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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."

Start Big

"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.

Be Specific

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."

Keep Moving

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.

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Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

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We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

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Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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