In ballet, physical might and grace are harmoniously combined, employing both delicate and vigorous movement with great control. Ballet can equip you with tremendous strength, poise, flexibility, as well as contribute to improved cognitive function and physical coordination.
Since its dawn in the 15thcentury royal courts of Europe, ballet has been revered as a stunning art form requiring exceptional power and agility. As it has evolved, greater emphasis has been placed on the athleticism necessary to achieve the more precise lines and immaculate turns and balances for which ballet is widely known. The long, lean muscles developed through practicing proper technique are a hallmark of ballet and have become the inspiration for creating this coveted physique outside of the dance studio through alternative exercise programs.
But ask any dancer, and they will tell you that only by taking a ballet class can this desired aesthetic truly be achieved. It is by combining both isotonic (tension while muscle length is changed) and isometric (tension without muscle length change) movements in the proper way, that long, incredibly strong muscles are created.
What if you aren’t looking for a “dancer’s body”? Many professional athletes have long used ballet for cross training. Jean-Claude Van Damme, the famed martial artist, said of ballet: “Ballet is an art, but it’s also one of the most difficult sports. If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport.”
But, is ballet just an incredible workout for the trained athlete? Or can it provide notable health benefits for anyone? Just what are the benefits of a traditional ballet class? Consider some compelling examples:
- Greater core strength, spinal health, balance, and flexibility-From the toddler learning to master gross motor skills to the elderly adult, we all can appreciate the contribution of a strong center and more flexible spine and body to increased mobility and injury prevention. Balance, exercised throughout class with varying levels of difficulty, is emphasized and imperative for effective presentation. With virtually all exercises requiring the engagement of the entire core (abdominals and back) while keeping the muscles surrounding the spine limber, you can see why ballet is one of the best forms of exercise for creating a healthy core and spine. And since ballet incorporates both dynamic and static stretching, you can rest assured you’re receiving all potential benefits of stretching.
- Improved cognitive function and body mechanics-With various choreographed sequences (i.e. “combinations”) in each class, requiring immediate memorization and presentation, ballet is as much a workout for the brain as it is for the body. This simultaneous exercise for mind and body can form new neural pathways in the brain resulting in greater mental sharpness, spatial awareness and can aid in the prevention and treatment of certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Various researchers have reported significant improvements to neurobiological health in elderly patients who regularly partook in dance. Not only was mental enhancement noted, but balance, posture and gait mobility were also improved.
- Greater social connection/decreased stress-According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, 12 weeks of dance training proved effective in combating depression in all participants to a “meaningful” degree (Akandere M1, Demir B.. 2011 Sep). And while dance alone is not a cure for depression, it is well documented that exercise is a huge mood lifter and stress reliever since it releases feel-good chemicals and mood-regulating hormones in the brain, such as endorphins and serotonin. Adding music and dancing to your work-out routine can only increase these benefits since it makes exercise that much more enjoyable! Additionally, students of ballet can find friendship and bonding between themselves and their teacher as they work together in class.
These are just a few of the noted benefits of ballet. To learn more why not try a class?