In love with dancing but not sure where to start? Let us make you acquainted with the box step, a dear friend of any dancer. It is the best basic figure that can give you an effortless introduction into the world of dancing. The box is most common in American-style Waltz and Rumba, and can be danced both alone and with a partner. The principle of the box is always same, and the only thing that differs between dances is the rhythm of the step.
- Rhythm for the box step in waltz: 1-2-3, 4-5-6.
- Rhythm for the box step in rumba: 12-3-4, 12-3-4, or slow-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick. As you see, each “quick” equals to one beat, and each “slow” equals to two beats.
How to dance the box step
Place feet together and face your partner. Keep in mind that all steps should be of the same size for both.
- Move forward/backward: Leader steps forward with the left foot. Follower steps back with the right foot.
- Move to the side: Leader steps with the right foot to his right side. Follower steps with the left foot to her left side.
- Bring feet together: Leader places the left foot next to the right foot. Follower places the right foot next to the left foot. Both feet should be together.
- Move forward/backward: Leader steps back with the right foot. Follower steps forward with the left foot.
- Move to the side: Leader steps with the left foot to his left side. Follower steps with the right foot to her right side.
- Bring feet together: Leader places right foot next to the left foot. Follower places left foot next to the right foot.
Box step in waltz: 1-2-3, 1-2-3
Box step in rumba: Slow-Quick-Quick, Slow-Quick-Quick
In ballet we have five basic positions of feet
And five positions of arms
Rond de jambe par terre is one of main ballet exercises that increases the turn-out of the legs. Translated from French, it means circling the leg on the ground. You can do demi- (or half)-rond, or full rond de jambe. In the full rond de jambe, the toe traces a semi-circle on the floor around the body. The working leg moves steadily with the toe on the ground from the front to side, side to back and then past the stationary heel. Demi-rond de jambe means that the toe follows only half of this trajectory: From front to side, or from side to back, and then returns to the starting position.
Exercises for demi-rond de jamb:
Start in first position. First do two exercises en dehors:
a) On the first two beats of music, slide the foot of the extended working leg to the front;
on further two beats slide the foot to the side;
on the next two beats bring the foot to first position;
hold still in this position for two beats.
Repeat the exercise 4 times for each leg.
b) On two beats of music slide the foot to the side;
on two beats slide it to the back;
on two beats bring the foot in first position;
on two last beats hold still in this position.
Repeat the exercise 4 times for each leg.
Finally, repeat the exercises en dedans:
Perform the same movements as above to the reverse side:
Slide the foot first to the back, then to the side; thereafter, to the side, then to the front.
Exercises for full rond de jamb:
Start in first position. En dehors:
On the first and second beats of music, slide the working foot to the front, pointe tendu on the floor.
On the third and fourth beats, slide the foot to the side, pointe tendu on the floor.
On two beats of the following measure, slide the foot to the back, pointe tendu on the floor.
On the third and fourth beats, bring the foot back in first position.
Repeat the exercise 4 times en dehors and 4 times en dedans for each leg.
Working leg: The leg you are moving, as opposed to your standing leg
First position: Heels together, toes turned out to the maximum
En dehors: Forward direction
En dedans: Backward direction
Pointe tendue: The toes are fully pointed
Vera S. Kostrovitskaya, 100 Lessons in Classical Ballet. Limelight Editions, New York: Limelight Editions, 1993. Translated by Oleg Briansky.
Stretching is commonly used by athletes to increase their range of movement, as a warm-up or a cool-down. But do you know that there is more to stretching than just lowering into your favourite lunge or a split? There are three common stretching techniques:
The traditional and most common type of stretching, where a specific position is held with the muscle on tension to a point of a stretching sensation and repeated.
There are two types of dynamic stretching: active and ballistic. Active stretching involves moving a leg or an arm through its full range of motion to the end ranges and repeating several times (think grand battement in ballet). Ballistic stretching includes ‘bouncing’ at end-range of motion; however, because of increased risk for injury, it is no longer recommended.
Pre-contraction stretching involves a contraction of the muscle immediately before it is stretched. The most common type of pre-contraction stretching is called PNF: proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, where the athlete contracts the muscle in question at 75 to 100% of maximal contraction, holds for 10 seconds, and then relaxes. The resistance can be provided by a partner or with an elastic band or strap. Recent studies show that even weaker contractions of 20 or 60% may be just as effective.
An extensive review by Dr Phil Page of Louisiana State University compared research on these three stretching techniques. That’s what he found out:
First of all, all three types are effective for improving flexibility and muscle extensibility, although men seem to respond better to contract-relax stretching, while women benefit more from static stretching. The greatest change in range of movement with a static stretch happens between 15 and 30 seconds, and no increase in muscle elongation occurs after 2 to 4 repetitions.
Your flexibility increases already after eight weeks of static stretching; however, often static stretching training studies show an increase in range of movement due to higher stretch tolerance (ability to withstand more stretching force), and not extensibility (increased muscle length), which is the actual goal of stretching.
Quite a few studies found that the pre-contraction technique brings the highest immediate gains in the range of movement. The reason for this remains unclear. Many have assumed that muscle experiences a refractory period after contraction known as ‘autogenic inhibition’, where muscle relaxes due to neuroreflexive mechanisms, thus increasing muscle length. Some researchers have speculated that the increases in range of movement are related to higher tolerance to stretching. Finally, it is possible that the pre-contraction stretch lowers the excitability of a muscle which allows the muscle to relax.
Static, dynamic, and pre-contraction stretching can all be used as part of a warm-up routine to increase range of movement prior to exercise. But keep in mind that static and pre-contraction stretching right before exercise may decrease muscle strength and performance in running and jumping. This phenomenon has a name of “stretch induced strength loss.” The volume of stretching may also affect performance: For example, one research study found that 4 repetitions of 15-second holds of static stretching did not affect vertical jump, while 6 repetitions reduced performance. In contrast, dynamic stretching during a warm-up does not decrease muscle power or performance.
In general, stretching performed as part of a warm-up prior to exercise reduces passive stiffness and increases range of movement during exercise. Athletes requiring flexibility for their sports – such as dancers – will benefit most from static (ladies) or pre-contraction (gents) techniques. Dynamic stretching may be better suited for athletes requiring running or jumping performance during their sport.
Full text: Page, P. (2012). Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. International journal of sports physical therapy, 7(1), 109.