With summer being in full swing, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to stay in ballet shape while not actually doing ballet. With many of our companies on break and schools out for the summer, it’s easy to get anxious about losing progress with your dancing. Plus, hopefully you've had a chance or two to take a vacation with family or friends during these slower months;)
With your normal training routine interrupted, you certainly don’t want to spend your entire summer vacation worried about regressing in your ballet. But, nobody likes feeling like they have to start over from square one that first rehearsal back after a long break (you know, that terrible, awkward feeling like you haven’t danced in 3 years when it’s only been 3 weeks?!). So, what do you do?
A major part of my Bad Girl Ballerina Philosophy involves leveling up in ballet without having to be obsessed with it. From a young age, most dancers are taught that we have to dedicate every waking second and ounce of energy to our dancing in order to excel. And so, we spend all day, every day doing some combination of the following:
- Taking multiple technique classes
- Perfecting variations after hours in the studio
- Arriving to the studio an hour or two early to do your pre-class stretching/exercise routine
- Dedicating extra time after class to more stretching
- Taking Pilates, yoga, aerobics, fitness classes
- Studying YouTube videos and demonstrations
- Squeezing in one more round of stretching before bed
Simultaneously, we are conditioned to stay away from the things that might take away from our ballet:
- Hanging out with friends
- Enjoying an indulgent meal that maybe isn’t on your strict diet plan
- Engaging in sports or activities that could possibly injure you
- Sharing a serious relationship with someone because you are worried it will detract from your love of ballet.
- Pursuing other interests and hobbies
- Enjoying a vacation where you can let loose and give your body a rest
That’s all fine…if you are happy with being in the studio or your apartment doing nothing but ballet 24/7/365. But, what if you want more out of life? What if you want to take a vacation and actually let yourself enjoy it? What if you don’t have access to good classes while studios are closed for the summer? What if you want to pursue other hobbies? Is your ballet doomed?
Through my experience as a freelancer, the traditional way of training required too much of a time commitment after a while. I wanted to explore and enjoy more of life…but I wasn’t ready to quit performing either. So, I developed this cross-training system that allows me to improve in my ballet without being chained to it 24/7. This system allows me freedom from the studio and the ability to get out there and do more (#noregrets).
The reason this method of cross-training is so potent is that it focuses on one essential ingredient – STRENGTH. Strength has to be there if you want to be able to improve in your ballet while having the freedom to step away from it. Strength is what allows you to bypass that awkward, messy feeling you tend to get after long breaks. Sure, there is a necessary skill component that can only be addressed with the repetition found in technique class. But, with a little extra strength you can trust your body to be more adept at performing these skills, meaning less repetition required.
So, you can take that week vacation to the Caribbean and do nothing but sip margaritas and lay on the beach without worrying about your technique falling apart. You can skip a day or two of technique classes if your work schedule is overwhelming, and it’s torturous to try and squeeze them in. You can surf, snowboard, play volleyball, hike without being paranoid of injuries.
Having this solid foundation of strength is what allows you to build the lifestyle you want without feeling tied to class every single day. But, the key is cultivating the strength first. You may not be able to get to this point of freedom overnight. It took me years of training to build this foundation where I feel confident not taking class every day. But, the earlier you start building, the sooner you can get out there and enjoy all this life has to offer.