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The body is our instrument. One thing to remember is that we all have the same instrument, whether some of us have shaped it into the body of a dancer or not.... When I began to develop a workout based on the principles of New York City Ballet, I kept thinking of Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures that are part stone, part dancer. You want to be a sculptor of your muscles in order to achieve maximum muscle tone. You want to relieve the body of its excesses in order to bring out what's best in yourself. Ballet does not bulk up the body, but rather refines it. That's where dancers differ from other athletes who need to care more about endurance than muscle tone, or about how fast they can get to the ball, or how high they can jump. In ballet you want to develop a given muscle to its fullest without its necessarily showing. That's why we think of the ballet regimen as bodysculpting as opposed to bodybuilding.
Dance makes use of normally unused parts of the body. That's why nondancers can benefit from this workout and feel so much better. Many statistics say we only use a small percentage of our brains. I think the same can be said about the body. Dancers' heightened knowledge of them selves and their instrumenttheir bodygives them the ability to perform not only onstage but also to walk through life with elegance and confidence. Although it is very difficult to define perfection, I think dancers' bodies are as perfect as they come.One evening, while I was still a young dancer, a friend of mine from the company was walking near Lincoln Center with the great choreographer George Balanchine. They began to talk about the shape and balance of dancers' bodies.
"Proportion," Mr.Balanchine said, "is everything. That's all that matters. Even the neck has to be perfect." Then he added, "I look for perfect dancers. And I don't have one yet because there is no such thing as perfection. Even your friend Martins is not perfect.""Oh, really, Mr. B. What's wrong with him?"
"His knees are one inch too low."
Later that night, upon hearing the news, I raced to the mirror and quickly undressed. I was startled.
"Oh, my God!" I yelled. "He's right!"
Excerpted from The New York City Ballet Workout. Copyright © 1997 by the New York City Ballet and Peter Martins.