Warm Up Stretches For Your Dance Class
Most dance classes start with warming up the lower leg and foot muscles. Whether you start with legs parallel or turned out, getting your demi plie and sole of the foot muscles ready to dance will enhance your class work.
“Prances”, a time tested exercise.
Done at the barre, or in the center, here is a simple and effective warm up move.
If you are working with legs parallel, remember to rotate your thighs so that the knees are over the toes, and not swinging in (which is natural).
Engage your core muscles to support your posture, and relax your shoulders and neck.
Rise slowly onto your demi pointe, carrying your upper body forward over your toes.
Start pressing (rather than just letting go of the muscles) down slowly onto the left (or right, as you prefer) foot, bending the other knee and staying on demi pointe on the bent-knee side.
Continue into your demi plie, foot held on the floor, until you get a stretch in that calf, and reach your deepest possible position. PRESS upwards through your flat position to your demi pointe, check your spinal posture, and check again that your legs are a true parallel, not with knees swinging in.
Repeat slowly and carefully a few times, changing sides. Then gradually speed up until you are “prancing”. Your toes may never leave the floor, or you may accelerate to a real prancing motion.
Most importantly, you are warming up your lower leg and sole of the foot muscles, your turnout muscles (even if you are not turning out), and your core muscles that are stabilizing your pelvis position, and properly curved spinal position.
It's almost a full body workout!
And of course your quads and hamstrings are contributing to the control of the movements.
Next, lie down on the floor. Some ab crunches will further warm those muscles and continue to accelerate your metabolism, getting you ready for class.
(You may want to put a small rolled towel under your head, or not. Lying on your back with legs bent, and feet flat on the floor, you will start your ab crunches. Some dancers like to do one hundred tiny quick crunches, range of motion very small – one to two inches.)
Other dancers may have learned the super-slow-motion type of ab contraction, moving one to three inches very slowly, and back down, up to ten times maximum.
Either way, you are warming up those muscles. If you feel you need to, put one hand behind your head. While not contributing to the ab crunch, you can support your head a little.
Stand up again, and you are going to do some fairly quick prances – this time with a pumping motion, accompanied by arm swings. You can do full circle swings front to back, and then reverse, back to front. As you pump, you will be relieving tension in the neck and shoulders, and loosening up the shoulder joints.
Literally swing the arms, do not work on this.
Now your cardio-vascular system is quickened, and in just a few minutes.
At this point you can use the ballet barre, or sit on the floor to stretch your hamstrings, (back of the thighs) adductors (inner thighs) and large back muscles (quadratus lumborum).
Put one leg on the lower barre; or seated, bend one leg, straighten the other in front of you .
Keeping the back straight, bend from the hip joint, and lean over an inch or two; same sitting on the floor, lean over the stretched leg, not much range of motion, and press the back of the leg into the floor.
This is a very gentle, low force stretch to prepare for class, only.
Sitting in second position on the floor, you will feel the stretch in your adductors, or inner thighs. You may just want to sit there and pull up your very lowest ab muscles, straightening your pelvis. You may then bend forward slightly, exerting a tiny pull on your adductors. You can stretch harder later.
Pressing your right thigh into the floor, bend sideways away from it, reaching over your head toward your left leg, an elongated movement. Relax over there, and then return, and repeat on the other side.
These stretching and warming up moves are just one example of how you can ready for your dance class.
You will have your own priorities, depending on your physique and the style of dance you are studying in each class.
Buy this DVD and get some more tips about stretches for ballet.