GALLERY: My Warm Up Routine before Ballet Class

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When I was 14 years old and changed to a bigger ballet school, I realized that the other students got there before me and were stretching, warming up. Before that, I used to get to ballet just in time, put on my shoes, and rehearse.

Certainly not an ideal thing for a dancer, but when you are young you don't really pay attention to the importance of preparing your body. So there I was, surrounded by my friends chatting while doing theraband exercises, stretchings on the floor, and light core strength repetitions. And me? Nothing.

After this, I established my warm-up routine. I started to get to the studio earlier, and in a few weeks, my new habit became a huge a priority. I realized that I felt better in class and were able to do things easier.

In the beginning, I went to the extreme and established my warm-up time to be one hour long even longer. I have experimented with shorter and longer exercises, as well as different stretches. Of course, now it varies every day according to how I feel. I went then from 45 minutes to 30, and back to an hour, maybe some days even 15 minutes (it also depended on how early I got to the studio).

Now that I am 21 and coming back to class after a huge gap of recovery, I am back with the 45 minutes to an hour routine. I go from the bottom up, starting with my feet and finishing with core and back.

Here are my exercises as for now:

 

1. Waking up the body with rolling the muscles

My foam roller and my little green massage ball have become my best friends. I start by cracking all the bones I can (dancers, you get me). Then, I take my foam roller and roll my back, hips, and legs. This way, I make sure their circulation is flowing. I end this rolling routine with my green ball, first massaging and putting pressure on my hip flexors, any tight areas, and finally the bottom of my feet. Which takes me to the next step.

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2. Feet warm-up

Like Steven McCrae always says: if his feet are not warm, he does not feel ready at all.

Warming up my feet is a crucial part of my warm-up, and I probably take the longest time here (15-20 minutes). With my theraband, I start with my toes and then exercise my ankles in all directions. With my injury, I am focusing on this part much more and make sure I do them correctly, adding some physical therapy here and there.

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3. Calf, hamstring and quad stretches

Oh, legs... It feels good when they are lengthening, and especially before class. I make sure I stretch each and every one of these three parts. Lately, if I don't do these correctly, I feel tight, tired, and with no flexibility, feeling them heavier than they really are. 

*I forgot to take a photo of my quad and hamstring stretches :(

 
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4. Hips and inner thighs

Opening up the hips are also a crucial part of my routine. As turnout becomes harder and harder while I take off my bad habits of dancing turned-in, stretching those inner muscles are such a relief and it will always help you to achieve a better turnout.

Light straddle, grand pliés in second position, froggy or butterfly, and a "meditation position" are great to achieve a good hip/inner thigh stretch.

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5. Back and abs

The core is crucial to keep strong, and I have been on an adventure discovering how I can strengthen it. Moreover, my back is probably the weakest part of my body, so I need to make sure I am ready for my hardest positions: arabesques and attitudes. After doing some torso stretches, I do light abs, light back exercises, and planks.

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Well, I think I covered everything. The goal is to target the whole body. I might do more or less depending on the days, and sometimes I vary the stretches. Overall, these are the targets I focus on before ballet class.

But I want to know how is your routine: what do you do differently and how do you target your body before class?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

5 Reasons Why I want a Second Career

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The old fashion way for dancers was to not go to university, as companies used to hire them pretty young and both companies and dancers dedicated themselves to be successful in their field. In the old times, being a ballet dancer was not considered a low-income career, or an underestimated one. But sadly these days, being an artist is risky.

It is indeed a dream to have a successful, long dance career. And I am working towards having it.

But what happens after you are 40?

The majority of the old-time dancers I mentioned before are either choreographers, teachers, artistic directors, principal couches or ballet masters, producers, theater directors... you name it. The young generation of dancers will not be anything without them. However, for me, these are careers I am not much interested in. Destiny will tell me if I get a job like that after I retire, but right now, these are not my intentions.

I have always had a facility to study, thankfully. I went to good schools and besides the fact that I jumped in between four ballet schools, I had a pretty good dance education as well. But I am a person who loves to learn in both fields, and I do not pretend to stop the habit. 

This brings me to the reasons why I want a Bachelors' Degree when I decide to finish my dance career, and how I would like to apply it:

 

1. I love History, and therefore I want to dedicate myself to this field when I retire

As you may have realized if you read my blog and listen to my podcast, I love to learn and explore Dance History. In case you were wondering what university career path I am seeking, I plan to either dedicate my Bachelors' in Art History, with some extra focus on journalism or communications in order to be able to be a Dance Critic, Historian, do research at theatres, author, journalist,  etc.

 

2. I don't plan to be a teacher

Being a ballet teacher is definitely a way to have extra income when you are dancing, and there are many dancers that are passionate about it and continue to be the best teachers worldwide. I have figured that I do not have the right patience or the ability.

So, instead of going through the Dance Pedagogy path, I plan to apply my knowledge of the art form to educate on a different way. And this brings me to the next point.

 

3. I want to educate audiences

Instead of having a fine patience teach technique, I would love to educate the audience. Spreading the word about art, dance, theatre, and beyond has become an arduous task. Therefore, I plan to build my footprint and challenge myself to educate those who are curious or have no knowledge of ballet at all. This, of course, does not exclude educating dancers about the ballets they are performing.

 

4. I am a learner

Ever since I can remember, I love school. I love starting a fresh school year, buy supplies, sit in a classroom or in front of my computer, and learn. There are so many things in this world we can learn from, and exploring more about my art form is definitely a goal of mine. Besides, keeping my mind occupied whenever I am not in the studio makes me have more productive days overall.

 

5. Flexible studies are available for dancers

Many people have reached me concerned, thinking that I will abandon university plans overall and become a professional dancer. This is not true. As I explained before, I am eager to learn more, and nowadays, it is a myth to think that dancers don't have time to go to university.

And being both is possible!

As a very "rare" example (I always put him as an example), es Steven McRae. He achieved his Bachelors' (Honours) in Business Management, and now he is going for his Masters. Everything with being a Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet.

And Steven is not the only one. Technology opens many doors for us, doors that allow us to study at our own pace and achieve the same degree as a regular university student. And let's not be concerned about age and graduating "as soon as we can," because there is always time to study.

 

These are, overall, the reasons why I plan to study on the side. I have a long way to go, but while I focus on being in shape, dance with the company, and build my career as a dancer, I can always plan for my "retirement at 40" and "the Plan B"

I am excited for both my Plan A and Plan B. For those dancers that are not sure about their pursuing two paths, you have time! Just remember, universities will always be there, but dance does not last forever.

My Inspirations Before a New Work Day

Today is my first full work-day at the studio.

After four months of doing just almost physical therapy, I am writing this post with a new leotard on and drinking a morning smoothie. Getting ready for a new day of company work.

I started to read David Hallberg's "A Body of Work," and it is perfect for this time in particular, as I am coming back from rest. He stopped for two years after double foot surgery (I still don't get to this part of the book, but the introduction gives you a glimpse of his day and how he felt when he could not take a ballet class or rehearse at all).

Lauren Cuthbertson's Nowness video is also a great inspiration to kickstart this day. On stage, she suffered a major injury and that video reflects her coming back (the video is shown below, as well as a link to my shop to buy Hallberg's book).

Lastly, Steven McRae, my ultimate favorite dancer, is also on a journey to recovery. His social media reflects a positive side of starting again with patience and mental strength. This morning, his message was, "Sometimes the hardest battle is against yourself. It's a new week full of challenges and opportunities. Be kind to yourself. Set yourself goals but remember you are human!"

These are the things that remind me that we all go through injuries. However, we all have the opportunity to recover and come back stronger. David, Lauren, and Steven's examples are just a few of many.

As small as my injury was, I am still thankful for the opportunity to reset and start again.

These are my inspirations for a new work day after a long, long break. If you were in the same situation, what would yours be?


 

Injury Update 3: Starting Again

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After four long months, I am finally holding the barre again!

On Monday, I had my very LAST doctor's appointment and had my last session of physical therapy on Saturday.

But going back in time, during my last physical therapy sessions, they were applying a method called "Iontophoresis," which consists of delivering anti-inflammatory medicine directly to the affected area through electrical stimulation. After four of those sessions, I started to feel better and better and proceeded to do more advanced exercises.

No surgery was needed!

I am thankful that my therapist was also a dancer, so she was confident that I could start with small ballet steps and use them as part of my recovery.

Going back to Monday, the doctor gave me an all-clear. However, he knows that ballet is a high-impact activity, and warned me to take extreme care for not starting too fast. Of course, he also told me to keep doing my therapy exercises every day to keep strengthening the affected joint.

I have already taken a few classes and cross-trained a bit more. I definitely feel better, and for sure am very sore. But I know that I do not have to be perfect and that after such a long time without class, the process of recovering and getting back to the shape I was before, needs to be slow. 

If you are wondering how the foot is, I feel it with almost no pain and has a higher range of movement with no difficulties. I just have to be careful to now force my turnout and lift my arches at all times, as doing the contrary makes the ankle angry. (And forcing my ankles' turnout might have been one of the reasons the tendon was suffering on the first place).

I did not kill myself in during my first class at the studio. I knew I was not going to keep up with all the exercises. Luckily, I also have a barre at home so I can keep going with slow-paced movements.

If you are injured, make sure to always think positive, because you will come back stronger!

I will keep you updated with my progress.

Thank you for reading and for your support during this journey.

 

Injury Recovery 2: Clearing the Path

My MRI as for June 2018.

My MRI as for June 2018.

The road is clearing up!

I know I have not been active on social media (or my blog) lately. While I have been busy working for both Tampa City Ballet and America’s Ballet School’s administrative side, I have not been in the mood for posting anything, really. But here is an update:

Finally, after not feeling better after those 5-6 weeks of therapy directed by the doctor, they ordered an MRI. Turns out, I do have a small tear on the tendon.

Good news is, the path is clearing up. The doctor gave me two options: Therapy with ultrasound (which is supposed to be effective on small tears), or have surgery to clean and repair the area.

I have decided to go to the therapy path for two weeks to see how things go. If I am not better, the surgery is the next step.

I am for sure desperate to get to hold the ballet barre again… however, I have to remember that these things happen to everyone and that I am young and full of opportunity to recover quickly.

Will keep you updated while this lasts. Planning to get back into blogging soon!