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How do you keep your body in shape for dance? (Like the ankles, legs, arms, etc.) Any exercise?

Dancers always start their day with class: a series of exercises starting slowly, supported by the barre and gradually building up to big jumps and lots of turns.

1) Ankles need to be strong so lots of rises are necessary. Start by holding on to something, feet together, then slowly rise onto the balls of your feet and then lower the heels back to the ground, always keeping your knees straight and pulled up.

Imagine drawing a line from your middle toe, straight up your foot to your ankle, kneecap and up to the top of each leg. This will make sure you are in the correct and safe position to make your legs strong. Repeat this movement several times to gradually build up strength. To progress, repeat but without holding on or wobbling! This will use every body muscle and lots of concentration. Think about always keeping your body tall as if you have a piece of string pulling you up from the top of your head. To make it even harder,try standing on one leg and repeating.

2)  Ankles: Stand on both your feet and close your eyes, trying not to allow any movement through the ankle. This can be repeated standing on one leg, with the other slightly bent away from the floor. This will really strengthen your ankles but also make the whole leg work, and improve your balance. However make sure you are standing in an obstacle-free zone. It sounds easier than it is, trust me!

3)  Lunges for leg muscles: You can do lunges travelling down the room. Just take a big step forward to a deep lunge position, making sure your knee is in line with your ankle and toes and then step back up. Make sure you do it slowly and controlled without wobbling this will use all the muscle even your tummy muscles.

4)  Jumping: When you are warm, jumping is a very effective way to keep your body in shape. Try just jumping with your feet together, making sure you think about the correct way you did your rises early to ensure you take off and land safely. By jumping several times in a row you will build up strength and keep fit. If this is too easy try jumping from one leg to the other or just jump staying on one leg and keep repeating.

5)  Weights for arms: Your arms gain strength from just doing a ballet class because you need to use the arm and back muscles to hold them in and between the ballet positions. To make this a little harder, you can hold a can of beans in each hand and move your arms between different positions. This extra weight will strengthen your arms and back muscles.  However, make sure the weight is not too heavy so you do not hurt yourself.

6) Circles for arms: Try holding your arms out to the side with your palms facing the floor (no extra weight needed) and make small circle using both your arms, keeping the rest of your body very still, especially holding your tummy tight. Gradually make the circles bigger and bigger, without hurting your shoulders, and to end the exercise bring the circles back to just being small ones.

7)  Wall press-ups: Stand a short distance from a secure wall, feet together. Lean towards the wall so your body is on a slight diagonal, with palms pressing against the wall. Slowly bend your arms, almost like a press-up, and then straighten your arms. Repeat this several times to gain some benefit.

Finally, apart from all the ballet exercises in a daily class, such as plies and tendus, there are plenty of other activities to do. Swimming is a great way to keep in shape, particularly for the arms and legs, which are both needed for dance. Walking and jogging are other great ways to get all the muscles working but just ensure you have the correct footwear.

I hope this is helpful to you.


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