battement:

  • Start slowly. Make sure that you’ve taken the time to stretch, warm your muscles, and prepare your legs and feet for exercise.
  • Work on the floor first. A great way to prepare for grand battement is to lay on your back, and then extend your leg outwards in front of you (à la devant) and out to the side (à la seconde) maintaining proper turn-out as you move. The floor helps to support your upper body, so that you can focus on making a strong strike with your legs.
  • Focus on control. The supporting leg in any battement needs to be strong and straight to maintain the posture necessary to lift the working leg. As such, it’s extremely important not to go for height – and cause your supporting leg to buckle under in the process! Instead of worrying about how high your leg might be, or how fast you can move your foot, focus first on maintaining a strong supporting leg that is absolutely perpendicular to the floor. You want to be able to perform a consistent battement every time – not a Rockette kick (or worse – a leg flail…)
  • Work up to speed. There’s a reason why every barre method from preschool to the professionals is arranged in the exact same way, and why grand battement is always at the end – it allows your body the time and exercise necessary to ready itself for those more strenuous movements. So be patient, and take care to work your entire barre routine – from pliés all the way up to the grand battement, before moving out to centre or into choreography.
  • Stay hydrated. Battement really works your muscles, and muscles need water to work properly. Take a break between barre and centre to get a drink, or if you’re working at home, set a timer to remind yourself to hydrate for every 30 minutes of workout. After exercising, a light snack and more water can help keep tired legs from cramping up. I like to make up a quick muscle recovery smoothie at the end of my barre sessions at home – it’s a tasty treat after a job well done! I’ll post my recipe in a separate article in case you want to try it out.

Since battement is so important, we’ll be spending a lot of time throughout the semester introducing and improving the various types. If you don’t quite get it the first time (or the third time, or the eighth time…) don’t give up! This fundamental is worth the time to truly master.

And you don’t need a cape and cowl to prove you’ve got it! 😉

Happy, healthy dancing!

~ Kitty

First Class Hiccups

Hello, Spartan dancers! Many thanks to everyone who came out last night to the first class of fall semester. And many, MANY thanks for your patience when the music failed! I’m still not sure what happened, but I’m taking this as a sign that it is time to invest in some new CDs (hey, they may be old fashioned technology, but I know they’ll work in the studio cart!) I’m planning to revamp the lesson plans with new musical choices this weekend. So stay tuned for new tunes!

Last night, we introduced a number of techniques, including the five standard positions of the feet and arms, the two types of knee bend (demi plié and grand plié), coming up onto our flexed toes to balance (en relevé), extensions of the leg into a simple point on the floor (tendu par terre, also sometimes written as tendu sur la terre), and the third arabesque with arms swaying in front of the body. For more information, you can check out these previous posts with more information on technique:

We’ll continue studying these techniques all semester, and adding to them as classes progress. We’ll also start working on bringing the foot and leg up off the floor (positions en l’air) and working on balancing the body, both at the barre and en centre – and up on our flexed toes (demi-pointes)! As always, if you have any questions or concerns, send me an email, post a reply to this blog, or feel free to stop by after class.

See you next Tuesday – 7:00 PM at IM East!

🙂 Kitty

 

Ballet Basics is BACK!

Hello, Spartan dancers! Long time no see!

So after a crazy year with two little ones at home (the youngest of which just celebrated his first birthday), I’m finally going to be back in the studio at MSU this fall! The first of ten Ballet Basics sessions starts next Tuesday at 7:00 PM in the dance studio at IM East. As always, this is truly a beginner class – don’t know how to point your toes? That’s OK. Never danced before? No worries. Would love to look like Natalie Portman in Black Swan, but just don’t know where to begin? I can’t promise you’ll be a Natalie look-alike, but you can definitely learn some tricks to move like her!

Not sure ballet is for you? You can try it out for just $4.00 for a drop-in pass! That’s 45-minutes of ballet for less than the price of a grande pumpkin spice latte. 😉

I hope you’ll join me at IM East this semester for a body-positive, judgment-free and FUN ballet class! The flier with more information is below.

Ballet Basics Fall 2018 Flier

Happy New Year!

Hello Spartan dancers! I hope that you have all had a wonderful fall semester and a relaxing holiday break. Hard to believe that it is already 2018!

My apologies for the long delay in this post – after delivering my second child, Theodore, in August, time swooshed by and suddenly the semester was over! I am very pleased to report that Teddy and I are both doing well, and though my time away from campus was longer than I anticipated, we are both in good health and I’m looking forward to being back at MSU soon.

Unfortunately, my schedule for spring didn’t quite work out, so there will be no Ballet Basics classes again this semester. My hope is to have my work and childcare schedule settled by the beginning of the next academic year (2018-19) so as to resume Ballet Basics at either IM East or the IM Circle dance studio.

In the meantime, if you are looking to keep your New Year’s resolutions of getting fit and healthy, please check out the additional classes available through the Recreational Sports & Fitness program at MSU. There’s yoga, pilates, and a barre workout class! All of these cross-train beautifully with ballet (as does swimming and aerobics, two of my favourite forms of exercise). The Group Exercise schedule has been posted online and is only a Google-search away.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year, and hope to see you in class next fall!

All the best,

Kitty

Coming to Michigan: Ballet 5:8

Chicago-based company Ballet 5:8 will be performing at the Michigan Theatre in nearby Jackson on Saturday, 15 April 2017 at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for students/seniors, and $12 for children 12 and under.

Stories of You & Me

The performance is a collection of choreographed works entitled The Stor(ies) of You and Me, and “features five works that explore love, the power of words, unexpected joy, perspectives, and the stories of everyday people. Choreography by Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager and Guest Choreographer Caleb Mitchell.”

You can learn more about Ballet 5:8 on their website or Facebook page. Check it out!

Final Ballet Basics for Spring: 7 April 2017

Hello Spartan dancers,

Bad news, I’m afraid – because of the low participation rate for Ballet Basics in March, our class is being canceled after this Friday’s session. I’ll continue to post updates to this blog, and we will hopefully have another class next fall. Additionally, many of the other class options will continue to be available through the MSU Group Exercise Program until the end of the semester.

In case I don’t see you, I wish you all the best of luck with your final exams, and a wonderful summer!

~Kitty

Coming to MSU: Moscow Festival Ballet

As part of the Wharton Center’s dance series this semester, MSU will be hosting the Moscow Festival Ballet for a one-night-only performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, Swan Lake. The performance will take place on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 in the Cobb Great Hall at the Wharton Center, beginning at 7:30 PM (arrive by 7:00 PM). Student tickets are only $18 with your MSU ID or APID, and can be purchased either through the Wharton Center’s website or on-site at the box office.

swan-lake

This is a wonderful opportunity to see a professional classical ballet company in action, performing one of the most well-known and well-loved works in the Russian ballet repertoire. Swan Lake is known not only for its beautiful music and captivating story, but also for its incredible technical requirements – the prima ballerina portrays both Odette, the beautiful princess turned into the White Swan, and Odile, the evil witch who captivates the prince as the Black Swan. As such, she must be able to perform at the highest caliber in the ballet world, including performing 32 fouetté turns (a very fast spin on one foot en pointe) in a row at point one in the story! This is one of the aspects that makes Swan Lake such a challenging work to perform, and also a stunning piece to witness.

(And yes, I was once one of those swans in the background – they are known as the corps de cygnets, the group of little swans. I know from experience just how grueling this work can be!)

Enjoy the show!