It is probably well known to most of us that dancers have excellent bodies. They have balance, poise, they move gracefully, and fluidly, and they are symmetrical. These are all characteristics required to be a good dancer, and they need to be displayed when dancing. Years of training and simply trying to dance with these characteristics will develop them in anyone. This means that you know you can eventually develop them too.
However, it would be much better if you could fast track your development of your body so that that you can dance well without the years of practice.
It would also be better if you could do this outside of dance class. It is always good to get feedback on how you’re moving when you dance. But really, that can be a waste of time. Dance classes are best spent learning a dance instead of having your teacher make you try to move the right way. In fact, this approach is doomed to fail. You might get it right in one class, but by the time next class comes around you might have lost the movement, and you’re back where you started. Plus you might have a disgruntled teacher.
The ideal solution is having a body that naturally moves in a way that suits your dance.
Exercises for a better dance body
So if you do want to get a good dancer’s body at a faster rate, then you need to engage in dedicated exercises that will really get your body working. The other advantage is that a dancer’s body is usually healthier and more attractive. That means you will feel better and look better when you try some of these exercises. However, I think the best advantage is that by working on this outside of your dance lessons you will have more time to actually learn dance.
Depending upon where you start from it will take longer to see the benefits. However, when I started working on improved movement, I saw results within two weeks (this was based on comments made by others). I also know fellow dance student who got positive comments from her dance teacher within a week.
There are a number of other activities that you can try to help develop a body that moves well. Such activities could be: martial arts, Pilates or yoga. The key is that these activities work the whole body. By doing so, they get all the small muscles that provide balance and control working. When these muscles are well exercises and strong, you will have much better movement.
If you’re into weights, then you might want to take a look at kettlebells. Because they do not have a handle that encloses their centre of mas, they require you to provide the stability. This extra effort works those small control muscles mentioned earlier. Also, because they are work one hand per weight, they will develop symmetry, which is essential for a good looking dancer’s body.
By hips I really mean the whole pelvic area. Doing little more than walking and sitting doesn’t really do much for this part of the body. Many dances (especially the Latin ones) require fluid movement within the hips. This means that for many of us this is a weakness. The best exercises I have found for this part of the body are lunges. However, you can’t just do them forward. You need to do them to the side and with a twist around to the back. This will work those muscles in each of the key directions of movement.
Like the hips, many of us probably do not have a core that works as well as it should. Also, this is probably because of our lifestyle.
The thing that probably enters your mind straight away is sit-ups or crunches. These can do a lot to build strength, but you need more. You actually need your core muscles to activate naturally while you move (including dance).
As a test, try the following:
- Stand up with feet should width apart
- Now lift your hands above your head and interlock them with your arms straight
- Now lean back like you’re trying to reach out the wall behind you
- Note where you feel stress: is it in your stomach, you back or a mix?
If it is all in you back, then it means your core is not working well. Try the following:
- Place a chair in front of you
- Place one foot on the chair
- Raise the opposite hand above you head (you might want to have the chair oriented so that your other hand can hold the back for stability)
- Now lean back and note where you feel tension
- Try leaning to the side or twisting to induce a stress in your stomach
- If you still can’t, then try breathing deep into your stomach – this will often cause the tension required, and encourage your stomach to work naturally
It’s good to do the above prior to your crunches or other abdominal workouts so that you do them with an activated core. You will then have a core that can help move your hips and keep them isolated from your top-line (upper body).
A strong and fluid upper body is required for good posture and balance while dancing. The most important thing for this is a chest and back that respond naturally while you move, and dance.
To get this movement, swing your arms up above you’re your head or around your body or behind your head. The important thing is this is dynamic and there is a bit of a snap at the end to make the muscles respond. It is this snap at the end that really gets the muscles switched on, and working naturally for better posture and upper body control.