These days, you don't have to be in the circus to learn how to fly. Aerial dance has grown in popularity in recent years, blending modern dance and circus traditions and enlisting the help of trapeze, silks, hammocks, lyra and cube for shows that push both viewers and performers past their comfort zones.
More dancers are learning aerial than ever before. Besides adding new skills to your resumé, becoming an aerialist opens up a new realm of possibilities.
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."
What's the best cardio workout for dancers? Quick answer: It's not always the elliptical.
Don't discount running. Photo by Francesco Gallarotti via unsplash.com
Yes, we all love the elliptical's heart-pumping, low-impact benefits. But a 2007 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the forces across the hip and knee joints were actually greater on an elliptical machine than when walking because of the limited pedal trajectory (the machine requires the knee to stay bent, unlike a walker's stride) and the fixed position of the foot.
The truth is, overuse on any one piece of equipment will create excess wear and tear on a joint. The key to keeping your joints healthy while cross-training is variability—switching things up.
“Minimize long term bouts on any cardiovascular machine," says Derrick Price, MS, CPT, PES, CES and programming manager at the Institute of Motion. "Use all of the machines intermittently. Instead of using an elliptical for an hour, select 3 machines and do each for 20 minutes."
Price advises dancers to think of their cross-training as a way to provide balance from your current dance load. Here's a breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of six common options:
Graphic by Saralyn Ward
Bonus cardio tip: If your goal is to improve your stamina for a long piece of choreography, maintain a consistent intensity for 20 minutes or more. On the other hand, high intensity interval training has been shown to improve power and explosiveness, and is usually more effective when the goal is to lose weight or change your body composition.