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Daily ballet classes, including work at the barre and in the center, are the core of any dancer's preparation for ballet performance. To get the most out of a ballet class, you need a solid general fitness level. Also, even professional dancers will supplement ballet classes with other activities to correct muscle imbalances, recover from injuries and achieve optimal performance. Before beginning or modifying training for ballet, consult a health care provider.
Stretch frequently to increase your ability to perform ballet movements and to prevent injury. Good turnout, or external rotation of the hips, is crucial to all ballet movements. Many ballet movements also require flexible hamstrings, hip flexors, inner thigh muscles and back. Full or partial splits, side splits and frog stretches increase leg and hip flexibility. Use back and side bends to increase upper-body range of motion. Develop a habit of stretching whenever possible, including while reading, watching TV, surfing the Internet or chatting on the phone.
Ballet demands core body and leg strength. Perform resistance exercises twice a week, focusing on calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, back and abdominals. Perform strengthening exercises such as squats and leg presses with feet turned out as well as parallel, making sure to keep your knees directly in line with your middle toes throughout the movement. Single-leg calf raises, calf raises holding weights and plies and calf raises on a BOSU Ball build the strength and balance needed for pointe work.
A standard ballet class lasts for a full hour, and some run 90 minutes. Perform cardiovascular exercises to build your endurance for ballet classes and performances. Avoid running, as combining it with ballet may place excessive stress on your feet and legs. Instead, focus on nonimpact or low-impact exercises such as bicycling, rowing, swimming or using an elliptical trainer.
Ballet dancers are expected to be slender, both for aesthetic reasons and the practical issues of partnering, but a malnourished, underweight or anorexic dancer won't have the strength to perform well in class or on stage. To attain an appropriate dance weight without nutritional deficiencies, avoid empty calories, and consume mainly whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Consult a professional dietitian or other health care provider to develop an eating plan that is nutritionally sound.