Dancing is both an incredible art and a very physically demanding sport. Competitive dancers work hard during their classes to perfect their routines and often dedicate much of their free time outside of classes to their fitness regimes. This level of commitment may be harder to maintain in the off-season, especially without the strict scheduling that regular dance classes provide.
Keeping dancer fitness levels up during the off season is essential for dancers who want to be able to pick right up where they left off when they return to their lessons in the fall. Creating a healthy and challenging exercise program during the off-season is a surefire way to maintain the strength, balance and flexibility you worked so hard to build in your classes.
The Importance of Cross Training
One of the most beneficial things any athlete can do for himself or herself is take part in a cross training program. While practicing moves and routines that are specific to dance are great for muscle memory, it can leave some areas of the body under worked. According to The Dance Journal, the point of cross training is to add to a fitness level without causing overexertion. It can create a more rounded, total body fitness that helps to prevent injuries.
There are many ways to cross train, with each offering its own benefit to your fitness regime. Aerobic exercises like running or spinning can improve endurance and lung capacity. Weight training can help you pinpoint specific muscle groups that you want to target, like creating more dynamic leg muscles or strengthening your core.
Whatever your goals for the off season are, it’s important to take your cross training slowly and to make sure you’re doing exercises correctly. Trying to do too much to too soon can lead to easily preventable injuries. Be sure to also take rest days and to mix up your workout routines. Doing the same exercises every day will cause you to eventually reach a plateau where you stop making progress and just increase your risks of getting hurt instead.
Attend Other Fitness Classes
If you prefer the structure of having classes to go to each week, consider joining a gym that offers fitness programs. Classes that focus on strength and flexibility, like yoga or pilates, are great for building the muscles and increasing the range of motion that you need for dancing, according to Marie Claire. Having a schedule can help keep you accountable during the offseason so you’re less likely to skip workouts.
The summer season can be a good time to experiment with different workout programs. Find something that you enjoy and that gives you the results you’re looking for. Attend classes that are fun and make you excited to be there.
Talk to Your Dance Teacher
Planning a dancer fitness program by yourself can be a tough task, especially when most of your dance technique experience comes from the classroom and not the gym. Ask your teacher for specific exercises or workouts to be doing during the off-season, so you have some professional guidance on how to keep your form up. Depending on your studio’s summer plans, you may even be able to get into the classroom a few times over the summer for some dedicated work.
Taking Care of Your Body
Exercise is important to dancer fitness but it isn’t the only element. Be sure you’re still taking care of your overall health, like eating healthy, balanced meals and drinking plenty of water. Remember that your body needs calories for energy. Try to avoid doing heavy workouts if you haven’t had a substantial meal yet, and stay hydrated during hot summer days.
Sleep is also critical for staying in shape. Your body makes repairs and rejuvenates itself when you’re getting some shut-eye. Make sure you don’t skimp on the rest so you can feel and perform at your best.
If you have any concerns about your summer dancer fitness plans, be sure to talk to your instructors or a doctor. Focus on your safety so that you’re ready to come back to dancing again in the fall.
Hosting workshops is a great way to keep your students in touch with their dance skills (plus it means some income even in the down time of the summer months). The theme or focus of a workshop can be about anything, and it really depends on your students and what you think is the most valuable use of their time. Workshops are usually one-day events, so you’ll be working with a limited schedule. Use these dance workshop ideas to plan ahead and maximize your dancers’ experiences!
Skill-based workshops or skill-set intensive sessions are perfect for working on specific moves or muscle groups, and allow for polishing of the move beyond the scope of usual classroom practice. By scheduling workshops where you have multiple teachers available throughout the day, those teachers can give more private attention to students who need the most help, allowing for a single session to have several different levels of skill all improving at the same time.
Think about moves that you think might be valuable in future performance, or problems that you consistently see as moves needing improvement among your students. These projects to tackle might be more general, like improving students’ posture, or specific movements like the developpé.
Genre Introduction Workshops
As students get older, it’s important to give them options and expose them to different kinds of dance. The wider the variety of experiences available, the better students will understand which styles they like and want to pursue in more detail. Whether you host a jazz class for your ballet dancers, ballet for your jazz dancers, hip-hop or acro for everyone, help your students by pushing them out of their comfort zones and letting them try out different means of expression.
Maybe, like many teachers hope, your students are interested in developing their own unique style and want to put together a routine. Be the mentor that guides them along that path. Host creative workshops where you provide a few song options and ask students to bring in a few movements they’d like to perform!
By breaking up students into small groups with similar skill levels, you’ll let the dancers express themselves creatively while hopefully putting together a dance that can be learned that day. Like we mentioned before, having a number of teachers available can help by hosting those smaller groups and giving each dancer more personal attention. At the end of the day, have a recital performance for the groups of students to perform the routine they’ve put together!
Make the Experience Memorable
No matter which approach you take (and please send us your suggestions for dance workshop ideas that have worked in your studio!), make sure your students have FUN! These sessions should be meant to refresh interest in dance and improve your dancers’ abilities, and to encourage your students to keep dancing at your studio (especially if they haven’t registered for the fall season yet).
Let students practice some improvisation, ask them to suggest moves they want to work on for the next half hour, or plan to have hourly “dance party moments” where you put on a Top 40 song for them to dance along with their friends in whichever style they like best. Be creative in coming up with different dance workshop ideas, and ask other teachers and studio owners for themes that have worked well for them.
Make the Experience Memorable…and Easy for You to Host!
Most importantly, make sure that the event is within your ability to host. There are varied opinions on ideal student-to-teacher ratios in the classroom: for these workshops, the more teachers you can have, the more of a handle you’ll have on each dancer’s experience.
Make a schedule for the day, and decide if it makes the most sense for the studio to provide lunch (and to build that cost into the workshop tuition amount), or to ask dancers to bring their own lunch. Will the workshop day be one long session, or two separate sessions (morning and evening)? Will parents be able to stay for the day, and where will they stay?
And, be sure to create programming in that fits your audience. A great way to find out parents’ and students’ interests is to simply ask. Create a poll on your studio’s Facebook page, send out an email to parents, or try to be asking your students about their interests so you can gather dance workshop ideas throughout the regular dance season! With the right information, you’ll be able to plan and execute the best dance workshop(s) ever.