Improving split leaps is a something dancers work on consistently in ballet, jazz, and contemporary/modern dance classes. Whether you are practicing grand jeté or saut de chat, below are a few tips to get you flying in the air looking fabulous!
Be sure to build momentum into the preparation. Whether you are starting the leap with a glissade, chasse or a step – there should be a large amount of energy expanded into the preparatory step. Pushing through the floor with a strong core and body alignment is sure to start you off on the right path for a strong leap. Articulating the foot before AND after the jump is vital to success.
Effort – The definition is a vigorous or determined attempt.
How can we instill qualities in students to ensure they are putting forth their best efforts with a growth mindset?
Below are examples taken directly from class room and stage experiences. Utilizing these qualities in the class room will guarantee your students are on the way to becoming a dancer that can see their growth potential and use hard work to reach their goals.
Giving students opportunities to identify patterns in daily class work is imperative. During ballet barre, incorporate specific patterns that replicate those same patterns that will be seen later in center work. Mention the intention and purpose for the use of the pattern given. Give as many examples as possible.
This will allow the dancer to retain the information, and memorize it more efficiently. Comprehension of patterns will increase speed, coordination and help with reversing the movement in different directions.
Spatial awareness can be incorporated in the very beginning of dance training at a young age. Dancers as young as 3 learn about spatial awareness as they are required to stand on their designated spot, follow the leader with out bumping other dancers and how to stand in line with out squishing their neighbor.
As they progress, they learn to stand in windows and take turns across the floor with a partner. All of these things requiring spatial awareness.
Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in the space around you. Knowing the body positions and stage directions to travel freely while dancing and moving is the ultimate goal. As students progress in their training, this concept is imperative when performing or auditioning.
The famous quote, “dance now, think later” couldn’t be further from the truth. Dancers spend most of their young dance life thinking. And thinking some more.
Dance technique and body alignment are concepts that start with your thought process. Learning the correct muscles to use and even visualization exercises to help try to achieve the right look of a dancer.
Anticipation is the act of thinking ahead of oneself. When a dancer is performing ballet barre exercises, the brain must be faster than the pace of the music to relay the message to the body.
Dance is intellectual.
You are not only thinking of the steps, you are thinking of the technique behind the steps that will enable you to execute them correctly. When preparing for rehearsals and auditions; anticipating trouble spots will help you think on your toes and be ahead of the game when under stressful situations.
Understanding Different Techniques
A strong foundation in Ballet and Tap is a great start for young dancers! At 8 years old, the dancer is physically and mentally ready to introduce additional styles of dance to their training. Dance Classes in jazz, contemporary, hip hop and other dance techniques are highly encouraged to be the most well rounded dancer.
It is important that dancers educate themselves on the history that has impacted dance and paved the path as we know it today. Studying as many styles of dance will get you out of your comfort zone and give the knowledge needed to perform your best in class, on stage or at an audition.
Learning to be an effort oriented dancer takes time and constant training inside and outside of the studio, you too can achieve this if you put in the effort!
Pageant Dance Choreography is a common talent choice among contestants in pageantry. Choreography can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the age of the performer, audience and judges observing the routine. Some dancers have very competitive, stylish and entertaining routines and others are more classical and technical with their performances.Continue reading
Spinal roll downs are one of the first movements performed in contemporary dance class to get the body warmed up. Not only is this a popular warm up for dancers, but is a favorite for actors and vocalists too.
Why? The spinal roll down helps to release tension in the entire body and increase blood flow. Check out some pointers below to ensure you are warming up your spine safely.
How to do a Spinal Roll Down
Start in a parallel, neutral stance. Be sure the spine is aligned and your weight is balanced. The head will initiate the roll down by dropping forward with your chin toward the chest. Imagine the top of your head is leading each vertebrae to curve over one at a time. The shoulders, upper and middle back will follow the curve over. As your head is lowering toward the ground, soften the knees and plié – being sure to hollow out the abdominal muscles and elongate the tailbone toward the floor. You can stay there and stretch or recover immediately. As the plié recovers, roll back up the spine reversing the roll down and pressing the abdominal muscles in. The head will be the last thing that lands back up right.
Tension- Dancers new to this movement will most likely carry tension in their neck, arms, and bottom half. To help get the tension out, have them bounce like a rag doll to get the body to relax before starting roll downs. Imagine there is sand that is pouring from your body starting at your hands, fingertips, the top of your head- creating tiny little piles of sand in front of your feet and between your toes. as you recover, imagine the sand is being sucked back up the exact way it went down. Again, the end finishes the movement.
Relaxed Core- It is super important that a roll down has support from the core. If you are not using your core to anchor the movement it can contribute to the tension in other body parts. Engaging the core takes a lot of practice and is the meat of many movements in all styles of dance. Imagine you are scooping out the abdominal muscles and hollowing out the curve, dropping the tailbone toward the floor to release lower back tension to complete the curve.
Weight Shifting- Often times dancers have their weight too far over the heels. This is due to the pelvis shifting backward. If this is the situation it can help to imagine there is a wall close behind you (not directly behind) to help you to counterbalance your weight into the right place. In class you may hear your teacher say “weight over the balls of your feet dancers.” But, if you push your weight too far over the balls of your feet it can cause you to grip your toes that can cause tension and injury to the sole or arch of the foot.
Releasing Hips too Soon- The pelvis should stay where it started for as long as possible during a roll down. A common mistake is dancers will activate the hip flexor muscles as the upper body bends forward. This creates a flat lower back with little to no curve in the lower spine. Think of elongating the tailbone through the floor and scooping out the tension to create a smooth connected roll.
The spinal roll down is an important part of dance technique, but sometimes it is seen as beginner step and is not approached or practiced with care or technique. This step is often done BEFORE plies if that tells you how important it is. Incorporating roll downs into dance technique classes will help students to warm up properly, engage numerous muscles and enhance their body mechanics to improve their dancing.
You simply can’t have enough tips for ballet pirouettes. Improvements can always be seen, no matter how many turns you are working on. See a few tips below to help get your turns on track to perfection.Continue reading
Battement Tendu is one of the first steps you learn as a young dancer. In french tendu means to “stretch.” It may seem like a simple step, but its importance is high on the scale of dance technique. Through this movement, dancers become aware of the energy expelled through the feet. The strength developed through this articulation is how dancers take off and land their jumps with cushion.
“In ballet and other dance forms, this stretched action (and the way the body reacts to it) is important preparation for just about everything, including rising to pointe, lifting, throwing, or balancing on a leg.”
Tendu is the gateway step for assemblé, grand jeté and entrechat quatre to name a few. Without the dexterity in the feet and toes, jumps would land hard and movements would be lacking the finished look that pointed feet provide for dancers. Whether it’s ballet, jazz or modern/contemporary- tendu is sure to be a part of the curriculum in those styles.
You may think the working leg (the leg doing the tendu) is the most important, but the standing leg is just as important. Tendu is the introduction to standing on one leg, preparing the body for other steps and positions such as dégagé, passe or arabesque.
5 Tips for Tendu
1. Maintain body alignment and hip rotation to ensure proper turn out. I tell my students to start with your best turn out, being careful not to roll in. If rolling in does occur, decrease the turn out. The direction your feet are pointing from first position is the pathway your battement tendu a la seconde (tendu to 2nd position) should travel on. Your tendu will be slightly in front of you, unless you have perfect 180 degree turn out. At that point, it would be directly side. The hips should remain even on a neutral axis with no leaning to either side.
2. Dancers should strive to spread the toes and push them through the floor to create resistance, articulating the toes into the tendu position as the body slightly shifts over the standing leg. There should be no weight on the tendu, just the very tip touches the floor. Reverse that same resistance to close back in to first position.
3. Weight should be balanced over all three points of the foot, keeping all five toes on the floor. Balance points are on the first and fifth metatarsal and The calcaneus (heel bone).
4. Closing in can cause problems in hip alignment. Often times, dancers will lean over the standing leg and lifting the working hip up. This causes the tendu to lose resistance in the floor and can cause problems when approaching more difficult steps.
5. Elongate the toes when working tendus to fullest stretch. They should never be crunched or have weight on them. Again this relates to support in the working leg to maintain balance. After all, tendu is a one footed balance.
“Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” -Suzanna Farrell
As beginners, plie and tendu are two of the first moves we learn in ballet class. Many times, we forget the importance of that and take those first few exercises at the barre for granted. Not only do they warm up our bodies, but they are the base upon so many dance movements are built. The tips I’ve provided are just a glimpse into improving your tendu. Hope this gets you started, and on your way to improvement.
A dancer’s technique and alignment is the foundation needed to reach high levels of dance. This is important in order to prevent injuries and keep your dance students healthy. It is the job of the dance instructor to correct dancers on proper torso alignment and instruct them on how to align the spine correctly.Continue reading
Dancers are known for their extreme flexibility, but can you take it too far? The answer is yes. In the social media world we live in, we are exposing children to images of stretches that almost seem in-human. Dance teachers are often cautious about taking on such practices, but feel pressured to keep up with the times by both students and parents. However, erring on the side of caution is not a bad thing. The possible dangers that exist with over stretching are high. Training young adolescents is much different than training adults, it is important your dance teacher is aware of the possible dangers that exist and how to prevent them in young dancers.Continue reading
The Principal is about competing against yourself. It’s about self improvement, about being better than you were the day before – Steve Young
Competitive dance can introduce your dancer to a whole new and exciting world. Opportunities for achievement and growth are everywhere as young dancers are exposed to numerous dance professionals from around the country. The stage time alone will help to build your dancers skills and give them the confidence and perseverance they need to succeed not only in dance, but in whatever they choose to do.Continue reading
Many times in the dance world, we see unbelievable feats of greatness from young children and young adults. Whether it is extreme flexibility, sky high jumps, or multiple turns, we can’t help but be entertained and enjoy watching it. These amazing dancers that inspire us are great prodigies or accomplished young adults who have worked their entire lives to get to that point of excellence.Continue reading