Admittedly, I rarely danced ballet every day; but I did dance regularly. From the age of 10 I took weekly ballet class from my small, local studio. The 30-minute sessions, paired with another half hour of another dance genre, stretched into longer class as I trained to earn my first pair of pink satin pointe shoes. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I found my way into twice weekly ballet elective classes and eventually enrolled in the gruelling, sweat-inducing 100-minute dance major classes.
… Then my ballet journey stopped.
Upon graduation I studied Mandarin on scholarship in Taiwan, which required intensive studying, so dance class as put on the backburner. Then a shoulder dislocation in Bali left me even further away from dance. During a low point, I unwittingly met my British husband in Taiwan. This clearly ended my pity party, and before a year had passed, we travelled across three continents to meet each other’s family and marry. Then we sorted out my visa, so I could (nervously and grudgingly) move to London.
The UK capital has a world-class professional scene, but I found so many excuses not to participate. I was still recovering from my shoulder injury. Travel into central London was expensive (still is) and classes weren’t cheap (still aren’t). Even so, I felt unwelcome and out of ‘dance shape’ when I did go. Needless to say, I didn’t stick with dance – let alone dance every day. I found a full-time job, moved jobs and whaddya know? It’s been five years since I’ve danced regularly.
If you are new or returning to ballet and prefer to dance in the studio,
Everybody Ballet in London may be the class for you!
Ballet Every Day? Bring It On!
Sometimes I still dream about dance. I dream I’m learning choreography in the studio, rehearsing on stage or that I can confidently do 12 pirouettes. (I test my ‘newfound skill’ upon waking to ‘discover’ that I still can’t complete a clean triple.) But I miss the discipline, the freedom of expression, the physical benefits and the brilliant (but occasionally flaky) artists that make up the community. It’s never going to get easier to break back into dance; so, I’m throwing myself into a 10-day ballet barre blitz to see what progress I can make.
I will be dancing ballet every day in my living room, following five free online ballet barre workouts on YouTube. The structure of ballet barre is familiar, and dancing at home should be comforting (albeit a little cramped). I can wear what I like, take long water breaks and not worry about how goofy I look. I hope this 10-day ballet journey will give me a good workout, reawaken my kinesthetic awareness and give the confidence to attend public dance classes…
DAY 1: Classic mini Ballet Barre Workout | Lazy Dancer Tips
Happy Saturday. I’m outfitted in jeggings and a ridiculous ‘dabbing’ unicorn sweatshirt from my sister-in-law. My feet are seriously cramped (inside my socks) inside my new ballet slippers, and I recall the short scene from ‘Step Up 2 The Streets’:
[Girl is being tutored in ballet by boy.]
Girl: ‘Ow. Pointing hurts.’
Guy: ‘Yeah, it’s supposed to. Pull in your stomach… Now, tuck your butt. Keep this leg turned out. Turned out. Turned out!’
There are a million things to do simultaneously in ballet; and I can currently only focus on my legs and the debilitating fire in my arches. I take extra-long pauses between the ballet barre exercises. I make a mental note about my posture (‘keep chest down by engaging my shoulder muscles in the back’), but I soon forget. I dash to get my feet in the right place on the right counts, and I am relieved when the 24-minute video finishes. Coming back to ballet isn’t easy.
DAY 2: Classic mini Ballet Barre Workout | Lazy Dancer Tips
Today’s practice is admittedly more difficult after relaxing at Banya No 1, London’s Russian spa… But I’m feeling spry and eager to continue this 10-day ballet journey. Those debilitating foot cramps come calling one exercise later today (at battement tendu), so that’s progress, I guess. My demi-pliés are lamentably short, and I am shaky in grand plié (partially because I have no barre in my living room and my kitchen does not have consistent wireless signal). Hauling myself up from the deep lunge is especially tricky sans barre. But I soldier on. I even mark the exercise intros at 95%. Admittedly, I feel like an overachiever. Where’s my gold star?
Try these short online ballet barre classes
to keep dancing at home!
DAY 3: Easy Ballet Barre Workout | Kathryn Morgan
Good morning, Monday! I’m up and at ‘em before work since I’ve got an event to attend after the regular 9:00 to 5:00. The music makes me happy, and I can follow the simple exercises without watching the intros. My body quickly warms, but thankfully, my feet aren’t burning with exhaustion. Dare I say they are becoming slightly more articulate – transforming from concrete blocks into delicate cat paws? (Ahh, let the poetic ballet speak and metaphors begin!) Still, I notice that I forget to consciously breathe. I don’t know how I stay alive while I’m scarcely and shallowly breathing, but I believe it results in tight neck and shoulder muscles. Oh well, at least the ballet barre warm-ups are getting easier.
DAY 4: Easy Ballet Barre Workout | Kathryn Morgan
I feel like I’m getting in the swing of things now! I pick up the audio instructions, so I stare at the screen less and dance more, rather than simply mimicking the online ballet barre videos. Dance is more than just movement; it’s embodied movement. Today, I could even address my posture and arm placement. Quite literally, I’m movin’ on up! Hmmm, perhaps it seems obvious, but practising ballet every day seems a good way to make progress…
DAY 5: Adult Ballet Barre | Ballerinas By Night
Another simple ballet class online? Yes, please! Port de bras is improving, but my fingers look more like frozen fish sticks (also called ‘fish fingers,’ get it??) than those belonging to delicate ballerina hands. I’m adding a bit of épaulement – and I’m starting to feel legit! I reckon at the end of this ballet journey, I’ll fit right into a beginner/intermediate ballet class. I’m actually a little sad that my challenge is half-way through, but we’ll see how I feel at the end of the 10 days!
DAY 6: Adult Ballet Barre | Ballerinas By Night
Thursday morning ballet. The ride down to the bottom of grand plié is a lot smoother, and I don’t wobble as much on the way back up. (When I attend real class with a barre, life is going to be so easy!) The fast battement tendus are tricky, and I don’t shift my weight back to center all the time. Either way, the supporting leg seems to be getting stronger, and I’m not sitting into either hip. ‘Hip hip’ hooray!
DAY 7: Ballet Workout: Classical Barre and Stretch | Ballet 24
The barre and stretching sections are easy to follow. However, as I sit and reach forward over my legs, my mid-back protests as much as my hamstrings. And simply sitting in a wide straddle without leaning forward (much less putting my face on the floor) is agony. I elongate my shallow breathing, trying not to let the exhale rattle out, and I curiously remember ‘the good old days’ when I easily could’ve fallen asleep in this stretch… At least the cute little révérence at the end dusts off my bruised ego and restores my soul.
Trying to improve your flexibility?
Make time for a stretch class, like Moving Stretch!
DAY 8: Ballet Workout: Classical Barre and Stretch | Ballet 24
Ahh, Saturday, and working on the weekend. I return home from a full-day seminar (on SEO, in case you’re curious), and I really just want to crawl into bed. But I have to continue my 10 consecutive days of ballet barre warm-ups, so I flip on the video. The energy starts to surge through my body after pliés, and I’m eager to give stretching another go. My body doesn’t stretch much further than yesterday, which makes me think that I should incorporate some yoga into my dance cross-training… And then class is over: quick and (relatively) painless.
DAY 9: Ballet Beginner Barre for Long Lean Muscles | Dansique Fitness
Another day, another ballet barre workout. Pros: My turn out seems to be increasing, as I imagine my inner thigh spiraling back… Cons: I seem to be sitting back on my heels, letting my rib cage float, and allowing too much weight on my working leg during battement tendu. Ahh, the endless to-do list in ballet! If ballet is approached with good technique and artistry in mind, the dancer’s brain can never get bored. At least I kept the working leg hip down during during grand battements. Cha-ching.
Ballet is all about the little victories.
DAY 10: Ballet Beginner Barre for Long Lean Muscles | Dansique Fitness
Today is the last day of my 10-day ballet every day blitz. I’m exuberant, but also a little bit sad. My inner thigh muscles and the muscles sit right underneath my butt are exhausted, but I feel stronger and more confident than I did just ten days ago. Although ideally, I’d love to take ballet class every day forever, life will undoubtedly get in the way. But one of my motivations for creating Dance Dispatches is to inspire myself to keep dancing, and this has been a great start. I am rebuilding my technique and burying my ego. Let the good times roll.
BONUS DAY 11: Morning Class World Ballet Day 2018 | The Royal Ballet
Surprise: The ballet journey isn’t over, yet! The coolest thing about ballet is that beginners and professionals complete many similar exercises. While ballet barre warm-ups vary in complexity, the foundational steps remain the same. So, to celebrate, I am dancing along with The Royal Ballet’s morning ballet class video, broadcast for World Ballet Day 2018. The piano music is grand and inspirational; and the delightful ballet mistress paces around the class with helpful corrections. I am uplifted and look forward to continuing my ballet journey.
Pssst… Ballet fans, you can see a Royal Ballet performance
for free with their BP Big Screens programme.
If you used to dance and stopped, for whatever reason, I hope you will be inspired to get back to the studio or even try learning from home. What dance style do you want to practise? Let us know in the comments below!