Dancer Wellness: Warm-up Inspiration

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How does your warm-up support your goals as an artist? Do you have a different warm-up to meet the variety of physical demands you encounter or just one that does the trick? Have you spent much time creating different warm-ups for classes versus rehearsals, auditions versus performances? The reality is, your own warm-up could benefit you far more if you customize it to match your various activities and projects.

Do you…Have a teacher that only does everything on the right side and never the left? Are you rehearsing a piece that requires a lot of upper body lifting and inversions, or maybe lower body work with leaps and floor work? Are you teaching classes where you are demonstrating and correcting your students’ alignment? Have a performance coming up that challenges your abilities and pushes your edge?

Whether your body is accustomed to your weekly flow or is having to meet erratic and far-ranging demands, preparing yourself to walk into the studio or onto the stage is, in my opinion, a critical factor for success and satisfaction.

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We can borrow from anywhere to create warm-ups, but really we are our own best resource when it comes to what to do, for how long, and why. I encourage you to take the time to go through a planning process, for it will not only have physical benefits, but any time we invest in a creative dialogue with our bodies builds awareness, connectivity, self-identification, artistry, and more. Below, I have provided some key information to consider, and a pool of ideas to draw from to add variety and thoroughness.

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To Stretch or Not to Stretch?
The benefits of stretching are found when warm tissues (muscles and fascia) can lengthen. Because of this, I recommend saving most of your stretching to recuperate as a cool down. Starting off with stretching is the opposite of this and too much stretching may de-activate muscles that will later need to work rigorously (hamstrings and gluteals in particular). Also, stretching typically requires a larger range of motion than the muscles and/or joints may be prepared for so early on. Rather, “loosen up” by getting the blood flowing first.

Dance classes often provide an aspect of “warming up” the body as well as a series of stretches that lead us through larger ranges of motion and require a moderate level of coordination and connectivity to perform efficiently. So prime your body for this with your own routine first.

TO START
Do an activity that increases your heart rate and respiration (small jumps, climbing stairs, a slow-paced jog, jumping jacks, etc). This will supply your muscles with blood and oxygen, and activates your joints, soft tissues, and nervous system.

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ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE
Conscious Breathing
• Every cell in our body respires, so every breath we concentrate on taking can connect us to any cell in our bodies! Focusing on the breath can be grounding and centering and improve mental acuity and information retention (We need this!). The diaphragm and respiratory muscles comprise much of the “core” of the body, and syncopating your breath with your movement fosters connectivity, movement phrasing, and even musicality. (To read more about this, check out my blog on the diaphragm here).

What we call ’I’ is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. ~Shunryu Suzuki

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Range of Motion
• Start with smaller movements of the whole body and individual joints, and increase gradually
• Full range of motion in all planes – forward-back, side-side, up-down, rotation

Practicing Change
Activate your nervous system
• Changing levels – floor work, plie, releve, off the floor
• Changing facing – shift directions
• Changing weight – shift from bearing weight on different body parts
• Changing orientation – take your head off center, spiral and twist for dimensionality

Balance
• Restore what has been used a lot by stretching
• Recuperate with counter-movement and strengthening

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ELEMENTS TO EXPLORE
Use some of these concepts to bring variety to your usual warm up with a new layer of focus, or to create a dynamic warm-up/movement exploration to underpin the movement in your current dance project or performance preparation.

Polarities
• Upper/Lower, Inner/Outer, Function/Expression, Stability/Mobility, Lead/Follow

Body Shaping (whole body or body part)
• Wall, Ball, Pin, Screw, Pyramid…
• narrow, wide, rise, fall, advance, retreat, open, close…

Quality and Dynamism
• soft, sharp, light, heavy, direct, indirect, fast, slow, float, bind…

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So get to know yourself and your true movement potential! Ask questions of your experience and find answers you never knew were there. You can use a short or long warm-up to inspire your own creativity and expression as an individual, and understand how your body can align with not just the steps in a piece of choreography but so much more!

Want some help? Always feel free to send me a line: newpathwellnees@gmail.com

Happy dancing!!

(c) Kate Fox Colie, 2014

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Author: nohoarts