I think we all agreed pretty quickly to put 2020 behind us (just like our arabesques, ha). Especially for us dancers.. What a year it's been.. Even though, let's be honest with ourselves here, new year's resolutions are pretty hard to keep, here is one we definitely should try to stick with! 😘
Have you ever had that moment in class when you realize that the girl next to you in adagio has no back bones??? I know I have. It keeps churning in your mind... HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?? Well, some dancers are just naturally born blessed with what seems like elastic bones. We cannot fight with genetics BUT we can definitely "bend" Mother Nature's rules (get the pun here? haha I know, don't judge me).
So, let's look ahead and create our new and improved 2021 arabesques together!
As I am not 20 anymore, I have had time to figure out what works for me. We have so many options as dancers for cross training and for me yoga has much improved my back flexibility.
Let's start with the staples:
First, here is a standard yoga back warm up that I love: the Cat-Cow!! 🐱🐮 Here demonstrated by my friend and former Carolina Ballet colleague Mandy Gerhardt! Follow her @pointe2yoga on Insta. 🧘
Second, here is a wonderful Sun Salutation demonstrated by my dear friend and Ballet Nice Méditerranée colleague Théodore Nelson. (He's half French, half American, like me 😉). Follow him on Insta @theoyann_nelson, he's fierce. Indispensable.
Your back is now nicely opened up, warmed up and looser. We can go to the next couple of steps which will require a roll, whichever one you have.
- First let's stretch our quadricep thigh muscles as well as your psoas (front of the hip). The Psoas is often neglected and we don't realize how crucial it is to have it warmed up and stretched out for arabesque. (My friend Mandy is featured for the psoas stretch:))
- Now, you are ready to gently place the ankle of your arabesque leg on the roll and get into a split. RELAX into the position and do not grip your gluteus muscles (butt muscles) nor the small of your back. Stay there about a minute or so and do the other side. You can repeat it one more time right and left leg. Always just about one minute each. There is always one side better than the other so don't be upset when you do your right leg and it feels like you have 3 extra ribs in there. 😂 Keep at it.
In my many years of teaching, I have encountered a few recurring habits which seem to make arabesque matters a little worse... Let's address the utmost culprit: the retracted neck...
I know it always comes from a good place meaning that we want to get our leg up to please the ballet aesthetics but by doing so, we squeeze our back muscles, tense our ribcage and retract our neck. All of this results to the energy staying inwards through your extremities rather than outwards. Instead, try to lift your chin, feel the air and space between your chin and chest, align your chin angle to the height of your front hand. Feel the flow through your finger tips and toes so you can lengthen the position to its best. Your standing leg should be like a pillar from your foot to your hip and have energy behind your knee. Everybody loves a good don'ts and dos picture comparison so here it is:
So there it is 2021!!!! Bring it on! Our arabesques will wow everyone!! I wish you all my dear readers, a better and brighter new year and I only hope that you will find yourselves in your studios very soon. Keep strong and set yourselves some goals to keep your soul alive. ✨✨✨
Photo by @jojo_mars