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Thread: Figure Skating and Ballet

  1. #16
    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Ballet does more than teach "performance art" or "grace" and some of those reasons are why it's a good match with figure skating as off ice training:
    1) Ballet works your core muscles and you use them in a similar way in ballet that you do figure skating (they are the focal point of each exercise in ballet just like they are the key to every element in skating)
    2) Ballet is about "relaxed tension" which figure skating is about. By "relaxed tension" I mean that the best skaters and dancers look relaxed and confident (shoulders in the right place - down and back, head in the right place - up, not tucked, chest up, core extended) but have that tension to complete the elements (like a wound spring almost) and need to make them look effortless.
    3) Ballet teaches body awareness, especially when practiced in front of a mirror

    I took up skating again as an adult. While a lot of things came back to me and I've learned a lot of things, my presentation ability and body awareness didn't improve until I took up ballet again. With ballet, you gain an innate understanding between slightly off and right, especially for the three reasons I stated above.

  2. #17
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    Much as I love the ballet vocabulary, gkelly, I think you're probably right that it's best if skating comes first chronologically and also in terms of priority, though there has to be enough ballet to internalize the language of movement--it can't be just an hour or so a week. The only truly "bilingual" person I can think of is Katherine Healy. I can't put my hands on the book about her at this moment (A Very Young Skater) by Jill Krementz), but I know that she began both very early; she was only about ten when the book was written and was already proficient at both. Keeping in mind that triple jumps weren't as much of an issue in those days (1979), and school figures were still part of competition. So the athletic demands of skating weren't as strenuous. Also, Healy turned pro very early on--as a young teenager, I think--and skated mostly in performance format. (Where she competed, ironically, was in ballet.) I don't think there could be a successful Katherine Healy today in skating. But I'm sure glad there was one back then. She was a delight to watch in both her pursuits. Here's a tape that shows both of her skills. She does a spreadeagle that bends as far back as an Ina Bauer, and that lovely 180-degree leg position spiral that Sasha does? Healy does it moving backward. Wow. But you can see that her jumps are not the kinds of jumps that YuNa or Slutskaya can unleash. There's a trade-off.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_QhuJrDVW0
    Last edited by Olympia; 03-08-2012 at 08:51 AM.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    2) Ballet is about "relaxed tension" which figure skating is about. By "relaxed tension" I mean that the best skaters and dancers look relaxed and confident (shoulders in the right place - down and back, head in the right place - up, not tucked, chest up, core extended) but have that tension to complete the elements (like a wound spring almost) and need to make them look effortless.

    I wish more skaters would work on this 'relaxed tension' in their upper body and free leg when they're spinning or in a spiral. People think 'ballet arms' as a certain pose or shape the arms are held in, but really its about an even fluid tension that rises from your core travels through your shoulders down your arm all the way to your finger tips. To me, it relates to the curve made in the ice by a skate on an edge.

    I think of turn out in the same way - a way to express the curves of an edge through your body. It's not just some arbitrary style or posture.

    The point about body awareness is a great one. Talked to a 20 something dancer who went downhill skiing for the first time last weekend. She really enjoyed figuring out how to use her body to work the edges of the ski. Years of dance had taught her how to pay attention to little details in her body (and given her a strong core too!)

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    Ballet does more than teach "performance art" or "grace" and some of those reasons are why it's a good match with figure skating as off ice training:
    1) Ballet works your core muscles and you use them in a similar way in ballet that you do figure skating (they are the focal point of each exercise in ballet just like they are the key to every element in skating)
    2) Ballet is about "relaxed tension" which figure skating is about. By "relaxed tension" I mean that the best skaters and dancers look relaxed and confident (shoulders in the right place - down and back, head in the right place - up, not tucked, chest up, core extended) but have that tension to complete the elements (like a wound spring almost) and need to make them look effortless.
    3) Ballet teaches body awareness, especially when practiced in front of a mirror

    I took up skating again as an adult. While a lot of things came back to me and I've learned a lot of things, my presentation ability and body awareness didn't improve until I took up ballet again. With ballet, you gain an innate understanding between slightly off and right, especially for the three reasons I stated above.
    Mskater93, thank you so much for your brief explanation on the needs to learn ballet and/or dance excercises.

    About core mustles and relaxed tension you explained, these things are what Dai recently has found out thru his ballet excercises.
    After he removed a bolt fo the knee, he has started ballet trainings seriously for the first time in his life since last fall.
    Though he trains twice a week only, he learns a lot of new things, and admits these trainings help hima great deal for his flexibility, body lines and postures. He appreciates a lot, and says he regrets he did not start that earlier.
    I presume, he thinks he could have avoided that knee injury if only he could have started it at an early age, maybe?

  5. #20
    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivy View Post
    I wish more skaters would work on this 'relaxed tension' in their upper body and free leg when they're spinning or in a spiral. People think 'ballet arms' as a certain pose or shape the arms are held in, but really its about an even fluid tension that rises from your core travels through your shoulders down your arm all the way to your finger tips. To me, it relates to the curve made in the ice by a skate on an edge.
    Yes, this is exactly what I mean.

  6. #21
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    Thanks, mskater93, ivy, and the others of you who are knowledgeable about the effects of ballet training for skaters. It's satisfying to realize the importance of this training for more than just the look of a skating program (though of course ballet benefits that as well).

  7. #22
    Constable , Costume Police colleen o'neill's Avatar
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    I started doing this on my wordpad yesterday, because I knew I'd get caught up in other things. Then this morning , I find mskater and ivy have made excellent posts ,and I agree completely with what they've said.

    I'm always arguing for the inclusion of ballet in a skater's training , but part of that is because ballet lessons are pretty widely available. It could just as well be modern dance ( a la Martha Graham , e.g. ) , rhythmic gymnastics ..anything that trains the student to be aware of , to use and control their whole body simultaneously , keeps them centred and develops balance and presentation. Since both of these other disciplines borrow from , or incorporate ballet in their regimen , I usually just cite ballet when discussing the question.

    ( I should note that when I refer to balance I don't mean just the ability to hold an extension on one leg, I also mean the ability to change feet , change direction, postion etc. quickly and fluidly and still keep centred )

    Also , I don't mean to say that every skater should look classically balletic in style in every program. Style can be variable and change with the choreography , or the skater may develop a unique style of their own that is recognizable in everything they do. Ballet can help in the one case , and certainly shouldn't hinder the other.

    Ballet will also strengthen areas like weak ankles , or the muscles that support the knees, so the skater who was cited earlier as having too much flexibility in these areas must have had a natural weakness ; it wouldn't have been caused by ballet , it should have been helped , if the training was good. Ballet will also increase the student's natural jumping elevation on the floor, so I can't imagine it would work counter to jumping ability on the ice , though I realize there are also skating-specific techniques that come into play.

    When people say OK but get the skating first, I want to know do they literally mean skate only first for a few years and then try to pick up some ballet , or do they mean do both but make skating the priority ? If it's the former, it's asking for problems that could be avoided. For example, once a stiffness in the upper back shoulders and arms has been allowed to set in, when you try to address it say ,in the late teens or early twenties..yes, you can make improvement, but the result won't ever be as good as if it had been developed at an early stage, when the bones and muscles (including the brain muscle.. ) are still supple and pliable.

    If it's been trained all along, the relaxed tension mskater speaks of is just there.It will be completely natural.
    It takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to try to fix these problems at a late stage...time that could be spent refining a program , or any number of other ways.

    Also, in the areas where ballet can provide strength and support , say knees, ankles , back , e.g., it can help a skater avoid injury that they may be susceptible to without that training...injuries that may come from doing something repeatedly without that strength and support.

    So I say whether it's ballet ,or_? ... make it an integral part of the training from the get go. It doesn't have to take an equal amount of time as on ice..skating should be the priority... but it should be a regular , daily part of the regimen.
    Last edited by colleen o'neill; 03-08-2012 at 03:16 PM.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by colleen o'neill View Post
    When people say OK but get the skating first, I want to know do they literally mean skate only first for a few years and then try to pick up some ballet , or do they mean do both but make skating the priority ? If it's the former, it's asking for problems that could be avoided. For example, once a stiffness in the upper back shoulders and arms has been allowed to set in, when you try to address it say ,in the late teens or early twenties..yes, you can make improvement, but the result won't ever be as good as if it had been developed at an early stage, when the bones and muscles (including the brain muscle.. ) are still supple and pliable.
    Keep in mind that for the most part skaters who go on to reach elite levels sometimes start skating (though not necessarily focused training) even before they start school, often by age 7, and almost all before age 10. For the first part of those years they may just be having fun on the ice and later decide to get serious.

    The girls may also take ballet lessons for fun -- it's pretty rare at least in North America for little boys to take ballet for fun. They'll study it if they want to be dancers or if they think it will help them with sports (skating or otherwise), but that's usually a bit older when they're ready to get serious about something.

    The point when a skater decides to get serious about training for competitive figure skating would be the most likely time to start thinking about complementing the on-ice training with off-ice disciplines such as ballet. They may already be working on double jumps by the time they make that decision.

    And some preteen and teen girls might decide to do both skating and dance classes for fun without aiming for elite levels.

    As I mentioned, most ballet techniques will be beneficial for skating. There are a few that can interfere with skating techniques. So it's important that a skater who is serious about being the best possible skater s/he can be (and not necessarily the best possible ballet dancer) works with ballet instructors who do not insist on overtraining skills that will be counterproductive for the skating.

    Also someone who comes to skating at an older age having already trained for years to be a ballet dancer will need to unlearn some habits. But if it's at an older age, they're probably not aiming at elite skating. And the dance training will certainly mostly be a help compared to no prior training.

  9. #24
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    Greetings all!

    I've been reading since autumn but just registered.

    I agree with mskater93's points about the advantages of ballet - if it really gets in your body, the way in which you present, particularly with your upper body, will always reflect this. I danced for 7 years before starting to skate at 12. Ballet got me off to a running start in skating - it gave me a good sense of musicality, a killer spreadeagle and I picked up jumps quickly ( I had been more of a jumper that a turner in ballet). I found spinning much more challenging, in part because dancers "spot" (stare at a spot on the wall and snap the head back to it on each turn), whereas you'd probably break your neck if you did that during a spin. Despite the advantages of ballet, I never felt I achieved the sense of skating from the blade up that the best skaters at my rink had. Of course, none of this was at the elite level, but it may be interesting to add some anecdotal ballet-than-skating experience to the discussion...

    Re the trend towards ballet choreography, ITA that the ballerina look isn't one size fits all (and can often, IMO, be quite a snoozefest). One of the things that drew me to skating as a viewer and participant was the freedom of expression, particularly in comparison with ballet. I'd be curious to know if anyone (perhaps Kirk or Ota?) managed to combined dancing en point w/FS training...one's poor feet!
    Last edited by double_flip; 03-08-2012 at 06:51 PM. Reason: missing text and rectification of T9-related typos.

  10. #25
    Constable , Costume Police colleen o'neill's Avatar
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    gkelly..Those are good points, and we're really not so far apart on this. I would agree that when a skater decides to take a competitive track is the time to get serious about it. But that can still be at a pretty young age.

    And of I course mean that the training should be appropriate for age and intent. Having said that , even at the having fun stage , a little bit of carriage and port de bras ( usually disguised as make believe in ballet classes ) could easily be included, and still be part of having fun on the ice.

    I've known ballet teachers who had skaters for students and they had no problem adjusting where they put the emphasis in training for that student.They had discussed their particular needs beforehand. Ideally , if it could be incorporated into the training ,the ballet teacher could have a class just for skaters,which would be more efficient and none of the students wouldn't feel like the odd man out .
    Last edited by colleen o'neill; 03-08-2012 at 06:46 PM.

  11. #26
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    Yes, there are definitely ballet teachers who give classes at rinks (many of which have dance studios for off-ice training) or have an arrangement with a rink to refer skaters to their nearby studio.

    Some resources:

    http://www.balletforfigureskaters.com/
    http://reflectionsinverse.blogspot.c...nd-figure.html
    http://iceskatingresources.org/Balle...lationship.pdf

    http://everythingfigureskating.com/p...choreographer/

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by colleen o'neill View Post
    gkelly..I've known ballet teachers who had skaters for students and they had no problem adjusting where they put the emphasis in training for that student.They had discussed their particular needs beforehand. Ideally , if it could be incorporated into the training ,the ballet teacher could have a class just for skaters,which would be more efficient and none of the students wouldn't feel like the odd man out .
    I agree with you, especially the above part, your suggestion for classes just for skaters by professional ballet teachers, discussing with skating coaches their particular needs in skating beforehand.

    Sorry to bring up Daisuke again, some of you may think...but this was eaxctly how Dai felt as a boy in late teen: 'odd man out there'.

    From his days as a kid skater, Dai was well aware of his unflexibility was his huge disadvantage, and understood the needs for ballet excercises all along; e.g. can't do a spread eagle or ina bauer, can't hit difficult positions on spin.

    When Dai was asked 'why did not you start ballet at an earlier age?', he answered something like this.

    "Even before taking any lessons, I alreadly knew I could not hit any good positions the instructor tells me to do, due to my unflexibility. I hated to feel embarrased by my inability, hated to see my rather ugly positions which I have to face in the mirror. Did not want to feel disappointed by myself. That's why I was hesitant to ballet for years."

    He was very impressed by ballet dancers, regardless of their ages, even kid dancers, they understands very well about their own body, such as bone structures, the mechanism of muscles, even names of smaller bones and muscles, and knowledge on nutrition, of course.

    Now he pays much closer attentions to his body, Dai says, not only while in skating but in his daily life; straighten up the back, walk properly, or sit on a chair properly.

    I can clearly see his efforts and its progress for better body lines/postures in his skating this season; e.g. his Exhibition program The Crisis, more stretched out leg position in his sit spins. I hope these excercises will help to improve his camel position, too.
    Last edited by deedee1; 03-08-2012 at 08:19 PM.

  13. #28
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    Ballet is basically the fundamental of dance and you probably won't find a professional dancer out there (with the exception of street styles etc) who hasn't taken ballet to build their core and lines and make them more aware of their body. Years ago, when I competitive danced, even if we didn't compete in ballet, we still had to take it. In no way were we allowed to compete in jazz, tap, modern etc. without having it. I think it would be beneficial for almost any athlete to take it, but that's probably never going to happen lol. Let's be honest, a lot of hockey, baseball and football players could probably avoid a ton of injuries (hip flexors, groin, back etc) if they worked on their flexibility more. It could be argued that pilates would make for a great skater workout as it's all about your core and building flexibility (balance and control). I think Johnny Weir did it. It's an amazing workout. I agree that not every skater has to look or act balletic, but it gives them the fundamental posture they need to create beautiful, unbroken lines. And again, it can make a body more resilient when it comes to potential injuries and wear and tear. JMO

  14. #29
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Doubleflip, Welcome to Golden Skate! Post long and often.

    Katherine Healy definitely did both skating and en pointe work.

    Healy as a ballerina at 13:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV29vY3uBTk

    Healy as a skater at 15:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooM0ow-7n1g

  15. #30
    the Golden Era sky_fly20's Avatar
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    well doesn't most figure skaters have ballet classes ?

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