By Jennifer McCamish
The Rockettes are famous for their leggy, eye-high kicks, so when training clients I frequently get the question, “How can I get those dancer’s legs?” Here are three classic ballet exercises that have been tweaked to give you those fierce dancer’s legs while sculpting your seat and improving posture and balance at the same time. Incorporate these exercises diligently and watch how the dancer’s discipline can help you show off your newly sculpted gams with a graceful glide in your favorite pair of heels.
The ballet term relevé means to rise up, so of course it’s fitting that this exercise would lift, tighten and tone the seat and legs.
- Place heels together and rotate toes open two to three inches (like a sliver of pie). Feel the rotation of the toes coming from the outside of the hip (not the knees or ankles). Imagine your thighs spiraling back and squeezing to the center of your body. This will engage the gluteus medius and create the pretty side dimple in the seat. Lengthen the back of the knees by engaging the thighs high off of the knee cap. The knee should feel supported and not jammed or locked back in the joint.
- Compress the belly back to the spine as if you have a corset wrapped around your torso from your lower ribs to the pelvis which will keep your pelvis neutral (not tilted forward or tucked under). Your shoulders should be stacked over your hips and reaching away from your ears — imagine you are growing two-inches taller.
- With this perfect form, begin to roll up to your toes before lowering back down with control (avoid popping up and thumping down).
- Perform this exercise for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as you can maintain perfect alignment and engagement.
Flat Back Arabesque
- Place your hands on a sturdy chair or railing and pitch over at the hips, keeping your neck in line with your torso, shoulders away from ears and putting the imaginary corset on to compress your abdomen for spinal support.
- Bend both knees and extend your right leg straight into the air, hip height, so that your body looks like the letter T. Point your toes and lengthen the back of the knee as if energy is shooting out your tip toe.
- Begin to bend and straighten the base leg with the body weight in the base heel so that you isolate the hamstrings and glutes on the supporting leg. You will be working your core and top leg isometrically by keeping the energy active throughout the body which will improve balance and posture.
- Perform 30-60 seconds or as long as you can maintain perfect alignment and engagement. Repeat other side.
- Begin in the starting position of relevé with heels together and toes open a few inches.
- Rest your left elbow or hand on the back of a chair and turn your hips on the diagonal to the chair.
- Bend both knees and compress your abdomen in like you have the corset on discussed earlier. Lower your shoulders away from ears and lengthen the spine so that you “grow” two inches taller.
- Raise your right leg behind you as high as you can without letting your lower back move or belly push out. If your lower back hurts, you have lifted your knee too high and are not supporting with your lower abdomen.
- Begin to lift and lower your leg one-inch for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as you can maintain perfect alignment and engagement.
- For a challenge, try this exercise on relevé and extend your right arm over head like you are framing your face in an oval picture frame. Repeat other side.