This is a guest post by Nicola Winters, on behalf of Move Dancewear, major retailer of dancewear and dance shoes.
The warm up
As most dance students will have been told time and time again, the importance of having a good training and stretching programme is vital to remaining supple and limber before starting routines. This is one thing that should not, and cannot, be overlooked by dancers young and old whether they are taking on an Argentine Tango, preparing for a Viennese Waltz or performing ballet. Developing a good range of stretches in the warm-up to performances can also have many benefits for dancers – as well as reducing the possibility of picking up an injury.
Firstly, stretching properly increases flexibility for dancers which in turn improves their posture and poise, which is vital for maintaining balance and creating the perfect lines during a dance.
Another by-product of having the right warm-up routine is that it increases the nutrients and blood flowing around the body going to the muscles and cartilage – this cuts the risk of soreness and stiffness after a routine or training session. Furthermore, exercising before a dance can provide people with added energy for their performance, because of the increased circulation, which can also improve their muscle co-ordination
What is important to remember before putting on the dance shoes and taking to the floor – is that it is imperative to find a routine that works for you. Everyone’s bodies are slightly different and where one person may need to focus on their upper-body, another may need to concentrate on their hamstring or something else. All we know is that if you ask the body to do too much without stretching effectively you run-up the greater chance of developing an injury if precautions are not taken. On top of this, it is vital that dancers make sure they concentrate on warming up their whole body and muscles – while keeping in mind not to neglect their posture. What can be useful is to make a conscious effort to pull up through the centre of your body – while maintaining a flat back and legs during routines. One other small tip is to point and flex your toes during a session as it will strengthen the ankle muscles ahead of a performance.
Once the 10-15 minute stretching regime is done you should be able to take to the floor feeling relaxed and energized for your dance. What is important to remember though is that once a work-out, training session or performance is finished is that you need to spend some time stretching afterwards to reduce the amount of lactic acid in the body, which reduces the likelihood of injury risks and the possibility of cramp.