Ballet Warm-Up

Warm Up for Ballet

Ballet barre. Skip Nall / Getty Images

It is very important to warm up before each and every ballet class. A ballet warm-up is not necessarily restricted to stretching, however. Warming up elevates body temperature, making the muscles more pliable and resistant to injury. A proper warm up will also enhance your performance ability. Dancers should never rush through or neglect a proper warm up. If they do, they may find themselves sore, tight or even injured.

It's important to remember that you should be sweating before you ever start dancing.

Warm-Up Strategies

Warming up does not only refer to stretching. Stretching cold muscles can potentially cause harm, as the muscle may not be ready to move. A "dynamic warm-up" will get the blood flowing and warm up all of your moving parts, including muscles, joints and ligaments. It prepares the body for big movements. Many ballet instructors start a warm-up with light prancing in place for a couple of minutes. With your feet parallel, slowly and gently alternate raising and lowering your heels. Keep your knees soft and make sure you roll through your entire foot, including the toes. Prances can be done in place, moving forward, or moving backward.

A dynamic warm-up should accomplish the following:

  • Get your heart pumping & blood circulating
  • Activate your central nervous system
  • Prepare your body for movement that's coming
  • Reduce potential for injury
  • Move  joints through a full range of motion
  • Encourage fluid, flowy movements

Another good way to warm up for ballet is to perform rises at the barre. (Keep a tennis ball in your ballet bag for this one.) Stand at the barre with your feet parallel. Place a tennis ball between your feet, just below the ankles.

Try to keep the ball in place as you slowly raise and lower your heels. Rises with a tennis ball will ensure that your body is properly aligned and ready for the class.

Stretching

Warm-up stretching should be static, or holding stretches for certain lengths of time. Stretching this way will help maintain flexibility, and correct muscle imbalances. Holding a stretch will return a muscle to its normal length, after contracting during movement. Static stretching can release stress and tension within a muscle.

Static stretching should be performed in the correct way:

  • Hold all stretches for 10-60 seconds
  • Breathe to allow oxygen to get to the muscles
  • Focus tretches on flexibility and range of motion

A few examples of static stretches:

  • Bending over to touch your toes
  • Holding your splits
  • Shoulder stretches and rolls
  • Leg stretches and holds toward torso, laying on your back

What You Should Know

Start off slow. Don't shock your body by jumping right into a dynamic warm up. Start off slowly, getting your heart to beat a little faster, then focus on static stretches for awhile. If you warm up properly, you'll perform better and dance safer.