Monday, February 20, 2017

Learning Ballet Again

Lately, I've been trying to get myself back to dancing again, as in really dance. I try to include dance whenever I practice pole on my own. In classes,  I tend to focus more on tricks, spins, getting stronger, trying to not fall or get injured, or trying to convince myself to not wuss out of a trick or combo.  There are times where I find music that I would like to dance to, although lately, I kind of feel I'm running out of steps and transitions.

Going back to ballet after how many years and having no less than Lisa Macuja herself refresh my ballet memory.
I really took the opportunity to say yes when I was invited to try out Ballet for Fitness class to be conducted by no less than Lisa Macuja, the country's prima ballerina. This one-time pop-up class was held at Yoga+ Express in McKinley Hill.. I did take a short 30-minute class before in her newly-opened school in Fisher Mall. This class, however, would be longer (yet still beginner-friendly) and have more moves to learn.

Ballet for Fitness is a class developed for people who would want to learn ballet as a form of exercise. just like how we learn Zumba or ballroom dancing. Although pro ballerinas start their ballet journeys at the tender ages of 6 or 8, it's definitely never too late to dance, even ballet! Ballet is actually one of the hardest (if not, the hardest) dances. Ballet teachers would even say that if you can do ballet, it's easy to dance any other dance.

For ladies' ballet, comfortable exercise clothes are recommended, such as leggings or yoga pants and a comfortable top you can dance in. I had ballet shoes with me since I like the cushioning during floorwork but barefoot is also fine.

Since we didn't have ballet barres so we did the moves sitting down as well as some center work (standing at the center of the room). We were reminded of  the proper ballet form also includes proper posture, shoulders and hips forming one rectangle, or as some dancers would call, within the box.  To visually illustrate the box, check out the form of one of my dance idols, Misty Copeland:

Come to think of it, this is actually very good posture. It even makes you look taller and more confident.  With this established, we did arm exercises, or what is known in ballet as port de bras. In moving the arms, we were also taught how to execute the movement well with our lines, our thumbs hidden touching the line on our middle finger, and elbows slightly bent, like hugging a beach ball.

We did plies (bending the knees) and tendus (exteding the leg out) sitting down and already, I felt the activation of my quads and adductors, reminding me to work on active flexibility.

Lisa explains the proper hand position, where we hide the thumbs to maintain a dancer's line. In Russia, young dancers in training hold coins to remind them of the proper hand shape and position. 
So much things to remember even while seated

Resting adductors. Ballet is an ultimate leg workout.
(notice I kept my toes still pointed, My pole dance teachers would be proud)

Standing up, we applied what we learned seated while standing up as well as combining techniques. We also learned other new techniques like the jete (brushing the leg out, remaining the pointes) and releve, which really tested my balance (and reminded me to keep working both sides), and a surprise, the saute in classical ballet, which is a jump. In this jump, we learn to land safely by landing with soft knees and no sound. This technique is useful in our jump-forwards in yoga, in burpees, or coming out of flips.

I was more sore in this class than our last class in Fisher Mall, probably because we did more things and exercises. As my legs were pretty warm, I used this time for a split practice after class.

As a pole dancer, a refresher ballet class such as this can help increase my dance vocabulary and help me work on my floorwork more so I can combine several combos with some dance floorwork to come up with choreography, meaning better Wednesday choreo videos. Hopefully, learning these dance moves can also improve my muscle memory, so that staying within my box would be natural as well as keeping my hands in the proper position and my knees locked for pretty, long lines. 

Do you have to be a dancer to take this class? No. You can even come to class with zero fitness experience. All you have to do is just show up. These low-impact, flowy classes can exercise both the body and the mind, making dance a fun way to stay fit as well as to keep the brain healthy preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. We all start at level 0 and build up as we get stronger and more coordinated. Just have fun, and make it about the journey. 

Are you curious about Ballet for Fitness classes? Then head over to The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila at the 4th Floor of Fisher Mall, Quezon Avenue. Quezon City. Try a class and see if you like it!

Image Credits:
Class Photos by Luther Abcede
Misty Copeland Photo: 

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