A Ballet Warm Up You Can Do Everyday

C/O an American Ballet Theatre principal dancer.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Leslie Kirchhoff

Dreaming about being a ballerina is all fine and good until you’re mid-barre class and realize it’s not all pastel body suits and top knots. It’s hard, and your body is going to feel it later—there’s a particular soreness that comes with working those tiny muscles you didn’t know existed. But then again, there’s a reason why ballerinas are so strong, lean and graceful. You didn’t think it would be easy, did you?

In the interest of getting a little bit closer to plieing just like professional dancers, and getting more flexible and stronger while we’re at it, we thought it best to get tips from American Ballet Theater’s youngest Principal Dancer, Isabella Boylston, on the simple, yet effective moves we can do to be our most ballerina-like and graceful selves.

 

Move #1

Grande Plié

“This is the first move we do every day during class—it wakes up your joints and muscles. Non-ballet dancers can easily attempt this [at home or in class] and it’s great for your thighs and butt. Make sure to keep your knees from going over your toes for good alignment.”

 

Move #2

Single Leg Relevé

“This move tones your calves. In a slightly turned out position on one leg, slowly raise and lower onto the balls of your feet. If the move is done correctly, you’ll engage your calf muscle and butt. You can hold onto a barre or similar object for support, but make sure you hold it lightly so that your legs are doing the work.”

 

Move #3

Bridging

“Lay on your back with your knees bent. Raise your hips and extend one leg out creating a straight line with your body. This move engages your entire core, glutes, and lower back. Make sure your knees stay in line with your feet and hips—the temptation is to twist your hips as your leg extends, so try to avoid that and keep your hips level.”

 

Move #4

Middle Split Stretch

“Sit up straight with your legs as far apart as you can without hunching your lower back. Your back should be long and supported. Lean over and stretch to one side, hold for a few breaths and switch sides. This will stretch your adductors and stabilizer muscles around your spine.”

 

Move #5

Leg Lift

“Get into a table top position on your hands and knees. Extend one leg straight out, then slowly raise it before bringing it back in. This is another great butt exercise and it works your spinal stabilizers. Keep your back straight and avoid arching or hunching by keeping your core tight and stable.”

 

Move #6

Thera Band Ankle

“This stretch helps build ankle strength and stability. Hold the Thera Band tightly and rotate the ankle in point back and forth. Do as many repetitions as you can until your ankle stabilizers become really tired. Then take a break and repeat.”

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