By K.J. WEBB
Editor at Large
STAMINA AND FLEXIBILITY: The Tulsa Ballet will perform Classical Relativity from Oct. 29 through Oct. 31. Ballet is relative to many other sports including football. Movement and flexibility help to improve a player’s performance during games.
Courtesy Tulsa Ballet
On Oct. 29-31 Tulsa Ballet will present “Classical Relativity,” described as “redefining all theories of time and space.” It’s an ambitious description and one that is suited to the expert dance and athletic abilities of the Tulsa Ballet. The performance will be comprised of three separate pieces: George Balanchine’s ‘Theme and Variations,” James Kudelka’s “There, Below,” and “Amade” by Massimillano Volpini.
Melinda Gable, marketing director, Tulsa Ballet, says, “This performance will showcase, more than usual, the athleticism of our dancers. Ballet requires a tremendous amount of stamina, flexibility, coordination, strength and finesse. The audience will be able to see clearly that our dancers are also extremely graceful athletes.”
Gable’s reference to dancers as athletes is apt. Ballet tones muscles, improves strength, flexibility, coordination, and agility. Consequently, professional athletes over the years have integrated ballet into their training regimens. Famous football players such as Heisman Trophy winner, former Dallas Cowboys running back and 5th-degree blackbelt Herschel Walker, and Former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann know well the benefits provided by adding ballet to a training regimen. Swann has attributed his well-known grace and success on the field to years of dance training. Swann is so convinced of the benefits of ballet that he has provided money to the Pittsburgh Ballet’s Theater School enabling many students to attend on scholarship.
Football players are not the only athletes that gain improved physical performance and a competitive edge from ballet. Any athlete involved in a sport that requires jumping, turning, twisting, balance, coordination, muscle strength and flexibility will benefit from the various movements and exercises of ballet. The plie, moderately to deeply bending at the knees while standing with feet spread apart and turned out, strengthens the calf, thigh, hip, pelvic and abdominal muscles. For example, the strength and flexibility offered by doing plies on a regular basis can increase a basketball player’s jumping ability. According to an October, 2009 The Chronicle article by Carmina Stanton, the top highest vertical leaps recorded by the National Basketball Association range from 28 inches to a little less than six feet. Talented male ballet dancers can leap four to five feet high with no running start. On good days, internationally renowned ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, 5’7” tall, could leap six feet.
In addition to the increased athletic performance, the potential for injuries is decreased by incorporating ballet into a training program; turning out the feet helps to rotate the legs around the hips and increases the range of motion which reduces the chances of injury. According to dance critic Rachel Howard, in Dance Magazine, Cleveland Browns medical advisor John Bergfeld, M.D. noted that groin injuries decreased during the season following the Browns’ ballet classes. According to Bergfeld, ballet training had taught the players, who had to crouch during games, an awareness of their pelvis positioning and had increased the range of motion in their hips.
Core control of the body and movements is essential in dance. When asked about the importance of core control and movement Gable says, “One of the most admirable, and notable characteristics of our dancers is their ability to control and absolutely direct their movements through space. It’s central to mastery of ballet,” adding, “this will really be evident in our upcoming performance of ‘Classical Relativity.’ I hope that when people see it, in addition to the enjoyment of the art form, they can develop a better understanding of ballet’s overall fitness and sports benefits and how they could apply it in their own, and their kids’ lives.”
For more information about Tulsa Ballet and its diverse array of upcoming performances visit www.tulsaballet.org