Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Black Swan Workout by Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman Black Swan Workout

How did you get Natalie Portman ready for her close-up?
I took my program, which combines mat work, cardio, and ballet and created a customized version for her. On the one hand, we wanted her to look the part so that her character was believable—ballerinas have obvious physical markers like long, lean muscle and beautiful posture—but we also wanted to make sure she was able to move and dance like a professional ballerina. Because of this, many of the exercises had a dual purpose. We’d work on her inner thighs to change how her leg was shaped but it’d also help her get a tighter fifth position. Or we’d target her abs to give her greater definition but also build her center of balance.

Did Portman have prior ballet experience?
She took ballet classes until she was about 13 years old. But she had never done point work before. When I first met her we got her fitted for shoes and I showed her how to sew the ribbon and elastic onto them. Getting her on her toes for the first time was a big adjustment—it was very foreign to her at first—so we started with basic relev├ęs in first position and branched off from there.

How long did you work with Portman?
Natalie was very devoted to preparing for this role. She had a body double for some of the harder turning sequences but 90 percent of the dancing you see in Black Swan is her—even the upside-down splits! We started training a year before rehearsals began. We’d meet for five hours a day, six days a week. Even after filming started, we’d squeeze in sessions. Nat would spend 12 to 14 hours on set but we’d train in the morning and evening. It was a very intense time.

Did you include any cross-training in your sessions with Portman?
I did. Ballet can be hard on your joints and when you’re on a movie set doing take after take it can become really repetitive. To give her joints a break, we’d go swimming because it allowed us to work on her endurance and elongate her muscles with zero impact. We swam about a mile each day, doing the front crawl and breast stroke—I had her do these really long, ballet-type movements, reaching ahead in the water as far as she could.

The million-dollar question: Why are ballerina dancers so fabulously lean?
Ballet targets smaller muscles that you don’t often use—instead of working your quads it works the inside and the back of your leg. It also raises your center of gravity—when you’re standing in first position, you’re pulling up through your stomach and opening your shoulders so that you’re working your back and upper body. The inner thighs are engaging and you’re squeezing your butt to make sure you’re perfectly lifted. Everything is basically firing as one—and first position is just a resting point!


charm said...

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Anonymous said...

Wow, impressive that Portman was able to do 90% of the dancing herself in the movie with no previous pointe dancing experience. Having taken pointe classes myself, it's a hard technique to master and definitely not something you can fake. Props to her!

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