Working hard in dance class is the best way to improve your dancing, but cross training exercises can help by increasing your flexibility and building your stamina. Focus on stretching, if you suffer from limited flexibility, or strength training, if your weak muscles drag your dancing down. Consult your dance teacher to determine which stretches or conditioning exercises will help your dancing the most.
Dynamic stretches use motion to increase your flexibility and range of motion. According to information published by the University of Bath, dynamic stretches are especially effective as part of a warm-up routine for dancers. For example, do leg swings before dance class, beginning with your leg in a low position and then gradually increasing the height of your leg with each swing as the muscles in your legs and hips warm up. Be gentle with your body during dynamic stretching and avoid forcing your muscles beyond their natural limits.
Active stretches involve holding a stretched position with no support other than your own muscles, according to flexibility expert Tom Kurz. This kind of stretching benefits your dancing by strengthening your muscles while improving flexibility. Most dance classes include this kind of flexibility training, but practicing additional active stretches can give your dancing an edge. Lift your leg into the air in front of your body as high as you can and hold it for fifteen seconds. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.
When you hold a stretch using a ballet barre, the floor or a wall to support your position, you are passively stretching. This kind of stretching can be beneficial as part of your cool down routine after dancing or working out. Hold your splits to improve flexibility in your inner thighs for leaps, extensions and kicks. Passive stretches like the "froggy"-- in which you lie on your stomach with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed together -- can release tension in your hips and improve your turnout.
Strength and Resistance Training
To see improvements in the strength of your dancing, focus on the strength of your muscles. According to Monika Volkmar of the Dance Training Project, adding weight training to your conditioning program can help you correct muscle imbalances and release tension to improve your dance technique. Other strengthening methods like floor barre and Pilates can help improve strength in your core -- the muscles in your center including your glutes, abs and lower back. A stronger core helps your dancing look and feel lighter while reducing your risk of injury.
If you struggle to get through a three-minute dance routine, endurance training can help. Most dancing is anaerobic, meaning it involves short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of rest. Cross training with aerobic exercise can give your dancing a boost by improving your endurance. Choose low-impact aerobic exercises such as cycling, swimming or brisk walking to protect your joints for dancing. Exercise for at least thirty minutes at a moderate intensity several times per week to notice improvements in your endurance.
- University of Bath: Types of Stretching
- Dance Advantage: Have a Dance-less Summer and Dance Better
- Laura Stanyer: My Creative Practice: The Importance of Cardiovascular Endurance
- Stretching Scientifically, A Guide to Flexibility Training; Tom Kurz,
Sarah Badger is a certified pilates and group fitness instructor, writer and dance teacher. Her work has appeared in "Dance Spirit" magazine and several literary journals. Badger earned her bachelor's degree in English and religious studies from Marymount Manhattan College, and currently owns a dance and fitness studio in upstate New York.