Tutorial #4881

Spine Extension for Dancers

5 min - Tutorial


See how exercises in Pilates translate to movements in ballet with this quick tutorial by Troy McCarty. He breaks down Swan and Swimming on the Reformer and compares it to Cambré Back and Arabesque at the barre. He focuses on taking the burden off of the lower back so that the spine can stay long and healthy as well as finding a strong connection between the arms and the back.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box, Portable Barre

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(Pace N/A)
Apr 08, 2022
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Hi, I'm Troy McCarty. Thank you so much for joining me. We're gonna talk about extension here. I have two ballet dancers. On my reformer is Ben and over at the ballet bar is SK.

So we're gonna start with this basic Swan that we do on the long box on the reformer. I have one red spring on. So Ben, if you'll go ahead, extend out and SK will be, bring your arm up to fifth. All right. So Ben's gonna start lifting that spine up and it's a big inhale and that chest comes up the shoulder blade slide down, that navel stays in and then he lowers down and SK comes back up. Let's try this again.

We go inhale. SK goes back with both shoulders. You can see the extension both of them are giving us. And back down. Okay. SK, if you'll just relax a moment.

So when I'm working with somebody in extension my ballet dancer in front of me they have a lot of extension. So I do let them come up higher. But what I want Ben to think about is as he starts to raise that chest up, that the chest I'm sorry, that the chest is reaching this way. Right. So lots of energy coming out here taking the burden off the lower back.

He comes back down and we're gonna go bone by bone. Now I want Ben to feel like he's really got those arms connected to the back. So Ben, if you'll take the hands and pull them bar apart we'll see this connection right here. He takes the body. He inhales, he's lifting the heart up, right.

Lots of energy coming out here taking the stress away from here. And then he lowers back down. All right, you can go ahead, relax. Just come over to SK. So I have SK standing in first position.

All right, it's nice and tall. His head's lifted, tailbone down. His arm, and he's already engaged in this position. He is gonna raise the arm up to the fifth position. Now what I'm looking for is for him to lift that torso up so we're not putting so much stress in the back.

He leans that extension back, right. Both shoulders are back there, just like we have on the bar. He brings the body back up. Let's try that again. He takes that big inhale.

He goes back. That's going to help that extension. And he exhales, and he brings it back in. Let's come back over to Ben. Let's try this one more time.

So arms. All right. So, we wanna feel these muscles. So I have him pulling the bar. He's going to inhale. He brings that chest up.

Sometimes I push down on the pelvis IQ with my hand here. So we get lots of energy. He exhales, he comes down. And when I look at the spine what I wanna see is one bone to drop down the next bone to come up. That bone drops down.

The next bone comes up. I can always remember Romana telling me like the spine was a strand of pearls with space in between. So let's try that one more time. So he brings that head up. So here, this bone starts to drop, drop, drop, drop.

Good. And then he lowers back down bone by bone. All right, good. Now bring it in. Great. Now, Ben I want you to extend your arms out towards SK. Can you scoot back just a little bit?

That's it right there. Now, I want you to lift one arm up in the air and the opposite leg. All right. Now, lift your chest up. Do this a little bit.

Now I want you to switch and paddle. Go one, go two, go three. And this stays absolutely still. One, two, three, very good. Now, put it back down and good.

Now we see something similar here. He has one arm reaching, the opposite leg up. If we take SK to a pointe tendu derriere with your outside leg there. So point that and there, right? So we almost have the same thing.

He's gonna raise that leg up, up into arabesque that arm extends out, right? The pelvis does tip a little bit forward so that he can get that alignment. He puts it back down, and he brings it back in. Let's look at Ben one more time. So arms are out, shoulders, navel.

He lifts one arm up, opposite leg. And we're looking here that dis sustained center then he switches. One, go two, go three, go four go five and finish on six. Very good Ben, bring it in. And SK, one more time, arm out.

Now, this arm is an extension of this back. All right. He's reaching. We can see that beautiful line he's creating. He reaches that up. The back leg has turned out.

He's nice and strong on this supporting leg. And he brings it back down, and he returns. I hope I was helpful. Giving extensions, you know for your clients and for your dancers. Thank you for watching.

Pilates for Dancers: Working with Ballet Dancers


Troy, I have a question about Ben's wrist position when he does the swan. I make sure to not break in the wrist (thinking that is the correct position), but Ben had his wrists in a downward angle. Are both positions ok?

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