Elena Baltovick, Owner of President of Emerald City Rhythmics and Program Director Danceology’s Academy of Classical Ballet (DACB)
EXPERTISE: Rhythmic Gymnastics and Classical Ballet
Ballet Training: National Choreographic Ballet School of Ukraine
Professional Career: The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet
Education: Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut, graduating with honors in the Vaganova Method and The University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and Ballet Pedagogy, cum laude
Credentials: certified rhythmic gymnastics coach, President of Emerald City Rhythmics, founding coach of the Aesthetic Group Gymnastics (AGG) Junior National Team based in San Diego, CA, currently ranked 1st in North America and 7th worldwideSpecialties: strengthening, conditioning, flexibility, and agility, and synthesizes her knowledge of rhythmic gymnastics and classical ballet while coaching her students.
Cross-training is not new to students of classical ballet, or other physical activities with an artistic influence. Sports like gymnastics and figure skating have been known to have their athletes train in classical ballet to support the fluidity of movement. Many students of classical ballet find themselves in debt to rhythmic gymnastics for their flexibility and strength. Ballet is a line-oriented art form, and rhythmic gymnastics is known for the explosive lines that its athletes must create to achieve their skills. Therefore, there is no surprise that these two industries frequently encounter overlap.
We have seen articles in the New York Times celebrating Ballet’s contributions to gymnastics and the labeling of classical ballet as one of the bases for rhythmic gymnastics. With the rise of reels and TikTok, we are getting bite-size pieces of young dancers like Crystal Huang and Izzy Howard, who are openly cross-training in Rhythmic Gymnastics in addition to their dance work.
There are scientific reasons for dancers to consider this cross-training. In a study on Ekaterina Selezneva, an Olympic rhythmic gymnast, her level of physical fitness was tested in comparison to other elite Olympic athletes. The gymnast surprised researchers by demonstrating above-average interactions in almost all tasks. Ekaterina had great stamina both long and short term and muscular endurance, giving insight to the strength and capability of rhythmic gymnasts.
Rachel Cossar is a former dancer with Boston Ballet who trained in rhythmic gymnastics before crossing into classical ballet. She spent 10 years on the Canadian national rhythmic gymnastics team before deciding to pursue ballet. Her gorgeous long lines and extension helped her to successfully cross into the ballet world.
It is rare to find one person with extensive knowledge in both the world of ballet and rhythmic gymnastics. But we find this in Elena Baltovick. Elena Baltovick is the owner of Emerald City Rhythmics and Program Director Danceology’s Academy of Classical Ballet (DACB) where she trains students in both areas. Having studied extensively in both ballet and rhythmic gymnastics, Elena is an expert on blending these two worlds. She shares her insights on ballet and rhythmic gymnastics.
Pros of training in Rhythmic Gymnastics
- Rhythmic gives beautiful flexibility. When classical ballet dancers begin cross-training in this sport, they can gain beautiful visual lines.
- Rhythmic also gives dancers the strength to hold their legs longer and higher in the air. It strengthens the muscles in the back and legs as well.
Concerns of training in Rhythmic Gymnastics
- If the body becomes too overstretched, a dancer can begin to look like you are a rhythmic gymnast on stage and not an artist.
- Overstretching has the potential to lead to lots of injuries. When one either overstretches or does not provide conditioning in addition to the stretching that is done for rhythmic gymnastics, it leads to back injuries or hip flexor injuries.
ABM adds: like any athletes, rhythmic gymnasts risk overuse/strain injuries or traumatic/immediate injuries. Injuries may include: ankle sprain, patellofemoral pain syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome, compromised spine, or even broken vertebrae.
Suggestions and Solutions
To train properly and prevent injury, Elena emphasizes conditioning AND strengthening. She shares that “all dance educators need to find the fine line between stretching the body to create the visual lines and protecting the body of your student.” Conditioning of the body plays a huge role in a dancer’s ability to stay in a state of artistic expression while still performing extremely difficult choreography. When done properly and safely, Elena believes “rhythmic gymnastics training exercises have a unique way of hyperextending the legs that is really beautiful.”
As ballet technique continues to evolve with requiring even more intense movements we will also continue to see the demand by our audiences to push the boundaries of what artists are capable of as athletes. In the pursuit of the next hurdle, ballet will inevitably have to stay open to the possibility of collaborating with different perspectives on movement. Rhythmic gymnastics has become a staple training in American ballet pedagogy, following in the footsteps of pilates and Gyrotonic. The important thing to take away in any cross-training for ballet students and educators is the extent to which that training safely balances and enhances the movements of classical ballet.