Turn Technique

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by sara willcutt

Use your center!

Keep your body stacked, like building blocks. I tell my dancers to push their belly button to their backbone. This braces and straightens the back. Make sure not to tuck under your pelvis, which will take you out of alignment.

Turns go one direction: UP!
Concentrate on pulling up and keeping the body in proper form. Make sure you don’t pull your shoulders up. Keep your neck long and shoulders pushed down in a connection with the center.

Keep your supporting leg tall, push into the floor. In opposition, pull up with the rest of the body. Keep your supporting leg straight, and use your toes for balance.

Keep you arms strong. Close to first position quickly, and hold your arms out. Don’t let your arms collapse into your chest as you turn. Let your back round with your arms, and keep your shoulder blades flat. Visualize holding a beach ball in your arms.

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Technique for Jumps

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By Beth Blose

Important aspects of most jumps:
1) Flexibility
2) Pointed toes
3) Correct arm placemat
4) Keep legs straight
5) Push off by using a plie
6) Land with knees bent
7) Chest lifted

Always warm up and stretch out thoroughly before practicing jumps.

Strengthening your core and your legs are important to achieve high jumps and leaps.

Sit-ups, lunges, squat, and wall sits are good uncomplicated strengthening exercises. Don’t forget to work your back to balance out your strong abs.

Doing sit-ups on a stability ball is a great way to challenge your body.

To practice for toe jumps do tuck jumps with the same arm prep you would use for your toe jump.

Do small jumps in first and a small second, you can do these both turned out and parallel. Make sure you work through and use your whole foot to push off the floor. Use your pleae and push off with your feet. When in the air, make sure that legs are extended straight and toes are pointed and engaged.

Toe Touches:
Prep with strong arms and knees bent. When in the air keep your back lifted and your arms in a T. Don’t reach for your legs. Push our knees straight, and make sure you bend when you land to absorb the shock and avoid injuring yourself. Land with your feet together!

Toe Jump Drills:
Do several toe jumps in a row. If in a team get together in a circle and go around doing toe jumps one after another. You can do standing prep jumps or start in a ball.

  • Start by stretching out. Stretching is the key to gaining and maintaining flexibility. And to avoid pulling or straining your muscles, make sure you are completely warmed up before throwing your jump.
  • It’s vital to constantly train your leg and stomach muscles. They are the ones who give you the height you need off the ground and enable your legs to be pulled higher.
  • Do crunches! Lay on your back on the floor, with your legs straight out in front of you and your arms in a touchdown motion. Sit up, then bring your legs up and roll back into a toe touch, or straddle position, and bring your arms between to a T. It’s like you’re doing a toe touch sitting on the floor. 10-15 reps is a good start. While they may hurt after a few, and they’ll certainly look and feel awkward, they will help your jumps tremendously.
  • Next, do three sets of leg lifts. You will be in a straddle position with your hands behind you for support. Slightly lean back and lift both legs about a foot off the floor. Keep your legs straight, without letting them touch the floor, and lift them 10 times. Release, then count to 10 for a breather and repeat. Do a total of three sets. Once again, these exercises are hard but will strengthen your legs and increase the height of your jumps.
  • Squat jumps are great for gaining height and strength in the right areas to improve your toe touch. Crouch down, touching your fingertips to the floor. Then jump up, bringing your arms above your head, shrugging your shoulders up like you would doing a jump. As soon as your feet touch the floor, return to the starting position. It’s good to start with 20 or so.
  • After leg lifts and squat jumps, you’re ready for side high kicks. Place your arms in a T or high V motion, then start off by kicking your right leg up five times. Take about a 5-second breather, then do the same with your left leg. Just as with squat jumps, increase your kicks gradually.
  • Do a few tuck jumps with the approach. As soon as your feet hit the floor, go back up into a tuck with no prep. This will work your stomach and legs muscles together. Start by doing at least five.

    Tips to Remember:

  • Keep your head up and your back straight.
  • You must have a good prep. If you don’t use correct technique – feet and legs together, bent knees, back straight – your jump will not look very good. Really concentrate on using the muscles in your legs when prepping. Remember, that’s how you get off the ground to execute your jump in the first place!
  • When you’re in the toe touch position, in the air, do NOT reach for your legs. Your arms should be in a T motion, and you should bring your legs to your arms.
  • Keep your legs straight. Bent legs make your toe touch look sloppy.
  • Point your toes.
  • Snap your legs down with as much force as you brought up.
  • Land with a slight bend in your knees. You could easily cause damage by landing with too much force on straight legs.
  • Something to keep in mind is that you have to consistently work on building up the strength in your arms, shoulders, abs, and legs.
  • Work on all aspects of your toe touch – the prep, lifting, execution, with all the small details, and your landing.
  • Practice! Work on your jumps each and every day. You must build endurance just like you would in a normal workout.

    More Ways to Develop/Improve your Toe Touch:

  • Put your jumps to an 8-count and repeat. Start with three or four and gradually increase.
  • Practice with assistance. Stand facing a teammate, then have him or her support you under your forearms. The teammate who is supporting you should push up on your arms as you jump. This is a good exercise for you, whether you’re a cheerleader or dancer, to get the feel of a toe touch while learning to point your toes.
  • Practice the straddle hold. Sit on the floor in a straddle position. Point your toes and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat as many times as you feel necessary.
  • Do straddle lifts. There are a few variations to this exercise. Sit on the floor in a straddle position, then:
    • Lift both legs up, keeping them straight. Your arms should be pointed down touching the floor directly in front of you. Slightly bounce them up and down, without letting them touch the ground. (Hint: Your legs do not need to be lifted very far off the ground.)
    • Lift only your right leg, still keeping both legs straight. Repeat above steps, with the exception of one leg, then do the same for your left leg.
    • Lift both legs up slightly, keeping them straight. Hold them in that position for 10 seconds, without bouncing. Then slowly bring them back down. Repeat two to five times.
  • Hang from a bar, if available, and lift your legs in V-up movements. V-up sit-ups are relatively like normal sit-ups. Lay flat on the ground with your arms in an upward touchdown motion. Bring your upper body and your legs up (keeping them straight) at the same time, touch your touches, then slowly lay back down. Repeat 10 times.

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Improve Flexibility

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Flexibility is an aspect of dance that will help you improve in many areas. It is something you can work on at home between dance classes. Push yourself to gain a greater range of flexibility. Listen to your body and identify your limitations. Stay consistent and disciplined to overcome them.

Warm Up
Always warm up your muscles before you stretch.

Get Started
While stretching, gradually increase how far your muscles are stretched. Hold each stretch for about 20 seconds (time varies from person to person). Holding the stretch will deactivate your muscle spindles, and you should feel a release in the muscle being stretched. Then, you can push the stretch a little further until your muscle spindles activate, and your stretch is naturally stopped. Hold this stretch for a moment and then relax.

Do Not Overstretch
If your muscles start to quiver at any point during your stretching, back off a little. Quivering means your muscles are being overworked.

Watch Your Range
If your range of motion starts to decrease, you have stretched too far. Let your muscles rest and heal.

Young Dancers
While you are still growing, your range of flexibility will probably vary. It is normal to experience a loss of flexibility during growth spurts. Bones grow faster than muscles, and it may take some time to regain your full range. Your body will even out, just keep stretching.

Basic Types of Stretching
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
The method of contacting and releasing muscles to gain flexibility.

With a partner: Lay on your back, or stand up against a wall. Lift one leg, and have your partner hold it. Then, contract your muscles as your partner pushes your leg toward your chest. Hold this for a few seconds, then relax, and have your partner push your leg closer to your chest. You can repeat this several times, moving the leg a little higher each time.

Caution: This method of stretching is effective but can cause injury if not done properly. Your partner should be credentialed as a personal trainer or physical therapist.

Active Isolated Stretching (AIS)
This method of stretching is similar to PNF, but is safer because you control the range of motion.

Lay on your back, pull your leg toward your chest with your hands or an exercise band. Contract and release muscles, then push, stretch farther, and repeat.

Caution: Pay close attention to how your muscles are feeling so that you don’t over stretch. You can pull a muscle, so use caution. Never yank on your leg.

Method of holding a stretch for a long time.

Method of repeating the movement of a stretch.

Example: reaching forward to touch your toes, then pull back and repeat.

Caution: Keep your movements smooth and controlled, or you will activate your muscle spindles-which is the opposite of what you want.

*Always consult a medical professional before starting a new type of exercise.

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