Dancers: Don't Underestimate the Power of...

The dance world gets busy. We are either in class, rehearsals, teching for a show, being sized for costumes or working other jobs to pay the bills. The dance life can become hectic fast, which means things get cut out.

We have to examine what corners we're cutting in order to save time. What we are cutting out or short may be harming our lives or dancing. 

Sarah Lamb in rehearsal by Johan Persson for The Royal Ballet. {Photo by Johan Persson}

So let us take a pause and look at things that may be getting cut from our: 1) Health 2) Personal Lives 3) Dancing. 

Don't Underestime the Power of Your Health

Water / Stay hydrated: When your level of physical activity is high, you need to be drinking small amounts of water at intervals throughout the day. Do not go hours and hours of dancing and then rush to your bag for a gulp of water. That isn't adequately hydrating your body. If you're feeling dizzy, disoriented, irritable or slower than normal, these are signs that your body needs water. Water in our body helps maintain our body temperature. If you are dehydrated and dancing, your body temperature will rise faster, which will cause you to experience weakness. Don't underestimate the power of water for your dancing. 

Food / Nutrition: Understanding the science of your food and how that interacts with your body can power you through any class, rehearsal or show. As a dancer, you need carbohydrates and fats for energy. You need protein to help your muscles grow and heal from injury. And did you know you should eat a meal 3 to 4 hours before you begin dancing? Don't underestimate the power of food for your dancing. 

Sleep / Dreaming: Sleeping is critical for your brain to make connections on notes and choreography as well as allowing your body time to heal and replenish. Many times, dancers have two or three jobs, and this cuts into our time dedicated to sleeping. Avoid cutting corners here. Your body needs the rest and the magical processes that occur while you're sleeping. Don't underestimate the power of sleep for your dancing. 

Cardiovascular Training / Endurance: Cardiovascular encurdance is the ability to perform whole-body, large-muscle activities for an extended period of time. We need this in dance. Our cardiorespiratory system (the heart, the lungs, the blood vessels, and the blood) is what sends oxygen to our various tissues throughout our body. If we are not training for cardiovascular performances, then we will begin to experience fatigue which can lead to injury while dancing. Cardiovascular training is like running rehearsals for the heart, the lungs, the blood vessels and the blood to perfect the process of moving oxygen throughout your body. To increase your oxygen, you have to do what's called continuous training. This means you have to consider the frequency of the activity, the intensity of the activity, the type and time of the activity. Monitoring these four considerations, you can increase your body's ability to keep up your endurance. Don't underestimate the power of cardiovascular training for your dancing. 

Don't Understimate the Power of Your Personal Life

Family / Significant Others: Having your family support your dreams and attempting to understand the dance world will be a tremendous solid ground for you. Talk to them about the demands of the dance world and your feelings as your work through it. If they don't understand why you dedicate so much time and energy to dance, educate them on why it's important to you and how you're making it work. If they understand the goals, they'll be able to better support you on the journey. Make time for them and be there for them so they can grow with you. Don't underestimate the power of family and significant others in your dancing life.

Friends: You need friends to be successful in this world, and you need two types of friends: The ones in the dance studio with you (or in the dance world) and the ones who know nothing about the dance world. This way, when you need support in the studio, it's there for you. When you need support out of the studio, or you need someone's honest, unbiased opinion, you also have that outlet available. Foster relationships with both types of friends, and make an effort to be a good friend. This can be difficult with the crazy schedules of dancers: you'll miss dinners, birthday celebrations, weddings. But spend time making a phone call or sending a card. Stay involved so that you don't feel alone in this dance world. Don't underestimate the power of friends in your dancing life. 

Dating / Socializing: If you haven't found that someone special, then allow yourself time and energy to date. It's easy, as a dancer, to "focus on your career" and then with that comes "focus on your training, and cross training, and notes" and on and on. Dating gets cut because who has time for that anyway? But if you find someone special to help support what you're doing, that can feed your dancing in a positive way. You don't have to only date dance. Filling your life with people who are wonderful will only fuel you to be a stronger dancer. Don't underestimate the power of socializing in your dancing life.

Principal dancers Heather Ogden and Guillaume Côté of National Ballet of Canada married in 2010. {Photo by: 5ive15ifteen Photo}

Mental health / Time for yourself: In the dance world, you hear a lot of criticism, notes, "do this" and "fix that." That is a lot of input from others. Every now and then, you need to disconnect and do some soul work for yourself. Where do you stand? How do you feel about everything going on? What are your goals and dreams? And sometimes, you just need to sit on a couch with a blanket and fuzzy socks and watch a movie. You need time to relax, and dancers cut this out first. So, stop cutting corners on your mental health! You will feel much sturdier, fuller and stronger when you invest in alone time with yourself. Don't underestimate the power of your mental health on your dancing.

Interests Outside of Dance: You are not just dance. Dance is what you do and love and work for, but dance is not who you are. You are allowed to have (and should have) other interests that you dedicate time and energy to. Perhaps it's reading, writing, cooking or traveling. Whatever makes your heart smile - besides dance - you should encourage that interest! Learn something new for no reason other than "just because." Grab a new book. Try a new recipe. Plan a trip. All of these interests add to the fullness of who you are, and that fullness will show on stage. Don't underestimate the power of interests outside of dance. 

Don't Underestimate the Power of Your Dancing

Properly warming up: Sometimes, a proper warm-up gets skipped due to running a little late or simply feeling in a rush. But understanding your warm-up and why it's so important for your body is what will produce stronger, more polished dancing. Skipping your warm-up does no one any good because the choreographer will see your dancing and recognize you aren't prepared or that your body isn't working to its full capacity and then you will feel disappointed in your dancing. So don't skip this. Don't underestimate the power of a proper warm-up for your dancing.

Cross training: When we get in a time crunch, it's easy to skip over a Pilates or Yoga class, or skip your swimming session or ab workout. But cross training helps fill in the holes of training that our bodies need as dancers. Even if you create a quick pre-sleep yoga routine or abdominal workout, try to fit some training that you need into your schedule. Cross training will help you feel stronger in the studio and on stage. Don't underestimate the power of cross training for your dancing body. 

Getting new shoes when our pointe shoes are dead: We skip over this for two reasons: 1) It takes money 2) It takes time. But making sure we have adequate shoes protects our bodies from injury. You cannot work properly if you do not have the right tools. When you notice something is harming your dancing or throwing you off, don't delay fixing the situation. Find a solution so that you stay safe and can continue training properly. Practicing incorrecty will only leave you with bad habits. Don't underestime the power of having proper tools for your dancing. 

Cooling down: We skip cool down because we think that we'll naturally cool down, which is correct. Our body will return to its resting state. But if you skip this after dancing and don't stretch,  you can experience cramping and muscle soreness later. The body needs a cool down of light stretching to help it adjust from high-impact activity to the resting state. You don't want to send your body into shock by changing its states that quickly. Slowly bring the body back down to rest. Don't underestimate the power of your cool down. 

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