Prior to competing or performing, dancers should understand the importance of fully warming up their bodies. We spend a lot of time discussing this with our dancers, and we provide a checklist of proper pre-performance dance warm up exercises (FYI, sitting in a straddle is not a proper warm-up!).
This way, if we are busy or unable to lead a warm-up onsite at a performance or competition, students (and, sometimes, knowledgeable parents) can independently guarantee that they are prepared for their stage performance.
Recommended dance warm up exercises
Cardiovascular Exercise (Ex: Jumping Jacks, Runs in Place)
Ballet Work (Ex: Plies, Tendus, Degages, Battements)
Standing Stretches (Ex: Lunges, Flat Back)
Sitting Stretches (Ex: Second Position/Straddle, Splits)
Back Stretches (Ex: Cobra Stretch, Back Lifts)
Wall Stretches (Ex: Resistance Flexibility)
Core Stabilization (Ex: Plank, Hold & Balance in Retire)
After the body is warm, dancers can review or execute certain skills within their routines.
It is important to reiterate that once the body is warm, it should stay warm until performance time. If a dancer is idle, it is important to repeat the entire warm-up.
Communicate this information with your dancers and their parents, and you will be impressed with the level of autonomy and focus it instills on performance days.
Also, don’t forget that it’s equally important for dancers to be eating healthy foods in the days and hours before a performance! Take a look at these articles and make sure dancers are eating well so they can get through a big performance:
The influx of chilly winter weather can also bring along particularly tricky illnesses like the seasonal flu. To promote health and safety in a dance studio, it’s important to proactive in keeping the space clean and germ-free.
Think Ahead and Change Studio Habits
When the season changes, it’s hard for everyone to adapt at the same pace. As a studio owner, the best you can do is to broadcast best practices and habits for your dancers: how to eat, how to dress, and how to deal with sickness (more on that later).
Immune systems often face a challenge when it comes to changing weather, so it’s important to remind dancers to eat well and get plenty of sleep. Don’t wait until you’re already sick to be eating chicken soup and other nutritious meals!
You probably explained your studio’s sickness policies at the beginning of the season, but now is a good time to reiterate them to your students and instructors. Explain to everyone that if they feel too ill to perform, you’d prefer they stay at home and rest.
Sometimes, dedicated dancers will want to push through their sniffles, but it’s in their best interest to take time to recover. Simply ask that anyone who misses class give you adequate notice via your preferred method of communication and that you’ll make exceptions to your studio’s attendance policies in the case of illness.
By staying home and getting better, they accelerate their recovery AND keep germs out of the studio.
Dance Studio Life noted that it’s generally a good idea to encourage students and teachers to take a full week to recover from the flu, while they will usually be able to return in a few days if it is just a cold.
Be Diligent About Disinfecting
The second important step in combating seasonal sickness is to keep your studio as clean as possible. Seattle Yoga News explained that you should amp up your disinfecting procedures to 110 percent if you have sick students. This means wiping down equipment with disinfectant after every use.
It might be easiest to take a few minutes at the end of each class to have students wipe down whatever barre or mats they used.
Have your office staff help disinfect high traffic areas and objects, like door handles, bathrooms and the front desk. You can also have bottles of hand sanitizer in strategic places around your studio to encourage parents and students to keep their hands germ free.
Follow Your Own Rules
Finally, keep in mind that you’re just as susceptible to sickness as your students are! It’s equally important that you follow the studio rules should you fall ill.
Even if you have a to-do list a mile long, you won’t be helping anyone if you come into class sick. Take time off to recover and delegate as many tasks as you can. Your instructors and support staff will be more than willing to help out if you extend the same courtesy when they’re feeling under the weather.
As the big day approaches, dancer nutrition choices are very important. You need to make sure performers’ bodies are getting the right nutrition, so that they are healthy before, during, and after practice, and build muscle to come back better and stronger for the next rehearsal. On the day of recital, don’t make big changes to your eating habits! In this article we’ll talk about some best practices for dancer nutrition, especially in the 24 hours before a recital.
Eating For Performance Day: The Night Before
Staples of great dancer nutrition: lean protein, healthy carbohydrates, veggies, and PLENTY of water.
Several professional ballerinas were interviewed by Coveteur magazine, and they offered some of their favorite choices for meals and ingredients packed full of nutrients:
“Dance nutrition experts mostly agree that the best approach to performance day nutrition is eating small meals throughout the day, starting with a substantial breakfast to get your body and mind fueled and ready to go.”
They recommend a few breakfast choices like:
Oatmeal with fruit
Plain greek yogurt
Whole grain toast with peanut butter*
As far as small meals throughout the day go, it’s up to the individual dancer as to what foods they like and what kinds of foods can keep them feeling full.
Hardboiled egg or string cheese with 5-10 whole grain or rice crackers
Pre-made bar or oatrolls (see article for recipe) with fruit, dates, nuts and/or whole grains.*
(You can make a large batch of these and freeze them, then just put frozen oatrolls in his/her dance bag in the morning so by the afternoon they are thawed and yummy.)
Gluten-free or dairy free snack requirements?
Rice cakes with nut butter and a piece of fruit
Popcorn, pumpkin seeds, GF pretzels, and dried fruit trail mix
Coconut water, dark chocolate almond milk or coconut milk
*Author’s note: In past articles, readers have mentioned their concern about bringing nuts due to possible peanut or tree nut allergies among the dancers. Please be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring to the studio or to a performance, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.
There is no denying the chilly, winter weather! It is imperative that we teach our students how to stay warm as a dancer: by dressing smartly and warmly during the cold, extreme weather conditions.
One of my great friends, Nuala DeGeorge offered the following, great tips for how to stay warm to her students at Stage Door School of Dance in East Patchogue, New York. Please pass them on to your students, so that we can all have a happy and healthy winter dance season.
How to Wear Dance Clothes When it Is Freezing Outside
Dance class in freezing weather presents its challenges. One of those challenges is wearing proper dance attire while still keeping your body warm enough to avoid injury. Take the time to warm up. When coming in from the cold, your muscles are contracted to assist in keeping your body warm, and they need to be loosened slowly before beginning to dance. In cold weather, Layering your apparel is essential for dancers.
Things You’ll Need
Leotard, Tights, Pants, Leg warmers,
Sweater, Socks, Dance shoes.
Getting Dressed …
Start with the basic dance outfit, which is a leotard and tights.
Put a long-sleeve dance sweater or Sweatshirt on over your leotard to keep your upper body warm. If you do not have a dance sweater, any form-fitting top or sweater that allows you to use your full range of motion will do.
To keep your bottom half warm, put on a pair of leg warmers or dance pants. Pull your leg warmers all the way up so that they cover the majority of your leg.
Footwear will depend on the type of dance class you are taking. If it is a class that does not require shoes for the warm up, wear socks for the beginning of the class and take them off to avoid sliding when the dancing begins.
Tips & Warnings
Do not allow your body to overheat. Once you are moving and start to warm up, shed your outer layer. You may find that by the end of the class you are down to your leotard and tights and still sweating; however, bundle up again before going back outside in the cold.
Not sure if you should go see a doctor about a possible dancer injury? Let’s walk through some steps to make sure you take the best care of a dancer possible.
How Does a Dancer Injury Happen?
Dancing is an athletic activity, and even the best dancers can land off balance or turn an ankle the wrong way.
Contemporary-Dance.org has a list (and some basic treatment options!) of some of the most common dance injuries, in order of seriousness:
2. Muscle or ligament tear (or strain).
7. Overload (chronicle fatigue) syndromes.
8. Vascular syndromes.
Like the article describes, there are a variety of ways a dancer injury can come about. There’s the more obvious fall, or rolled ankle, or shooting pain that a dancer can easily describe. A sudden dancer injury like that might be characterized by:
With a sudden dancer injury, where there’s concern of a possible sprained muscle, torn ligament, or fractured bone, it’s usually best to head to the doctor as soon as possible. While it might not merit a hospital visit (although it might, use your best judgment!!), a dancer injury that ends up being significant but isn’t diagnosed often gets significantly worse with repeated use.
And that’s the second way for injuries to come about: repetitive strain on a muscle or bone, that over time can eventually become a more acute dancer injury.
Steps to Take Right Away
Immediately after a student has reported a possible injury, or you’ve noticed swelling or painful movement, the best treatment is a well-established method in the sports and physical health realm: R.I.C.E.
For the next 24-48 hours, limit (or better yet, completely avoid) any movement or weight-bearing actions on the injured area.
Over that same period of 24-48 hours, ice the affected area for 15-20 minutes every few hours, to help reduce swelling and pain.
Wrap the affected area with a bandage, but not too tight! You want to keep swelling down, but you want to be sure that the area maintains good circulation. If the dancer feels numb, tingling, more pain, more swelling, then the wrap is probably too tight.
Keeping the affected area elevated will continue to reduce swelling, and will also keep the dancer off his/her feet while the injury can be assessed (back to the R, rest, portion).
So, Do We Need to Go to the Doctor?
As a best practice, it is always better to get a professional assessment of a possible dancer injury.
Without figuring out the cause of the injury, or confirming that an injury has happened, you’ll set the dancer up to cause more repetitive damage over time. An X-Ray or other diagnostic test can help the doctor determine the severity of an injury, and from there you’ll be able to set up a recovery plan.
Dance Spirit has an article that goes through some ways to talk to your doctor within the context of dancing. For example, dancers have a distinct advantage in that they can continue to attend class or benefit from exercise while making sure to avoid using an injured area. Check out the third paragraph, where you can learn how to avoid the “Absolutely No Dancing” decree from your doctor.
Either way, notice how you ended up at the doctor’s office! It’s way better to run some tests and find out that your dancer is NOT injured, but MUST avoid certain movements for two weeks, than to let him/her continue dancing and end up in the emergency room with a torn muscle or fractured bone.
The sooner you figure out the injury and the cause for the injury, the sooner the dancer can be on his/her way to a healthy recovery.
It’s the middle of the season. Are routines are looking fine but feeling tired? Are dancers going through the motions but also holding back? Have you heard more complaining than usual? You’ve got the warning signs of some imminent dancer burnout.
Few things are more natural for dancers, athletes, or people who practice their talent or craft repetitively. The dancers have been going hard for several weeks and their skill is coming along, so they might start to get a little distracted or let their focus slip. There’s plenty of other things for them to think about: school, family, friends.
How do we keep them reined in? Let’s talk about a few strategies to keep dancers focused and engaged on the dance floor.
Personal rewards can go such a long way! And as teachers, we need to be clear about why a dancer would get a reward or how they need to go about earning one.
Giving a dancer a reward is not about saying “your one action today deserves this nugget of fun,” whatever that nugget may be. It’s about that dancer having accomplished something (whether they’ve nailed a particular move or have really improved their attitude) and then giving them a personal sense of recognition for it.
Have your dancers write down a skill, a run of choreography, or another concrete goal for themselves. Now, give them a deadline: maybe two weeks? Say “Go!” And at the end of two weeks, if a dancer has accomplished their goal, do something for them that is personal and valuable.
That might mean:
A certificate to put on their fridge (to show off to family and friends)
An “upgrade” in the choreography (give the dancer a small feature)
Letting the dancer act as assistant teacher during stretches next week
Not candy. Never candy.
Mix It Up
I’m sure many of you teachers have a standard class structure, which helps dancers know what they should expect, and helps to keep them on task during a particular portion of class. My challenge for you: how can you mix up your schedule without sacrificing the progress in your curriculum?
Let’s be clear: we’re trying to avoid dancer burnout, and that does NOT mean adjusting classes so that dancing progress suffers. Instead, we need to be creative in adapting the time we have to add some surprise or excitement.
What if you:
Let dancers submit song ideas, you pick one you like (or reward a great dancer^^^ by choosing their song) and use that song for a warmup freestyle dance session? 3-4 minute adjustment
Teach a new piece of choreography with a game. “Simon Says” one step or several steps at a time! At the end of the game, you challenge everyone to try and run through the choreography and see who remembers the most.
Practice newer or advanced moves by running through older choreography (like, from last year). If there were some really fun dance steps that you know your dancers enjoyed, highlight the specific moves and how they relate to this year’s choreo. You can even have a short competition and see who still remember’s last year’s dance for fun!
Build On A Personal Connection
There’s no doubt that as a dance teacher, you and your dancers will develop a strong connection. You’re guiding them along a path that they love, and you want to see them excel. They’re going to feel your investment and love!
So, focus on making your studio a positive space. And focus your class a positive experience that dancers will gravitate towards. You want dancers to feel like they’re special as individuals (yes, definitely), but that they also fit into a bigger picture and a bigger narrative that is your dance class.
Is your classroom time just not enough to connect with some of your newer students? Try hosting a weekend workshop or dance studio social event that gets the dancers together and building relationships.
At the end of the day, the mid-season slump is just that: a slump! Get your dancers thinking past this mid-season time and looking ahead to bigger things and bigger performances.
Besides being very easy and convenient to prepare, healthy smoothie recipes also provide your body with lots of nutrients and keep you feeling full. Because of the large number of ingredients that you can use, you can easily find lots of different healthy smoothie recipes online. The main ingredients that are commonly used are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a liquid of your choice.
This particular smoothie, which we’ve called “En Pointe,” can be drunk at any time of the day, and would be an ideal snack to have an hour or so before your dance session.
1/2 cup of frozen berries: you can either freeze the berries yourself or buy them ready frozen in store. Common berries to use are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries.
Berries are one of the best sources of vitamin C that there is. This vitamin not only helps keep your immune system in shape and helps your body absorb iron from the food that you eat, it is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that reduce free radical damage in our bodies, thereby preventing multiple different diseases.
Studies have shown that berries keep you mentally sharp, improve heart health, and assist in weight management. Even if they didn’t come with all these benefits, they just taste great!
1/4 cup of frozen mango: like berries, mangoes are high in vitamin C. They also provide your body with vitamin A, which is needed in order to maintain the health of your eyes, skin and hair.
Despite being extremely tasty, a quarter cup of mango only contains 28 calories! This is because it is made up of more than 80% water. The natural sugars that it contains will keep your feeling energized and alert.
1/2 medium banana: this fruit has got to be the most commonly used ingredient in smoothies, which is why we included it in this recipe as well. Bananas help to make smoothies nice and thick, much like a milkshake.
They also come with a number of health benefits. Bananas contain many important nutrients such as vitamin B6, copper, manganese and dietary fiber. They are often considered as being the perfect food for athletes because of their easily digested carbohydrates and mineral content. Some studies have also shown that eating bananas could help reduce muscle cramps & soreness. This is great news for dancers!
1 cup of spinach: greens are important and should be a large part of your diet. However at the same time, they aren’t always the most exciting of foods and eating them can just be plain boring.
Adding greens into smoothies is the perfect way to disguise their taste whilst at the same time making sure you are meeting your daily requirement. Look at the color of this smoothie – would you even be able to tell that there’s a whole cup of greens in it?
Spinach provides your body with a multitude of vitamins & minerals, including vitamin K and iron. In place of spinach you can use kale, Swiss chard or collard greens.
1 tablespoon of chia seeds: these black & white seeds are incredibly small, and one would wonder if they are even worth eating at all. Well, they certainly are! They provide your body with protein, dietary fiber, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
When chia seeds are introduced into liquid, they swell up and form a gel like consistency. This helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
If you don’t have chia seeds at hand, you can also use flax, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
1 cup of coconut water: and finally, you need to add in a liquid ingredient so that you can actually drink the smoothie! There are a wide range of options to choose from, including ordinary milk, nut milks, fruit juices and even plain old water.
Coconut water makes for a wonderful smoothie ingredient. Firstly, it contains natural sugars and a distinct taste which helps to enhance the flavor of the beverage. Secondly, it is a good source of electrolytes, in particular potassium and magnesium, both of which keep your heart healthy. Finally, it is super hydrating!
Super Simple Directions
To prepare this smoothie, add the coconut water to a blender followed by the rest of the ingredients. Blend well, until everything is nice and smooth. Then simply pour into a glass and enjoy! Thanks to healthsomeness.com for this awesome recipe.
Let us know how your smoothie turns out! Be sure to tag @tututix on Instagram or Twitter, or feel free to post your creation to the TutuTix Facebook page!
Dancers work hard to train their bodies for their craft. It’s a physically demanding sport that requires extensive practice, dedicated training and muscle memory formation. While these athletes take every precaution they can to stay safe, no physical activity comes without the potential for injury. Read more to find out how to come back to the studio safely after a dance injury.
Recognize When You’re Hurt
A problem for athletes of any discipline is the “walk it off mentality” that tells the injured they need to ignore their pain and just keep going. While tenacity is an admirable trait for dancers to have, ignoring the warnings that your body is sending you can lead to bigger problems.
Too many times dancers will try to push through an initial dance injury because they don’t want to miss out on any practice time. But, then they increase damage to where it becomes physically impossible to continue. They end up making injuries worse and spend more time sitting out than if they had just taken the break they needed in the first place.
It’s hard to say no to something you love, but dancers who want to have a long career in the art need to know when they’ve had enough. When an ankle rolls the wrong way and becomes painful to put pressure on or you feel a sharp pull in your back while you’re twisting, you need to take a step back and examine what’s going on with your body. An injured dancer should remove herself from activity as soon as she notices the pain.
While it’s normal to feel sore when you’re pushing yourself through a rigorous workout, there are a few signs that the discomfort you’re feeling is a sign of significant injury. The International Fitness and Physique Association has listed several signs that athletes should look out for when they’re assessing a potential injury:
Sudden pains in muscles or any kind of pain in the joints.
A sore area that is tender to the touch.
Decreased range of motion.
Greater weakness on one side of the body than the other.
Numbness or tingling.
If you start to experience any of these sensations while you’re dancing, you should take a moment to stop and regroup before trying to continue with your practice.
Properly Treating a Dance Injury
While you may be able to treat some minor damages with rest, ice, or over-the-counter medications, some injuries will need professional help in order to heal properly. If the pain is unbearable or doesn’t subside after a day or two then you’ll need to check in with a doctor.
If you feel a pop in your knee and are then unable to bend it, for example, you’ll want to head straight to the emergency room to ensure your didn’t tear a ligament. However, mild swelling and full control of the joint may just need a day of rest and some ibuprofen.
It’s important to respond to an injury in a correct and timely manner to ensure it will heal correctly. Knowing when to apply cold or heat to an injury is vital, and don’t avoid going to the doctor because you’re afraid of being told something you don’t want to hear.
Follow whatever instructions your medical team provides to you and don’t try to take any shortcuts on your road to recovery. If your physician tells you to wait three weeks before dancing again but you feel better after two, you should check in and get an official clearance before heading back to class.
If you have a serious dance injury that will take a long time to heal or you need a referral for a specialist, try to find a doctor who focuses on treating athletes, preferably one who knows about dance. It’s important to work with medical providers who understand your goals and the kind of stress you’ll be putting on your body when you’re fit enough to dance again.
Making Your Return to Dance
You’ll need to be patient with your recovery. Rushing back too soon or jumping right back in to your former activity level could just lead to a reinjury and more total down time. Once you’re cleared to go back to dancing you need to start off small and build your way back up.
Podiatry Today reported that athletes should begin with active rest – that is, resuming some level of moderate, low-impact activity before resuming their normal routine. Just because you have an ankle injury doesn’t mean you can’t still do upper body weight training, for example.
Your return to dance should be a slow build up. Start with simple moves and endurance exercises that restore your muscles before trying complicated steps. If anything feels wrong you should take a break for a few minutes and reassess. There’s nothing wrong with only completing half of your first class back if you think you’ve had enough for one day.
Don’t just examine how your former dance injury feels, either. If your overall activity level decreased while you were resting your injury, there’s a strong chance that other muscles groups lost some of their strength as well.
It’s common for athletes to pull different muscles when they start activity again because they didn’t recognize how much their downtime impacted their body. Pay attention to your whole body and be aware of anything that doesn’t feel right.
Dancing safely is all about listening to your body and training properly. Be sure your following safe workout habits and taking time off when you need to so you can give yourself a long and successful dance career.