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!