PROGRESSING TO THE
NEXT LEVEL IN CLASSICAL BALLET AND OLYMPIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
The specialized program that enhanced the ability of the elite
classical ballet dancer to progress from 2-3 to 7-8 turns on pointe,
increase flexibility, alignment, control and integration into technical fundamentals
in a one month time period, is now available for all dance, sports and Olympic
By Stephen M. Apatow,
Director of Research and Development, Sports Medicine & Science
the study of classical ballet? The answer is that classical ballet
training is considered to be the most advanced movement mechanics training
in the world, providing a foundation for the development of joint strength,
postural alignment and precision control of the human frame in space.
EXPERIENCE UNDERSCORES RELEVANCE OF CLASSICAL TRAINING
of a medical degree in conjunction with studies in sports medicine and exercise
physiology was sidetracked by athletic aspirations that led to my taking a
sabbatical in 1984. My athletic background encompassed ultra endurance
sports (running: 50 miles, cycling: 250 miles), triathlon, cross country
skiing and sculling, the two sports in which I pursued international competition.
During my sports science research, one of the most thought provocative subjects
related to why an athlete with superior physiological ability (maximum oxygen
uptake: 85 ml/kg/min) would succumb to another considered inferior (maximum
oxygen uptake: 60 ml/kg/min). The answer to these questions appeared to be
associated with the economic use of energy, efficiency and strength leading
to superior sports specific performance. This realization led to further
research on postural alignment, joint leverage mechanics, control of the human
frame and eventually the subject of dance training.
in conjunction with sport specific training for cross country skiing and rowing,
modern, jazz and ballet classes (8-10 hours per week) were added to my overall
program. As an athlete in my early 20's, with no dance background, this proved
to be a challenging undertaking. The concept of flexibility and integration
into complex coordinated movements left me sitting on the sidelines, studying
the mechanics that my body could not quite yet execute. After approximately
6 months, the goal of working through an entire class was finally achieved.
The scope of this progress is attributed to a choreographer named Lee Lund,
who provided a full scholarship that included access to all classes, beginner
to advanced levels.
after international competition, the lack of support for Olympic development
athletes presented a significant
challenge. My choices ranged from survival while pursuing points to qualify
for the national teams that did not hold the top medallist positions or maintain
my present course of sports specific training and scholarships in the hope
of setting a new standard for US programs. A short time later, a ballet
instructor at Yale suggested I contact Sharon Dante, the executive director
of the Nutmeg Ballet and Conservatory for the Arts who coached Victoria Mazzarelli,
the only gold medallist at the first New York International Ballet Competition
in 1984. Shortly thereafter, I was granted a full scholarship to study
the Soviet system of ballet training with the Nutmeg Ballet.
ON SPORTSMEDICINE, EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY AND THE SCIENCE OF CLASSICAL BALLET
my training period from 1984-90, though disconnected from the academic community,
I continued intensive studies of myology, anthrology, osteology, neurology,
exercise physiology and biomechanics. These studies in conjunction
with the ballet training led to further research of the ideal postural alignment
objective of the classical ballet development program. This research encompassed
an intensive analysis of the first through eighth year of the pedagogical
system and Vagonova teaching method as taught at the Nutmeg Conservatory.
The result of this research led to the development of a specialized program
that encompassed (1) the analysis of a joint complex by comparison to the
classical ballet mechanical ideal, (2) the integration of corrective procedures
to increase the elasticity of muscle-tendon restrictions associated with
a malalignment pattern, (3) functional restoration of joint range of motion
and flexibility and (4) retraining to enable postural control utilizing
the ideal classical ballet based alignment as the objective.
this experimental program was utilized to enhance the postural alignment mechanics
of elite dancer, Cheryl Madeux, during a preparation period for the Lausanne
International Ballet Competition. The program yielded immediate results,
including increased hip range of motion (turnout), correction of knee, ankle
foot malalignment problems (that result from turnout below the knee), spinal
and shoulder alignment (restrictions of the shoulder complex that affected
port de bra and cervical spine alignment). Corrections were then integrated
into a concentrated retraining program that consisted of fundamental exercise
sequences at the ballet barre and integration into all choreographed movement.
A nutrition and classical ballet specific aerobic training regimen was also
developed to enhance conditioning and bodyline. The results of the
one-month intensive program yielded a rapid progression to the next technical
level of performance, an accomplishment not considered attainable through
the classical ballet program alone.
Alumni: Cheryl Madeux (1990) became the only American finalist at
the Prix de Lausanne and later became "Presidential Scholar" of Arts Recognition
& Talent Search. Miss Madeux later joined the Joffrey Ballet and has been
principal ballerina for the Hartford Ballet. She now dances with American
case served as a starting point for the integration of this work into all
levels of the pedagogical program at Nutmeg Ballet. In the early 90's
the biomechanical analysis, correction and retraining program was adapted
for athletes in Olympic and sports development programs and at the request
of the medical community, orthopedic applications that included entrapment
neuropathies, scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, friedreich
ataxia, multiple sclerosis and veterinary cases (canine, equine).
& Sports Development.
Clinics, Seminars, Biomechanics
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