As a professional dancer, I learned about the benefits of training in and out of the studio environment at an early age. Yes, technique classes are needed in different genres of dance whether you plan to pursue modern or ballet as a career. Rehearsals for endless hours help dancers to place the technique into action. Then we are given rare opportunities or time to study alternative conditioning for dance and our art. The question is how do we make the alternative study and conditioning class fit into our regular training schedule? How do we welcome the study to our bodies and feel the benefits?
I remember as a young dancer waking early to do my conditioning training. I would start stretching on my mat to increase flexibility in the spine and hamstrings. I would then lead into the Pilates series of five exercises with the classic Hundred, Single Leg Stretch, and Double Leg Extension. Once my body felt core energy awaken, I would hit downward dog with arm and back exercises and finish practice with center ballet barre work. Years ago, my mind and body didn’t even know I was in the process of formulating my Movement for You Practice.
When I was in 11th grade, waking at 5am to train was work. By the time I reached Temple University two years later, I realized all the hard work paid off. I was conditioned for the professional world of dance. I was able to keep up with my classes at Temple and venture into extended class work at Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadanco. My body was able to work as a professional and withstand the long hours that a dancer’s life consumed.
When injuries would hit my body, I was able to turn to my conditioning practice for reflection, comfort, and healing. My conditioning practice carried me through various injuries of the Achilles, shins, lower back, and upper spine. I am still strong and moving everyday many years later. I am grateful to be able to hit mat even today for at least 1 hour a day to reconnect to the purpose of movement. I thank my conditioning practice of past years for being such a strong voice, carrying me through many injuries, and for being the foundation for the Movement for You Practice of today.
I recommend this following practice for teachers and studying dancers. Teachers, try and give this gift of practice to yourselves before your studying dancers arrive. If that is not possible you can even embrace the practice with your dancers before barre work, center work, or rehearsal. I hope teachers you will find more focus, patience, and creativity in your body after this given practice. I always find practice before class helps with overall tightness that sometimes develops during rehearsal or technique class from changing body temperature. Your body will feel much warmer for up to three hours if you engage in this practice work regularly.
Dancers, this is a wonderful practice to train with on an off day from technique class or rehearsal. If you want an extra challenge place this practice before or after technique class or rehearsal. This practice will energize and fulfill your spirit. You will feel closer to your goals as a dancer.
Teachers and Dancers enjoy your learning. Embrace the body and all its potential. Condition and see your body and mind grow like never before. Live to Dance! But, don’t forget to work hard in the process!
2nd position grand plie with bounce and hold
Find your 2nd position and allow the body to fall into a grand plie. In your natural and comfortable 2nd position grand plie you will activate the inner thighs and abdominal core. Release the body into small bounces through the legs for 16 counts. After the set of bounces for 16 counts remain still in the 2nd position grand plie and hold for an adagio 8 counts. Repeat 2xs.
Plie Sequence in 1st, 2nd, and 5th position
Find your 1st position. Take two grand plies in first position with arms in high open 5th position. Recover from the two grand plies and then Port de Bras forward. At the bottom of the Port de Bras release your fingertips behind your feet and swing your arms back behind the body to recover to standing. Repeat the forward circular Port de Bras 2xs. Repeat Plie Sequence in 2nd and 5th position.
Squat, Jump Back, with Downward Dog
Find parallel 6th position or mountain position. Squat down in parallel and place hands alongside feet. Engage your abdominal core, place weight in your hands, and shift your weight back in a jumping motion to find plank posture. Hold plank for 4-6 counts or breathes. Shift your body weight into downward dog and hold for 4-6 counts or breathes. Walk your feet forward to forward fold and roll up through each vertebra of the spine to mountain. Repeat this sequence up to 6xs.
Degage Sequence in 1st position with Passé
Find your 1st position and extend your right foot forward to a degage flexed position. Activate the inner thigh, abdominal core, and find neutral placement with your hips. You will then take 12 bounces inward (or accent in motion of degage) with the extended degage leg without touching the ground. You will feel as if the extended leg is rebounding off of the standing leg. You can work the bounce movement from an open fifth position with the legs. Arms will be extended in an open high 5th position. After the 12 bounces find passé and hold for 8 counts. Repeat this sequence on right to the back and side. In the side sequence work the bounce movements from 1st position. Also, repeat on left side.
Active Lunge Work in Parallel
Find parallel lunge on your right side. Straighten and release the front leg into an active lunge motion for 6xs. After six active lunges hold and release your fingertips forward to the ground alongside the front leg. Activate your abdominal core and reach the fingertips back up to an open high 5th position. Make sure the front leg stays in an active bent lunge position without moving. Repeat fingertips coming forward and returning to high release movement for 6xs. Repeat on left side.
Modern Roll Down and Port de Bras Sequence
Find parallel 6th position and extend arms overhead to high open 5th. Allow your arms to gently drop and release down to your sides as you slowly roll down and forward through each vertebra of your spine. As you are in forward fold, demi plie 3 xs, and then roll back up through your spine to standing mountain posture. Direct your body into Circular Port de Bras to right side leading with your left arm over head. You will fall to the right, to center forward with knees slightly bent in demi plie, carry Port de Bras to left side, and recover back up to mountain. Reverse the Port de Bras to the left leading with your right arm over head and complete sequence alternating up to 4xs. After the circular Port de Bras you will find a neutral mountain and drop into 4 upper body swings in parallel. Come out of the upper body swings and naturally walk to your right making two small circular walking patterns to redirect your energy. Find parallel 6th position and repeat on the left side.
Passé Developpe Sequence in 1st
Find 1st position and Passé Developpe front with your right leg for 8 counts and return to 1st position. This will be a flowing adagio movement. Repeat the Passé Developpe right front for the second time and hold the extended Developpe for 8 counts (static movement) and return to 1st. After Passé Developpes you will take 8 counts of eleve in 1st position. Repeat the Passé Developpe Sequence on the right to the back and side. Repeat the entire Sequence on the left side.
Active Plank to Downward Dog
Find plank posture (push up position) and then shift your weight to downward dog. You will move through plank to downward dog up to 12xs. Repeat 2 sets.
Battement Sequence in 5th
Find a comfortable 5th position. You can even work with an open fifth position in this Battement Sequence. As you did in the above Degage Sequence, find an extended flexed degage position of 45 degrees in height. You will then Battement to naval height (belly button area) for 8xs. You will always return back to the extended degage position. Focus on the movement being controlled and slow in tempo. To transition to the back and side you will hold Passé for 8 counts after battements. Repeat Battement Sequence to the back from open 5th and side from 1st position. Sauté 16 counts in 1st position to transition to the left side.
Rock and Roll with Jump (Plough to Stand)
Lay flat on your mat and allow your body to fall backwards into Plough Posture. You will recover out of Plough and come into Seated Forward Fold touching your toes. Repeat Plough to Seated Forward Fold up to 6xs. Then Rock and Roll from Plough to Standing Mountain as if you were recovering from a forward roll up to 6xs.
This blog is written and created by Lindsay Schaefer. For more information on Movement for You, A Way of Life Practice or Artists in Unity please visit the following sites.