Up until last July, I was a professional ballet dancer with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and had been living abroad in Wellington, NZ for 3 & ½ years.
My career as a professional ballet dancer is what introduced me to Pilates, way back when I was a teenager and training up to 5+ hours a day in hopes to join a professional ballet company straight out of high school.
This meant on top of my many hours in the dance studio, I had to spend time outside of that learning how to strengthen and condition specific parts of the body that would be key in helping me become a stronger dancer.
Strengthening the core was obviously a large part of my training. Without a strong center of balance, it would be impossible to execute multiple pirouettes, hold my body stable and strong in jumps and partner work, or be able to control movements.
For core stability, dancers often focus on a variety of exercises that target all muscles of the core, such as the transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, pelvic floor, and obliques.
In addition to the core, strengthening the feet and ankles is another important aspect of conditioning -- especially since, as dancers, we are on our feet all day! A dancer needs an extreme level of strength and stabilization when en pointe. This often involves lots of single leg balance work and learning how to activate all of the tiny muscles in the feet.
Other big areas of focus include the glutes, hamstrings, AND inner thighs! Whenever you see a dancer leap effortlessly across the stage or look as though they are as light as a feather, it’s because our glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs (and the core, of course) are all working like crazy! These muscles provide the power to jump and land with control and grace. Without that, we probably wouldn’t be able to jump more than 2 inches off the ground.
When performing a piece- regardless if it’s a short 10-minute segment or 4 acts of Swan Lake over 2 hours- without the proper strength, balance, and control, you would never be able to make it through the whole piece (let alone dance at a professional level!)
I learned this very quickly when I first joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet straight out of school and immediately knew I had to build even more strength and flexibility if I wanted to progress in my career.
My passion for Pilates really started when I got injured after my first year in the company and fractured my 2nd metatarsal in my right foot. I was out for about 2 ½ months and Pilates was the only form of rehab I could do.
Even with a fractured foot, it was extremely important to keep the strength I had built in my body and make sure I was even stronger when I came back from my injury.
I spent many hours in the Pilates studio learning how to do everything without putting stress on my foot and I was fascinated at how my body was able to stay in shape with my consistent Pilates training. It was so beneficial to my rehabilitation and I know it was what got me back to performing in top shape only a month after being cleared to dance again!
From then on, Pilates was always a constant in my routine. It was my way to get my body ready for a full day of rehearsals and performances and it was what I did if I had free time in the middle of my day. I knew Pilates would consistently make my body look and feel better and that unwavering factor was what inspired me to become certified.
I love being able to use what I have learned as professional and teach that to others to help them become stronger and have that same consistency in their lives, creating a way to make themselves look and feel their best every single day.
To learn more about Madison's training program, you can follow her on her Instagram here. And don't forget to check out her Pilates in the Park program - email her at [email protected] for more details!