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 development programs.

By Stephen M. ApatowDirector of Research and Development, Sports Medicine & Science Institute.

Why pursue 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. 


My pursuit 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 1985, 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. 

In 1988, 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. 


During 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. 

In 1990, 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.

 [Nutmeg 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 Ballet Theatre.] 

The Madeux 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). 


Classical Ballet & Sports Development.
Clinics, Seminars, Biomechanics Specialist Cerficiations.

Youth Programs: Focus on the Pursuit of Excellence: SportBallet Consulting Group in partnership with Humanitarian Resource Institute is expanding national youth education initiatives. Program objectives include goal setting, awareness of the mechanics of the human body, steps needed to optimize performance and prevent injuries along with sports specific applications.
1999 Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation National Conference: Presentation by S.M.Apatow focuses on classical ballet based postural alignment analysis and integration into sport development programs for injury prevention and performance optimization.  Our target audience was physical education directors from Board of Education offices representing 50 states.

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