Flexibility is a fundamental component of dance. It allows dancers to achieve a wider range of motion, perform more intricate moves, and maintain proper posture and alignment. In addition to enhancing performance, flexibility also helps prevent injuries. When muscles and joints are more flexible, they can better absorb the impact of strenuous movements, reducing the risk of strain, sprains, and overuse injuries.
Dynamic Stretches are movements that help prepare the muscles and joints for activity. Like the word ‘dynamic’ suggests, these stretches aren’t stationary and will take the body through a full range of motion. Some dynamic stretches particularly important for dancers are:
- Leg Swings: Stand near a wall or barre for support. Swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner, gradually increasing the range of motion. Repeat for about 10-15 swings on each leg. This stretch helps with hamstring and hip flexors.
- Plies: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned out. Perform slow, controlled plié squats, ensuring that your knees track over your toes. This warms up the inner thighs and calf muscles.
- Side Leg Lifts: While holding onto a barre or wall for balance, lift one leg out to the side away from your body and then lower it. Repeat on each leg to improve hip abductor flexibility and strength.
- Torso Twists: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended to the sides. Twist your torso from side to side, engaging your core muscles. This stretch helps to warm up the spine and waist.
- Ankle Circles: Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Lift one leg and make circular motions with your ankle, both clockwise and counterclockwise. This helps to improve ankle mobility.
Static stretches are typically done after a warm-up or at the end of a dance session. ‘Static’ means you’ll be holding the stretch and not moving through a full range of motion. When performing static stretches, it’s important to hold each stretch for about 15-30 seconds and breathe deeply to help relax the muscles. Here are some static stretches that could help any dancer:
- Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the floor with your feet together and your knees bent out to the sides. Hold your feet with your hands and gently press your knees toward the floor. This helps stretch most of the hip muscles.
- Shoulder Stretch: Extend one arm across your chest. Use your opposite hand to gently pull the extended arm closer to your chest. Stretching your shoulder muscles can relieve the tension and stress you carry in your back
- Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg extended and the other leg bent so that the sole of your foot touches your inner thigh. Reach forward and try to touch your toes while keeping your back straight. Switch legs after 15-30 seconds to ensure you’re stretching your legs equally.
Prop-assisted stretches can be a great addition to any warm up routine and are a great option for anyone with an injury or has just started to dance. These stretches are mainly static and should also be held for up to 15-30 seconds. Here are some stretches to get started:
- Resistance Bands/ Yoga Straps:
- Hamstring Stretch: Sit with your legs extended and wrap a resistance band, or strap, around your feet. Hold the ends of the band and gently pull yourself forward, maintaining a straight back.
- Quad Stretch: Lie on your stomach and loop a yoga strap around one foot, then pull your foot toward your glutes to stretch the quadriceps.
- Foam Roller:
- Spine Stretch: Lie on your back with a foam roller under your mid-back. Gently roll back and forth to mobilize your thoracic spine.
- IT Band Stretch: Lie on your side with the foam roller under your hip and the bottom leg crossed over the top leg. Roll from your hip to just above the knee while supporting your upper body with your arms.
- Partner Stretching:
- Assisted Forward Fold: One partner stands with their legs apart, and the other partner stands in front, holding their partner’s hands. The partner in front leans forward, while the other gently pulls them into a deeper stretch.
- Seated Partner Stretch: Sit facing your partner with your legs spread in a V-shape. Reach out and hold each other’s hands. Gently lean forward, keeping your backs straight.
- Partner Shoulder Stretch: Stand back to back with your partner. Reach behind you and clasp each other’s hands. Gently lean backward to stretch the shoulders.
Things To Avoid
Stretching sounds and looks easy, but if done improperly it can injure you. Remember that it’s essential to warm up before attempting these stretches and to breathe deeply and slowly during the stretches to avoid injury. To avoid cramping make sure to drink plenty of water before any workout or dance practice and listen to your body. Never use jerky movements, a steady pace is appropriate to ensure you’re not overstretching a muscle. If you experience unusual pain while performing a stretch, slowly move out of the stretch and notify your instructor!
Improve Your Dancing with Stretching
The benefits of increased flexibility and injury prevention are well worth the effort you put into your stretching routine. As you become more flexible, you’ll find that your dance performance improves, and you’re less prone to dance-related injuries.
So why Nan’s school of dance?
At Nan’s School of Dance, our goal is to provide top-quality instruction at a competitive price. We encourage our students to reach technical proficiency in their favorite dance form and build self-discipline, poise, and self-esteem. We offer instruction in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Acro, and Pre-Dance, at all levels.
We love having new members in our dance classes and will help get your child acclimated to our dance school to make them feel right at home. When your child attends Nan’s School of Dance, they will become a part of our dance family and share in our love for dance!
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