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Ballet Exercises You Can Do At Home

by | Jan 4, 2015 | Articles, Learning Beyond Class, Lifestyle

Whether you’re enrolled in a class, or just want to vary your fitness routine, there are simple ballet exercises you can practice at home. If you don’t own a ballet barre, use the back of a chair, or a counter top for support. Also, you’ll want to clear a space so you can move freely. While these 5 exercises are fairly easy to maneuver, always use caution in confined spaces!

1. Plié aka squats

black & white image of dancer at barre in plié

Plies are the most basic movement in ballet. Start in first position, by placing your heels together, and letting your feet form the letter V. Slowly bend your knees, then straighten. This motion strengthens your quadriceps, or upper thighs. Also, when as you straighten your knees, squeeze your gluteals, or butt muscles, as you come up. Do four sets of eight plies. Then, if you’re able to, bend your knees in a wide diamond shape until your heels come off the floor. This is called grand plie, or big plie. If you have bad knees, take it easy, and avoid doing this step.

2. Cambré aka arm circles

two dancers against white brick background in cambré

Cambre means to “arch”. While not exactly the same as arm circles, it’s a great warm-up for the upper body and arms. Standing in first position, with one hand supported, and the other to your side, lift your arm over your head and gently arch your body backwards, letting the arm follow. As you return upright, let your free arm extend to the side, and then slowly bend your body forward from the waist, letting the arm drop down towards the floor. This exercise can also be done without moving the body at all. This is called port de bras, or “carry of the arms”; standing upright the entire time, simply extend your arm above your head, as if you are trying to reach the ceiling, then let it extend to your side, and eventually let it float down under your abdomen (like your holding a bowling ball). When done fluidly, this exercise improves grace and increases mobility in the shoulder joint.

3. Relevé aka calf raises

ballet dancer feet in rélevé

Relevé is great for toning the lower leg. Standing in first position, simply lift your heels off the floor, and rise to the balls of your feet. The trick is to keep your knees as straight as possible as you rise. Then, slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Do a set of eight, then finish with a plie. Doing a plie immediately after each set helps stretch the achilles tendon and calves to reduce post-workout strain. As you become accustomed to the sensation, you can repeat this exercise faster if you wish.

4. Développé aka leg lifts

male dancer in développé in front of bright window

Développé means literally “to develop”, and is an excellent way to strengthen your legs, butt, and core. Standing in first position, with one hand supported, place your other hand on your hip. On the side where you have your hand on your hip, lift your knee along with your lower leg off the floor, then extend your leg straight in front of you. It does not have to be high, but make sure your knees are straight, and your toes are pointed. Then, let your leg float down to first position where you started. Repeat the same movement to the side of your body, then behind you. As you lift your leg and extend it, engage your abs by keeping them pulled into towards your spine. As you advance, try doing this exercise without a support. You will find it improves balance and strengthens your core.

5. Sauté aka jumps

blurred image of dancer legs in sauté, or jumping

Sauté is a small jump, or hop. This increases stamina and gives your entire body a workout. Think of it as jumping rope without the rope. Starting in first position, hands on your hips, do a small plie, then jump up straight, pointing your toes. Always land in a plie. Try to land toes first, then balls of the feet, arch, then heel.This will help guard against shock compression that cause shin splints or sprain. Do one set of eight, and notice your heart rate increase. Be sure to breathe, and if you have bad knees, take caution. If you’re advanced, try doing a rapid set of eight. If you want more of a challenge, go slower, using a deeper plie with each jump. Feel the burn!

These are just a few basic exercises you can do at home. Giving yourself a little homework outside of the classroom will help improve your technique and boost your confidence. Just be careful when attempting any changes in your fitness routine.

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Hi I’m Nikki, The Last Dancer. My whole life has been influenced by dancing and this shop focuses on items that speak to a dancer’s entire lifestyle. If you found yourself here, my hope is that this website offers you inspiration too. The shop contains my own products and the blog is original content.

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