Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little Ballerina: Adage

I'm a classical music lover.

Let me define Adagio, in music, means slowly. In Ballet, Adage, means slow, unfolding movements. A type of slow flowing, balletic movement being performed. Usually done with a beautiful music.

In a classical ballet class, Adage often come after pirouettes, this portion of the lesson concentrates on slow movement to improve the dancer's ability to control the leg and increase extension. Flexibility is always a plus, dancers to bring the leg into high positions with control and ease.

Leg extensions are at full classical height of 90 degrees, can be taken higher, though only when appropriate and without distorting the purity of their line. In adage, it is absolutely important for dancers to focus on the process by which the limbs reach their full extension rather than on how high they rise their legs. Always remember QUALITY not quantity. The quality of sustaining and lengthening the limbs outward, radiating from the centre of the whole body. Classical leg extensions achieve their beauty shaped by the dancer;s breathing, as an expression of spiritual expansiveness, never by force or strain.

For Advance students, Adage section are more complex co-ordination, using all alignments and directions of travel, a fuller range of body poses, and different ways in which the limbs can move in space from one position to another. Sometimes, it require great co-ordination, balance, control and concentration. It require strength to perform more intricate movements with the appearance of ease.

That is what Ballerina do, to make difficult movement, look so easy.

Little Ballerina: Allegro

Allegro, literally means brisk, lively. In Italian, means gay or joyful.

In class, dance variation characterized by jumps and a faster tempo. These comprise a well-timed and directed push-off, a clearly presented aerial position,and a controlled, sustained landing. They require quick thinking, remembering quick and fast jump steps ON TIME with quick often playful music. In RAD syllabus, I find Allegro is fairly reasonable as they are fix exercise, and you are given time to rehears over until perfection. However, in ISTD syllabus, students are more quick to catch new free work. They are very versatile, you can throw demanding steps, and they will easily remember and complete the routine on the spot.

In petit allegro the dancers execute smaller jumps such as petit jete and entrechat, while the grand allegro is characterized by bigger jumps such as sissonne ouverte or grand jete.

In petit allegro, teacher always look for fast, clean work.

In grand allegro, look for sustaining in the air, ballon movement, elegance.

A good dancer understand the degree of energy needed and use only as much as required, to achieve different qualities of steps from petit to grand allegro. The more impetus on push-off the more control will be needed on landing. Grand allegro require stamina, more energy and vitality from initiation to completion.

I always believe a brilliant dancer can communicate and engage with the audience through her eye focus and use of head. This not only give clarity to the line of jump, it enliven and enhance the whole effect of dramatic elevation. Again, dancers are not just moving machines, they interpret, they feel, they listens to music, they touches audiences' heart.

Dancers' interpretation comes from total body involvement and use for breath and projection to convey the motivation for each movement. The bounding springs and soaring leaps of allegro work embody the essence of spiritual and physical flight. This is poetically expressed in Sleeping Beauty Act III, when a superbly trained and talented dancer was chosen to dance as Bluebird, dazzles Princess Florine (and of course the audience) with his rebounding vaults, enticing her to escape her confinement and ascend to his beautiful realm far above the earth. Utter beauty, my heart almost stop, admiring those graceful leaps.

Little Ballerina: Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Sauté

I enjoy this exercise very much. Love the strong ballon movement.

Coupé Fouetté Raccourci
Usually done by beginners, facing bar. (En pointe or en demi-pointe) Start with a coupé derriere (touching ankle), strongly extend the working leg to 2nd en l;air 45 degrees, and finishes en fondu, sharply whipping working foot to mid-calf, maintaining turn-out throughout the exercise.

Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Battu
A Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Sauté in which the legs join in the air to beat in 5th position without change of feet before landing. Very light beat. Require control and technique. More difficult if it were to execute en tournant.

Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Sauté
A coupé action leading into a vertical jump, working leg strongly extended to 2nd en l’air 45 degrees, with an sharp inward whipping action of the working leg. End with left foot sur le cou-de-pied derriere en fondu (touching the mid-calf), arm 3rd position right arm forward, eye focus over the right forearm.

Thought on Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Sauté

- Strong and quick whipping action of working legs, remember to maintain turn out during landing
- Extend working legs fully to 2nd en l’air 45 degrees
- Jumping supporting leg fully pointed in the air ( for Coupé Fouetté Raccourci Sauté)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

LittleBallerina: Battement tendu

Battement tendu

Battement tendu means “stretched beating” in French, the straight working leg brushes out to its longest, stretched position, toes always in contact with the floor (A terre). It returns to its original position or to a new one, sometimes with a plié, sometimes with an additional variation in the extended position. For those ISTD teachers, you need to be a bit creative in giving different variation (taken from 5th position and executed to the front, to the side and then to the back) free work during class. This sequence of movements is called en croix, which means ‘in the shape of a cross’.


Tendus teach and train you how to move your feet and legs correctly. They develop a supple, articulate foot and a strong, flexible ankle. They build the strength and control you need to stand on just one leg while working legs works in all directions around you. The tendus has a fairly small range of motion, but mastering it is crucial for executing bigger movements. It is crucial for a lot of Asian dancers, as they do not have natural arched metatarsal. A nice arch can be trained by using various floor exercise, exercise band. (Refer to Little Ballerina: Top 10 tips on improving your arch)

My thoughts on Tendus

* Lead with your inner thigh to really work your turnout.

* Always think lead by your heel. Turn out.

* Go through ball of your foot and lengthening the toes while you are fully point. When you are teaching small children tell them battement tendus is like ironing the floor. (Go through demi-pointe and extend fully to a fully extended toes on the floor. Feel the floor pressure) Pointing happens at both the ankle and the metatarsal joints.

* When you are teaching younger children. Touch them by pushing or resisting their knees when they do battement tendus devant, use the same method, push their knees when they close. So that they can feel the ‘straight in and straight out’ feeling.

* The return is essential; close your tendus precisely into a perfect first or fifth position, using inner thigh. Ensure heels down.

* Always take care of your supporting side. Maintain turn out and feel lifted.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

LittleBallerina: Plié

My thoughts on some classical techniques: Plié


Plié means “fold” or “bend” in French; in ballet it is to bend the knee or knees of your standing leg or legs. The barre usually begins with demi- and grand plié, it might look simple but it is not! Some people describe ballet movement as defying nature. There are some true in it, hardly anyone is born in those arkward turn-out position. It require years of training to develop the strength of muscle and tendons to hold the outward rotation of the hip- turning out.


Plié warm the muscles and joints of the legs, as well as those crucial muscles that control your turnout. Plie is fundamental in helping establish correct placement and are the foundation of every turn, every jump, and every safe landing.

When you are teaching children, sauté (jump etc), always encourage and educate them the importance of landing with a plié, so that they would not create such a loud and noisy land and injured their hamstrings, tendons if they land with a straight leg! Use fun and imaginative words such as “sound like elephant jumping” if they do not use plie, or tell them a story that baby is sleeping in the studio, ask them to land with plie quietly. All these will create an interesting interaction between teacher and students in class. Most importantly, you get your message across to them effectively, they crack up laughing while learning the techniques.

Another fun idea is ask the children to face the mirror while doing plie, tell them you are looking for big diamonds as they plie. (The shape of knee bend create a diamond shape) Subsequently, ask them to repeat the exercise side way to mirror, ask them to check if their alignment is correct. Use funny words like “Check if your bum bum is sticking out like a duck?”

Important points on plié

* Work your turnout properly from the hip joint, and maintain the alignment of your ribs and pelvis. (They should be in a straight vertical, pulling up feeling through the tip of your head)

* Keep all ten toes on the floor (prevent ‘rolling boat’ feet!), and controlling your ankles and knees so they don’t roll in.

* Keep your heels on the floor at all times during demi- plié; during grand- plié only lift them at the last possible moment going down and replace them as soon as you can coming up. Lift them as little as possible. In second position the heels remain on the floor.

* Don’t sit at the bottom of the plié; start the ascent immediately and keep the timing consistent: if it’s two counts going down, it’s two counts coming up.

* Use Breathing! Breath. Sometimes students became so tensed up, their movement look as if they don’t need to breath. Encourage breathing, inhale as you prepare for plié, as you bend, eyeline follow arms and exhale. Correct breathing can make plié look smooth, and it is pleasing to watch.

* Grand- plié in fourth and fifth positions really challenge the turnout. Always use the mirror to check and keep pelvis ‘square’, do not ‘open’ or move the pelvis.

* Straightening and stretching the legs is equally important in plié. Think of ‘Resistant’. Counter pulling effect, imagine a rubber band being pulled upward and downward.

Example of a free plié work for Advanced students

Commencing 1st position, bras bas

1-4 Prepare arm through en avant to à la seconde

1-5 Demi- plié, arm à la seconde

1-6 Rise and lower, retaining arm line

1-7 Full plié with simple port de bras

1-8 Full port de bras forward bend raising arm to fifth position

1-9 Degage to 2nd , opening arm à la seconde

1-10 Lower heel in 2nd

1-11 Repeat 1-8 in 2nd

1-12 Sideways port de bras towards barre, recover opening arm à la seconde

1-13 Degage, rond de jambe to fourth position

1-14 Repeat 1-8 in fourth position

1-15 Full circular port de bras

1-16 Degage, to close fifth position

1-17 Repeat 1-8 in fifth position

1-18 Arm through bras bas, en avant to fifth

1-19 Backward port de bras, recover arm to 1st arabesque line en l’air

1-20 Arabesque penché, recover, close fifth.

Little Ballerina: Top 10 tips on prevention of pointe-related injuries

Little Ballerina: Top 10 tips on prevention of pointe-related injuries.

Warm-up/ Know your body

1) Always do enough warm up and stretching before class. Arriving at least 15-20min before actual class to do stretching and warm up, gives you enough range of motion to fit into stance, positions, even challenging poses. Remember, warming up and cooling down after class are crucial to longevity of a dancer’s career.

2) Always do a regular technique class before going on to a full pointe class. By doing so, it prevent frequent cause of tendonitis.

3) Floor exercise that involve stretching and working on the instep and forefoot will lessen ankle related injuries.

4) There is a misconception of wearing leg warmer, people thinks that by wearing them it will warm up muscle. So not true! So, always put them on after warming up to preserve the warmth, rather than wearing them to warm-up and then removing them.

5) Everyone has its own body type, own range of motion. Think of lengthening line to accomplish your maximum range of motion, instead of imitating someone else and risk injury.

Shoe size does matter!

6) Pointe shoe that is too short can bring great discomfort to the Achilles tendon, cause ends longer second and third toes to become pressed, resulting in corns and callous formations, or possibly to disjoint from its normal structure, which can lead to an arthritic condition. Wearing shorter shoes prevents the arch from expanding. Once the elasticity of the arch is lost, the ability to jump is lost. In addition, it also lessen a dancer’s plie. If foot contact a half inch or longer on the satin at the heel of the shoe, the size may be too short. Beware, it can cut into the back of heel when you do plie or during jumps! Shoes that are too narrow squeeze the toes and joints, pressing together might lead to toe nails ingrown or cutting into other toe.

7) Shoes that are too big lessen control of movement. Bigger shoes might cause sprained ankles, overstretched tendons, and overdevelop of muscle that is working hard to hang on to the shoe. Stiffness of back, shoulder, and neck might result on compensating for loss of range of movement when control of foot is lost. Foot will end up sinking into the shoe, causing the big toes twisted.

8) Always tie your ribbon just right. Tight ribbon cut off circulation, creating tremendous pressure on ankle.

Faulty techniques

9) Faulty techniques always lead to injuries, these include incorrect line, improper weight placement.

10) Ballet injuries always happen when fatigues set-in. Long strenuous classes, rehearsals might result in poor placement caused by tired/weak muscles incapable of holding the feet in proper alignment may cause varies physical strains and stresses.

Little Ballerina: Top 10 tips on Improving pirouettes

Little Ballerina: Top 10 tips on Improving pirouettes

1) Confident is the key. Always think of a good turn, before you start your pirouette, you already win half the battle. Your brain should see its completion and know where your body will finish. I always tell my class, “You have nothing to lose by thinking positive, you can turn!”

Teachers should absolutely give 100% positive encouragement to their students. It boost dancers’ confidence and if they still cannot make the perfect pirouette, always encourage them by saying, “Good try, let’s try again!”

2) Spot is vital! Be free in the head and neck so you can spot.

3) Never rest your toes on your knee in passé. Keep moving your thigh open (maintain the turn out) though out the whole turn and back to ecarte position so it’s actively turning out. Use imaginative illustration, like “your working leg’s knee is like a machine gun firing bullet, make sure you fire 360 around the studio.”

4) Take time in preparation 4th position to engage your pelvis muscles, go thru deepest point of demi-plie, push working leg away from floor and place body weight over supporting leg into a pirouette.

5) Think of the double pirouette as one turn. “Sharp, sharp”. Never double bounce!! Imagine the first rotation as a releve to the front, which set you up on one leg.

6) During your turn, everything from your supporting toe to your hip point should go up, while everything from shoulder point to hip should go down. It is an up and down action that is articulate, clear, and smooth.

7) Use your back! The back has to be strong and expressive, when you turn.

8) Finally, regardless of whether you have done a good or bad turn, smile confidently, slow down the closing of the arms to create an effortless-looking pirouette. Finish gracefully.

9) Never give up! Teachers need to be patient in working with students that face difficult challenge of turning pirouette. It can be spirit crushing for students. Teachers give suggestion for improvements, guide and work with student, give positive affirmations.

10) Practice, practice, practice!

Healthy Eating for every Ballerina

Healthy Eating for every Ballerina

I spend my university days studying about medicines and pay a lot of attention learning the importance of essential nutrients for our body to function well, so that our body can work at it’s best capacity.

Forget about dieting, a true ballerina do not starve themselves! In actual fact, you need to make sure you eat well to replenish all the energy burned out during dance and rehearsals. I would like to share some important notes on eating well.

Eat protein

About 25% of your daily food intake should come from protein because it is essential little building blocks known as amino acids, for building strong bones, muscles, healthy teeth, hair and nails. Dietary source of protein include meat, eggs, grains, nuts, legumes, soy products and dairy products such as milk and cheese. I’m not a meat person, so how do I include protein into my diet? Spirulina is an excellent antioxidant and protein source without calories or cholesterol. Ideal for sportsmen and ballerinas. A healthy diet rich in protein will not only satisfy your appetite and stimulate your hormones to burn fat in your body.

Here is a guide to protein sources:-



Nuts and seeds

Dairy products


Cooked beans, lentils, chickpeas

Steamed edamame (my favourite Japanese snack)

Green garden peas



Bean curd (Tofu)


Soy Milk

Whole wheat pasta

Wheat germ

Oat bran

Whole-grain bread

Whole-grain cereal

Buckwheat noodle



Sunflower seeds

Ground flaxseeds

Cottage cheese



Whole egg

Egg white

Skinless Chicken

Fresh Fish


Lean beef



Eat Omega-3 fish oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have a various benefits to our body. Fish oil provides an anti-inflammatory action within the body which may reduce inflammation in dermatitis, psoriasis and joint swelling associated with arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for cardiovascular health. As a dancer dancing all the time, we need to maintain healthy joints and make sure our heart gets the essential nutrients.

In addition to these wonderful benefits, DHA is necessary for the normal function of our eyes, brain, and nervous system.

Drink more water

It is all about choice, when it comes to water. You can make a conscious decision in grabbing the carbonated sweet drink or just plain water. Your healthy choice will make a difference in a long run. Water help to keep your skin soft and supple, eases constipation, flush out toxin and waste products from your body. As we spend much out our time wearing leotards and essential to have flawless skin on and off stage. You’ll notice a better complexion and clearer skin by drink enough water to hydrate your body.

Recommended fluid intake is about 1.5 litres. Dehydration in dancers can lead to tiredness and a tendency to snack for energy! (as thirst receptors often get mixed up with hunger receptors)

Eat a least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Seriously!

I know, we are not all rabbits that are born to love to eat carrots. Some even may say vegetables are an acquired taste. Well, the fact is that vegetables are packed with essential carotenoids, fat soluble Vitamin A, D & E as well as water soluble vitamins B, C and folic acid, numerous minerals, provide a good deal of disease fighting phytochemicals and constipation fighting fibers that are very vital for a dancers body.

Carbohydrates are a complex issue

Some dancers, concerned about gaining weight, mistakenly drop carbohydrates from their diet. There’s no doubt that refined carbs such as white bread, crackers, pastas, white rice, cakes, cookies and potatoes, are nutritional slackers. But unrefined complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, wholemeal pastas and green vegetables supply essential B vitamins, trace minerals, they are filling, and provide energy for dancing. Again it is about choices.

Who is the creator of Little Ballerina?

Name: Staphanie Mun (d.o.b 15 January 1982)

Hometown: Kuala Lumpur

Occupation: Pharmacist, with great passion for ballet.

STAPHANIE spelled with an ‘A: “Yes. It was a mistake from the beginning. But as time goes by, i love it, there is only one special Staphanie among all the Stephanies.”

It’s the simple things

What makes Staphanie happiest? "Smell of brownies and coffee. My] husband making me crack up. God’s grace and blessings."

Parental guidance: “My mum taught me to stay positive, be a truly sincere friend, to make memories- make effort to spend wonderful time with people that you love most. My dad taught me to be generous.”

Watch out Martha Steward:

She loves baking stuff, cooking and ohhh so love decorating her home to perfection.

She thinks she has a dream job:

When not in the office or teaching private ballet lessons, she research and writes leisurely about one thing she loves most, ballet.

She is traditional:

“I always collect all ballet related books, pointe shoes everywhere I go in the world, has a hand written secret recipe book that contain all my God-mother’s wonderful traditional Chinese cuisine. And still own my very first encyclopedia, letter ‘B’ series, simply because of the description about Ballet.”

What is Little Ballerina about?

What is Little Ballerina about?

When I was six, my mother signed me up for ballet lessons. I immediately feel in love with ballet, I enjoyed my classes, recitals and performances. I always worked extra hard, put in more effort than other girls, for main roles in performances.

Having passed all R.A.D. ballet exams up to Advanced level, I was advised of a teaching opportunity which, at the age of 18, I decided to try my hand at. I found that I enjoyed teaching children the art of dance.

I decided to pursue academic instead of pursuing ballet professionally, I continued my studies in Pharmacy and graduated as a pharmacist years later. Classical ballet is still a huge part of who I am. I grew up with ballet surrounding my daily routine. My former ballet academy was like my second home. I continued my passion for dance all these years, during my university days till now as I worked as a pharmacist.

Ballet is such a beautiful, graceful physical and artistic expression. It was love at first sight for me!

This is a project I wanted to start for ballet lover who have or have no dance training, for the ‘little ballerina’ in you. It is a sharing platform, for wonderful people that appreciate the art of dance.

My Thoughts on Teaching:-

Teaching children and adult ballet allow me to give back what I have enjoyed all these years of training to our next generation of dancers.

Children can be trained with patience and love. As teachers, we should give our best to train and teach them to be sensitive to music, let them learn about the captivating stage expression, discipline, cultivating self esteem, self-confidence thru dance.

I am a strong believer of positive affirmations and encouragements in teaching children. I believe in character building, shaping positive happy children while instilling foundation of discipline. Children thrive on encouragement, laughter, trust, boundaries, listening and freedom to be themselves, on the contrary, children wither on criticism, being judged, authoritarianism. I hope my students will enjoy their ballet class every single time, come running out from the studio wanting to share all details with their parents after class. Be a ballet teacher that cares, loves and children will always remember their names up until adulthood. Be a teacher that changes lives!

My goal isn't to see my students dance on the stage with a world-famous ballet company, by giving Nazi style training. I’m more interested in letting my students enjoy, have fun and establishing the right foundation in life for all of my students, by instilling discipline, self-confidence and joy in dance.

Many of the skills needed later in life- discipline, perseverance, the ability to learn new things are learned in the dance studio.