This week, I want to focus on one of the most overlooked but extremely crucial aspects of being a dancer: cross training.
Too many times I have heard dancers claim, “Ballet is my workout”. This mentality is wrong and hurtful to you as an artist for several reasons.
First, this thinking implies that ballet classes and rehearsals are the only times that you are moving your body in a physical or semi-strenuous way. This notion prevents a dancer from building up his or her stamina and strength that will be needed during long days of rehearsals and performances.
Second, this mentality blocks a dancer’s ability to fully focus on improving his or her technique during class by drawing the focus to simply ‘breaking a sweat’. However, there are numerous solutions to the concept f cross training for ballet dancers.
1) Try Cardio
This may sound obvious, but it is one of the best options out there due to it versatility based on the individual. Cardio can be as simple as a morning or evening walk a few times per week by yourself, with a friend, or with your dog (if you have one). Biking around where you live or on designated bike trails is another great option.
However, having a gym membership is equally as satisfying. I recommend the stationary bike, the elliptical machine, or lap swimming if your gym has a pool available for use. If you enjoy running, I would recommend that you approach this type of cardio with serious caution. Due to the constant pounding on the knee and ankle joints, running can actually cause more injuries for dancers as opposed to helping to prevent them.
2) Zen Out
One of the best things you can do for your body as a dancer besides cardio is take a Pilates or yoga class. They both focus on slower, more controlled movements with an emphasis on breathing, something that has personally helped me as a dancer. If you want a class focusing on strengthening your core muscles (abs and lower back), go for a Pilates class. However, if you want a class focusing on improving your flexibility in a non-competitive environment outside of the studio, take a yoga class. Not only will you be able to stretch in these classes, but most offer meditation at the end of class to help you achieve feelings of inner peace.
As always, the best thing a dancer can do is try different options and find what works best. If every type of exercise works great for you, find ways to switch up your routine from time to time so that your body does not become comfortable or lazy with what you are doing. And remember, the little steps matter when it comes to becoming a stronger, more athletic dancer and artist.