Dance Teacher Tips

#LetUsLessonPlanForYou: Rond de Jambe, Plus a Body-Weight-Based Workout For Boys

It's up to the teacher to keep young male dancers' training on track as they develop into adults. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert, courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

Tammi Shamblin works magic with the boys of Ballet Tech in New York City. Here, she uses imagery to teach rond de jambe.

Most boys begin puberty around age 11 or 12 and complete the process by 16 or 17. It is a physically awkward time; growth spurts can leave boys gawkily tall and unsure where their extremities end. This is especially tough on male dancers, who can temporarily lose their grace and coordination, as well as some flexibility. As their dance teacher, you can help them continue to train successfully, even as their bodies change. The Portland Ballet teaches the following body-weight-based workout to its boys around 11 or 12, to complete outside the studio on their own time.


(Do exercises in one-minute intervals in a single circuit, three days a week.)

1. Sliding Forearm Presses:

For chest, shoulders and core

Press palms and forearms together in front of your face, with elbows as close together as possible without collapsing the ribcage or rounding the shoulders. With resistance, move arms up and down about four inches.

2. Triceps Kickbacks:

For arms, especially triceps

With feet hip-width-distance apart, bend your knees and lean forward slightly from the waist, keeping your back straight. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and pull them behind you, keeping arms close to your sides. With your hands in fists, slowly extend both arms backward until they are straight and slowly return, flexing the biceps once they are back at the starting position.

3. Chest Presses:

For chest, shoulders and arms

Lift your arms to second position and bend elbows up at 90-degree angles. Hands are in fists, pointing toward the ceiling. With resistance, move your arms to the front of the body, maintaining the “L" shapes, and return to the original position.

(Prepare for all standing exercises with feet under the hips and core engaged.)

4. Arm Circles:

For chest, arms and shoulders

Extend your arms straight out from your shoulders to the sides. Draw small, controlled circles, 30 seconds in each direction.

5. Rhomboid Pulls:

For shoulders

With arms at your sides, pull the shoulder blades in toward each other and squeeze, hold and release. Make sure you do not arch your back. Visualize squeezing a tennis ball between the blades; this is purely a shoulder blade isolation exercise.

6. Prone Triceps Push-ups:

For arms, core and chest

Lying on the stomach and with the hands underneath the shoulders, engage the core and push up into a plank position. (If needed, start the exercise on the knees before moving to the toes.) Keep the elbows tucked into the sides of the body, and lower to about two inches above the floor before pushing back up to the plank.

Once you are strong enough to do at least one slow, full triceps push-up, move into the traditional push-up stance, with arms farther from the body and elbows pointing out for more emphasis on the chest. Or, place the hands in a diamond shape under the chest for additional emphasis on the triceps.

7. Wall Push-ups:

For arms, core and chest

Lean against the wall in a traditional push-up position, about an arm's length away, and complete 30 seconds of slow wall push-ups. Add 30 seconds of pulses. Once you can do both the slow reps and pulses, you can move the exercise to the barre (if it is attached to the wall) for a steeper incline, and then to the floor. This progression is designed for students who haven't yet built the upper-body strength to start from the traditional floor position.

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