Prague Ballet Intensive is an International Ballet Coaching Program, that is composed of current and former principal dancers, teachers and choreographers from the top European, Russian and North American ballet companies.
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Many dancers find they benefit from Gyrokinesis. It was created by Juliu Horvath, who also devised the Gyrotonic system. While Gyrotonic uses equipment to build strength and flexibility, Gyrokinesis focuses on the articulation of the spine, and all you need is a stool and a mat. Both are conditioning systems that start with tiny movements designed to wake the body up and progress to larger, more energetic exercises, delivering a thorough warm-up over 60 to 90 minutes.

Anjali Austin finds that her students at Florida State University benefit from her Gyrokinesis classes on several levels. “Gyrokinesis was developed with the special needs of a dancer in mind,” says Austin, a former member of Dance Theatre of Harlem. “The rhythmic and circular quality of the work, along with attention to breathing, really speaks to dancers.” The curling, arching, and twisting exercises are movements found in contemporary choreography. The more a dancer can articulate her spine, the more the spine can act as a shock absorber, protecting the lower body. This leads to greater freedom in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back.

Dancers rarely get a chance to focus on their spinal articulation free of the heavy work of the legs. “The dancers sit on a stool. That allows them to get off their legs and focus on their spinal mobility, warming up from the inside out,” says Austin.

Doing Gyrokinesis before class prepares the body for the day. “It’s a physical and mental warm-up, so by the time the students are in class they are ready to take risks,” says Austin. “Because Gyrokinesis activates weaker muscles, dancers learn to work more efficiently and economically.” Gyrokinesis classes begin with an inward focus in a form of self-massage. “This is a time to check in and sense from within what our bodies need,” says Austin. The exercises then progress in rigor and intensity, until the dancer is finally working her body completely.

Two typical Gyrokinesis exercises, “Percussion” and “Arch and Curl,” represent both that awakening and the more rigorous segments that follow it.

Percussion: This series of small exercises stimulates the organs and encourages healthy function. Sit on a stool with hips slightly higher than the knees. Begin brushing the chest with your hand in a downward motion over the heart. The brushing action should have enough pressure to feel the body rebound or bounce back after each contact. Next, attention shifts to similar massaging movement on the rib cage and solar plexus. Use the tips of the fingers to tap the rib cage area. The amount of pressure remains the same as the first movement, with the fingers bouncing off of the body. After a few taps, the tapping moves lower to the abdomen and below the belly button.

Arch and Curl: Sit on a stool with hips slightly higher than the knees, with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor and hands on thighs. Begin by reaching the chest forward with the sternum lifting up toward the ceiling as the tailbone lengthens back (look diagonally upward). Keep the back of the neck directly over the tailbone. To curl, bring the belly button towards the backbone, carve out the abdominals and soften the sternum as the lower back lengthens to the wall behind (look diagonally downward). Shoulders remain over the hips when working both directions.

Nancy Wozny writes about health and the arts from Houston.