Ballet – a beautiful way to fitness
These days everybody’s doing it – fat, plump, or slim. Ballet is in! And why not? It is a fascinating and healthy method of shedding those unwanted bulges, sags, and pounds in a pleasurable way as well as developing a greater appreciation for the art and artist.For those of you who are calorie-minded, according to recently published statistics, ballet burns anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories per hour, depending on the teacher, the exercises and the routines. Some physicians have estimated that the amount of energy used in a rigorous hour and a half technique class is the equivalent of that used to play a football game. But ladies, before you grab your leotards, tights and shoes and dash madly from class declaring that you have no intention of looking like a football player, or of working that hard, take a good long look at yourself in the mirror. Like what you see? All right then, let’s dig into this thing called ballet and see what it is and what it does.Agnes de Mille has described it as “running the four minute mile with a smile on your face.” Joanne Woodward has likened it to “transcendental meditation on your feet, putting you in touch with your body, and giving your head a sense of peace and quiet.” Selma Jeanne Cohen sees it as “a miraculous aspect of the human being and its potential for dominion over the forces of nature.” As a trained teacher and critic, I agree with all these definitions and more. I personally feel that ballet is the most beautiful of all the performing arts, and certainly the most functional in that properly taught, it promotes total body-mind fitness more than any other dance form, sport or exercise.For example, as purely a physical exercise, ballet firms and tones all of the muscles in the body. It improves posture. It strengthens and straightens the back. It flattens and hardens the stomach. It creates a slender waist. It tightens the buttocks. It makes graceful arms and shapely legs. It corrects minor muscular and skeletal malformations. It improves the circulatory, pulmonary, and respiratory systems. It increases constitutional stamina which makes greater resistive and recuperative powers in cases of illness, injury, or surgery.As a mental discipline, ballet develops the kinesthetic sense, the feeling of movement, weight, and position in space, thus producing body-mind coordination. It decreases anxieties and inhibitions. It reduces mental and emotional as well as physical fatigue. It improves memory and mental agility.As an aesthetic activity, ballet creates a general appreciation for all cultural endeavors including painting, music, architecture, drama, etc. It produces a deep admiration for the dedication of the artists who have excelled and an empathetic awareness for those who have failed. It promotes a genuine love for the art of movement itself.To understand why these things are true, one must have at least a small grasp of the form and function of human dynamics. Charles M. Schulz of the Peanuts cartoon series says, “to live is to dance, to dance is to live.” Nothing could be truer from a historical viewpoint. Man dances what he once was, what he is now, and what he hopes to become. Man dances because he is so made and motivated. Life is a movement; therefore all movement is a basic thing, a natural thing. Primitive man moved in response to his feelings toward the world in which he found himself. These early movements were not real dances of course, but simple rhythmic emotional reactions to hatred, love, pain, joy, sorrow, hunger, thirst, etc. Over eons of time, moving from the wilds of the forest, to the village, to the church, to the courtyard, to the castle, to the palace, and finally to the theater, dance has evolved along with man into a highly complex organization of movement. The behavioral patterns based on emotional reactions, the biological heritage from our primitive ancestors have remained and have been integrated with rational movement. Science tells us that a healthy, happy human being is a composite of balanced forces. Ballet was born of the marriage of two exact sciences. Architecture and geometry. And like its parents, emphasizes line, form, balance, and space. Consequently, when we properly and correctly execute the exercises of the classical idiom, the mechanical, chemical, nervous, mental and emotional systems of the body are balanced and joyously free from hypertension and strain.Mabel Elsworth Todd said it all in her statement, “The thinking body stands, moves and performs its skills through knowledge of the natural forces in its dynamic balances.” That is precisely what ballet is all about and nothing is more beautiful than the human body in dance. “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Unknown”The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Unknown
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