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With this beautiful Okanagan sunshine in the weather forecast and summer on the horizon, we’re more than aware of our muffin tops, cankles and the regret of poor gym attendance. Unfortunately too much pasta, Okanagan wine and delicious bread does not develop the long lean body that we may admire beachside, in the glossy magazines or at a ballet performance.
While ballet is considered a form of art and expression and we admire the graceful and effortless movement of the dancers during a performance, we should also recognize the incredible amount of stamina, strength, muscle control and dedication of these dancer athletes. Watching them dance, you can’t help notice the long lean legs, their incredible flexibility and the muscular toned arms. They train hard to keep their finely tuned bodies in the best possible shape and as professionals they work hard to achieve and maintain this physique. Ballet Kelowna dancers have 20 hours of rehearsal per week, plus a daily technique class and then after that they usually hit the gym. Like athletes in training both in season and off season, these dancers work hard to perform at their very best when the curtain on that stage is raised.
While the female dancer develops incredible muscular strength and toning in their legs and foot strength from dancing in pointe shoes, the male dancers must also have upper body and arm strength to gracefully lift and suspend the ballerina. In some of the more complex performances, the male dancer will have actually lifted over 1.5 tons of ballerina during the evening! And a three-hour ballet performance is equivalent to two 90 minute soccer games back to back or running 18 miles. These dancers are not only skilled professional dancers but incredibly fit.
While we may not work out and rehearse like the dancers, many of the basic exercises we’ve avoided at the gym would result in us being a few jetés closer to looking like a dancer.
• For dancers, the centre of balance is everything and that’s why ab exercises including crunches and the plank serve two important purposes: strengthening your abdominal muscles which is the foundation of balance and as a bonus, strong abs will help improve posture.
• Using resistance bands for upper body strength building will help sculpt the back muscles that make the ballerinas look so beautiful in their costumes and help give the guys the strength to lift their partner.
• And as ballet dancers rely on their leg strength to maintain proper dance positions and carry them through the difficult choreographed routines, leg exercises are essential. Basic squats and strengthening the calf muscles by raising and lowering your own body weight will build both strength and balance and give us those beautiful dancer legs.
The latest performance from Ballet Kelowna may inspire some to head back to the gym while others may continue to enjoy their pasta, wine and bread while admiring the dedication of these dancer/athletes.