Dancers are athletes & artists.
As an athlete, you need to be able to direct your energy as efficiently & effectively as possible...with all your power going towards the movement you want to achieve with as little energy wasted on movements that don't directly accomplish your goals. You need efficient, effective, powerful movement.
As an artist, you need to be able to manipulate your body at will through nuanced coordination & control...so you can tell the story that comes from your spirituality within and manifest it in physical form. You need expressive, detailed, refined movement.
Both of these aspects are built through confidence in your body -- confidence that comes from understanding the nuances of your unique system and also from optimizing the power & strength your body is capable of generating. You can't get this confidence from copying or trying to look like someone else. You get it from FEELING.
Feeling is important. As dancers, we are used to learning from repetition...doing the same things over and over again in class for years, decades even, and gradually making small improvements over time. But this repetition also means practicing the same mistakes over and over again as well, which makes progress slow and frustrating.
Feeling requires you to get curious about your body & its potential -- discover new ways of moving that are beyond just repeating and copying. Maybe you can't do an arabesque that looks like hers...but what if you squeeze this and stabilize that and ground here...can you feel how your arabesque line can be adjusted? Feeling involves training your body to do new things, to move in different ways, experimenting & discovering the potential your body has to offer. This isn't given, copied, or gained by proxy. It's built...by YOU. And the fastest way to do that (at least from what I've found through my personal experience) is through cross-training.
But not all cross-training is equal in terms of what it gives you. The kind of cross-training you do matters. I recently posted this on Instagram talking about how not all the "dancer cross-training" you see online is actually good for your dancing. Just because it's exercise, doesn't necessarily mean it will help your dancing improve on a functional level. In fact, it could make things worse.
As a dancer, you also have to think about aesthetics. You don't want to look like a body builder or a CrossFit athlete. (Side note: Not that there's anything wrong with that...I have much respect for body builders and CrossFit athletes. They have a level of dedication and determination I can really get behind! It's just not the aesthetic that works in a tutu on stage with "Swan Lake" music in the background.). I know there is so much debate about the "ballet body" these days. But like it or not, your job as a dancer does include the actual shape & look of your body. That doesn't mean you have to be bone-thin. But it does mean you need to put the effort in to create a body aesthetic you feel confident to express your art through. And certain kinds of cross-training are going to help you achieve that over others.
And as if all that weren't enough, you also have to think about body preservation. Us dancers are already so rough on our bodies, asking outrageous, unnatural, extreme feats from them. This wears down your joints and connective tissue prematurely. You don't want to add to that destruction with your cross-training routine. Exercise is a stress on your body. Some of that stress leads to positive improvements in your body. And some just leads to excessive wear and tear. As a dancer, you need to maximize the positive kind of stress and minimize the negative kind. You need cross-training that builds you up rather than breaks you down.
So, here's the money shot. What does this cross-training look like?
It's the cross-training I've used for more than a decade to keep my body in performance shape...even though I'm well past the typical expiration date for a professional dancer. It's a specific kind of work along with the mindset that accompanies it that allows you to build confidence, strength & coordination that aren't limited by age or genetics. If you can't work with me one-on-one over zoom or in my gym in NYC to get a taste of this training, join our DANCE CONDITIONING CLASS that meets once a week in NYC or via video. Each class is only $20 and requires no equipment. The focus is on FEELING your body and coaxing the most out of it, giving you the confidence to excel as both an artist & an athlete. Email me with questions or to sign up!
Want these concepts & cross-training techniques brought to your dance school or company? Reach out to book a Bulletproof Ballerina master class! There is still some availability for this summer and currently booking for the 2021-22 season!