• Lauren Stenroos says:

    My biggest advice would be to become aware of your body’s strengths and weaknesses and address them by devising your own cross training plan outside of the dance studio.

    Company class is usually easier and a slower build up than a school class, because it is designed for maintenance and to warm up the body for an entire day of rehearsals. This transition can be shocking at first. Therefore, I believe cross training becomes more important at this time in a dancer’s career.

    Ballet is an anaerobic activity (stop and go) and it only utilizes certain muscles, in particular the muscles used to externally rotate the legs. If the other muscles aren’t strong and balanced, you’ll have a greater risk of becoming muscularly imbalanced, which leads to injury.

    There are two elements of cross training that I believe are very important for a ballet dancer: cardio work and core work.

    Since ballet is anaerobic (stop and go), doing 20-30 minutes of cardio work 2-3 times a week will provide stamina for those long rehearsals.

    Core work is also imperative for any dancer because all movement originates from the center of the body and without a strong core you will not be able to move organically or be coordinated in your movement.

    Some good examples of cardio for dancers include:
    -running on an elliptical (less impact on joints than just running on a treadmill or pavement)

    -swimming (even less impact on joints and works muscles in your entire body without gravity pounding into your joints)

    -Zumba is also a great new way to get your heart pumping and it’s so fun you won’t realize you are sweating!

    For core work, you can do pilates exercises, gyrotonic work, and you can always find group exercise classes at your local gym that focus on the core. Or devise your own plan. You can be creative-include sit ups, planks, and use an exercise ball, dyna disc, or balance board for more balance and stability.

    The stronger your center, the better.

    Also I have found that doing exercises to strengthen my hamstrings and rotator muscles have helped my placement. Dancers usually have tight and/or weak hamstrings. Balance everything and avoid bulk by making sure you stretch a lot after doing any strengthening exercise so that your muscles don’t bulk.

    If the ballet company you work for is lucky enough to have a Physical Therapist on staff, you can ask them to do an evaluation on your body to devise a plan with exercises to specifically target your weaknesses. Some companies already do this, but if yours doesn’t, ask on your own. After all, it’s for your own good.

    I believe that cross training will balance and strengthen your body, which will in turn give you the strength and stamina to properly maintain your technique. Of course it is up to you to keep working the right way in your ballet classes.

    Everything is a process and you will keep learning new things about your body every day. Embrace the process and be open to learning and growth and you will have a long lasting, healthy career!

    Lauren Stenroos, dancer at Dayton Ballet

    • Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet says:

      Hello, Lauren! Thanks so much for sharing with us your ideas and advice. We agree with you wholeheartedly. Cross-training indeed helps to strengthen the overall body and supports your technique for those long days of rehearsals and performances. The demand and vocabulary that is being asked of dancers today is at an all-time high, so cross-training becomes essential. Such training is imperative for those trying to return to the studio and stage following an injury, as well as those trying to get back in shape after a vacation or scheduled lay-off. In fact, the May 2012 DanceSpirit Magazine included some dos and don’ts of cross-training. http://www.dancespirit.com/2012/05/the-dos-and-donts-of-cross-training/

      Stay tuned for when I interview Chris Fisher, a physical therapist who often visits the CPYB Warehouse studios. We’ll get his input on cross-training, the benefits for today’s dancers, and how it can help with injury prevention.

      Thanks again for your comments!

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