The 'Ballet' Rise Exercise
Let’s dispense with a few misnomers right out of the gate. 1.) Balance is not the same thing as Stability. 2.) Balance is a component of Stability. 3.) Your stability is generated via 3 very different mechanisms that are all connect via your nervous system. And so that we’re clear on this one, one of them is not your ‘core‘, and anyone that tells you different is either lying through their eye-teeth, or doesn’t understand anatomy and physiology of the human body. Truth be told, your ‘core‘ muscles have absolutely nothing to do with stability. Nada. Zip. Zero.
A Ballet Rise is an exercise that every Tango dancer should be familiar with before they put on a pair of heels as either a lead or a follow, it does not matter. The exercise is designed specifically to strengthen your very, very, very weak muscles and more importantly the tendons around the first 5 metatarsals of your foot. For some people that walk in heels all day long, those tendons will be a bit stronger than some, but not always. The tendons that surround the 5 Metatarsals are the weakest for a variety of reasons, and for some people they never bother to strengthen them mostly because no one tells them that they need to do so, and as a direct result of the lack of work (read that as exercise) that they’re not doing, they’ll end up with weak tendons, and thereby unable to hold a walking or articulated foot position, or they’ll land improperly and not be able to recover from it, and or the more common of the affectations is clear and present lack of stability. This singular exercise is quite possibly the single most important exercise that they will ever need to do. And yes, believe or not, they do not know how to do this. But you’re a smart person, right ? You know how to do this, right ? Right ? Hmmmm, well just as a refresher you should watch the teaser video above to refresh your memory.
Truthfully when this topic comes up for students, they make a few very important and key errors. Not the least of which is going too fast. This exercise isn’t about speed. Speed teaches and strengthens nothing. This is about going slow. Very slow. The slower, the better!
What is a ‘Ballet Rise’? It is where the feet are placed together in what Tango Topics calls ‘Social Collection’, with the first metatarsals touching, and the heels touching. With one’s feet firmly planted on the floor, and the weight distributed slightly forward from the arch towards the metatarsals, and just forward of them. The dancer would rise their body upwards just using the the metatarsals in what is called a ‘relevé‘. This is done SLOWLY, on an 8 count. Very slowly. The slower, the better. And then, slowly down on an 8 count. This is one ballet rise. Theoretically one would do 10 of these each morning. The video above shows you what an Ballet Rise is. Please go watch.
Difficulty Rating: (2.5 / 5) It should be noted that some people will have difficulty with this practice for a variety of reasons, most notably that the muscles and tendons that are used in this practice aren’t strong enough. Further one may still have issues with their equilibrium as well, which has nothing to do with the muscular or tendon strength that is required here. So it’s important to recognize that a few things have to happen here. One of which is a little time and a little patience, and two after about 3 weeks of doing this every morning right after you get up one of two things should start to happen. 1.) You’re able to do this with some difficulty. or 2.) You’re still not able to do this yet. If it’s the latter of the two, then there are equilibrium issues that need to be addressed before going any further. 😉
The Benefits ? The benefits of this exercise will take time to show up. It’s not going to magically happen over night. Get used to that fact. This exercise requires patience, practice, and persistence to see the benefits. And quite honestly just because you do this a few times, nothing is going to magically change in your dance. Nothing. The exercise must performed religiously every. single. day. before you start your day! The benefits will be felt gradually, and in specific how your foot comes in contact with the floor. You’ll feel a bit more control, a bit more stability and a bit more as if you can do what you want with very little effort. That’s because you’re building up the strength in the tendons around the bones in question. Something you quite honestly don’t use all that often in quite this way. This exercise forces you to use those tendons in new and expansive ways that you will end up using in tango whether or not you realize it or not. One benefit is that you will finally be able to control that super enrosque that you want, or an over-rotation because the muscles of the foot have been strengthened for you to effectively hold your weight. Whereas prior to this work, you would fall out of the rotation or enrosque! Still another benefit is that you’ll be able to hold a backstep for a few seconds longer without wobbling, or a forward step without needing to hold onto your Follower for stability! See there’s that word again, stability! In short, control the foot, and you control the application of your stability! Oh and before we forget, so the 3 things above that control your stability ? 1.) Your feet. 2.) Your inner ear. 3.) Your cerebellum! Your ‘balance’ is an affectation of your inner ear, not (for the love of christ) your ‘core’, please stop repeating that lie.
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