Stretch the Limits

One key element of physical activity that can help every single dancer in the world is a carefully constructed pattern of stretch and strength exercises. In this week’s post I have included some of my personal favorites for both inside and outside of the studio.
I. Before You Hit the Barre
As a dancer, one of the main assumptions about barre work is that it should warm up your body. This idea is wrong;

Try not to overdo any stretches at the barre before class. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)
Try not to overdo any stretches at the barre before class. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)

barre is a place for you to find your center and to work on little details of your technique. You should be warm before class even begins. You can achieve this in several ways:
1) Start off with a few gentle thera-band exercises to get your feet and ankles moving in the proper directions. I always begin class with using the thera-band to roll through my feet from a flexed position to pointed several times followed by ankles circles in both clock-wise and counter clock-wise directions. These exercises not only get blood flowing through my feet and ankles, but they also allow my feet to get used to the way I will be working with them during class and rehearsal.
2) Next, go to the barre for gentle hip swings. These can be back to front with a straight leg or, as I prefer to start out with, in attitude. After this, do side to side swings to help your hips gain full mobility.
3) While still at the barre, do a few small jumps in place. However, be extremely careful while doing these so that you do not get injured.
4) Finally, do a few shoulder rolls forwards and backwards in addition to arm swings. As odd as it may sound, many dancers forget to warm up their upper bodies before beginning class, a crucial detail that could be costly later on.
Note: Save all intense stretches for after class.
II. Working on My Fitness
In addition to being warm before class, there are also many stretch and strength exercises that you can do at home or at your local gym.
• Abdominal work: This is an absolute must for a strong core in ballet or any type of dance. Try crunches, planks, leg lifts, or side to side crunches with a medicine ball and your legs held in a table top position.
• Balancing Act: Using a balance trainer (half of an exercise ball with a platform on one side), test your balance in turned out and turned in positions. This is great for becoming more aware of your center of gravity.

Yoga stretches can also be extremely helpful. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)
Yoga stretches can also be extremely helpful. (Photo by Ballet Zaida)

• Stretch: Try holding stretches for 30 seconds or more. Use a foam roller to work on over splits, but decrease the intensity of your stretches if sharp pain occurs.
• Roll Out: Use a foam roller or a tennis ball to work out any knots or sore spots.

For more thera-band exercises click here

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