You Took Class, Then Took a Break. How Much Do You Really Need to Do to Warm Up Again?
If you forget about that lasagna you just reheated for even 10 minutes, it may get too cold for your liking. Your body isn't much different. After class, we lose most of our warmth within 15 minutes. So we need to warm up again if we have a longer break before rehearsal or performance. But do we have to repeat an entire class? Not necessarily.
The definition of "warm" in dance goes beyond heat. According to the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, it's not only an increase in body temperature, but also an increase in the flow of synovial fluid (which helps joints move freely), faster breathing and focused concentration. All these changes get us ready to dance.
Know Your Own Needs
Figure out what makes you feel ready. Age and injury may lengthen the rewarming process. "Some dancers may need a full class to feel centered, agile and mentally focused," says Carina Nasrallah, a Houston Methodist athletic trainer for Houston Ballet. "For others a short, concentrated independent warm-up puts them in a performance-ready state of mind."
"Larger muscles like the glutes and quads warm up more quickly than smaller muscles," says Jan Dunn, co-director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates. Focus on the major muscle groups first to get your circulation going, then get more detailed with the smaller ones.
Once you've already warmed up once for the day, your re-warm-up should mirror the type of choreography you'll be dancing. "A contemporary piece with parallel lunges and deep pliés would be served by doing stationary squats or walking lunges, while a petite allégro variation would benefit from an abbreviated barre with small hops and quick relevés to elevate your heart rate," says Nasrallah. "If the work includes partnering, don't neglect the upper body or core: Jogging with arm circles, push-ups, tricep dips and walking caterpillar planks would be great exercises to include."
If you just have a short break—for instance, if you're stuck at the back of the room during rehearsal—keep moving to stay warm. "Light jogging in place should do it," says Dunn. That doesn't mean a run around the block will suffice for a serious pre-performance reheat, but when you're already warm, it keeps the body ready to dance.
Consider the Timing
Keep the time between the end of your warm-up and when you need to dance to a maximum of 15 minutes. Dunn says that if your preshow class ends an hour before the performance, continue moving as you get ready so your body doesn't cool down.
Don't Rely on Layering Up
Extra clothing by itself does little to increase your core temperature. "If a dancer is in a really cold studio or theater, the body may start sending more blood towards your vital organs and away from your extremities and muscles, causing the sensation of feeling cold or stiffness in the muscles," says Nasrallah. Extra layers may slow this process, but it won't increase your heart rate.
Find Your Mind-Body Connection
There's a cognitive aspect to this process as well. "Warming up is as important for the mind as it is for the body," says Nasrallah. Use the time to wake up all your senses and focus your thoughts on the tasks ahead.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"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.