Swimming and ballet. Transferable skills?

2nd position en pointe, executed by Gelsey Kirkland, in the Firebird. Image from Britanica Online Encyclopedia. Credit Martha Swope

2nd position en pointe, executed by Gelsey Kirkland, in the Firebird. Image from Britanica Online Encyclopedia. Credit Martha Swope

These are two of my passions and I am fascinated by the parallels and similarities between them. Olympic swimming champion Liam Tancock, believes that the poise ballet gives you is important for a swimmer as are the core strength and strong ankles that ballet dancers need.  He took weekly ballet lessons of part of his swimming  training.

In a TV interview he also pointed out that ballet dancers must place their limbs and their hands and feet with great precision. They need to be mindfully aware of the precise, yet moving positions of their bodies at all times.  This kind of awareness is important to elite swimmers where winning or losing can be a matter of hundredths of a second.

I taught one man who had been in the British Army for many years but for some reason had never really learned to swim.

‘Have you ever done ballet?’ I asked him.

We were about to practice some breastroke leg actions and that can be a little bit like standing at the barre in second position. He looked at me quizzically and said, politely, that no, ballet had not been part of his military training.

Despite his lack of dance training he did well and learned to swim a length of the pool. But it got me thinking that if people learn something unusual, something way out of their normal sphere of influence, well, who knows what the result might be.

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