A while ago a fellow dancer asked me if I thought that we needed other types of exercise to stay in shape besides dance. Absolutely, I said. Personally speaking, exercises that I do outside of the dance studio have really helped my technique, stamina, range and overall body strength.
My cross train of choice is Pilates and yoga. I appreciate the attention to core strength, flexibility and posture. With these types of exercise one uses the body similarly to how we would dance. So it is a perfect fit for me.
I had spent years just dancing, thinking that it was all that I needed, until I wanted to perfect my floor work. The ab work of Pilates really helped without making my body bulky and stiff. My posture also benefits, breaking bad habits I didn’t even know I had. For me it’s also a great way to stretch my mind/body. To see what it can do –and what challenges I could overcome.
There are no end of fitness techniques and programs that pair well with dance. I have a troupe mate that does Zumba. She loves the energy and the cardio benefits. It’s enabled her to perform a six minute drum solo without getting winded. There’s another dancer I know who studies gymnastics and does incredible floor work.
I wonder if cross training is necessary only for older dancers. Perhaps for younger ones just the dance and whatever youth brings is enough. That being said there are fewer older long term/professional dancers than younger ones. Many stop dancing because of other responsibilities but even more stop because of injuries. Cross training in a technique that strengthens the body structurally could probably have extended their career.
I believe we need to keep an open mind when it comes to our practice. Not only artistically but also in how to support the body so that we could have a long and productive dance life.