My pre-ballet class warm up

Update: I produced this blog post in 2013 in my second year at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and it’s had many, many views. The exercises have stood me in good stead and I use many of them in my training now as a professional.  If you’d like to see updated versions of these stretches and my current routines, then go over to my Instagram page.

Since I’ve been at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy one of the things I’ve worked really hard on in my training has been my flexibility. My flexibility has never been a strength and no one really has ever been able to help me before.  However, my gymnastics classes here have really helped build my flexibility and all of my teachers have shown me exercises that I now do every day.

My old dancing teachers from Fearons Middleton School of Dance in Barnsley have asked me to share these exercises with them so that they can help their pupils benefit from them as I have.

So here’s what I do for a warm up before class.  I do many more exercises throughout the day and evening which I hope to share with you later but here are a few to start with.  If you’ve not done anything like this before, do them with a teacher first.

This is frog – if you are not already flat in frog, hold it until you are flat (by flat both heels and hips should touch the floor at the same time).  I put my toes under a ledge so that I can inch forwards little by little lengthening the frog position in order to rotate my hips in various ways.

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Pull yourself right towards your legs and hold for eight seconds.

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Start with a straight back, bend forwards with the aim of keeping your back as straight as possible and your knees all the way to the floor.  If you have something to grab in front of you, do so to pull yourself forward and make yourself as flat as possible.  Hold for eight seconds.DSC02506

Start off in frog sitting position with a straight back, take any foot, flexed, with the opposite hand threaded under the leg, fingers grabbing round toes; the other hand grabbing the heel (so both hands should be crossed).  Straighten the leg and pull towards you keeping your back straight at all times.  Hold for eight seconds.

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From that position lie down whilst still holding the foot and hold for eight seconds pulling your leg towards you.

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Then roll onto the opposite side to the working leg, adjusting your arms so that the opposite hand to the working leg grabs around the foot and pulls it sideways down so the elbow touches the ground while the other hand threads through and supports yourself on the floor.  Hold for eight seconds.  Repeat all routine for your other leg.

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This is oversplits –start at a height where you can sit with your hips touching the floor perfectly squarely with your opposite arm holding your front leg while the other holds the back leg.  Hold this for as long as you’ve got time for before the class starts – minimum 16 seconds – spend some time with your arms in fifth, bending all the way forwards, and  then reaching backwards.

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Then rotate yourself into side splits, again holding as long as you did for the last one.

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The rotate again into other leg splits – the aim is to get the hip of your back leg touching the floor.  Again your hips must be perfectly square.

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Repeat the whole of the oversplits sequence with the other leg.

Then do plank for a minute.

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Then first of all arch your upper back off the floor (forearms still on the floor) followed by the lower back arch (only hands on the floor and arms stretched).  Bend legs and touch your head with your feet – hold for eight seconds.

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Return face to the ground, open your legs a little and clasp your hands behind your back, arms stretched.  The arch your back off the floor; your arms as if someone has grabbed them and is pulling them in order for you to do so.  Release hands and raise them through second position into fifth position.

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From here I also like to do port de bras going through arabesque arms both sides.

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Return once more face to the ground, then bend legs and grab both feet in each hand.  Stretch your arms – this stretch is more for the flexibility of your shoulders than your back.  Hold for eight seconds.DSC02524

Finally, stretch your feet by placing one foot, pointed and resting on the floor like in this picture, with the knee of the other leg pressed against its heel.  Keep the knee of the working foot turned out and use all your weight to push over on your instep.  Hold for 16 seconds and repeat with the ther foot.

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If I’ve got time, I also use my stretching band to sit in side splits like this and lie on my back so I can stretch past side splits.

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So that’s about it for my pre-class exercises – have fun!  I’ll update you next month on the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s 240th anniversary show, my theatre visits (Marco Spado) and more ….

Tala Lee-Turton Life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy - portfolio Summer 2014

14 Comments

  1. pamt1 30/11/2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Great explanation, Tala. Just wish I could get a fraction of way towards positions! Oujar’s quite hopeful!

    Luv, Gra

  2. Mike Martin 05/12/2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Wow! I would certainly call that flexible!!! Brilliant work, Tala. You’re a star! Keep working hard… you have a great future. 😉

    • Tala Lee-Turton 08/12/2013 at 7:49 am - Reply

      Thank you Mike! I will definitely continue to work hard and keep stretching! 🙂

  3. Fran 15/12/2013 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Wow you look like a real yoga ninja………FANTASTIC!!!!! Am sooooo lookin forward to seeing you and your mum during the christmas hols. You and I are in the same boat….working/studying abroad to form some kind of life path……missing home from time to time. We are all connected wherever where we are. See you real soon. Much love? Fran. Bisou. x x x

  4. […] Here are some photos of the exercises we do at the barre in my ballet class – my friend, Carleigh, is in the blue leotard and I am in the burgundy leotard! See pre-class warm ups here. […]

  5. […] I’m going to the gym every day for an hour and half where I warm up, do a ballet barre and stretch (all based on the warm up that I do before every ballet class which you can see here). […]

  6. […] ballet, which I spend an hour warming for.  I have a set warm up routine which I previously posted here.  I base my warm up on the need to articulate the joints, stretch and strengthen my abdominals and […]

  7. […] 4. Stretch every day – pre-ballet class and in the evening; it’s really important to develop core strength and flexibility as a ballet dancer. If you don’t have natural flexibility then there are exercises that can help.  I wrote about my pre-ballet class warm up here. […]

  8. HyperColours 26/06/2015 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Do you have any joint pain? My legs turn to jelly when I stretch.

    • Tala Lee-Turton 26/06/2015 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Hi – if you stretch properly you shouldn’t get any pain outside the natural discomfort you feel! I wouldn’t be alarmed about feeling like jelly though; you should be relaxed when you stretch.

  9. […] The masterclasses consisted of a ballet class, Russian-style ballet gymnastics, repertoire and make up class.  I was particularly keen to instil the fundamentals of Russian ballet technique: expression and turnout, while building core strength and flexibility with a range of ballet gymnastics’ exercises (see my previous post here). […]

  10. Brenna 18/11/2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this! You’ve given me some stretch ideas! I’m thinking of auditioning for the Bolshoi’s summer intensive in New York, but I’m afraid that I’m not flexible or skinny enough. This will help! Thank you!

  11. […] and last thing each day which builds and maintains my strength and flexibility – see my post here showing many of the exercises I incorporate into this routine.  I also try to incorporate a […]

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