The right tools can keep your body in peak shape. Photo courtesy Hugger Mugger
Dancers will do just about anything to increase their odds of staying injury-free. And there are plenty of products out there claiming that they can help you do just that. But which actually work?
We asked for recommendations from four experts: Martt Lawrence, who teaches Pilates to dancers in San Francisco; Lisa-Marie Lewis, who teaches yoga at The Ailey Extension in New York City; physical therapist Alexis Sams, who treats dancers at her clinic in Phoenix; and stretch training coach Vicente Hernandez, who teaches at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
It's unsettling to feel unsure if you're allowed to call yourself a dancer. Photo by Taylor Ann Wright/Unsplash
Every dancer knows deep in their heart that dance is only a temporary profession, yet we devote our lives to it anyway. We feel called to it.
I never felt like I had a choice; I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. I started training at 3, and became immediately obsessed, grand jeté-ing down grocery store aisles forevermore. I described myself as a dancer before even thinking of myself as female, bisexual, American, feminist or teacher.
The phrase "I am a dancer," is such a source of masochistic pride that I am not sure it reads to people outside the performing arts community, but it is often the only way we can see ourselves.
Many colleges today are offering affordable certification for dance students. Photo courtesy JCC Indianapolis
Many of today's savvy dance students are accruing practical skills alongside their bachelor's degrees. In particular, some pursue Pilates certifications to gain a deeper understanding of anatomy and kinesiology as well as the opportunity to earn high wages and work flexible hours. (New Pilates teachers make about $35 per mat class, and master trainers can make more than $100 per private session.) While teacher training at a studio can be expensive and time-consuming, more and more college dance departments are offering deeply discounted certifications.
Dancers know they need to cross-train. But sometimes the last thing you want to do is trek to the gym, or throw down 30 bucks for anotherPilates class.
That's where YouTube comes to the rescue. Of course, an online video can't offer the specialized guidance of an in-person instructor. But with virtually no equipment needed, these seven dancer-approved options are a super convenient way to fit in a workout right in your living room—for free.
The baby swan can help strengthen your serratus anterior. Modeled by Marimba Gold-Watts, photographed by Jayme Thornton
Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.
"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."
It can take a full team of experts to keep a dancer dancing—from masseuses and acupuncturists to yoga teachers and personal trainers. But, that comes at a cost, literally. When do you really need to invest in pricier options, and when can you take the more budget-friendly route? We broke it down for the most popular options.
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.
Even the most veteran of performers can suffer from nerves before hitting the stage. While most of us feel most at home in front of a crowd once we're there, sometimes the wait to go on can be uneasy.
Breathing with intention is a simple way to calm this stage fright. According to Psychology Today, deep breathing, specifically through the diaphragm, can activate the vagus nerve, and trigger the "relaxation response" of your parasympathetic nervous system and lessen anger, anxiety, stress and even inflammation.
In technique classes, dancers are often told to work from a neutral spine and pelvis. The concept should be simple enough for a somatically-conscious person like a dancer, but it can end up being a confusing challenge.
When a muscle is tight, most dancers' natural response is to stretch it. But when it comes to your hip flexors, stretching won't provide a long-term cure, and it could even make the problem worse if the muscle is inflamed.
Often, a more effective fix is building strength in the stabilizing muscles. As a Pilates instructor who specializes in working with dancers, here are five of my favorite exercises to relieve hip tightness—and increase mobility.