There is no obvious association between top level athletes such as Premier league footballers and ballet dancers, and thinking of ballet would lead most to think of ballerinas, tutus, in elegant and graceful flow. Would it be a surprise to learn that specialists in sports research and development would view ballet dancers as professionals who can exhibit greater physical ability than most other professional sportspersons?
In fact, footballers have established a relationship with the ballet profession, enhanced in recent times by ex England football captain Rio Ferdinand, a footballer who in his youth was so good at ballet that he won a five year scholarship to the Central School of Ballet aged eleven. Former footballer Dion Dublin used ballet to aid his recovery from a career-threatening injury. The Queen's Park Rangers team also worked with the English National Ballet, which saw their 6ft 2in defender Danny Shittu in a tutu. The infamous Wimbledon 'crazy gang', which included the infamous "hard-men" Vinnie Jones and Dennis Wise, also trained with a ballet professional.
Professional athletes aim for an optimum combination of strength, control, balance and flexibility, to maximise their body movement, and regardless of which sport an athlete specialises in they all require highly developed core strength to execute demanding movements of their body. Without core strength they will not full balance and control of movement, key attributes ballet dancers have in abundance, which is why sports science specialists recommend aspects of ballet training as part of an athlete's training program.
Physical ability can be enhanced through the right type of training. A ballet dancer's training involves developing their inner core muscles to give them greater control over their arms and legs movement, and a performance can last for hours, demanding high levels of physical endurance and mental concentration. Ballet training ensures they work key muscles in their body to develop strength, power and refine their ability to control their body movement.
People will often have a combination of supple and weak muscles or strong and tight muscles; a ballet dancer's training involves a lot of work on the abdominal muscles and strengthening the core muscles, the muscles groups which control the pelvis and support the back. This improves the muscles strength and flexibility.
A beginner's ballet class will include basic positions, from the first position (heels joined, feet pointing outwards) to the fifth position (toes of each foot touching the heel of the other), with simple stretches and moves, as well as learning about the correct posture - a useful exercise especially when you find yourself sitting in front of a computer for the majority of the day.