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Sunday, August 23, 1998
Ballet and body conditioning
By Anup Deb Nath
BALLET is one of the popular dance forms in the West and forms a part of many school curricula. This form of dancing originated in France during the reign of Louis XIV and the word bal means a ball or a dance. Ballet means a little dance.
Michael Baryshnikov and Rudolph Nureyev are ballet dancers who have made a name for themselves. Defined as "a form of theatrical entertainment, ballet has been contained within a strict academic school, marrying dance to the various talents of music and design. Ballet classes always start at the barre, which supports the balance of the body while it completes various routines designed to increase strength and mobility and turnout (a rotation of the entire leg outwards from the hip joint, giving the distinctive classical line associated with ballet and enabling the body to balance more efficiently.)
To take it up as a career you must start learning ballet at a young age of 8 or 9, but to just start learning it as a form of exercise as well as pleasure you could start much later. Ballet has many benefits but it requires you as a person to give it a lot as well. This form of dancing develops a heightened sense of grace and fluidity as well as a very correct alignment of the body. After some years of dedicated hard work, you not only learn and enjoy dancing but strengthen as well as alter your body shape.
Many people who do not learn ballet, do their barre exercises as a part of their own routine. Plie, is a French term which means to bend. Plies are performed as they give pliancy and suppleness to the legs as well warm and tone up the muscles and joints. These also help prepare the body for further work and in the long run are aimed at helping ballet dancers perform the jumps they do so gracefully and effortlessly.
Another ballet exercise that has been incorporated into many regular exercise routines is the port de bras. This is a warm-up exercise that increases the flexibility of the spine, thighs and hamstrings, while the battlements en cloche en attitude (leg swings with a bent knee) help in loosening the hip and knee joints.
Another very popular form of exercise or dance, whichever way you want to look at it, is what they call body conditioning, or dancercise; Simply put, these are vigorous exercises which are designed to strengthen and stretch the body without actually doing dance steps. This routine is a combination of many different exercise and dance forms. A little bit of jazz, a few exercises of ballet, a few steps of modern dance as well as aerobics and callisthenics are all put together in this type of exercise. Each teacher has his or her own unique style and combination and could mix any of the exercise types he desires, to get the body toned and fit.
The benefits of this style of dance is that it is ideal for any age group and is an excellent way to get your body into shape and prepare it for any other dance you might want to learn later on. Even if you are really no good at dance and feel that you are blessed with two left feet, again this form of dance is ideal for you, as it gets you more in touch with music, rhythm and your bodys movements.
While it may not make a Fred Astaire out of you, it would certainly give you some measure of grace, rhythm and coordination while on the dance floor and all the while you would lose weight and tone up your body as well. Easy to pick up and fun to get involved in, dancercise, or body conditioning classes, are very popular in the West.
Just as during exercise you have to keep certain tips in mind, dancers have a few pointers to give aspirants to the field. Firstly, be dedicated and make sure that you do not miss a single day of you practice, if possible. Secondly, remember that miracles are not going to happen overnight and you are going to have to give yourself a minimum of 3-4 months to really see or feel any major benefits.
During exercise be sure to drink enough water. Not only does your body lose water when you sweat, it also loses moisture every time you exhale. Remember to sip your water before exercising rather than gulping it down. Just one glass should suffice, as too much water can bloat your stomach and make breathing uncomfortable by pressing the stomach against the diaphragm.
Meals that are high in carbohydrates are usually a dancers beast bet before exercising. Carbohydrates are quickly converted by the body into glucose which gives your body immediate energy, while food that is high in protein or fat makes your stomach work harder to digest it and thereby gives you less instant energy when you need it.
Dancing your way to a healthier and more toned body certainly sounds like fun and easy to do as well. Well, thats not quite true. Dancing, if taken seriously on its own, is no easy feat. It means years of dedicated training and serious ballet dancers dont miss a days practice or class while they are in their formative years as a dancer. Also in order to be a good dancer you need your body to be in prime condition and shape and that in itself means a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
If you want to treat dance simply as a means to get fit and stay toned while you learn to look good on the dance floor, then it is not as demanding. Dancing simply to stay in shape is a great idea but you have to select a class which makes the dance a fun-filled routine.
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