Warm up for Dancers is Important
Dancers need to warm up. Warm up, not just for Winter, but for every dance class. As the weather is cooling down, the extra layers of clothes appear. Now it is so important for dancers to make sure their bodies are warm. To a dancer to be warm doesn’t just apply to how they feel, but to their muscles ability to move. To be warm means to be able to dance better.
A good warm up will make sure a dancer is ready to move. A dancer who has not warmed up properly will not be able to balance, won’t have the best flexibility and won’t dance securely. A proper warm up, reduces the chance of injury. Cold muscles aren’t flexible and can strain and tear more easily. Warm muscles stretch better.
A proper warm up is the first part of safe dance routine. Whether you are going into class or onto the stage to perform, warm up should be the first thing you do.
Dance classes for younger students will always begin with a warm up activity. This may be as simple as marches, skip and ballet runs around the room. Younger students don’t require such a vigorous warm up, as their classes don’t involve complex steps and large movements. A warm up for little dancers will often seem like a game to them, but will get their bodies moving and their heart rate increased.
In my little kids classes, we start with marches, pitter-patter runs and skips. These are combined with intervals of other movements such as sways, circles of the arms, knee-bends and anything else we like today. I find that even though the students come to expect the usual marches, runs and skips, we keep it interesting by changing the movements in between. I will also let them play ‘follow the leader’. In this game, they must follow and do what the leader does. We will change the leader at intervals. This is great fun and lets the students make the choice of what they do. Though, it is amusing to see them just skip in a circle everytime!
Warm Up Should Change as a Dancer Progresses
As the students progress into higher levels, warm ups become more complex. Older students will be doing many more exercises in their classes. These exercises will be more involved and more difficult. This means that they will be using more muscles in a more demanding way. Their warm up must reflect this.
Students in the middle age of classes will need to add more cardio to their warm up. We do gallops and star jumps, even the dreaded burpees! I have students who will come into the classroom and start on their 20 star jumps, 20 high knees, 20 butt kicks and 5/10 burpees. Then they will do some feet exercises . This is wonderful to see.
Have a Warm Up Routine
Having a warm up routine will give the students a regular set of exercises they know they need to do, prior to their class. This is always a good thing when a teacher has to chat to a Parent or sort things out for the class. This routine can then be used before performances and comps. Our Acro students have a great acro warm up they do. At comps, we just need to say to them “ok do your acro warm up” and off they go.
Warm ups must be done with energy and properly to do the dancer any good. A not very well done warm up, will be of little benefit to a dancer in performance. This is one of the reasons that dancers must turn up early to class and especially to comps (see previous blog https://www.focusondance.com.au/eisteddfod-week-one-lots-to-learn-at-our-first-eisteddfod/) . Warming up takes time and you need that time to do it properly.
Be Warm When You Go Into Class
Students need to be warm when they get into the dance studio. Older students have longer classes and more to do in those classes. A teacher may allocate a few minutes for a warm up, but these students should have been warming up prior to entering the classroom. How often do my students hear me say “you should have been warming up your bodies, not just your mouths outside in the waiting room” – lots they would groan, as they walk into the studio, telling me “it’s cold”! Says it all, doesn’t it?
At our dance studio, our waiting area isn’t very big. When my older students have class, there are quite a few of them out there. So what can you do to warm up in a small space? Quite a bit to tell you the truth.
Feet – you can warm these up while sitting in a chair – but standing is best. Simply working the foot through flat to demi pointe to full pointe back down, will be a great way to start to warm up those dancer’s feet. Let’s face it, for a dancer, the feet are slightly important. If a student repeatedly did this for 5 minutes, it would go a long way to make sure their feet were warm.
Knees, hipsare also important parts of a dancers body that requires warming up. Ankles, as well as the knee and hips are used extensively and need to loosened ready to move properly. Taking the previous foot exercise into a turned-in retire (lifting your foot up beside the knee) and placing back on the floor with a bend of the knees will engage the knee and even the hip joint, as well as the ankle and feet. Turning the retire in and out will further help to warm up the hip joint. Small circles of the leg, leading with the knee will definitely help.
Shoulders are the joint associated with arms. To a dancers arms help with many elements of dance, not to mention the overall look of the dancer. Dancers arms do lots of things while in class and during a routine. They need to be warmed up too. More preciously, the shoulder joint needs to be warm. Simple shoulder circles that lead into circles with the elbows (hands on the shoulders and elbows circle from the front of the body to side and back and continue back to the front). It may not be possible to swing your full arm in a circle without hitting a fellow dancer, but shoulders can be warm by these movement repeated numerous times. I don’t mean 3!
A warm up should include some cardio element. This will get your heart rate up to allow more blood to pump to your muscles. This is what a dancers needs. Cardio can be achieved by simple little runs on the spot. You can start off with slower movement, barely lifting the foot off the ground to faster movements with more elevation. You can take it all the way to Flashdance mode and go as fast as you possible can. This will get that heart pumping for sure.
Small jumps on the spot will also help to increase heart rate and warm up those feet for jumps in class. They don’t have to be huge, just lots of them. Good old high knees and butt kicks are also great. You may not have room for star jumps or burpees, what a shame, but you can still jump.
Once you have completed a few of these techniques, you are ready for gentle stretching. Calf muscles, Quads, Hamstrings are important muscles to stretch gently before you start class. Every dancer knows a great stretch for these muscles. Simple touching you toes will stretch the calf and hamstrings as well as help with the muscles in the back. Quads can be stretched by grabbing your ankle and touching the foot on your butt. These don’t take up much space and are very effective.
These stretches should be gentle, save the big stretches for the end of class, when your body is really warm and there is less chance of straining or tearing a muscle. A good stretch to do before class is to stretch those feet.
Another great pre-class warm up is to balance. Balance on two feet, balance on one foot. You can practice the balance game, we have learnt from Radar Technique module one http://radartechnique.com/ . This is something that all the dancers can do together while they wait and warm up. This is just simply holding a balance for an increasingly longer count. We have found it is such a great way to centre your dancer’s body and helps with many things in class, especially turns. My students love to do this in class, I encourage them to do it at home as well.
The best thing about all these warm up techniques, you can do them while you talk and warm up your mouths as well. Your teachers will be so impressed if you are warmed up when you get into class and are ready to dance at your best.