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A Dancer's Routine

A Dancer's Routine

A glimpse into typical dance routines, diet plans and tips for dancers crafting a dance routine

From rigorous rehearsals all day long to strict eating times and six-day weeks – dancers have grueling schedules. Many ballet dancers dance all day, see very little sunlight, and dedicate years and decades of their lives to achieving the perfection they need to be part of dance companies.

It is vital for dancers to create a daily routine to get their bodies ready for these long day of rehearsals or performances. A tried and tested routine will prevent or minimize injury, increase energy level and make for a happier body long-term.

What is a typical routine of a dancer?

Different dancers have different routines, and it mostly depends on the type of dance they practice or the juncture their careers are at. However, these practices of a dancer are mainly common:

Morning:

  1. Body preparation: depending on the type of dance you practice, body preparation techniques vary. Contemporary dancers usually do a hatha yoga routine or a soft technique routine that includes their very personal needs (like physiotherapeutic exercises or so). Ballet dancers will do pilates or other stretching exercises focussing on the body part that they find to be rigid
  2. Technique class: Technique classes are specific to the type of dance. In combination with some choreographic routines for training interpretation and cardio, a dancer will do the series of specific technical exercises

After lunch:

  1. Creative session or rehearsal: Dancers use this part of the day to rehearse works that are in progress such as performances. This time is dedicated to training improvisation or working on composition and easily stretches into a session of three hours or more.

Evenings or weekends:

  1. Performances are those late evening parts of the day where you either sleep or rest after a morning's final rehearsal so you can perform to the best ability at the performance.

Crafting A Pre-Dance Warm-Up Routine

Before a dance class, it's important to take some time to give your body a proper warm up. When you warm up, you engage in a series of activities that gradually increase your heart rate and flow of blood to your muscles.  Warming up reduces the risk of injury and progressively prepares your body for the movements to come.

Also, by developing a pre-class routine, you can focus on your body's individual needs and which would improve your fitness over time. Here are some tips from fellow dancers, dance moms, and other industry professionals on how to create a routine that works for you.

Get to class early

When you arrive just in time for the rigorous dance class already underway, the rushed schedule and lack of time to warm up can make you feel tired and even incapable of movements that should be simple and easy to do. Try arriving at your dance class at least 10-15 minutes early, so that you can do warm-up exercises, plus, it's much more beneficial to warm up in the studio so that your muscles will stay warm.

Get your heart pumping

Start with dynamic warm-up exercises, such as jumping jacks, to get the blood flowing and warm up your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Dynamic warm-up exercises also get your nervous system ready for whatever dance moves you need to do during the session.

Stretch those muscles

Stretching correctly before dance class is crucial. Stretching strengthens muscles, increases flexibility, and ensures that your movements will flow gracefully. You can tend to anything that might feel tight or stuck with light massage and stretching.

Work your core

Warming up isn't just about stretching. Adding in strengthening exercises such as the plank, which engages all core muscles will provide excellent body conditioning. 

Focus on form

Think about the movements you'll be doing in your dance routine for the day and then factor in exercises that prepare you for the moves that will be coming up in your workout. Focus on form and positioning.

Be consistent

Once you find a warm-up routine that suits your body and dance form, stick to it, so you will ensure you warm up before each class. If you want to focus on problem areas or areas that need more attention, you can see the advice of your dance instructor. Vary your routine slightly to make it enjoyable; for example, take advantage of the weather by warming up through riding a bike to the studio or walking.

Cool down

Cooling down is just as important as warming up. Be prepared for tomorrow’s rehearsal by giving yourself at least a 30-minute session of stretching, massaging and rolling out your muscles at the end of the day. Take this time to care for any chronic injuries or problem areas.

A Dancer's Diet And Nutrition

Dancers are continually required to perform at the top of their abilities. Hence proper nutrition and fueling of the body are vital. Dancers calorific requirements need to support the demands placed on the body, and the diet can be effective only with a healthy mix of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and fats.

Learning when and what to eat during the day is also imperative to a healthy diet for dancers. If you have always been curious to know how dancers maintain their super fit bodies, read on;

 

Breakfast

Most ballet dancers rely on a hearty breakfast combined with supplements to provide the energy needed for the rest of the day. Consuming a breakfast that consists of complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and which is low in fat will fill you up and provide energy until your next meal. Eggs, smoothies, whole wheat toast, berries in low-fat yogurt are popular choices.

Mid-Morning Snack

Most dancers have day-long routines and are dancing throughout the day. Eating a very early breakfast and late lunch and that too meals which are small means a mid-morning snack becomes essential to stave off hunger and energy slumps. There are plenty of options for energizing snacks such as apples, bananas, energy bars, homemade trail mix, crackers and cheese, yogurt, and dry fruit bars.

Lunch

For a dancer, lunch needs to be well planned. This meal gives you the chance to refuel to get through an equally grueling second half of the day. Avoid after-lunch fatigue and stomach distress by choosing foods that are easy to digest. Peanut butter or swiss and ham or turkey sandwichs using whole wheat bread or a pasta dish accompanied by some fruit makes an ideal choice. Consider a high energy drink that will provide the minerals along with hydration, especially in the warmer months.

Mid-Afternoon Snack

Eating every three hours is essential, and a mid-afternoon snack is a perfect way to your body properly fueled before ending the day with dinner.  Pre-cut vegetables like carrots dipped in hummus or nuts are excellent choices.

Dinner

Dinner is a meal important for dancers in that it prepares their bodies for the next day& work. What you eat the night before a long day of training or performance will supply your muscles with the energy they need. Choose foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, which provide energy; lean protein like fish or chicken which helps repair damaged muscles tissue; and healthy fats, which help your body function at an optimal level. Pasta like spaghetti with meat sauce, whole-wheat bread, broccoli, low-fat milk, salmon filet, grilled shrimp with a veggie side, tofu vegetable stir-fry with brown rice are all choices that will give you the ideal mix.

Five Additional Items Every Dancer Should Own For A Great Routine

The last thing you should do when you turn up for rehearsals is; be unprepared! It will reflect on your energy levels and consequently your performance. Apart from carrying essentials like a classy water bottle that helps meet your hydration goals, a large stock of band-aids and some painkillers, the following five items can seriously up your professionalism and performance levels.

Resistance band

To increase flexibility and strength of course! Increase your flexibility and range of motion, strengthen key muscles, and warm up your arms, legs, and feet before rehearsal or competition.  Inexpensive and highly useful, a resistance band is something every dancer should use regularly.

Turnout board

These are boards have a swivel design to place the axis of rotation at the source of one's turnout, which is the hip. Using a turnout board will train dancers to use their turnout properly, and it also has a degree indicator to check the symmetry of both legs' turnout.

Foam roller

A foam roller is excellent for working out the pains in your IT Bands, calves and back.  A good foam roller, like the one by Suffolk has enough support to work the deep kinks out, but it's not so hard that it hurts.  If it is compact and portable, it can make for a perfect accompaniment to a day of rehearsals and dance routines.

Gel toe pads

Toe pads let you feel the floor while still protecting your toes.  The gel is remarkably comfortable, and these last a while.  Toe pads can help relieve blister pain, and many dancers add a baby powder to minimize sweating.  A great inexpensive addition to your dance bag.

The perfect ballet slipper

I can't stress enough about how important it is to find a slipper you love.  Test a variety of different slippers, and you will understand the type of feet you have, narrow, broad, etc.  For more advanced dancers using pointe shoes, flexibility in their ballet slippers might be a serious consideration. While stiff shoes are more difficult to break in, they typically provide better support.  On the other hand, flexible shoes are easier to break in, but they tend to wear out sooner.

After such action-packed daily routines, a dancer needs to take good care of her body by getting plenty of rest. Whether it is connecting with your partner, sipping a glass of wine or indulging in a square of dark chocolate, it is also important to find a routine outside the studio that helps you unwind and recharge.

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