Today we discuss a very popular topic among ballet dancers (this is quite the opposite of my post about Developing Artistry). In this technique tip, we discuss how to improve your balance in retiré. Balancing in attitude devant, attitude derrière, and arabesque is covered in my post about Attitude/Arabesque Turns and Balances. Let’s get started!
Strengthening the Muscles to Find Support
The 1st matter of business in balancing in any position is to strengthen the muscles that you’re going to use to balance in that position. You can be using the barre to hold yourself up in the position, but if you don’t have the strength, as soon as you let go it will all fall apart. Let’s go through a checklist of muscles to strengthen in retiré, and then create a workout to improve balancing in that position.
Here are the muscles you should be using:
Now, let’s design a quick workout to help strengthen these muscles. If you’re having trouble balancing in this position, try this quick workout before class.
- Torso curls: Lying on your back with your feet on the ground, legs bent, and arms behind your head – slowly curl up through your spine as far as you can, keeping your legs on the floor. Once you can’t go any further, bring the legs off the ground slowly until the knees reach your head. Then put them back down, and reverse the curl until you arrive back at the starting position.
- Torso curls w/ extended arms: Do the same thing as above but with your hands extended towards your legs and keeping the feet off the ground. Just keep curling upwards until your head touches your knees, and then reverse the curl.
- Bicycle ab series: Start on your back with your hands behind your head with straight legs. Come up into a crunch position, as far up as you can go. Lift both legs off the ground at about 25 degrees. Bring your right leg and left elbow to the center to meet eachother, and then return to the extended position with both legs at 45 degrees and your upper body in a crunch. Lower back to the ground with straight legs. Repeat 10 times.
- 50 bicycles
- 50 slow crunches (1 second up, 1 second down)
- Inner thigh series: Lying on your side, cross your top leg in front of the bottom leg. Keeping your upper body on the ground, pulse your leg up to 45 degrees, keeping it off the floor. Do 100 reps. Then lower your leg and bring your upper body off the floor so that you’re propped up on your forearm. Now do 50 reps like this.
- Quadratus femoris series: Loop a medium strength circular resistance band around your legs – just above the knees. Lying on your side, start with 10 clamshells with the foreleg on the ground. Now extend the legs so they’re straight. Do 25 pulses upward with the top leg. Now, bend the legs again and do the clamshells again with the lower leg off the ground, again doing 10 repetitions.
- Squats: Do 10 squats – just to start feeling your quadriceps!
- Rising series: Standing up, start in 6th position. Do 25 elevés. Now, do the same while squeezing a tennis ball inbetween your ankles. Afterwards, stretch your calves before repeating it all again!
- Resistance band foot exercises: 50 point/flex (slowly, really rolling through the feet), 25 1/2 pointes or demi-pointes (lengthening the toes!), 15 super slow 1/2 pointes/flexes with the band only around your big toe, 15 super slow 1/2 pointes/flexes with the band only around the 4 small toes, stretch your calves!
Do these exercises 6 days a week to improve your balance and overall strength. I hope you feel great afterwards, and be sure to send me your feedback.
Improving the Height of Your Retiré
You may be wondering which muscles are used to increase the height of your retiré. The answer to that is your quad and adductors. Your quads are used in the lifting of the femur bone upwards, the increase of the angle of your upper working leg compared to the supporting leg, whereas the adductors are used to decrease the angle between your lower working leg and your upper working leg. The first matter of business is knowing where those muscles are so that your brain can activate them.
If your balancing is fine and you are just looking to improve the height of your retiré, use the following workout (please use the workout above for your balance for reference and descriptions on how to perform the exercises):
- 10 squats
- inner thigh series (see first workout)
- repeat 3 times
Practice Makes Perfect: Finding Your Leg
When it comes to finding your leg, practice makes perfect, always. Starting at the barre, go into your retiré position after doing the balance workout. Then try and let go of the barre. As soon as you let go, don’t let go of everything! Feel your muscles working, and then engage them even more as soon as you let go. You are in control of your body, so don’t let your body take control of your mind. You can tell your body to stay there, you just have to discipline yourself. Practice this daily after class if you are really having trouble with this balance.
Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up until you’ve mastered it! You’ll get there eventually.
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