Keeping Fit Outside the Studio
Does just dancing alone keep professionals performance ready?
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
A dancer’s instrument is his/her body. It must be well-tuned and ready for whatever movement is called. Come performance time, it must be ready to shine. A regular regimen of dance classes is important, both as a warm-up prior to rehearsals and as a way to maintain technique.
Many dancers also, however, look toward activities outside the dance studio to keep themselves fit and performance-ready. Activities such as Pilates, yoga, cardio and swimming are popular methods of cross-training and can strengthen a dancer’s body complementary to dance classes. Here, find out what these professional dancers and Capezio Athletes do outside the studio to stay on top of their game.
What do you do outside of the dance studio to keep fit and performance-ready?
Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Broadway dancer, singer and actor
“When I can afford it, I love Pilates. It’s the perfect combination of everything I like. Since I am not much of a gym person, Pilates makes me feel like I’m getting an incredible workout while still keeping my dance technique as my first priority.”
Malgorzata Dzierzon, dancer and choreographer
“I use Pilates exercises as part of my warm-up before class and shows, and also create special programs for myself if I need to address a particular imbalance or if I’m recovering from an injury. I also find yoga incredibly helpful for maintaining lower back strength and flexibility. I cycle to keep my cardio up.”
Desmond Richardson, co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet
“I do a series of things – floor barre and Pilates mostly. Not a whole lot of gym work because for me, if I do too much gym work then I get too bulky. So the floor barre lengthens my muscles.”
DeWitt Fleming, Jr., tap dancer
“When I am in New York City, I go to the gym at least twice a week. I lift weights, play basketball, jump rope (like a boxer, not Double Dutch), and I sometimes run on the tread machine. Although I hate running on the tread machine, it has helped a lot. I have noticed that not only have I gained more endurance, but I have also gained more strength that has allowed me to start exploring different things in my dancing.”
Matt Flint, creative director/choreographer
“When my career started to transition more into choreography, I found I wasn’t doing as much exercise. I had to make a big effort to counter it. I regularly go out running and swimming. I love the gym, doing Bikram yoga and taking other people’s classes.”
Tiffany Hedman, professional ballerina
“If I’m performing, I love swimming. I find it the ultimate way to work out your whole body while placing little stress on your joints and still building up strength and stamina. If I have a day off, I will either use the elliptical machine at the gym, take a Pilates class or swim laps. Variety is a must, so depending on which I feel like, that’s how I choose.”
Why do you think it’s important for dancers to cross-train?
“When you work out only one way all the time – dancing – you strengthen certain muscles while neglecting others, therefore making them weak. I think that is why most dancers injure themselves, not on stage or in rehearsals, but just walking down the street or doing something very normal in their everyday life.”
Nikka Graff Lanzarone
“Working out your whole body in different ways is the secret to longevity – not just as a dancer, but as a human being! The same goes for your brain, too – making sure I know what’s going on outside my own world. The strength you gain by factoring in the whole body-mind picture can’t be found anywhere else.”
“I think it’s massively important. If you always train the same, your body becomes accustomed. You need to be constantly pushing and expanding.”
“Cross-training is important, and it’s a good idea to know what your body needs help with. If I’m rehearsing a piece that requires a continuous amount of high energy, then I’ll add in what I can to help build my stamina since I know I would struggle with that aspect of it. If you find yourself unable to hold your strength in a slower, more controlled piece, then perhaps Pilates can help with that. I think it’s important to give our bodies that knowledge and understanding of what the continuous stamina and/or calm strength feels like without having the stress of ballet added on to that. So doing these programs outside, when you’re under no pressure, can greatly add to your performance when you are under pressure, on the spot or in the spotlight on stage.”
“If you are working as a dancer in the industry today, you will come up against challenges of more than just one dance style. Cross-training and learning different dance styles will increase your chances of getting cast, help minimize the time off due to strain or injury, and ultimately make you a better and more versatile performer.”