I was just twelve years old when my mum first took me to try Pilates.

At that point, I had been doing ballet for eight years.  Each year came with a new set of challenges as I pushed myself to dance and compete at the highest level I could reach.

Mum didn’t know then how much Pilates would impact on my training, but looking back now I can confidently say I wouldn’t have been able to perform at my best without it.

The benefits of including Pilates into any ballet or dance training regime are immense. The principles of Pilates fit perfectly with those of ballet, and I found the focus on core strength, length and correct alignment proved invaluable in improving my dancing. Pilates also encourages and enhances body awareness which can be translated directly into practice in the dance studio. As my technique and strength improved at Pilates, so did my technique and strength at ballet.

All dancers are different; everyone comes with their own set of strengths, weaknesses and imbalances. For me, my glute strength (which aids ‘turn out’ in classical ballet steps), and my ankle stability (needed for secure pointe work), were lacking. Pilates allowed me to zone in on these specific areas and build a more informed awareness of how best to work on improving them.

Similarly, Pilates provides a space for dancers, away from the demands and often fast pace of the dance studio. With Pilates, I loved getting to know my body and how it worked outside of the ballet studio, where learning choreography and other aspects of rehearsal can sometimes detract from perfecting technique.

At the age of fifteen, I underwent surgery on both of my ankles to remove extra bones (Os Trigonum) which I’d been born with – weird I know! They had been causing me a lot of pain in pointe work and thankfully the surgery was a success. What ensued however was a period of rehabilitation to get me back to the level I was at pre-diagnosis. Once again, Pilates came to the rescue and I was able to build and maintain the strength and stamina for the rest of my body without any impact on my feet.

For dancers, injuries are the enemy. Physically and psychologically, having to take time off dancing to heal, is tough to say the least. Not only does Pilates aid in injury rehabilitation but it is invaluable for injury prevention, helping you keep on your toes.
Supplementing my dance training with Pilates was one of the best decisions for me. Having tried other more general forms of strength training, Pilates was a breath of fresh air and best of all, it made sense. Feeling stronger when I danced was an amazing feeling, which is why I’d recommend Pilates to anyone wanting to improve their performance in ballet or dance.

Almost 10 years on from when I first started Pilates, I still love it and I can’t see myself stopping any time soon.

Natalie Welch
Pilates Instructor Peak St Heliers