If you offer acro-dance or tumbling at your studio, you know the importance of spotting your dancers (and we’re not talking turning technique…at least not in this article). Sometimes even a simple trick can go awry, and it’s essential that you’re there to prevent students from hurting themselves while the learn acro skills or other potentially dangerous moves.
Even if you’re experienced with teaching tumbling, there are likely ways that you can become a better spotter. Here are five tips to improve your technique and keep your dancers safe.
1. Adjust Your Position Accordingly
You likely have one position that’s your go-to for spotting. The most common stances are kneeling on one knee or standing alongside the student. However, you shouldn’t be using the same position for every single dancer. Cheerleading Central explained that you’ll have to adjust your position based on the dancer’s size and experience level.
2. Spot with Your Whole Body
Another way you can improve your spotting abilities is to use your whole body during the process. Not only will this benefit your dancers, but it will save your arms and back in the long run. If you’re only using your upper torso to hoist students, you’re increasing the chance of being knocked off-balance and putting significant stress on your own body. Instead, use a proper squat stance and always brace your spine.
3. Always Wear Shoes
If you’re teaching a hybrid class, you may ditch your shoes from time-to-time when you need to demonstrate a tricky combination or step. However, don’t start spotting any tumblers until your shoes are back on and securely tied. You need optimal traction to safely spot your students, so it’s best to wear shoes to anchor your stance.
4. Alternate Sides Regularly
This tip is more for you than for your dancers. Hybrid Perspective explained that when you’re able to spot with both arms, you can prevent overuse on the dominant side of your body. Start working on ambidextrousness with simple tricks, like walkovers and backbends.
5. Condition When You Can
If you’re going to be hoisting and catching 100-pound athletes, it goes without saying that you need to keep yourself in pretty good shape. While you probably have a long list of tasks to complete each day, it’s a good idea to fit in a little time for conditioning. When you keep your body in shape, it will make spotting easier, reduce the chance of you getting hurt and allow your students to get the best education possible.
There are many reasons that dancers seek to improve their flexibility. Maybe they’re just starting out and want to do their first split. Or sometimes more advanced students need a greater range of flexibility to nail complicated tricks. Whatever students’ motivations may be, dance instructors should be able to provide sound advice on how dancers can safely improve flexibility. Here are some tips on flexibility for dancers to share with your performers.
“Work to gradually increase flexibility.”
Why Safety is Key
It’s essential that dance teachers show their students safe ways to increase flexibility because there are so many “quick fixes” on the Internet. Students who want to quickly elongate their muscles often turn to dangerous and extreme stretching methods, which can hurt their bodies in the long run. Explain to your students the consequences of improper stretching methods and work with them to gradually improve flexibility.
Always Warm Up
Young students may be tempted to jump right into difficult stretches, but cold muscles aren’t going to be limber. If dancers want to see results and avoid injuries, they should always start their stretching sessions by warming up with a few cardio exercises and then ease themselves into the pose.
In the video below, Virginia from Encore Gymnastics shows how students can gradually improve their splits, starting with light stretches on the front and back legs.
As Virginia points out in the video, proper form is key when it comes to an effective stretch. For this reason, dancers should focus on maintaining good body posture while stretching.
Students also need to be thinking about how often they’re stretching and for how long. Leigh Heflin, who works at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained to Dance Teacher magazine that different people will need to stretch more often, depending on their body’s natural predisposition. Dancers who are a little more limber might only need to stretch three times each week, where less-flexible students would benefit from five sessions.
It’s also important for students to slowly increase their stretching. Dancers shouldn’t try to “overstretch,” as demonstrated in the video, until their bodies are ready.
“You have to progressively overload that capacity on your muscle,” Heflin noted. “Increase tension and stretch every week. You can’t expect to be there right away.”
The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science recommended that students aim for three to five reps of 30-second static stretches per session. This will help stretch the muscle tissue at a safe, progressive rate.
Flexibility No No’s
In addition to providing dancers with these helpful pointers, teachers should explain to their students what not to do when stretching. Here are some don’ts when it comes to flexibility for dancers:
Don’t stretch too much before a performance, as this can reduce your ability to jump.
Avoid prolonged stretches, which are held for 20 minutes or more.
Don’t push through sharp, searing or severe pain.
Dynamic and static stretching are preferable to ballistic stretches. Bouncing or jerking your muscles can lead to injury.
If your muscles are particularly tight, use a foam roller on them instead of stretching further.
It may seem as though you hear about a new “superfood” every week. Whether the buzz is about kale, quinoa or kefir, there are always people claiming they’ve found the next best thing since sliced bread. While some foods are heralded for the wrong reasons, there are a number of nutritious superfoods that can be beneficial to dancers. Performers are notoriously busy and expend a lot of energy each day, so it’s essential that they get optimal nutrients from the foods they’re eating. Whether you’re a dance student or instructor, try these choices – each a super food for dancers that will keep you fueled throughout your craziest days.
1. Almond butter
Peanut butter is a go-to for many athletes in need of an energy boost, but this related product is an even better option. Dance Spirit magazine explained that almond butter contains a lot of protein, monounsaturated fat and minerals. It trumps peanut butter with it’s 9 milligrams of iron and almost 700 mg of calcium per serving.
You can eat almond butter in the same ways you would any other nut butter. Spread it on a sandwich with fresh fruit preserves for a nutritious and energizing lunch, or dip slices of apples into it for a snack after rehearsal.
2. Sweet potatoes
Carbohydrates are one of the best sources of energy for athletes, but it’s important to choose complex foods that contain other vitamins and minerals as well as carbs. The Women’s Sports Foundation explained that sweet potatoes are a great option for dancers, as these orange spuds contain tons of vitamins A, C and B-6, as well as significant amounts of potassium and manganese.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy sweet potatoes is as a baked side dish. Scrub down your spuds, pierce them with a fork a few times, then bake them for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This should leave you with tender, delicious potatoes that taste great alongside chicken, steak or another protein-packed entree.
Many athletes know that they lose electrolytes when they sweat, and if these nutrients aren’t replaced, it can lead to muscle spasms and cramps. You may be tempted to down an energy drink to get your fill of electrolytes, but celery is an all-natural option that provides the same benefits. These stalks contain plenty of potassium and sodium, as well as other important nutrients.
“Celery can help during long practices and rehearsals,” Ally Wagner, a nutritionist who works with the Cincinnati Ballet, explained to Dance magazine. “It’s also high in fiber and vitamin K and low in calories.”
Throw back to your childhood and create “ants on a log” with celery sticks, almond butter and raisins! It’s a fun, tasty and healthy snack that will help you power through practice.
4. Goji berries
You probably don’t have this ingredient in your pantry, but it’s worth picking up a package the next time you’re at the store. Goji berries are rich in vitamin A, C and iron. Dance Spirit magazine also noted that the tart berries contain betaine, which may help calm nerves and promote muscle growth. These properties are what make the ingredient popular for athletes.
Incorporate this superfood into your diet by eating goji berries mixed with Greek yogurt as a mid-afternoon snack. This makes for a well-balanced mini meal with plenty of calcium and protein. You can also find goji berries covered in chocolate, but opt for dark chocolate varieties, as this sweet covering contains beneficial antioxidants. Don’t overindulge in chocolaty berries, however, as too much sugar can lead to a mid-rehearsal slump.
Rest and relaxation may be tempting during the warm weather, but dance students who are serious about staying in shape and being ready to excel come fall need to stay active to maintain their muscle tone, flexibility and endurance. Here are some tips on cross-training for dancers that studio owners and dance teachers can pass onto their students.
“Summertime indulgences can set dancers back.”
Benefits of Cross-Training for Dancers
If students are going to truly commit to cross-training, they need to understand its importance. One of the big benefits of cross-training during the summer is that it will help dancers stay in shape. Week after week of lounging around the house, hanging at the pool and indulging at summertime cookouts can set dancers back if they don’t keep up their activity levels. Dedicated students should be working to maintain muscle strength and flexibility while also improving trouble areas.
While these short-term goals are important, there are also some bigger benefits of cross-training for dancers. Students who are consistently engaging in activities outside the studio often are less prone to injuries and can push past training obstacles faster than dance-focused peers.
Activity Options for Dancers
So does this mean your students should spend their vacations in the gym? Not at all! There are many different methods of cross-training that will appeal to even the most reluctant dancers. David Popoli, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, explains that there are activities that allow dancers to express their artistic side while still giving them a great workout.
Yoga and Pilates
As Popoli mentioned, yoga and Pilates are great summertime activities for dancers. These low-impact activities will help students improve their flexibility, control their breathing and target specific muscle groups. You may want to see if a group of your dedicated dancers are willing to take a yoga class in the studio over the summer – hosting an instructor is a great way to bring in a little extra revenue during the slow season.
Another viable option is weight training. Many females are hesitant to lift weights, as they don’t want to end up with big bulky muscles. However, when done correctly, weight training can be extremely beneficial to dancers.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about weight training,” Emery Hill, athletic trainer at Houston Ballet, explained to Dance Spirit magazine. “People think that if you lift weights, you’ll get big musculature. But it can be very beneficial as far as being able to lift or be lifted, or to hold your position, because you have more basic strength.”
Encourage your dancers to work on their cores, biceps and legs by lifting weights. Three sets of each exercise with eight to 10 reps is the perfect amount to keep them looking long and lean while still building up strength.
When the weather is simply too nice to stay inside, dancers can continue their training with outdoor sports. Students who want a full-body workout can try swimming laps at their local pool. This activity doesn’t put any pressure on the joints, but it can really get your heart pumping, helping improve endurance.
Biking is a good choice for dancers who want to build up their leg strength. Encourage your students to ride in low-resistance areas – like flat stretches of land – so their leg muscles stay trim.
Nothing ruins the beautiful lines of a ballerina than slumping shoulders. However, studies have shown that up to 40 percent of kids have poor posture, whether as a result of heavy backpacks, too much TV time or just a general disposition toward slouching. As you teach your young dancers, it’s essential that you work with them to maintain proper posture. Not only will this help them to appear graceful and elegant, but it will also mitigate their risk of back injury. Here are five suggestions on how to improve posture in dance.
1. Use a Visual
Many dancers need to see concepts demonstrated to fully understand them, which is why instructors are always dancing along with their students. The same principle holds true with learning proper posture.
“Most dancers learn visually, so they’ll try to mimic proper body position, but often they don’t understand the roots of where it’s coming from,” Chelsie Hightower, a performer on “Dancing with The Stars,” explained to Dance Spirit.
For this reason, it’s often helpful to show your students pictures or videos of proper posture. You may want to consider showing them an old recital video where a few dancers had really good posture and others were slouching. Another option is to use a TV episode, like one from “DWTS” or “Dance Moms,” where the dancers worked on posture.
2. Stretch it Out
One way to effectively and safely realign trouble areas is stretching. Search the Internet for corrective stretches, or use these ones suggested by Best Health magazine:
Chest and shoulder stretch: This activity is often helpful for dancers who slump forward. Have them lie on their backs with their arms stretched outward and elbows bent into a bench-press position. Instruct your dancers to squeeze their shoulder blades together without arching their backs. Hold the position for 10 seconds, and repeat 4 times.
Butt bridge: Another area of the body that can get misaligned is the hips. To help dancers strengthen their mid-section, ask them to lie on their backs with their knees bent and feet on the floor. Have them squeeze their butts and push their hips toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and repeat four times.
3. Try Core Exercises
Exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles can also help to improve posture. You may want to work a few Pilates exercises into your classes. These can be as simple as a few sets of crunches, but they can go a long way toward straightening out dancers’ lines.
4. Help from Props
On a Dance.net forum, some dance teachers explained that they work on posture during class by using props. A small ball or bean bag can serve as a physical reminder for dancers to keep their arms straight or shoulders back. Get creative with your use of props for a fun lesson that will work wonders for your slouchers.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Unfortunately, your dancers will continue to struggle with their posture if they forget about it the minute the leave the studio. Holding yourself upright is a full-time job, and they’ll need to be conscious of their posture throughout the day if they want to improve their dance skills. Brainstorm ways that your students can remind themselves to sit up straight in class, stop slouching in front of the TV and relax those shoulders during meals. Maybe they can set a reminder on their phones or enlist a friend to monitor their position throughout the day.
If your dancers follow these five easy steps, they’ll be on their way toward more elegant lines, straighter arms and over-all better technique.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, approximately 1 in every 13 children have a serious food allergy, and the number is rising each year. Because of this trend, there are increasingly strict rules being implemented in schools and day care centers about what foods can be served. While your dance studio probably doesn’t serve up meals to dancers, it’s still important for you to be cognizant about the dietary restrictions of your students and how their needs influence what can be eaten in the studio. Here are a few tips to help you formulate dance studio policy that can accommodate dancers who have dietary restrictions.
One of the most common food issues that you’ll encounter as a studio owner will likely be peanut or tree nut allergies. When one of your students is allergic to these ingredients, it means that you’ll have to be diligent about keeping peanut butter, trail mix, nutty brownies and other potentially dangerous snacks out of the classroom.
It’s a good idea to include a section about food allergies on your registration forms. Once you have a list of students with dietary restrictions, you may want to take time to sit down with each parent and student to discuss how the allergy affects him or her. Some students with minor allergies just can’t eat the ingredients, while others may have a severe reaction simply from coming in contact with nuts. Figure out the best way to keep these students safe, then inform your other parents and dancers of your dance studio policy on nutty foods.
Another food issue that’s increasingly common but that you may not know how to handle is celiac disease. According to the National Center for Celiac Awareness, this autoimmune disease, also known as a gluten allergy, affects 1 in every 133 Americans. Students with celiac disease aren’t able to eat wheat, which means that sandwiches, cookies and other common treats aren’t an option unless they’re specially made.
If your studio holds celebrations for students’ birthdays or other special events, it’s important to keep in mind that some of your dancers may be on a gluten-free diet. Try your best to find food options that everyone can enjoy, whether it’s gluten-free cake or some frozen yogurt. No one wants to be left out because of a food allergy!
Maintaining Proper Nutrition
Besides the logistics of keeping offending ingredients out of the studio, you may also be faced with the issue of helping your students maintain proper nutrition with a food allergy. Experts explain that celiac disease can be challenging for dancers, as wheat products provide much of that needed energy to keep performers on their toes.
“Carbs are important for dancers, period,” Derrick Brown, a nutritionist at Codarts University for the Arts and a former dancer, explained to Dance magazine. “Luckily, there’s plenty of ways to get them without gluten.”
If you find that your gluten-free dancers are lagging during class, you may want to recommend a few dietary tweaks for them. Brown explained to Dance magazine that it’s important for dancers to choose gluten-free foods that are low in sugar and salt. Otherwise, they’ll get a temporary boost of energy only to crash a few hours later. However, be sure that your students are speaking with a medical professional or nutritionist if they have serious concerns about their diets.
When you work to make your studio a place that’s welcoming and accommodating for all students, you’ll have an easier time building strong relationships with your customers and retaining dancers for years to come.
When you’re preparing for a big dance competition, your mind is probably filled with concerns about costumes, makeup, choreography and transportation. However, there’s another equally important consideration that often gets overlooked: What are your dancers going to eat? Most competitions are all-day affairs, and you can bet that your performers are going to get hungry throughout the day. If you want your students to perform their best, plan ahead and come to competitions prepared with food and beverages for your dancers. Use these tips to choose snacks packed with nutrition for dancers that will optimize energy and keep them on their toes.
The Night Before
While you won’t be there to ensure your performers are eating healthy meals the night before a competition, you can at least give them and their parents a little guidance on the best foods. Dance Comp Review recommended that dancers have a dinner with protein and complex carbohydrates the night before they perform.
Some goods options might be:
Grilled chicken or fish
Leafy salad with nuts, berries, and feta
Whole-wheat pasta or brown rice
Comfort foods that are rich in sugar and fat might seem tempting, but it’s better to choose a meal that packed with nutrients. This will help your body to fuel up on energy and get ready for a long, active day.
When you’re packing snacks for the team to munch on throughout the day, you’ll want to focus on small, healthy items. The Rockettes blog suggested bringing along trail mix that contains nuts* and seeds, as these will help keep dancers feeling satiated for longer. Fresh or dried fruits and vegetables are another good choice, as they contain natural sugars that will boost energy. Other options include:
Whole-grain pretzels and crackers
Opt for Small Meals
You’ll probably spend a good portion of your day idling between performances, but that doesn’t mean your dancers should indulge in a big lunch or dinner. Experts agree that it’s best for performers to eat a number of smaller meals when they’re hungry.
“Eat when you’re hungry and find foods that leave you satisfied,” recommended Richard Gibbs, M.D., the supervising physicians of the San Francisco Ballet, in an interview with Dance magazine. “Eat smaller amounts and eat better. What often happens is that the dancer eats nothing all day, and at the end of the day pigs out on the wrong foods.”
Good options for competition-day food might be:
Deli meat sandwiches on whole-grain bread
Chicken soup with lots of vegetables
Toasted bagel with peanut butter*
Skip the Soda
Be sure your students are drinking plenty of fluids with each meal they eat, and try to steer them towards water whenever possible. Dance magazine explained that drinking water with meals will help make food more digestible for the body and optimize nutrient intake.
Soda and other sugary drinks will likely be available at the competition, but these options aren’t so great for performers. Sugar crashes are all too real, so encourage dancers to focus on drinking water and leave the other beverages until after they perform.
*Editor’s note: Several readers have mentioned their concern about bringing nuts due to possible peanut or tree nut allergies among the dancers. Be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.