An introduction to ballet
Considered a form of high art, ballet certainly goes beyond your average dance class. However, whether you’re a supreme ballerina or a complete dancing beginner, it can still have a number of health and fitness benefits. Ballet is many centuries old, with its origins lying in the French court and Russian concert venues. It is one of the most difficult dance styles to master, with a complex vocabulary and ultra-competitive ballet schools vying to be the best.
Ballet is normally tightly choreographed and renowned for the graceful, precise movements of its practitioners. It requires great discipline, concentration and muscular strength to fully succeed in the ballet world.
Key fitness benefits of ballet
Ballet dancing has many key health and fitness benefits, in addition to those already associated with dance exercise. Benefits of ballet include the following:
Ballet helps develop streamlined muscles - Ballet requires strong upper and lower body strength, especially in core muscles. As a result, regular ballet exercise will build up key muscle groups over time, streamlining and strengthening them so they become nice and toned …
Ballet boosts suppleness and flexibility - Strong ankles and knees are required to deal with the immense physical pressures of ballet dancing. As a consequence, it’s no surprise that taking part in regular ballet sessions will soon lead your joints to become more supple and better able to deal with the exertion of ballet dancing.
Ballet helps improving posture - If you constantly find yourself slumped over your desk at work, or sinking into your sofa whilst watching TV shows about the sleeping habits of sloths, ballet could offer a postural solution. This style of dance is just great for straightening out your back and forcing you to dance in an upright position. Slouching just won’t cut it in the ballet world.
Ballet encourages graceful movements - There’s nothing worse than feeling like a clumsy oaf, stomping round the shops on a Saturday morning with feet of clay. Thankfully though, ballet could soon cure your clod-hopping gait, with its precise and highly disciplined movements teaching your body the importance of being nimble and light on your feet. So glide your way to ballet success ... and your stomping days could soon be over.
Key styles of ballet
Ballet dancing takes three main forms: classical, neo-classical and contemporary. All of these styles offer variants on ballet’s core demands of precise movement, careful arm positioning and nimble steps ...
Classical ballet -This form of ballet focuses on the importance of perfect movement, with most routines stemming from the outward rotation of the thighs from the hips. Lower body strength is vital here, with strong legs and a sturdy core important for tricky turns. Flexible feet are also required for dancing en pointe (on the toes).
Neo-classical ballet - Neo-classical ballet follows similar procedures to its classical parent but is much more flexible, allowing for faster-paced tempos and more varied maneuvers. The focus remains on structure, posture and precise movements, but neo-classical ballet arguably offers more creative freedom than the classical form.
Contemporary ballet -The most contemporary version of ballet dancing adopts stylistic traits of both classical ballet and modern dance. Its technique and penchant for pointe work stem from the classical genre, but it also allows for a greater range of movements that reach beyond the strict body lines of its earlier form. Aspects of contemporary ballet, such as floor work, are derived solely from modern dance routines.
What to expect from your first ballet class
Ballet can be an elitist form of dancing so it’s important to choose carefully before embarking on any classes, to make sure your prospective school or center is right for your needs.
Nevertheless, most beginner classes will be friendly affairs, allowing you to boost your body’s health and fitness whilst taking part in a form of artistic expression. Most classes should allow you to develop your dancing at a pace that suits you, and lessons can be very soothing with soft classical music.
Key ballet dancing tips and more information
Ballet may have an outdated image as a snobbish and pretentious dance designed only for Russian prima donnas, but that doesn’t mean it is completely inaccessible. In fact, ballet is a rewarding and hugely enjoyable style of dance that will offer new social outlets as long as you shop around before settling on a school or a teacher. Don’t worry too much about expensive ballet gear either; all that is really required for successful dancing are ballet shoes and some loose exercise clothing.
Sources of further ballet dancing information include:
- The Video Dictionary of Classical Ballet (DVD)
- Ballet with Style (DVD)
- Ballet Basics by Sandra Noll Hammond (book)