Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CROSS TRAINING FOR DANCE




Professional dancers work for years to perfect their art, but though dancing is definitely an art, essentially, dancers are athletes. Even if you are just dancing for fun, you are still making demands on your body, far above and beyond what the average person would consider exercise. Drilling in class or even at home takes physical strength, stamina, and co-ordination. For a professional, rehearsing and performing takes more of the same, but is also amplified by the intense repetition of movement and with the individual dancers stage adrenalin.

When a dancer is training, the movements inherent in her unique style of dance ( no matter what it is) constantly use particular muscle groups, in the same way, over and over. So, for reasons having to do with physical health and muscle development, it would behoove you to cross train, the same way athletes do.

The main thrust behind cross training is that it will enhance your performance by diversifying your training in a variety of ways, such as improving co-ordination or working different muscle groups. This expanded training compliments the effectiveness of your primary skill by combining it with other physical activities that will advance your abilities in general. Learning another discipline and taking advantage of the theories and benefits that come with it will help your entire body to become stronger, as well as improve your endurance and mental acumen.

For example, an Olympic caliber swimmer may run to increase endurance; a boxer will practice his fighting technique, but he might also train with weights for strength and run or skip rope for cardio. There are also many other examples of cross training techniques that are not sports-based. In the military, the elite squads are generally those who are proficient in many types of combat strategies. They are well versed in multiple specialties, such as weaponry; wilderness survival, martial arts, parachuting, disabling explosives and can also perform the duties of a medic. Visual artists often work in many different mediums simultaneously for the same reason. A painter who primarily works with oil may also work with many other mediums, like watercolors, ceramics, pen and ink, and found objects.

To make sure you are building muscles and strength in a healthy way, you may choose to cross train with something physical that compliments your dance practice, like Yoga, Pilates, or swimming laps. Aerobic activities like tennis, spinning, running or even fast-paced walking will all improve endurance and stamina as well as work different muscle groups on your body. Strength training, such as working out with weights or resistance bands will benefit your dancing as well as stave off osteoporosis. Taking a leisurely hike out in nature a few times a week may be enough for one person, while another may want to try trapeze or pole dancing- it’s your choice, because only you know what your body is capable of physically, and what you will enjoy.

And of course, learning new types of dance that are different than your primary style will not only move various muscle groups, but also enhance your art!

Remember, stretching in itself is not a warm-up and may actually cause injury, so make sure you warm your body up with a few minutes of cardio or some light dancing before you stretch. And before and after you practice, rehearse or perform, take some time to warm up-and cool down- thoroughly, IT’S THE LAW!

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