*This* Is How You Should Actually Warm Up Before Dancing
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Here's how to put those four recommendations into practice:
Gently Raise Your Pulse
When your body's temperature increases, your tissues become more pliable and elastic. (You may need to spend more time on this during colder months, like February.)
Start with small, continual movements, such as prancing in place. Gradually increase the range of motion and pace to something like light jogging. Continue for 1-5 minutes until your breathing gets faster and your heart rate increases.
Start every warm up by gently getting the blood moving
Mobilize Your Joints
Gently open up the ankle joints, hip joints, shoulder joints and spine during your warmup so that once you're dancing, they're prepared to move through more extreme ranges of motion.
1. Ankle Circles
Sitting with your legs extended in front of you, circle your ankles through their full range of motion, making your circles bigger each time. Repeat 10 times in both directions.
2. Hip Circles
Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, open one knee to the side as far as you can while keeping a neutral pelvis. Slide your foot along the floor until your knee is extended and your leg returns to parallel. Repeat 5-8 times on each leg.
3. Arm circles
Lying on your back with your ribcage gently touching the mat, reach your arms toward the ceiling. Circle your arms back and out to the side. Repeat 5-8 times in both directions.
4. Spinal Flexion and Extension
Sitting on a chair, bend your head toward your knees to flex your spine. Then reverse the movement to articulate your spine into extension. Repeat 5 times.
Lengthen Your Muscles
Once you're warm, do some dynamic stretching. Brief stretches that are held for less than 15 seconds and lengthen the muscles by activating the opposing muscles won't negatively affect your performance and can help relive any tension.
Lying on your back, bend your knee towards your chest. Extend your leg by engaging your quad. Repeat 5-10 times.
From a lunge position, slowly engage the glutes to move down into deeper lunge to stretch the thigh. Repeat 5-10 times.
Photo by Nathan Sayers
Build Strength and Balance
Finish your warm up with strengthening exercises and some balance training.
Start by lying on your back with your legs in a tabletop position. Extend one leg while rotating the opposite shoulder towards the bent knee. Alternate legs for a total of 8-10 repetitions.
Stand on the bottom of a Bosu Ball, and bring one leg to retiré. Challenge your balance by adding controlled movement of the working leg. Work up to balancing for 30-60 seconds.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.