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How to Warm Up for Ballet: 8 Exercises to Do Anywhere

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 14, 2020 • 3 min read

Even experienced, professional dancers always warm up before dance class practices or performances. To reduce the chance of hurting yourself during a full-body activity like ballet, it’s best to prepare with a proper ballet warm up.



Misty Copeland Teaches Ballet Technique and ArtistryMisty Copeland Teaches Ballet Technique and Artistry

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland teaches you how to build your technique, embrace your story, and own your movement.

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What Is Warming Up?

Warmup exercises elevate your body temperature to keep your muscles, ligaments, and joints loose. Warming up is how you prepare your body for a physical activity like learning ballet, lowering your chances of injury. Even an activity like taking a walk can benefit from a warm up like stretching, to help keep your leg muscles and ankle joints from getting overstressed from impact, which can sometimes lead to soreness or tears.

What Is the Purpose of Doing Warm Ups?

Ballet dancing is a full-body activity that relies on your own body strength and flexibility. When you warm up, you loosen up your body, increasing your range of motion and keeping your muscles pliable. The colder you enter a physical activity, the more tense your muscles are, and the higher the risk of injury. Warming up makes sure your body is ready for action, as well as enhancing the quality of your movements.

How to Warm Up for Ballet: 8 Steps

A ballet dancer’s proper warm up is a combination of physical activity, stretching, and breathing exercises. You should start with dynamic stretching, which uses light movement to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing, followed by static stretching, which can elongate your muscles and help release tension.

  1. Prancing. This dynamic warm up helps prepare your body for bigger movements. Gently raise your heels up and down in a prance-like motion, keeping your knees soft as you roll through your whole foot as it meets the ground. Lightly prance in place for a few minutes.
  2. Jumping jacks. This familiar exercise is great for ballerinas, as it gets the heart rate up, the arms moving, and the legs extended. From a standing position, jump your legs and arms apart then back. Do this for thirty second bursts.
  3. Barre rises. If you take a pointe or ballet class, or have a way to practice barre exercises at home, use the barre as part of your ballet warm up. Keep your feet parallel as you raise and lower your heels (put a tennis ball between your feet to maintain proper form) to keep your body aligned and ready for more rigorous activity later.
  4. Hip rolls. Ballet relies on every part of the body; the hips are one of the most important. Bring your knees to your chest and extend one leg outward, using the bent knee to draw a circle. Let the rest of your body follow that movement a few times, then repeat with the other leg.
  5. Shoulder rolls. Ballet isn’t just about strong legs in pointe shoes, the arms play a big part in the dance as well. Stand or sit up straight while you lift your shoulders up, back, and then down, repeating as necessary.
  6. Butterfly stretches. With the soles of your feet together, form butterfly wings with your bent knees, pulling your heels inward to fully stretch your hips and groin area. Static stretches are good for your muscles, but should only come after you’ve warmed up your body a bit.
  7. Splits. Slide your front leg forward in front of your torso and your back leg behind you, slowly lowering yourself to the ground. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.
  8. Breathe. Make sure you take plenty of deep breaths while stretching. When you exhale, let your muscles relax, which dilates your blood vessels allowing oxygen to reach your muscles. This can help improve your blood circulation, while also enhancing your muscles’ performance.
Misty Copeland Teaches Ballet Technique and Artistry
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Practice ballet with Misty Copeland, the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to put individual barre techniques together to create powerful performances and introduce artistry to your choreography.