Pilates for Dancers

Today’s guest post is by POLESTAR® Educator Noelle Dowma, DPT, PMA® – CPT, from Kansas City, KS.


About two weeks ago, the Kansas City Ballet School’s summer intensive program concluded.  I again this year was proud to be part of our fantastic summer program.  Our students get Pilates based mat class and yoga 2-3 times per week.  This year, in addition, we offered Pilates reformer classes.  On the final reformer class, I asked the teachers to ask the students to share what they learned and I was blown away by the responses:

“It’s easier to find and use the right muscles, with the assistance or resistance of the reformer, than it is when you’re just working with your body and nothing else (in mat class or ballet class).”

“I always have a better ballet class, on the days it follows reformer class… I really just have a better day, in general.”

“I always feel strong during and after class.”

“When you’re injured, it really helps to have the feedback of the reformer, and it’s great to be able to modify the exercises.”

“You need to put more on the schedule!  I want to do it every day.”

“It’s so much fun!”

“It helps me do things I wouldn’t be able to do without it.”

“I learned I was using my core wrong and have been applying it to ballet”

“I didn’t think I could control my ribs, but now I know I can”

This is why I enjoy teaching Pilates, especially to dancers.  The equipment (or mat exercise) allows them to be in a foreign environment where their nervous system is ready to develop new patterns without all the preconceived movements of dance.

It is so typical for the dancer to externally rotate the tibia far more than the femur during footwork and by showing them proper alignment, they can better find the correct hip muscles to achieve the same in dance.  Additionally, I find the dancers also tend to either overuse their abdominal muscles or incorrectly push their abdomens out.  When the reformer provides assistance, they then learn what it feels like to engage their muscles with the least amount of effort and can apply that efficiency to their dance movements.  These non-dance technique based Pilates exercises provide the nervous system an opportunity for change.   Then, when re-integrated, they dance better.  I found this same thing when rehabilitating a dance injury in Pilates based physical therapy 22 years ago and have never looked back!



Noelle Dowma, DPT, PMA® – CPT
POLESTAR® Educator

Noelle began Pilates in 1992 when rehabilitating a dance injury. While acquiring her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Oklahoma, Noelle received her first Pilates certification through the PhysicalMind Institute. She then started to work for Polestar Pilates Center while attending the University of Miami School of Medicine where she earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. As a Polestar Pilates Educator, Noelle has taught courses across the USA, presented at conferences and was the featured Pilates teacher on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise. She currently lives near Kansas City and works as a Pilates, manual therapy, and dance specialized physical therapist and is on the faculty at the Kansas City Ballet School. Noelle is Pilates Method Alliance Certified.