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Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

Posted By Brenton Surgenor and Andrea Kozai on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, April 3, 2017

 

Warming up is essential before taking part in any type of dance activity, but it’s not always clear how to warm up effectively.  This blog post sets out the what, why and some of the how-to’s of an effective dance-specific warm-up.  This prefaces our new, upcoming Resource Paper on effective warm-up for dancers, which has much more information and advice on how to prepare the body for dancing.

 

Firstly, an effective warm-up will prepare you (or your dancers) mentally and physically to meet the challenges and physical requirements of a class, rehearsal, or performance.  As the name suggests, a warm-up should increase your core body temperature, which prepares your muscles and joints to function effectively during dancing as well as reduces injury risk.

 

During the warm-up there is an increase in the amount of energy required by your working muscles.  This means your body needs to consume more oxygen and fuel (glucose) to generate energy to power your muscles.  A byproduct of all this extra energy production is the increase in body temperature that gives the warm-up its name, so the cardiovascular section of a warm up is vital in ensuring your body is ready to go.  Therefore, sitting in the sun enjoying a hot coffee will not have the same benefits as a physical warm-up, as a warm-up ensures that your cardiovascular system, breathing rate, and energy-producing systems gradually increase to meet the higher demand for energy when you begin dancing.

 

A warm-up will have a number of other beneficial effects. These include: increasing the flow of synovial fluid (the lubricant in the joints), which allow your bones to slide more freely; improving the elasticity of your muscles, joints and ligaments for increased range of movement; and increasing the speed that signals travel through your nerves, which improves your overall balance, coordination and proprioception (your body’s ability to understand its orientation). For more information about proprioception see IADMS Resource Paper “Proprioception”. 

 

 

Whilst it’s good to include some stretching as part of your warm-up, not all types of stretching are beneficial before dancing.  The role of stretching during a warm-up is to mobilize muscles and prepare them safely to carry out the range of motion required of dance activities, not to increase flexibility. Stretching should happen after the activation of the cardiovascular system and when core body temperature is raised.  Dynamic stretching (taking the joint through a full range of motion in a slow and controlled way) is the best form of stretching in a warm-up.  This is because research suggests static stretching (stretches held in one position for longer than 15 seconds) can have a negative effect on balance, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) and the muscles’ ability to produce powerful quick movements like jumps (Morrin and Redding, 2013). While static stretching can be an important part of flexibility training it is not an appropriate method of warming up; on the contrary, the purpose of dynamic stretching is to ready the body for full range, dynamic motion (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).  For more about stretching, see IADMS Resource Paper “Stretching for Dancers”.

 

 

Warming up your mind is just as important as warming up your body.  A good warm-up will give you an opportunity to check how you are feeling, to notice your posture and any unnecessary physical tension or pain.  It can also help you concentrate and focus, which should contribute to technically better dancing and reduced risk of injury (Laws, 2005; Malliou et al., 2007).

 

Although a thorough and effective warm-up should take about 20 minutes, the time required is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to: whether the dancer has participated in any physical activity that day (is it the first class of the day or has the dancer recently completed another class); how warm or cold the environment is; and how much space and time is available for the warm-up. This should include a general physiological warm-up that prepares the core body temperature for physical activity.  Importantly too, the warm-up should include specific activities that relate to the style of the dance to follow (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).

 

A warm-up generally consists of three or four sections: a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilizing section, a muscle lengthening section, and sometimes a second pulse-raising section (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015). The pulse-raising sections aim to increase cardiorespiratory and metabolic rates; these are the prerequisite to all further activity. The joint mobilizing section consists of gently moving the various joints through their ranges of motion, and the purpose of the muscle lengthening section is to prepare the muscles for the demands to come through the use of dynamic stretching (Wilmerding and Krasnow, 2017). It is also appropriate to include remedial exercises for injury prevention purposes at the end of the warm-up (Volianitis et al, 2001), and mental skills and preparation can be included at any stage.

 

Remember the benefits of a warm-up will be reduced or even lost once the body returns to its resting states of heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, so try to keep the time between the end of the warm-up and the dancing a minimum. Warm clothing and continued movement (but not static stretching) will help keep the body’s core temperature elevated. However, this is dependent on what happens after the warm-up (does the dancer keep moving or do they sit down and rest) and environmental elements such the ambient temperature. Cooler temperatures and the lack of movement may cause the effects of the warm-up to dissipate more rapidly.

 

Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe for warming up and the most important thing to remember is that the warm-up should be specific to the type of dance activity to follow (in other words a ballet warm-up will be different from a jazz warm-up). However, with an understanding of a few basic principles, it should be safe and easy for you to design a warm-up that works for you. 

 

 

Here are some suggestions to help you design your perfect dance warm-up.

1.      Involve your mind and take a moment to center yourself.  Check in with how you are feeling; notice any areas where you need to give special attention. 

2.      Make your warm-up dance (and type of dance) specific.

3.      Introduce an activity to gradually increase your heart rate.

4.      Keep the movement simple to begin then progress to more complex and challenging movement patterns.

5.      Mobilize all the joints in your body and don’t forget about your spine and upper body, especially if your dance style includes upper-body weight bearing or/and partnering work.

6.      Give yourself a goal or try some positive self-talk.

7.      Use dynamic stretching and take your body carefully through full ranges of motion saving the static stretching for the cool-down or the end of the day.

8.      Wake up your nervous system by incorporating quick changes in direction and stopping to balance on one leg – this will engage your proprioceptors. 

9.      Once you are feeling warm and just a little bit sweaty, introduce some power movements like small jumps followed by some bigger ones.

10.  Towards the end of the warm-up, pick the pace and progress your movement to speeds nearer the pace of the following dance activity.

 

Whatever you choose to include, by the end of the warm-up you should feel ready to meet the mental and physical challenges of dancing. For more detailed information, check out the new IADMS resource paper on warming up for dancers.

 

 

For more information about warming up see the following resources.

1.      Harris J, Elbourn J. Warming up and cooling down. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.

2.      Laws, H., & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national Inquiry into dancers' health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.

3.      Malliou, P., Rokka, S., Beneka, A., Mavridis, G., & Godolias, G. (2007). Reducing risk of injury due to warm up and cool down in dance aerobic instructors. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 20(1), 29-35.

4.      Morrin, N., & Redding, E. (2013). Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 17(1), 34-40.

5.      Quin E, Rafferty S, Tomlinson C. Safe Dance Practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2015.

6.      Volianitis S, Koutedakis Y, Carson R. Warm Up: A Brief Review. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2001; 5(3): 75-79.

7.      Wilmerding MV, Krasnow DH (eds). Dancer Wellness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2017.

 

 

Written by Brenton Surgenor (BPhEd, MA, MSc), Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Andrea Kozai (MSc, CSCS), Virtuoso Fitness

Tags:  dancers  teachers  warmup  warm-up  wellness 

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Developing a Personal Dancer Wellness Plan

Posted By Donna Krasnow and Ginny Wilmerding on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, January 30, 2017

Our focus for this blog post is on a new IADMS and Human Kinetics publication, edited by renowned dance educators and IADMS members, Ginny Wilmerding and Donna Krasnow.  Dancer Wellness is a useful, one-stop resource for all dance teachers interested in embedding dance medicine and science principles into their practice and ensuring the long-term health and wellbeing of the dancers with whom they work.  Here, Ginny and Donna give us a taste of how to design a personal dancer wellness plan as a foundation for long and effective dance practice.

 

Photo by Jake Pett, image reproduced with permission by Human Kinetics:
http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/Dancer-Wellness-With-Web-Resource

 

As a dancer, you will face many challenges to your health and wellness. Every aspect of your training, from the environment and what you eat to your technical work and possible injuries affect your health. You can design your own personal dancer wellness plan and continue to develop it for many years. You can seek the assistance of teachers, health care professionals, and others in your support network to help you create your personalized plan.

 

Let’s start with the basic foundations of the dancer’s life. You can learn about your dance studio floors and other environmental aspects such as temperature, ventilation, lighting and sound, and make sure that you are working in a studio that meets certain requirements. You can speak to the school director and your teachers if you find problems in these areas. You may feel more confident if you have others such as parents or other dancers join you in these discussions. Next, you can study anatomy and physics. You can make sure that you are dancing in the best possible alignment, and that you understand scientific principles of movement. You can pair up with a friend from class and do partner assessments. You can also examine your learning strategies so that you have multiple ways to learn new technical skills in class. Finally, think about ways to supplement your class work with outside conditioning, and consider what areas of conditioning need the most focus, whether that is muscular strength, flexibility, or cardio-respiratory endurance. Conditioning can decrease fatigue and improve your confidence.

 

Next, let’s look at the mental components of dancer wellness. In terms of your mental training, you can consider how reliant you are on the mirror, and shift your emphasis to physical sensation and developing your kinesthetic sense of movement. You can use your teachers’ images and create your own images to enhance your dancing, especially in areas where you need improvement. Dance psychology can provide important tools for motivation, and help you deal with a wide range of views about yourself, including self-concept, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-compassion. Rest and recovery are crucial for your health, and may be the most overlooked aspects of wellness. Consider your sleep habits, and also look at ways to cope with stress and anxiety, especially near performances. Finally, you can find alternate ways to rest, such as mentally practicing choreography.

 

Last, let’s consider the physical components of the dancer’s health. Make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, and water. See if there are ways to eat fewer foods that have little nutrition, and add foods such as fruits and vegetables. If you smoke, design a plan to stop, and make sure you are physically active during periods of time that you are not dancing. For bone health, it is important to include weight-bearing exercise in your activities. Through your conditioning work, make sure you understand how methods of gaining strength, flexibility, and core support can give you knowledge you need to prevent injuries and sustain long hours of dancing and rehearsing. If you add a new technique to your training, you may need to add different conditioning exercises that prepare for those demands.

 

By developing your personal dancer wellness plan, you can improve your health and have many years of rewarding dancing. Good health contributes to dance injury prevention, less fatigue, better nutrition to fuel your energy needs, and enhanced self-esteem. You can find out much more about the principles discussed here in the new Dancer Wellness book.  You can purchase a copy with accompanying e-resources here. Happy reading!

Tags:  Dancer Wellness  dancers  teachers  wellness 

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Book Review: Dancer Wellness Textbook

Posted By K. Michael Rowley on behalf of IADMS Promotion Committee, Wednesday, January 11, 2017

This phenomenal Dancer Wellness textbook is like a who’s who of the dance medicine and science world. A quick scan of the Table of Contents will toss up well-known names in the community like Luke Hopper of Australia, Emma Redding of the UK, Derrick Brown of the Netherlands, and Margaret Wilson of the US among many many more. This textbook embodies what I personally have wanted from IADMS for the entire time I’ve been aware of the organization – a reference textbook combining the best of the best in contributors, scientifically and clinically rigorous information, and accessibility to multiple audiences.

 

 

Editors M. Virginia Wilmerding and Donna H. Krasnow have done a superb job compiling everything a dancer, dance teacher, or dance practitioner needs to know about dancer health and wellness. These two have even included chapters on Psychological Wellness (authored by Lynda Mainwaring of Toronto, Canada, and Imogen Aujla of the UK) and Optimal Nutrition for Dancers (authored by Derrick Brown of the Netherlands and Jasmine Challis of the UK). These two topics are frequently cited as overlooked or under-acknowledged. Well, not for these two star editors who clearly made every effort to give readers this important information.

 

A highlight of the textbook design is the Application Activity found at the end of each chapter. This takes information from the chapter and helps readers incorporate the main points into their practice or their wellness plan. In addition, the supplemental resources found on Human Kinetics webpage would be quite useful for students and teachers. Here, readers can find sample syllabi, slides, tests and quizzes, as well as learning activities for inside and outside the classroom.

 

I’ll end this short review by highly recommending this textbook. Whether you’re already plugged in to IADMS and the dance medicine and science community or not, this textbook is a great up-to-date summary of where the field stands. It delivers only the best to students, teachers, and practitioners who take advantage of it. You can order the textbook at Human Kinetics, here.

 

Editors M. Virginia Wilmerding (left) and Donna H. Krasnow (right)

Tags:  dancers  review  teachers  wellness 

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Dancer Wellness: Power, Empower and Educate! Mid-Atlantic IADMS Regional Conference

Posted By Janine Bryant and Gayanne Grossman, Friday, May 1, 2015

On April 26th members of IADMS held their first Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference entitled Power, Empower and Educate! at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. 

Speakers were Megan Richardson of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, and Gayanne Grossman, Muhlenberg College Director of Dance Wellness and instructor of Anatomy and Kinesiology, Physical Therapist to dancers through the Lehigh Valley Health Network, PA., IADMS Education Committee member and Editor-in-Chief of the IADMS Bulletin for Teachers. The day was moderated by Janine Bryant, Director of Dance Programs, Eastern University, PA., IADMS Education Committee member, and PhD Candidate, Wolverhampton University, UK.

The program included sessions on dance medicine and science topics including: Plyometrics for building power, points on pointe training and readiness and improving alignment through releasing of myofascial restrictions. Delegates also engaged with an IADMS promotional table. Sessions were well attended by dancers, teachers, choreographers, and directors of schools and companies, college students, medical practitioners, and dance scientists; leading to stimulating discussions on dance medicine and science within practical dance settings. Attendees came from as far away as Boston and Virginia.

 

This conference offered exposure of dance medicine and science to the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern region of the USA. Conference organizers, Gayanne Grossman and Janine Bryant hope that this event will provide the inspiration for participants to attend the 25th Annual Meeting held within reasonable driving distance from the Mid-Atlantic conference venue in Pittsburgh, PA. this coming October 2015.


Conference Organizers:
Janine Bryant, Tim Cowart and Gayanne Grossman

Tags:  IADMS  regional conference  wellness 

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