dancer doing a PBT exercise

What is PBT?

What is PBT?

I get asked this question a lot. It seems that it is still a very unknown program, at least where I live. I have to say that it is one of the most enjoyable classes I teach! The joy it brings to students to work in a very different way is so exciting. I personally love to see the AHA moments! Those little light bulbs when the students discover something new or are able to perform a movement they previously struggled with. These are the reasons I continue on this path. To help more people feel good about how they move and gain strength without putting added force and pressure on their bodies. 

Let’s start with some history:

PBT, short for Progressing Ballet Technique, came into existence in about 2013. It was created by an amazing woman named Marie Walton-Mahon in coordination with physical therapists and sports medicine specialists. Marie, a former ballerina, a ballet teacher and retired ballet examiner, had found, much like many of us dance teachers, that there were missing links in the training of dancers. These missing links often led to injuries. Sometimes the injuries were minor and sometimes much more major. She began to research the faults that she was seeing and reached out to various experts to find their thoughts on these issues. 

What was discovered was that, although dance can be safe, the careful focus on the growing body isn’t always the main aspect. As more studios began to focus on competitions, students were not getting the detailed corrections to help with their own anomalies and were then getting injured, mostly from overuse of certain muscles. Many of these injuries could easily be prevented by training the students how to find key muscles needed for proper posture, alignment and turnout  and connect to their bodies. Each body is put together differently. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Some have hyperextension and long ligaments and some have short tendons and stiffer bodies. All can be helped. All can improve. 

Through this discovery process, Marie created some key exercises using existing equipment like yoga (stability) balls, resistance bands, pilates balls and lacrosse balls. These types of equipment are not new, but having them help dancers to align their bodies and activate deeper muscle structures was not widely used. 

Fast forward to now, this conditioning program, using already available equipment has now been adapted to help many other athletes. Everything from soccer to hockey to swimming and skating have been able to benefit from learning to build a more unified muscle system. 

What Makes PBT Unique?

For me, PBT has been a way to keep my own body strong and in tune. Back in February of 2020, I slipped on ice and had a very severe break of my left ankle. I had to undergo surgery to rebuild and hold the bones together again. My surgeon told me that he literally had to use tiny screws to put all the pieces of my ankle bone together again as it was pretty much shattered. I guess if you are going to break something, you might as well do a complete job of it! I have never been one for doing things halfway. 

After the initial healing time, with not being able to do anything, I was finally given the okay to do some exercises (non-weight bearing). I used all the knowledge I had gained from my courses and teaching of PBT since 2016. Through this work, I was able to keep the rest of my body strong (core, glutes, hamstrings, back) so that I could eventually be able to build the strength in the calves, ankles and feet again. 

During this time, the world was in the midst of a pandemic and we were stuck in our homes. I trained in my PBT everyday, slowly and carefully. First I was in a boot and doing exercises with my stability ball and pilates ball. Then, I was in an ankle brace and adding more difficult exercises and more weight bearing work to my regimen. All of this was of course with the approval of my physical therapist. She was impressed with the improvements I made every week I came to her. I felt stronger and more stable every day. 

I know that my progress would’ve been much slower and maybe I would not have returned to the range and ability I have, if it weren’t for utilizing PBT. 

How Can PBT Help You?

Whether you are dancing, playing hockey, playing soccer, skating, swimming, doing gymnastics, this program and these exercises can help you too! It is absolutely not for Dancers ONLY! Beyond that, the exercises and sequences can be modified, depending on your needs and your abilities. With the knowledge I have gained through teaching PBT and working with different athletes, I can say with certainty, it is beneficial to everyone. The program doesn’t not put added strain on your joints, but actually much of the exercises are done without the issues of gravity and force. 

Just had a baby? PBT can help you too! From having children myself, I wish I would’ve known then what I know now. I would’ve been able to help my body recover much more quickly and also would’ve gained strength in ways I didn’t know were possible. We modify the work so that you are always working safely. You are in control of the difficulty and complexity of exercises. Safe stretching, safe movement and body awareness are the factors we focus on most. We pay attention to how the exercises are performed and where we should be feeling the activity the most. 

PBT utilizes some concepts and forms found in exercise programs like Pilates, but is very unique in other ways. The exercises are not often only targeted at one muscle group. For example, the simple bridging on the stability ball activates the core, hamstrings, glutes and back muscles. Then, when we add movement from this position, we build more connections. I am a supporter of efficiency. I do not like doing 300 crunches. I don’t feel that they accomplish what we think they should. In PBT, quality weighs over quantity. I do not need to do 100 of something in order to feel my muscles working or to feel the fatigue from using those muscles. This is why I love this work so much! 

Want to Try PBT? 

If this has intrigued you and you want to give it a try, you are in luck! Madsen Arts Centre has some for everyone aged 10 through Adult! You can register for a full season, or sign up for shorter courses offered throughout the year. Right now, there are 4 and 8 week programs for ages 10-12 and ages 13+ running on Saturdays starting in October. If you want to participate in an Adult only class, our next  8-week session will run on Monday mornings (10:30-11:30am) starting October 23. We are constantly adding new sessions so if there is a day or class you would like to see, feel free to reach out to us! We love the suggestions! 


I hope that you will take the leap and give PBT a try! I cannot say enough about this training. I know what it has done for me, I know what it has done for students I have taught. I believe that it can help you too!


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