Sunday, 16 June 2013

Fitness for dance...not dance fitness

For sedentary individuals, taking up dance as a hobby or a past time can undoubtably have a positive effect on their overall health, fitness and well being, just as taking up any physical discipline can have a positive effect. Movements such as Zumba, aerobics, Jazzercise etc are all forms of dance fitness; as well as the plethora of community dance classes across a range of disciplines. While great at getting otherwise sedentary individuals into physical exercise, dance fitness has no relevance to the dance professional.

As far as physical fitness goes, for the professional (or preprofessional) dancer, dance training alone is not enough. If you are serious about your dance performance you should get fit in order to dance, not dance to get fit. This means training outwith your technique and performance classes, to prepare the body for the demands you throw at it. Strength, aerobic, interval, plyometric and flexibility training are all necessary in order to condition your body to perform at the highest level.

Every professional athlete and sportsman/woman will train not only in their discipline, but for their discipline. A sprinter does not only sprint in their training sessions, a golfer does not spend all their time swinging clubs and a dancer should not spend all their time working on repetoire and syllabus.


In order to perform for the duration of a class, rehearsal or performance, the cardiovascular system needs to be developed. Aerobic endurance should be developed, so that the dancer can perform for prolonged period of time, and interval training should be used to allow the dancer to develop the capacity to perform full out for repeated short, high-intensity bursts.

It takes a lot of effort to make dance look effortless.

Strength should be developed to prevent injury, stabilise joints, increase bodily control, improve speed, raise extensions, promote greater elevation and increase power output. Resistance training is necessary to build strength levels, while plyometric training will increase the body's power, allowing for higher jetes, neater fouette turns and sharper movement.  Flexibility training should be coupled with strength training, increasing range of motion while increasing your physical strength to control and showcase the ROM your body is capable of.

Dancers should seek to condition the body for dance performance. The athleticism needed to perform at the highest level requires hard work and preparation. It takes a lot of effort to make dance look effortless. The best way to improve and expand your body's physical capabilities is to think outside the dance studio and develop your physical skills and strength. Becoming fit to dance is crucial in preventing injury, prolonging careers and maximising performance potential.

In the Atalanta workshops that have taken place over the last couple of weeks, we have been focussing on building strength levels in order to improve active flexibility. Workshops have incorporated bodyweight and partner conditioning drills, looking to improve the dancers' ability to utilise their flexibility levels to their full extent.

We've also held a recent workshop with final year BA Dance students looking at using plyometrics to enhance floorwork; emphasising upper body conditioning as many of the dancers had relatively weak upper body strength compared with lower. The workshops have all been studio based, giving the dancers a means of conditioning and working on supplemental training within the spaces that are readily available to them. All the exercises and drills have been geared toward the specific movement patterns and demands of dance, so that the dancers can see the practical applications of the work done within conditioning sessions.

If you have any questions or enquiries about conditioning workshops, feel free to get in touch.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this article! We are doing diagnosis work for dancers and other athletes, right now focusing on balanced muscle strength. A very large percentage of the people we screen are HIGHLY trained athletes who still have significant muscle imbalances. Almost all train exclusively with their sporting activities only. They are being hindered in how far they can progress and put up with repeated injuries because they don't dedicate at least some time to diagnose their condition in detail (like individual muscle strength and balanced strength between their prime movers vs. their antagonists and synergists), When they do train their weak links and bring them up to the level of their primary sport specific muscles, their gains accelerate significantly. Bravo!

    John Wallman, Diagnosis Foundation

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