Health & Body

The Best Boutique Fitness Classes for Dancers

The boutique fitness craze has swept cities and Instagram accounts. Though you may not be interested in underwater cycling or trampoline yoga, some of these trendy classes have major benefits as cross-training. Use these pro tips to make sure your approach will pay off in the studio.


Barre

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Who should do it: The purpose of cross-training is to challenge your body in new ways. So a barre class—which is loosely modeled on a ballet barre—wouldn't make sense for someone taking ballet regularly, but it might be perfect for a tap or jazz dancer, or a ballet dancer during layoff, says Megan Richardson, an athletic trainer at The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health.

Pro tips: Barre classes often use a different range of motion than ballet classes, so take the opportunity to develop other muscles, says Alicia Ferriere, DPT, of Finish Line Physical Therapy. Let up if anything feels like it's pinching.

Boxing

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Who should do it: Anyone who wants to build upper-extremity stability, says Richardson. You'll learn to use muscles in a quick, forceful way, and work on functional core strength.

Pro tips: Make sure you're in control of your mobility. Because dancers tend to have flexible shoulders, your instructor should show you how to work from your shoulder, back and core muscles, not your joints, says Richardson. Try a private session or a small class for your first time, and avoid classes where you fight other students directly.

Spinning

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Who should do it: Dancers working on building stamina—especially for short, powerful bursts like petit allégro.

Pro tips: Look for studios with bikes that allow your shoes to clip in. According to Richardson, having your foot secured to the pedal will help you activate your hamstrings, rather than just your quads. Sit back on the widest part of the saddle and make sure your seat is at the correct height—if your knees are coming up too far, your hip flexors will take over. Many studios use metrics that allow you to compete against classmates—just make sure this doesn't push you to overdo it.

Crossfit-Style Workouts

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Who should do it: Richardson suggests these classes for dancers looking to build partnering strength, since you often learn how to lift overhead properly.

Pro tips: When done with poor form, maxing out on weight and repetitions and locking into hyperextended joints can put you at risk for ligament injury. Ferriere recommends taking classes taught at a slower pace and using lighter weights when learning new movements.

Rowing

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Who should do it: Dancers looking to build cardio, improve back strength and work upper-body muscles they normally wouldn't activate.

Pro tips: There's a risk for lower back and neck injury, says Ferriere, so be sure your legs are doing the work and that you're pushing through your heels. Don't flex too far forward—it shouldn't feel like a hamstring stretch—and stay neutral in your pelvis. Take a beginner class your first time to learn the fundamentals.

Pilates Fusion

Nathan Sayers

Who should do it: Anyone looking to build core strength, and to find length and strength in more challenging positions. Richardson calls classes like SLT (Strengthen Lengthen Tone) and ChaiseFitness "Pilates on steroids," since they incorporate machinery to intensify classic Pilates exercises.

Pro tips: "The person who is instructing you really needs to be savvy about where you need to be activating," says Richardson. "You need to be using the deep core muscles that are often weak in dancers."

The Conversation
Career Advice
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC

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Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.

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Photo by Jayme Thornton

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All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.

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