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BALLET ACTIVITY CARD

Parts of the Body Worked

heart and lungsHeart & Lungs

Upper and Lower LegsUpper & Lower Legs

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Just what does it take to become a ballet All-star?

Gear Up

Tutus and toe shoes are a classical dancer’s standard costume. When trying to figure out what to wear, keep in mind the following tips:

A simple leotard with tights is best for class – wearing them allows the instructor to see that all muscles are moving correctly. Boys often wear black tights and a white T-shirt.

In order to keep their muscles warm and help prevent injuries, sometimes dancers wear legwarmers for warming up and doing exercises at the barre. A barre is a handrail that dancers use to steady themselves during the first part of a ballet class. (“Barre" is also a shorthand term for exercises done at the barre, and you might hear a dancer say they are “doing a barre" before performing which means they are warming up).

ballet shoesOrdinary ballet shoes have paper-thin soles, no heals, are held on the foot with elastic and come in different colors (but usually black or pink). The right and left foot shoes are identical and take on the shape of each foot through use.

Pointe shoes have re-enforced toes that help the toes bear the weight of the body and provide extra support for dancers going up on Pointe. Pointe places a lot of force on the toes, and the re-enforcements also help distribute this pressure over the entire tip of the foot. But even then, dancers usually add padding inside the shoe to cushion their feet further. It’s important that dancers don’t wear toe or point shoes until their ankles, back and other supporting muscles are strong enough for this type of exercise – remember that Pointe is not for beginners! It’s always best to go to a store that specializes in dancewear to have shoes fitted properly. A dancer’s toes should be able to move freely inside while the shoe is snug and secure on the outside.

It’s usually best to leave jewelry like watches, necklaces and dangling earrings at home. They could scratch another dancer or snag a leotard or tights, and might turn out to be a hassle.

Wearing your hair up for class allows your instructor to fully see how your muscles are aligned – and it helps you see where you are going!

Play it Safe

Stretching is one of the most important things a dancer can do. Stretching makes the muscles stronger and more flexible, so make sure you warm up and stay focused while stretching.

To prevent toe trouble, wear toe pads and tape around tender and tight parts of your feet like your toes and heals.

Learn the proper technique. To ensure correct technique, make sure you are being taught by a qualified teacher with proper credentials and that you practice under supervision.

Eat healthy in order to keep your energy and attention levels up so that you can perform at your best. Some dancers confuse healthy eating with not eating enough and develop eating disorders. It’s never a good idea to try and make yourself skinny by hurting your body.

Ballet is more than just physical exertion. It’s the total process of expressing yourself through creative movement - have confidence in your self expression and in everything else you do!

Simple crunches, lunges and bike riding are good ways to strengthen back muscles. You can also stretch your back muscles by laying on your stomach, slightly lifting both arms and legs and holding them in place for a few seconds.

 

How to Play

Confidence, good posture, balance, self-discipline, concentration, flexibility, endurance, speed, strength and power. Would you believe there’s a single activity that promotes all these things at the same time?! Well, believe it or not, there is - ballet!

There are two types of classic ballet, which is an art form that tells stories through characters in costume. Pointe is one type, where dancers wear a special type of shoe so that they can move on the tips of their toes. Since Pointe is really advanced, we’ll just be focusing on demi-ballet. In this type, dancers dance on the balls of their feet.

There’s a whole lot to remember when dancing ballet – things like how important it is to find the right studio. Because when you’re learning the basics, it’s important to make sure you learn correctly!

There are five basic positions for ballet. All classic dance steps start or end in one of these five positions:

  • First Position—The heels are together, legs stretched straight. Turn your toes outward to form a straight line. You arms should form a curve raised right above your waist. Your hands should be between your waist and the level of your chest.
  • Second Position—Separate your feet to the side about 1 ½ feet apart. Your feet should be well turned out. Open your arms, rounding them slightly. Your elbows should be slightly lower than your shoulders.
  • Third Position—Put the heel of your right foot against the middle of your left foot. Bring your right arm up so that a semicircle forms above your head. Your left arm should remain in the second position.
  • Forth Position—Slide your right foot forward so that it is parallel to your left foot with about 12 inches in between. Place your right arm overhead in a vertical position. Your left arm should be in the first position.
  • Fifth Position—Place your right foot close up in front of your left foot. The toes of your left foot should touch the heel of your right foot. Both arms should be overhead and form a round shape. There is a small space between hands.

In addition to the dancing done with their legs and feet, dancers use their hands and arms to express themselves. Showing expression through the hands and arms is always very important, especially since it can be difficult to see a dancer’s face from a distance.

But the most important thing to remember - always respect the instructor!

Ology

Ancient man conveyed his thoughts, wishes, and emotions through actions, just as we do in modern ballets. In the Americas, Australia and Africa, aboriginal people danced both for spiritual reasons and for entertainment. Their dances continue to influence dance today.

Ballet was a man’s game for many years, and men performed both male and female roles. Even when women were included, they weren’t able to do some of the things men could, mainly because of their clothes. Men wore tights and were able to move freely, but women had to wear heavy wigs, huge headdresses, full skirts, high-heeled shoes and extra tight corsets that restricted breathing and bending. In addition to wearing uncomfortable clothing, women had to overcome society’s disapproval of female performers as ballet moved from the ballroom to the stage.

Classical ballet came to America in the mid-1900s thanks to George Balanchine who founded the School of American Ballet in 1934, and later the New York City Ballet.

 

Fun Facts

A tutu is a light ballet skirt. Tutu is a French word meaning “behind.” The term is less about the garment itself but more of a reference to what the garment covers!

Ballet is often thought of as artistic and beautiful. However, out of the 61 most common sports, only professional football is more physically demanding. Like football, dance is not an endurance sport. Dancers experience short bursts (1-2 minutes) of serious cardiac activity followed by periods of rest or easier dancing.

Dancers can go through about 400 pairs of shoes in a lifetime. At about $40 a pair, that’s $16,000 in shoes alone!

A 120 pound dancer burns almost 1,000 calories per performance. At that rate, a dance company of 100 people would burn 100,000 calories during a performance – that’s almost as many calories as in 364 regular size hamburgers!

Every step in ballet has an equal and opposite motion. For example, when you raise your arms, your shoulders should go down as your arms go up. When you kick up your leg (called a grande battement), your hip should stay down.

 

 

 

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