No matter your dance discipline, you're going to work your abs. Strong abdominal muscles will carry you through "Giselle," "Chicago" and your weekly dance class. Dancers use cross training to increase abdominal strength and core flexibility and lower their risk of injury. But the dancing itself tightens tummies and toughens you up for the really showy moves. Look for the choreography that goes for the core to find exercises that pirouette away the pooch between your pelvic bones and flatten even a hint of flab.
Ballet Barre Moves
Graceful swans, fluttering or dying, do not have saggy middles. Tighten and strengthen your core at the barre for a slim silhouette any ballet soloist would envy. Correct plie position engages the abdominal muscles strongly as you lower and raise your torso with control. Battements, in which you beat repeatedly with bent or extended leg while supporting yourself on the other leg, use core strength to move and control the beating leg. Arabesques are extensions of the arms and one leg with precise arrangements of the hips and shoulders that must be held with powerful core muscles. The pose, which has numerous variations, calls for strength and stability as you lift the extended leg to the back, balance on the supporting leg, and elongate the arms and neck.
Fosse Fab Abs
Jazz up your muffin-top middle with a Broadway-bound jazz class and some Fosse walks. Legendary choreographer Bob Fosse invented his own way of flicking fingers and conveying character with body positions. Isolations involve moving every single part of your body separately, a challenge that requires multiple repetitions to master. Hips and ribs are prime areas for isolation, and it takes strong, supple abs to shift sharply in just your midsection. One Fosse walk, memorable in the opening of "Rich Man's Frug" from the musical "Sweet Charity," requires a head-back, nose-in-the-air, arms-hanging-down-from-the-shoulders-perpendicular-to-the-floor, slant walk forward. The torso is in a straight, backward-leaning line from the knees to the shoulders, and the feet lead. Try it with flabby abs and you'll be gasping after a few steps. Tackle some Fosse walks and isolations, along with a few core-strengthening crunches, for jazzy, sharp and steamy Tony-winning moves.
The hinge separates the Horton fiends from, well, the other dancers. Lester Horton invented the move when he created his modern dance style in the 1930s. Hinges are entirely dependent on strong abs -- to do them properly you will develop a powerhouse set of core muscles. Look for some amazing hinges in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater productions. You will see dancers standing tall with arms down at their sides as they begin to press their knees forward and lean back, keeping the torso and thighs perfectly aligned but slanted slightly as they sink down. A true hinge takes you to your knees on the floor in one smooth move. Your abdominal muscles and the adductors of your inner thighs control the descent; your core muscles hold your torso uplifted in a straight line. It's an awe-inspiring, killer piece of choreography that will give you killer abs.
Hip-Hop Six Pack
Unleash your inner B-girl with a six-step hip-hop move that will have you breaking with the best of them. The six-step is a basic circular move, performed low to the ground while balancing mostly on one arm and stepping and crossing over your feet as you turn around. Tricky to master but, once you sort the steps, all you need is abs. Go slow to avoid ending up in a tangle as you build strength in your hands and arms and really rock your abs. Your legs stay light because they keep moving, so the abs control leg lifts and weight shifts. Hip-hop is aerobic dance with counterintuitive moves, so get yourself a good instructor and prepare to concentrate and sweat. Once you can six-step, you can invent your own variations on the basic footwork -- and you'll have the abs of steel to kick and scissor with ease.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .