As ballet dancers, our bodies are under constant stress from training many long hours in the studio. While in ballet class, time is spent perfecting technique and learning choreography, it is important to do other body conditioning or cross-training exercises to complement your dance training. Including these conditioning exercises as part of your ballet regime will not only help you build strength and flexibility, but can also lead to faster improvement and prevent injuries.
One such conditioning program specifically designed for ballet dancers was developed by former dancer and RAD teacher Marie Walton-Mahon called Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT).
Developed as a result of a personal injury, Marie created the PBT program for students to supplement their dance training. The program seeks to train the ballet muscles in a way that will increase their muscle memory for better use in dance class. To get students to connect and feel which muscles to use for each exercise, a fit ball is used as it is continually mobile when placed underneath the body.
PBT emphasizes correct body alignment, weight placement and core stability. Each exercise in the program has been developed alongside a team of physiotherapists, from studying anatomy, and can be taught in connection with RAD curriculum. Throughout her teaching and development of PBT, Marie has found that when done with ballet training, PBT accelerates technique.
Here are 4 beginner PBT exercises you can do at home.
Equipment You’ll Need:
Exercise Ball or Fit Ball**
The size of the ball is dependent on your height. Refer below for what size ball you should try.
Height | Recommended Ball Size (Diameter)
Under 142 cm | 45 cm
142-160 cm | 55 cm
160-178 cm | 65 cm
178-193 cm | 75 cm
Using the mat and the fit ball, this first exercise is essential upon beginning PBT training. Starting with the correct technique is pertinent. Lying flat on the mat with arms and hands resting on each side, place the fit ball underneath your legs in a bent position. Your heels should be on the top center of the ball. If you have hyperextended legs, place your legs higher on the ball. Slowly extend your legs on top of the ball and bridge up through the vertebrae. The pelvis must be in line with the legs and torso with no arch or drop. You should feel lengthening from either end of the body – from the toes and the top of the head. Abdominals and inner thighs should be activated. Tip: Do not press down on the ball for stability, but rather, feel the body elongating on top of it.
Counts 1-4: Bridge Up
Counts 5-8: Bridge Down
Bonus: On the last bridge up, hold and review arms in port de bras.
Counts 1-2: First position
Counts 3-4: Second position
Counts 5-6: Fifth position
Counts 7-8: Return to First
Repeat or Bridge Down
Exercise Two: Turn Out and Foot Warm Up
Counts 1-2: Bridge Up with feet in parallel
Count 3: Flex
Count 4: Pointe
Count 5: Flex
Count 6: Pointe
Count 7: Bridge Down
Count 8: Prepare to repeat – rotate legs in turn out, First position.
Bonus: Add arms in port de bras Second position.
Exercise Three: Core and Abdominal Activation
Place the fit ball in between your calf muscles. Legs should be bent but not rotated in a turned out position. Arms are overhead in Fifth position.
Counts 1-2: Legs slowly extend legs upward to a 90 degree angle. Feet should be up towards the ceiling.
Counts 3-4: Upper body lifts off the floor in an abdominal crunch position. Arms are in Fifth position.
Counts 5-6: Take the ball back to Fifth position. Upper body is still lifted up.
Counts 7-8: Return the ball back between the legs. Upper body is still lifted up.
Counts 1-4: Hold the position.
Counts 5-6: Legs return to the mat.
Counts 7-8: Upper body returns to the mat.
Tip: Try a smaller ball size for this exercise.
Exercise Four: Posture and Port De Bras
For this exercise, you will not be using the mat, nor lying down on the ball. Sit on the center of the ball, legs together and feet in parallel. Legs should be at a 90 degree angle with inner thighs activated. Spine should be elongated, sitting tall on the ball with abdominals activated. Try a basic port de bras first, then proceed to the exercise.
Count 1: Move arms to first position
Count 2: Fifth
Count 3: Second
Count 4: First
Count 5: Third
Count 6: Switch other Third
Count 7: Second
Count 8: Bras Ba
Repeat with any combination of port de bras.
Bonus: Include combre forward, side and back for a challenge, or position feet on demi-pointe.
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