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So You're Going Back to the Studio. Here's How to Prep Your Body

As governments begin to loosen shelter-at-home restrictions, some dance studios in certain parts of the U.S. and around the world are slowly beginning to open up again.

Of course, most dancers have been taking some form of class and cross-training a bit while social distancing. But getting your body ready for a full schedule of classes and rehearsals is another story. How can you make sure you're physically ready to handle being back?

Here's a timeline to help you get as prepped as possible from home:

Three weeks before your regular schedule resumes:

Even if you've been taking class daily, it's unlikely you've been active for as many hours as you usually would be. Joshua Honrado, MS, an athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, says that about two to three weeks out, you should start trying to be active for around the same number of hours that you'll be dancing in the studio.

That doesn't necessarily mean you need to dance for eight hours, but you can start your day with a yoga class, take a barre, then go for a long walk or bike ride. Just keep moving so your body gets used to exerting itself for multiple hours at a time.

Two weeks before:

Start focusing more of your active hours on dance-specific workouts and functional exercises. "Do your homework about what's next," says Julie O'Connell, a physical therapist at Athletico in Chicago. "Do I need strength for Swan Lake? Or do I need to work on my cardiovascular fitness?"

Think about what your body's going to need most. For instance, if you're worried about being able to tackle grand allégro again, try some cross-training that will strengthen in your jumping muscles.

Also take some time to refamiliarize yourself with any pieces you'll be dancing in rehearsal. Honrado suggests using imagery to mentally rehearse your rep. If you have the music to your choreography, listen to it while visualizing yourself performing every step.

Once you're back in the studio:

Make sure you're getting enough food and water to stay properly fueled—it's probably more than you've been taking in over the past couple of months.

Most importantly, listen to your body. Because no matter how much you prep, you'll still likely be somewhat deconditioned. "More likely than not, you're not going to feel the same as you did when you left," warns Honrado. Hopefully teachers and artistic directors will allow dancers to ease back into their schedules gradually, but be sure to pace yourself according to your fatigue.

Stay tuned for more information on how to stay safe from COVID-19 inside dance studios.

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"A heartbreaking reality is that some companies may not recover financially from this pandemic," says Nora Heiber, the Western executive at the American Guild of Musical Artists. Many large companies will survive by tightening their belts, but smaller groups, hardly with an abundant cash flow to begin with, may face closures, leaving their dancers afloat in a tenuous job market. We asked three experts, including a dancer who has been through a company closure, to weigh in on what to do when your job disappears.