Cross-Training Solutions for Your Biggest Technique Challenges
Sometimes, it takes more than dancing to become a better dancer. Whether you struggle with tense shoulders or weak jumps, adding in the right forms of cross-training can fast-track your improvement. We asked the experts for exercises you can do on your own to fix six of the most common technique problems.
Why it happens: “Dancers are constantly trying to achieve perfect turnout, but when they don't have natural external rotation, they can develop an anterior tilt of the pelvis," says Alicia Ferriere, DPT, at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City. “And because we're constantly told to lift through the chest, it causes the ribs to flare, lengthening the abs and creating that little sway on the low back."
How to fix it: Add Pilates—which emphasizes pelvic position and control—to your routine once or twice a week, and build a strength-training regimen that focuses on the core, inner thighs and hamstrings.
Add this to your routine:
Hemi Bridge: Lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor. Draw the right knee toward the chest (still bent) and press into that knee with your left hand to activate the core and hamstring muscles. From there, lift and lower the hips 10 times, then switch sides. “Engaging the hamstrings with abdominal control will help with control of the neutral pelvis," says Ferriere.
How to fix it: Add arm-specific body-weight and low-weight strength workouts to your routine, suggests Lauren Williams, founder of Chisel Club and head coach at Tone House in New York City: “These will help you build strength while keeping your muscles long and lean."
Add these to your routine:
Lunge with Overhead Press: From standing, step forward into a lunge, holding a 4–10-pound medicine ball in front of your chest in both hands. Hold the lunge as you press the medicine ball straight overhead, keeping the hips square. Lower the medicine ball back to your chest, and return to the starting position. Then repeat on the other leg. Repeat 20 times for three sets.
Why it happens: “Explosive movements are directly affected by muscle fatigue, poor nutrition and low energy," says Abby Bales, DPT, CSCS, at Spear Physical Therapy in New York City. “You can't get huge jumps out of tired muscles." Add in a lack of core strength and an imbalance in your slow- and fast-twitch muscles, and you've got a recipe for a not-so-grand jeté.
How to fix it: Pilates reformer work helps train the extremities to move while the pelvic core is engaged. Strength training with weights maintains joint stability and basic strength of the muscles. Plyometrics helps give you more explosive jumps.
Add these to your routine:
BOSU Jump Squats: Stand on a BOSU (round side up), with the feet slightly separated. Squat down, jump and land back on the BOSU in a shallow squat. “The jump is small and quick, so it'll challenge your core and balance," says Bales. Do three sets of jumping for 30–45 seconds.
Lateral Bench Jumps: Find a bench that's approximately knee height or lower. With your feet together, jump side to side as quickly as you can for 15–30 seconds. Do three to five sets.
Why it happens: Stress causes the body to naturally tense up.
How to fix it: Consider yoga. The mind-body connection has physical, mental and emotional benefits and helps alleviate stress. “Yoga helps us get present with what we're feeling and what's happening in our bodies," says Bethany Lyons, a former dancer and owner of Lyons Den Power Yoga in New York City.
Add these to your routine:
Shoulder Integration: Lift your shoulders to your ears, lengthening the side body, and expanding the mid-back as you breathe. Then draw the deltoids straight back, bringing the tips of the shoulder blades down your back. Let the shoulders naturally settle instead of jamming them down.
Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog: With the shoulder integration in place, get into plank position. Shift forward onto the balls of the feet to move the shoulders forward. Lower down so the elbows are at a 90-degree angle, stacked over the wrists and slightly away from the body. If your shoulders aren't in place, your glutes will pop up in the air and you'll feel pressure on your wrists. From there, flip over the toes, press through the hands and the tops of the feet. Raise your chest into Upward-Facing Dog, with the upper arm bones back. You shouldn't have to shift forward more.
Lack of Stamina
Why it happens: “You wouldn't expect an endurance runner to be amazing at the 100-meter dash, right? It's the same thing with intense variations," says Ferriere. Class combinations are rarely as long and aerobic as variations. Poor breath control may also be a factor.
How to fix it: Practice short bouts of intense activity, focused on whatever your variation specializes in. “If your performance has a lot of jumps, practice short petit allégro combinations with only short breaks in between," says Ferriere. “You can also practice sprints, jumping rope or intervals on the bike. You want to build your endurance to high-intensity activity during which you can maintain proper, steady breath control."
Add this to your routine:
Resisted Exhaling with a Balloon: Lying on your back with feet on the floor, exhale into a balloon, getting all of your air out. Maintain that abdominal control as you inhale. Repeat until the balloon is fully inflated. “You'll feel your ribs come down toward your pelvis, and your abs will engage," says Ferriere.
Why it happens: Balance issues could be genetic, or have to do with nutrition, fatigue or temporary nasal congestion. But generally, it comes down to basic strength. “You can't achieve maximum balance if the pelvic core isn't properly engaged and you're not finding your center," says Bales. “Train your body to quickly engage your core."
How to fix it: Strengthen your core—and that doesn't just mean the abs. Work in relevé on unstable surfaces, like BOSU balance trainers, foam pads or wobble boards, which will force you to find your center. Bales also recommends a Pilates reformer routine to target the entire core. She says, “The proprioception feedback you can get forces you to recognize when you're not in control of your movements."
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.