This Article is About
black swan
ballet positions
adult ballet
natalie portman
gentle stretches
close ups
pointe shoes
muscle tension
The Recreational Dancers Try For The Black Swan Look
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Recreational dancers are a huge part of our culture, including the adult ballet beginners and the men in ballet. The Black Swan, while not a movie about ballet, has increased the audience for classical dance, and no doubt encouraged non-professional dance students to think "if Natalie Portman can look like that, why can't I?"

How Did Natalie Do It?

Natalie Portman worked very hard to play Nina. While she trained vigorously, the coaching emphasis was  on her head, arm and hand movements, where close ups of her dancing would be focused.

She bravely worked in pointe shoes which she has described as torture devices. They definitely would feel that way to someone who has not had the years and intensity of training that would make it easier.

What Can You Practise To Get A Swan Lake Look?

While you need as long as you need to strengthen your posture, ballet turnout, and leg extensions, your head, arm and hands can be developed with daily relaxation, stretches, and movement.

The Classical Ballet Head Positions And Movements

Head movements and positions in ballet are not tricky in any way. However, they can appear awkward if a dancer doesn't understand that in choreography, the dancer turns the head merely to look at something. So if the head follows a natural eye movement, and the eyes focus on something, you will look more natural and relaxed.

So in class, when head movements are added to ballet positions, always find something to briefly focus on, turn the head as far is comfortable, and tilt slightly.

If your neck and shoulders are too tense, you just need to learn some gentle stretches to relieve your muscle tension.

Ballet Arm Positions

Arm positions will be created naturally if the core muscles holding your posture and alignment are firm, and your arms can move in any direction in the shoulder joint, without tension.

Small children are commonly given arm motions and hand stretches, because they love imitating ballerinas. It's a joy for them to sit on the floor and do the Swan Queen arm waves, trying to get that rippling motion.

Adult ballet beginners, however, must be more serious. Real grown ups don't have time to pretend. Well, why not?!

If you think you look awkward, and you cannot get your arms to ripple a la Swan Lake, I suggest starting with just your hands.

Sensitize, Relax And Stretch Your Hands

Sit comfortably, straight, and place the heels of the hands together, making a V position with your hands. Now imagine that you have a hundred joints between the heel of the hands and fingertips. Press the hands together easily, increasing the pressure as you get to the fingertips.

At the instant the fingertips are forced to pop apart, soften all those joints, allowing the hands to gracefully continue the motion. As the fingers draw apart, move the heels of the hands together, so that they touch just as the hand straightens back out into a V.

Repeated ten to twenty times, the movement becomes circular, a wave, a ripple.

And you are getting a relaxing stretch, loosening up the hand and finger joints.

Add The Arms Making The Same Motion Bigger

Now stretch your arms out to the side. In classical choreography they would be slightly back of the body's center, but you don't have to have wings yet, keep them where you would place your second position of the arms.

Start moving the hands, just as you did, with a little added tension, since now you are creating some resistance, like that which you had when you were pressing the hands together.

(In a small children's class, I would have them sit on the floor in a circle, spaced so that they would touch the next girl's hands, on either side, and they would feel the same pressure).

But most older students and adult beginners can add the somewhat abstract notion of creating resistance. As you repeat the same wave of motion in the hands, keep your shoulders still, but allow the elbows to relax, and simply follow the motion. The elbow will rotate, and return to its original position. 

Think of the elbow merely FOLLOWING the motion, not doing the motion. Imagine the ripple moving from inside the shoulder joint, down through the wrists and hands, and returning, just like low gentle waves on the ocean.

It may take years for the large muscle groups to meet the demands of ballet, or for you to get into pointe shoes. Yet, if you practise the above exercises, you will become more sensitive to the correct interplay of tension and release in those Black Swan arm waves. To get some extra help in both strength and stretching, try one of these muscle stretching exercise routines.


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