How to stay ballet-fit at home with Pilates
Posted: Mar 31 2020
We’ve been planning to start a blog for a little while, and what with everyone stuck indoors at the moment, we thought that now would be a great time to kick things off. So, for our first ever blog post we are going to share with you some ideas and information about how practising Pilates can improve your ballet technique and even more importantly, your wellbeing.
Did you know that Joseph Pilates created Contrology, but we now call it Pilates? He was able to help everyone, from gymnasts to boxers, injured soldiers to ballet dancers. Pilates was created as a form of movement that can be practised in the smallest of spaces, with nothing but yourself. It can also be practised using resistance; Joseph Pilates himself used anything he could lay his hands on, from pulley systems to making resistance circles from beer kegs! These days you can boost your Pilates using equipment such as balls, bands, blocks etc… but you can get just as good a work-out with nothing more than your bodyweight and a bit of floor (and maybe a mat if you like something a bit more comfortable 😉).
You can practice Pilates at any age, and although it’s great to go to a teacher, that’s not always possible (especially right now!) and there are a whole host of amazing resources out there that you can discover online. We’ll share some of our favourites later in this post.
So why practice Pilates?
The practice of Pilates is centred around core strength. Every movement begins at the deepest layer of abdominals and this develops excellent core stability (amazing for dancing) and helps to increase the freedom of movement in your limbs. In Pilates, movements are repetitive and can be tailored to your level, so there’s a perfect level for everyone regardless of age or ability. Moreover, each repetition of the movement is paired with breathing, which helps to focus the mind and stabilise the heartbeat.
Practising Pilates will help to make you more self-aware, increase your flexibility and strength, and develop your balance, poise and posture. What’s not to love? We spoke to Wendy Jardine, who tutors Pilates at the Royal Academy of Dance, London. She said:
“Joseph Pilates himself worked closely with ballet dancers and he modified moves specifically for the dancer.”
“Pilates works every single joint in the body to help keep you supple, long, and lean. We always work from the inside out, finding our deep muscles through breath, connection and then we add the move. Everything that a dancer needs, from keeping your turn out perfect and balanced, to keeping your feet aligned, supple and strong.”
She added that “even though we don’t do jumps in Pilates, we’re toning everything needed for perfect elevation, from lengthening through the calves to complete control of the whole body.”
“We can strengthen our weaknesses and always find challenge and connection.”
In our experience attending Pilates classes, it is mostly females attending, however, Wendy points out that “boys do Pilates at all the major ballet schools as part of their daily routine, and don’t forget that Pilates himself was a man! Professional male dancers are required to be increasingly supple, and the choreography is increasingly challenging… Pilates prepares dancers and gives them the know-how to approach all the demands in class, rehearsal and performance with confidence, strength, fluidity and balance.”
What resources can you use?
Wendy has created an online library of over seventy video sessions. She cues you through every move so you feel fantastic and keep your body ballet ready. You can find the sessions on her website here: https://www.pilates-instructor.net/
And she has very kindly given us a discount code: Boys2 - thanks, Wendy!
You can always feel free to contact her if you have any questions 😊
(Please remember that by clicking on links in this Blog you will navigate away from our website.)
And you can follow Wendy on Instagram @wendyjardinepilates
In addition, Wendy (and us too!) recommend following @stevenmcrae_ on Instagram or Facebook. He makes some great posts and is absolutely inspiring for the male dancer.
If it’s online ballet classes you’re looking for then try following the English National Ballet on Facebook for live classes.
What about Yoga?
We’ve rabbited on about Pilates, but we mustn’t forget that there are other excellent forms of exercise that you could do at home. Wendy says from her point of view “the bottom line is keeping safe and conscious of your body from the inside out.”
To get another viewpoint, we spoke to CamYoga yoga teacher Lucy McMahon, who also has a Masters degree in contemporary choreography. She said “Did you know that the Indian army trains with yoga and they’re mostly men!” As we discussed the benefits of Yoga for the dancer, Lucy added that “loads of footballers and rowers do yoga and it can help to prevent injury. Yoga in tandem with barre or Pilates is probably best for dancers.”
When asked how yoga compares to Pilates she suggested that “The extra bonus in yoga is the coordination of breath with your movement (although many Pilates teachers now incorporate this too). In addition, yoga has meditative benefits… it’s time put aside where you’re not putting yourself under pressure, which is really good for your mental health.”
For something more soothing and meditative, Lucy recommends OURMALA.com
To finish up, we’d like to say that while dancers and dance schools everywhere will already be struggling with the coronavirus outbreak, we will find ways to keep dancing. We wish you all the luck and we’re here to support you in whatever ways we can.
Finally, we’d love to hear from you about ideas and themes that you’d like us to explore in these blog posts, so please drop us an email if you have any requests: hello@boysdancetooUK.com