Bootybarre is an excellent cross training class for dancers. However, because bootybarre is dance inspired and Pilates based it may be necessary to explain to dancers why you are asking them to square the hips, lower the leg and decrease their releve and turn out.
Turn out is a big part of the aesthetic for ballet. Other dance forms require it but not to the 180 degree ideal of classical ballet. The rotation should come from the hip so the knee points out over the 1st and 2nd toe. It is rare to have 180 degree turnout all from the hips so dancers compensate with the lower leg. A little of this is ok when the muscles are built slowly under close supervision of a good teacher. But many times this turns into a compensation which can be observed through the student over pronating, knees rolling in, and lack of stability when they move. Anatomically this means the bones are not aligned and the muscles are not working synergistically. This will translate into over use of something in order to stabilize and a potential injury down the road. Bootybarre, with its attention to a smaller degree of rotation creates good bone alignment, keeps the work in the external rotators and therefore strengthens them.
Dance also prefers a very high releve. This is not only for aesthetic but also to place the metatarsal, ankle joint, knee and hip joint in line with each other. This plum line of leg creates the proper physics for balancing. In ballet this will be taken one step further when the female dancer goes on pointe. Where this can go wrong is when a dancer doesn’t have the strength to stabilize in the ankle/foot and rolls in or out. When this is coupled with forcing turn out, the big toe side of the foot takes all the weight. This is the foot position you see in class with the pinky toe lifted up and the foot rolling in. Instability coupled with a high releve coupled with a plie is going to stress the ligaments of the foot and ankle.
The “kitten heel” releve of bootybarre ensures that the weight is equally distributed over the five metatarsals of the foot. The heel squeeze connects the heels to the sitz bones helping to activate the hamstrings and glutes. The lower releve emphasizes stability and proper foot mechanics. This stability creates a strong platform for the rest of the body to find its optimal alignment which is going to create balanced muscles and decreased chance of injury. Explaining this to dancers will encourage them to lower their heels even though it may feel “wrong” to them.
One of the number one cues in bootybarre is to square the hips. As instructors we know that this is to ensure that the glutes not the back are working to stabilize the hip and move the leg. This is a perfect place to again mention to your dancers that bootybarre is Pilates based and dance inspired. Dancers are never satisfied with their extensions and young dancers especially will get those legs up at any cost. Many times the cost is a back or hip injury because the extension is not supported by strong hips and glutes. I have taught dance for over 20 years and weak glutes (glute medius in particular) are common. Explain to them that by scaling back and working more conservatively they are working towards better extension but in a healthy and balanced way.
Dancers love bootybarre it because it is similar to dance in that the class moves with the beat of the music. It challenges them and they see how bootybarre strengthens and balances their body.