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Even the best sense of rhythm, the most careful technical training, and the most astute dance intuition aren't enough to make a dancer truly excel; you also need focused strength, balance, and flexibility to execute the movements with power and grace. Conditioning for Dance improves your technique and performance in all dance forms by strengthening the body's core (abdominal and back muscles) while developing coordination, balance, and alignment and optimizing flexibility. The result is more lift without tension, deeper plies, higher jumps with less effort, tighter turns, and improved extension and turnout.
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As a dancer, you spend hours every day rehearsing, performing and taking classes. You have the famous "dancer's body," and you are in great physical shape, perfectly conditioned for your demanding profession. But don't be too sure, dancers are often not always as "fit" as they presume, and conditioning is an essential aspect of a dancer's training.
Dance is a comprehensive full-body activity where dancers perform jumps, leaps, turns and movements that require the highest level of athleticism, balance and body control.
Conditioning is defined as a state of being physically fit so your body can safely perform the physical demands with least risk and possibility of injury.
For dancers, body conditioning is all about working to tone and sculpt their muscles apart from, and over and above the dance movements. With a combination of stretches like pilates and yoga, muscle toning or building exercises like weight training or gym, as well as workouts abdominal(core) strength, glutes, and hamstrings.
Body conditioning aims to improve technique and overall presence while performance and it's so essential that many dancers end up working on it even after they have stopped dancing.
There are five basic principles of conditioning:
There are various aspects of conditioning that dancers need to understand and are equally important for a well-trained body
From the fingertips to toes, every body part of a dancer is involved in dance. Every muscle is causing a movement, whether it is relaxing to allow a move or straining to stabilize a joint.
Dancers have to be strong, physically fit and be able to sail through the rigors of dance performance.
A conditioning regime allows dancers to strengthen their bodies and compliment their dance training to prevent injuries.
Body conditioning is hugely vital for rehearsals and off-stage preparation. With a healthy body, practicing as well as performing the choreography becomes easier. Most dancers, however, take conditioning exercise as a way to define their muscles or focus on " problem area" but conditioning helps keep the body healthy, strong and ready for the action.
Body conditioning class for a dancer is a class to learn the kinds of exercises they can do to stretch further and strengthen their entire body. It also highlights the area they need to focus on. Eventually, conditioning class helps a dancer to learn how to develop turnout, improve their footwork articulation and the other regions important to the dance.
Often, students develop their own “routine of conditioning exercises” they can work on at home or before a dance routine.
Although most dancers, as well as dance parents or non dancers tend to associate dance with movement of lower body parts- limbs, thighs, legs , hips, knees, ankles and feet, because apparently that's where most of the hard work takes place as dancers move around working against forces that can significantly exceed body weight. But by default, dancers are using upper body too, in arm and head movements, alignment of neck and back, and therefore dancers need to be smart enough to work on overall body conditioning.
Remember, form and lifting mechanics are just as important as strength building.
Conditioning typically includes
The most important thing for a dancer to develop a good form with a neutral spine and lean to dissociate(for example bring the arm up towards the head without raising the ribs or shoulder).
Having a customized program that includes a dynamic warm-up, strength exercises, cross training, yoga, and pilates dramatically affect a dancer's performance. Most importantly, it sets them up for a healthy lifestyle for life.
Apart from hitting the gym, working on cardiovascular endurance, a few great additions for working on conditioning while dancers work on their technique are resistance bands, ballet straps, turnout boards, loop bands, foot stretchers, etc.
Dancers can avoid injury by having sufficient strength and flexibility. Correct mechanics are essential to save from harm while doing upper body-work. Conditioning is all about learning how the body acts and reacts to energy and force.
Adolescent dancers are especially at risk as they do not necessarily focus on conditioning. They often lack core strength required to maintain proper alignment. Paradoxically, the age is also the time when young dancers go through significant physical changes. During growth spurts, muscles and bones don't grow at the same rate, and it may lead to joint instability, functional strength loss and decreased proprioceptive awareness (knowledge of limb placement)- thereby exposing young dancers are at high risk for back injuries.
Conditioning is the best way to manage the physical and psychological demands of your chosen dance form, and enrich your performance abilities. By unleashing your hidden strength, you can unleash your full physical and artistic potential.