Ballet is an activity that strengthens the body and mind and Amandine Dandeneau shares the benefits it can have for athletes as part of their training.
Ballet is a large part of Amandine Dandeneau’s life as she has danced since she was young. Now a young adult, she spends time teaching ballet to underprivileged youth. She has seen the benefits that dancing has had on her body and health over the years. A recent article in The Globe and Mail highlights the benefits that dancing ballet can have for athletes, something that Dandeneau supports.
One might not expect to see athletes at the ballet barre pointing their toes and practicing first position, but that is exactly where many are finding themselves. Ballet is no longer just for dancers. Athletes are realizing the positive impact it can have on their bodies and their ability to play. Jennifer Nichols, a dancer with Opera Atelier in Toronto and owner of the dance fitness studio Extension Room, has crafted a workout combining classical dance and strength and cross training. She calls it the “Extension Method.”
Not only does ballet build flexibility, it also builds strength, speed, agility, balance, mental focus, and endurance. As Nichols explains, “Ballet is not just an art; it’s a sport.” More people have taken up ballet as a way to improve all of these skills and change up their workout routine. Barre-based fitness programs are becoming more popular throughout Canada. Elite athletes and amateurs alike are finding success in these programs.
For swimmers, Nichols has them do rapid-fire foot drills, practice first position, and stand on one foot. She also incorporates the use rubber bands, free weights and complex movement sequences. This helps them to build speed and agility in their legwork. Cory Pagett, a Toronto marathon runner, has followed Nichols’ routines for the past five years. He shares, “The cardio portion of the classes helps with heart strength, breath control and that non-physical attribute, will power, when facing particularly grueling courses or hills which require me to dig deep for that extra amount of drive.”
Nichols’ uses the ballet barre to provide support to athletes while working out, but also has tests their balance and poise while standing without any support. Jumping, turning, and performing jetes, or running leaps, helps to build stamina. She notes that she has used her workout method to “train basketball players to jump higher, hockey players to skate better and soccer players to execute quick lateral moves with a reduced risk of injury.” She also shares that many athletes are not using their feet to their full potential. The skills and strengths that come from ballet can help them to do this. While ballet often carries with it a stereotype as an activity for women, both men and women alike can benefit from the skills learned.
“Ballet works muscles throughout the entire body,” explains Amandine Dandeneau. “Not only does it promote physical strength, flexibility, and stamina, it also promotes mental strength. The legs have some very powerful muscles and when trained correctly, they are beneficial in a variety of sports. Staying limber and agile also helps to prevent injuries from occurring.” Amandine Dandeneau encourages all athletes to gain at least a basic understanding of ballet techniques.
Amandine Dandeneau is a college student at Southern Methodist University. She is majoring in French with a minor in math but would like to pursue a career in nursing. During her youth she performed with several different ballet companies throughout the United States. She is passionate about helping and giving back to others, which has led her to want to become a nurse and to spend time teaching ballet to underprivileged youth. In addition, she has helped to train personal service ponies that assist at senior centers.