Knees

Ever since I decided to throw myself 110% into Tap Dancing, I have found that it has affected my knees a bit, depending on what exercises we’ve been doing. The culprits for me have been things like shunts and stomps. I’ve been dancing fine, but then hobbling around like an old lady at the weekends. I did start to wonder if this was just part of starting Tap in your thirties, but after doing a bit of reading around, I realise it is probably more a case of needing to strengthen the muscles that actually hold the knee in place. I have to say it has helped a lot after just a week!

Blausen_0597_KneeAnatomy_Side

My top exercises for dodgy dance knees:

  • Demi-pliés – in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions
  • Developpés…slowly
  • Tendu
  • Sitting on the floor and raising each leg alternately to strengthen the quads
  • Leg raises while lying on your front to strengthen the hams

So basically a mini ballet class! I just used a chair (as my purple foldaway ballet barre is currently in storage). It also helps to stretch the quads and hamstrings on a daily basis.

Review: Sleek Technique Ballet Bootcamp

This afternoon I did the Sleek Technique Ballet Bootcamp DVD workout.

In the introduction the instructors, professional dancers Flik Swan and Victoria Marr, draw you in with how this workout will give you the “ballerina body you always wanted” and give an explanation of the ballet positions.

The warm up is the same as the Barre Technique DVD, so more arm swinging to get warmed up!

There are then 3 Bootcamp workouts to do either individually or one after the other if you are super fit and hardcore!

Bootcamp 1 gave a challenging workout with plies, chasses, planks (which I hate!), reverence, and arabesque twists. I particularly enjoyed the jete sequence. The mat work had those planks which were really tough! I felt like a lump of lead. Anyway, they’re so good for your core. Plus the leg work is great for lengthening tight hams like mine at the moment.

Bootcamp 2 had an arm cardio section, and my arms were burning way before this, so it was tough, but so good. You can really feel those muscles working! The arabesque section really tests your coordination. There are plenty of balance and core exercises on this DVD!

Bootcamp 3 was my favourite because it was a bit more dancey with weight transfer, arabesque, attitude and port de bras. I need to watch the circular port de bras again because I’m sure i did it wrong, but you can’t really watch the screen while doing it. The floor work is once again excellent for core and leg building.

The DVD ends with a good cool down section.

Verdict: I prefer this DVD to the Barre Technique one. I was less concerned about pulling muscles and bad technique (although still possible when moves are sped up) and there were plenty of teaching and technique points throughout, i.e. things you forget when concentrating on something else. It is definitely a bootcamp; I was dripping with sweat and everything was working! It is probably more manageable and enjoyable to just do one of the workouts because they are quite tough if you do them properly.

Give it a go! You’ll be sculpted in no time.

Summer

This week I have been doing daily ten minute Aerobics from YouTube to try and get some cardio into my routine. It seems I have hurt my right shoulder so I had to skip last night’s Floor Barre class. Actually I wonder if Floor Barre caused it!

Next week is the start of The Place’s Summer School. I’m not taking part, but it is something I would be interested in next year, particularly if the do Contemporary Jazz again. £65 for the week is pretty good I think. 

This year’s line up has Hofesh Schechter (week 1), Avant Garde Dance (week 2) and Rambert (week 3), with contemporary, ballet and Jazz classes. A great opportunity to learn from the professionals! 

Speaking of which. I’m looking again at the Brighton Tap Festival and am thinking about getting a 2 class pass for £45. It will be a good excuse for a day off work! 

Oh, and I think my Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes arrived! 

Tap and Kelly

I always seem to burn myself out, so today I made the decision to focus on one thing this Autumn and stick with Rhythm Tap classes. I am working in Human Resources in London 4 days a week (1.5 hr commute door-to-door), I run my own small craft business from home, which I concentrate on on Fridays (sometimes this leeches into Saturday or Sunday), I have recently started doing some HR qualifications, self-study, which I have 18 months to complete, and then I am trying to fit in 2 dance classes a week!

I went to Rhythm Tap on this sweltering Wednesday evening and I enjoyed it so much! As I said I would, I spoke to my teacher afterwards about my dilemma of level 2 being too late for getting home at a decent hour mid-week, and asked if it was worth continuing with the daytime level 1 class for practice, to which she replied ‘definitely’ and that with that one being a much smaller class, she can adapt to my ability and give me more challenging things to do (which she does)!

I also went to the second of 5 Floor Barre summer classes last night at City Lit and I found it pretty tough going, as though I’d never done any exercise or dance in my life; as though I was completely core-less! A girl behind me summed it up perfectly “It’s too much after a day at work. I’m so shattered”.LOL. Then I remembered how shattered I was last term doing Wednesday night and Thursday lunchtime classes, so that kind of sealed it for me. I feel kind of sad not to be returning to the Barre in September, but it gives me a chance to perhaps do my Ballet DVDs (not the same, I know) and have recovery time in-between.

Another thing, I recently subscribed to Pointe Magazine and then this week the distributor contacted me to say the magazine has ceased print! Boo! I think they will continue digitally, but I don’t have an iPad. So, I got £30 back in my bank account! At least I can continue to read all their articles online, as well as Dance and Dance Spirit.

Jason Samuels Smith Tap Shoes by Bloch
Jason Samuels Smith Tap Shoes by Bloch

Anyway, the positive of these two refunds is that I have the money to purchase those AMAZING Jason Samuels Smith White Tap Shoes that I have been drooling over for months! I actually tried them on in the Bloch Covent Garden shop while I was waiting to go to my Floor Barre class, and oh wow they are so comfy! (I also saw my Interior Design idol Kelly Hoppen walking by with her team!) Anyway…the shoes were a perfect fit, so I ordered them this afternoon!

 

Kelly Hoppen

DVD Review: Sleek Barre Technique

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Seeing as I missed Floor Barre on Thursday due to illness, I decided to use Sunday morning to try out one of my new Ballet workout DVDs from the gals at Sleek Technique, Sleek Barre Technique. (Although you can see that there are 3 DVDs in the box set, I am reviewing Barre today. More to follow!)

The workout is split into sections, with an introduction and tutorial at the beginning to cover the main feet and arm positions, ballet terminology and tips, such as lifting out of your waist. After this comes a warm up of squatting and fairly quick arm swinging to get those muscles ready for the next bit.

The main workouts are Barre 1, 2 and 3, which are 20 minutes each and each have some floor work before launching into the familiar exercises we do at the barre, such as plie, tendu, pique, fondu, grand battement, arabesque, retire, attitude. I used a chair in the living room rather than my barre and I really enjoyed the practice of these exercises, especially on Barre 2, but I did find them quite fast, particularly the transitions between them.

If you are a complete beginner to ballet, I think it is best to watch the sequences through first to get an idea of what you will be doing and to gauge the speed of it. As someone who has been doing ballet classes for about 2 years on and off and having danced other styles a lot longer than that, I struggled to keep up or perform the correct technique before they had moved on to the next thing. As a dancer, I don’t want to get into bad or sloppy habits or injure myself, so that’s probably why.

The demonstration of the movements is good, the filming is good (no legs cut off at vital moments!) and I love the warehouse setting and their Bloch leotards. Barre Technique is excellent for toning, strengthening, lengthening muscles, building a strong core, posture and speed. I looked up some reviews on Amazon and lots of non dancers seemed to say it was a great workout and easy to follow, but the dancers like myself had the same issue of compromised technique!

Verdict: a good fitness supplement to regular ballet class attendance. Practice makes perfect!

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Decisions!

Okay, I finally made a decision about what to do in September! I will be returning to Ballet at the Barre on Wednesdays Sept-Dec after I emailed my teacher to ask if he would recommend it for my improvers level, seeing as I can’t do the Ballet Improvers class. He said definitely and he is aiming to direct absolute beginner students to a beginner’s ballet class as Barre won’t be for absolute beginners. So, that means the improvers can progress! I really wanted to do some centre and travelling but he did actually encourage me away from the barre for some exercises, which is a start! (Now I have an excuse to buy that Lulli ballet skirt!)

There’s the new Street Jazz course on a Friday evening in September also, which would give the opportunity for travelling, turns and jumps, but I have to think about the cost of 2 courses, plus I work at home on my own business  on Fridays so that would be quite an extra effort to head into London for an hour’s class.

But, I said I was keen to return to Rhythm Tap in September but my teacher suggested going to Improvers (like deja vu!) which is also on Wednesday evenings, and Lambeth North tube station is closing for lift replacements next week until FEBRUARY! This is the station practically opposite Morley College and will make getting home afterwards a real hassle. Faffing about at Waterloo station? No thanks! Anyway, as I’m booked onto ballet I’m going to speak to my tap teacher when I do her summer class on the 20th, explain my situation and ask if it’s worth continuing lunchtime tap on a Thursday just to keep up my practice. Besides, I still find level 1 challenging! My plan is to do hopefully level 2 next year…

Today I’m considering whether to attend the Brighton Tap Festival in August to learn from the amazing Maud Arnold!