Sunday, March 17, 2019

Blog 11

In my last blog, I wrote about having troubles with combining my sports with ballet. For example, my leg muscles shorten (become stronger) with weightlifting, and as a result, I lose flexibility. 
Lyda gave me a piece of sound advice on that topic. She asked me to look into the matter of concentric and eccentric muscle movement (which in turn I put in relation to plyometric exercises). 
A kind of active balancing in shortening and lengthening the muscles is the riddle of ballet. But in a different way than you might expect. She explained that in a grand battement, for example, kinetic energy is released on the way up (beginning by pushing into the floor to energize the leg) and the weight of the leg brings it down (fall). Less effort is needed on the way down. 
The descent of the leg is not controlled by gripping the quads in an effort to resist gravity, nor is ascent a result of contracting your quads! How about that!!!! 

For your information:
•    Concentric means "toward the center": you shorten a muscle and visible joint movement in the direction of the action of the primary muscle like flexion of the knee occurs. 
•    Eccentric means "away from the center": you lengthen the muscle, the distance between the ends of the muscle gets greater; it is a counter activity of contraction 

Don’t worry: I will not exhaust you with a lecture on muscle function.

When a concentric contraction (shortening) of muscle is immediately followed by an eccentric contraction (lengthening) of the same muscle, this is called a plyometric exercise. Think about exercises, like hops and jumps, in which maximum effort is expended while a muscle group is lengthening (there is a high risk of injury for those who are not well conditioned). Athletes who want to improve explosive power use this kind of exercise. 
And now think about ballet dancers, they are exposed to great eccentric loading of the lower extremities due to a high frequency of repetitive jumps and leaps!

My great discovery this week is that ballet applies a lot of exercises that are in fact plyometric and that classical ballet has perfected this for hundreds of years into a system that is safe and effective. 

I am totally stunned. 

Further on, in my research trying to understand what is actually happening in the dynamic movement of the dancer I discovered the book “ Ballet Beyond Tradition” written by Anna Paskevska. Anna wrote a fascinating chapter about the use of potential and kinetic energy in ballet. This really opened my eyes and even makes me more aware of how sophisticated classical ballet in fact is. And that I shouldn’t rush ahead, I have a body that needs to be trained and tamed to acquire that basic level of skill required if I ever want to make more advanced movements.

Lyda shared my blog on her Bayadère Facebook account. I feel honored that Gypsy Booth, president of the Association of Russian Ballet and Theatre Arts, subsequently shared this with the Facebook accounts of the ARBTA and Friends of ARBTA. I met Gypsy in April 2018; Gypsy took my exams for Grade 2 and awarded me a highly commended. Thank you so much for your support!
And a special thanks to the fellow students that reached out and told me how they enjoyed reading my blog.

Please feel free to give a comment on my blog. Or contact me on e-mail address: if you have a particular issue you want to share with me in my (or your!) adventurous journey into the world of classical ballet. 

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