#5 Core stability and strength for dancers

6

Last in my series on how to be a strong, healthy and happy dancer is all about flexing those abdominal muscles! Core stability and strength are absolutely crucial in order to hit your peak as a dancer.

The biggest weakness I personally see in young dancers is the lack of core stability whilst they move. Kicks, port de bras, movements through the spine all seem to somehow lift shoulders up to the ears and stick rib cages out in front! Developing control and strength in this area will align and lengthen your posture which not only gives you a better silhouette but create freedom of movement in your body.

One of the best ways to strengthen your core unit is to practise Pilates. Pilates will teach you how to find these muscles (pelvic floor, internal/external obliques, transverses abdominis, quadratus lumborum and diaphragm) and use them correctly with efficiency. If your core is strong, challenging movements can be made easier by being able to recruit the muscles and support what you are trying to do.

The core is responsible for keeping your rib cage placement stable and keeping correct alignment in most moves/positions. Imagine dancing with the ability to control these ‘bad habits’? If you look at a dancer side by side, one with a strong core, the other with a weak core, you will be able to see the difference almost instantaneously.

The beautiful effects of Pilates do not stop there. It trains the body in such a way that sequential control is also a by-product and as a dancer this is vitally important. Having the ability to move individual pieces of the body independently (if desired), can take your performance to another level! You will be able to perform more highly technical choreography and create the illusion of ease and grace. To compliment this sequential control, balance is another key repercussion of developing and stabilising your core. Now you know out of all the ‘desirable’ qualities from a dancer, balance is up there. Holding beautiful leg lines, milking your exit out of a pirouette or sharply changing direction is seen by only the best. Do you know why they can? Because they have a strong centre (core) and this is where that control comes from.

If I have not persuaded you enough yet then I will mention the dramatic effect it can have on your back and injury occurrence. If you strengthen your core, lower back pains can practically disappear (unless this of course is a structural issue) and prevent a multitude of injuries. A strong core helps to effectively manage the pressure and impact you put on the body whilst dancing. The body is designed to manage the flow of impact forces in a specific way. If the forces transcend through the body differently, weaknesses or imbalances will arise and consequently cause injuries.

Apart from finding a great local Pilates studio, or instructor (I run two Pilates classes in Peckham), the Pilates Anytime membership gives you unlimited access to thousands of top quality full length classes. They even do a free 12 day trial so if I were you, try that out if you are struggling to find a local class. You may even want to ask your College or school if they know anyone who works with dancers in this field.

In conclusion then;

1. eat protein

2. meditate regularly

3. get a none dance related hobby

4. roll out regularly

5. strengthen your core

You can do this! You can get strong, healthy and ultimately happy whilst having an amazingly long career in dance!

 




6 comments


  • Angelika

    Hi,
    I don’t think so.
    I’m finish ballet school.
    And I think dance is have every thing.
    My salve I love yoga.
    You can not be shore whats is better.
    If teacher know what to do people stay healthy.
    I teach.And many people come to my dancing class not to Pilates.
    You know why?
    Because in my class I mix dance,ballet and yoga.
    Thanks

    November 27, 2013
  • Your post is very interesting. I am a very strong believer that being strong up the middle (core) is a plus for performance in all areas of activity in life. I however do not believe that pilates is the only or the best program for core strength. There are many good exercises there which can do equally well.

    November 27, 2013
  • Bec

    Yes, I agree, it is not the only way and different techniques/exercises may suit different people. Because it is a holistic approach there are so many other benefits which you do not neccessarily get with other techniques and these dramatically enhance the way a dancer moves. Additionally, the way Pilates explains and teaches you to use the core, is anatomical sound incorporating the whole ‘core unit’. Thanks for your thoughts on this it is great to get such valuable feedback!

    November 28, 2013
  • Bec

    That is great to hear you incorporate Yoga as well. I am a big fan of Yoga too!
    If your training was varied then yes I do agree that dance can incorporate most aspects. However, due to timetabling, budgets and the background of the school, a varied training regiume is not is not always possible. Out of all the professional schools and dancers I know in London, all of them suppliment or incorporate Yoga, Pilates or perhaps weight training to enhance their performance.
    Balance and variety is your body’s best friend (from a physiological and psychological piont of view), so I would also encourage and advocate that to dancers.
    Thank you for your valuable comments and feedback!

    November 28, 2013
  • LC

    It fascinates me that yoga and Pilates are all being mentioned and Gyrotonic & Gyrokinesis is still not in the domain.
    It fuses influences of yoga, dance, swimming, tai chi
    Personally when I did Pilates, when. A professional dancer it may have been the way it was presented to me, where I was in my own body, my own body type but I definitely m&d’s me tighter and more like an athlete. The suppleness and movement flow was hindered.
    Teaching dancers to integrate and translate their strength in whatever system/s are chosen.
    I have seen at the highest level this still not being taught.

    December 8, 2013
  • Bec

    Hi, thank you for your thoughts on this. To be honest although I know about Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis I have never tried it. I would absolutely love to do this but it is not very accessible here in the UK yet. Hopefully some time soon I will get to experience it! I do know of a couple of studios in London but they do tend to be very expensive.
    In regards to Pilates, yes it heavily depends on your teacher and their wider experience and expertise with other practices within fitness training. I personally combine my knowledge of strength and conditioning, Yoga, Alexander technique, cardiovascular etc etc, with Pilates and tailor it specifically for the client and work closely with physiotherapists/chiropractors. Obviously this is in the perfect world and not every dancer has access to this.
    Thanks again for your thoughts!

    December 10, 2013

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