When you dream of becoming a professional dancer, one thing is vital: flexibility.
Flexibility allows the best dancers to stand out and move with effortless grace. Would Michael Jackson have been able to do his famous moonwalk if his legs weren't flexible?
But it's not the king of pop who needs our help.
Before you get to where you want to go, you have to go through a whole set of dance exercises, dance warm-ups, and stretches. And do this as often as possible in order to achieve concrete results.
Exercises, poses, muscles to work, we tell you everything you need to know.
Why Improve Your Flexibility?
To become a star dancer or simply to make a big splash at the next end of the year show, gaining flexibility is an everyday workout for amateur and professional dancers.
It takes time and effort.
It is very difficult, unless you are double-jointed, to make a big difference in less than a week. If your end-of-year show is coming up imminently, forget the idea right away because you could hurt yourself.
But what are the real benefits of being more flexible?
Dancers need to be just as supple as they are muscular. If you talk to any double-jointed person, they'll tell you it's not always easy to carry heavy objects if you are really flexible but don't have enough muscle.
You need to find the perfect balance.
However, flexibility has many benefits for dancers. It makes it easier to perform certain movements such as the splits of course, but also leg moves and other positions.
And a dancer's flexibility is not reserved for the professionals, as many dance styles need you to be agile. Yes, even hip-hop!
Flexibility does not only come into play when you do the splits. Being flexible creates better movements and more fluid positions.
Plus doing flexibility exercises is beneficial for your health. Everyone should do them, even those who don't dance.
If you stay in the office all day long, your back eventually starts to curl in, dragging your shoulders down. Because sitting regularly is not really ideal in terms of health.
So stay moving and do some exercises to keep your posture straight so you're not constantly bending your back.
Stretching your muscles also helps you feel better overall. It will be easier for you to bend down or climb the stairs for example.
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What Parts of the Body Should You Work On?
Gaining flexibility is a rather vague term. Indeed, it is possible to increase your flexibility in virtually all parts of the body. Just look at a contortionist if you need further convincing.
So what parts of the body do you work on when you want to be a dancer?
This is the first part of the body that springs to mind when talking about flexibility in dancers. Front or side splits is always the first thing on people's mind.
Flexible legs allow you to execute clean jumps in classical dances, but also give you the sensuality needed for salsa, or the ability to do impressive moves in hip-hop.
Do do this, there are lots of exercises to stretch leg muscles, the main thing to remember is to exercise regularly.
Back Stretching Exercises
Not relaxing your back is a big mistake when you start taking a dance class near me or if you want to become a professional dancer.
The back is the part of the body that gives the dancer posture. It must be muscular enough to support difficult positions but flexible enough to arch correctly.
Arms and Shoulders Stretches
Executing beautiful moves gracefully cannot be learned overnight.
It requires a long work to relax not just the arms but also the shoulders, the frame of the upper body.
The flexibility of these parts of the body allows you to move your arms in almost any direction without feeling awkward or clumsy.
All parts of the body must be worked carefully to become a good dancer. The whole body is a great tool for artistic expression that can be developed and exploited to convey emotion.
Increasing the flexibility of the entire body is not off the cards, quite the contrary.
Become More Flexible With Yoga
Flexibility can be achieved through yoga.
The poses in yoga meditation and those for physical development can be equally challenging.
A widespread practice in recent years, yoga is renowned for increasing flexibility as well as bringing a sense of well being to people who practice it.
Yoga enables you to exist in the moment and listen to your inner feelings and emotions.
Using yoga to become more flexible in dance is therefore a very good idea. For example, you could do 20 minutes of yoga before your dance class, or alternate between dance lessons and yoga classes.
Be careful though to start yoga accompanied by a trained yoga instructor who knows what they are doing so as not to hurt yourself by executing moves poorly.
You will realise, and your teacher will tell you, that to truly enjoy yoga it is important to let go. A lesson widely taught in dance classes near me as well.
This is how your body and muscles relax. It is key that you find a connection between body and spirit.
By practicing a relaxed mind and body, you will be able to perform all sorts of odd positions.
It's as if you've been flexible your whole life without knowing.
The "downward dog" pose will help you discover the flexibility of your entire body while the "seated forward bend" pose is an opportunity to work the lower back and back of the legs.
The cow face pose, the cobbler pose, many of these moves can help you in your quest for improved flexibility.
The Best Exercises for Flexibility
To become a model of flexibility, train regularly by doing repetitions of moves based on dance stretching exercises.
Stretching your Neck
Stand up straight. Your back should be straight too.
Tilt your head to the left and then place your left hand on your right ear. Gently pull until you feel some pressure in the neck and upper back.
Hold the position for 30 seconds, breathe, then do the same on the other side.
Loosen Up Your Pelvis
Still standing, put your arms up while holding your hands together. Slowly lower your chest with your arms up straight until you make a right angle to your legs. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat at least five times.
This exercise relaxes the body by working your pelvic muscles such as the buttocks, hamstrings and lumbar ischios.
Relax Your Shoulders
To relax the shoulder muscles such as the anterior deltoids and pectorals, stand with your legs slightly apart and your knees bent.
Join the back of your hands together behind your back and try to move them upwards as much as possible.
Stretching your Abductor Muscles
This exercise is performed sitting on the floor, or on a floor mat if you want to be more comfortable.
Put the soles of your feet together and bring them towards you. Gently lower your pelvis, being careful to keep your back straight.
Bending your back will only cause injury.
You should be able to feel a pull in your thighs.
This failsafe is a very effective foundation exercise.
Sit down and stretch your two legs out in front of you, toes pointed upwards. Then try to touch your toes with your hands and hold this position for 30 seconds if you can.
If not, use a strap that goes behind the soles of your feet to lengthen the distance and make it easier.
All these exercises are to be done as part of your warm-up or just after a workout. Exercises that can definitely help you pass your A-level dance exam!
They must be done consistently in order to see results.
Even if you don't have dance classes every day, this does not stop you spending 10 or 15 minutes a day on these exercises.
You may even be able to train from your desk at work.
Nevertheless, we still advise that you perform these exercises in an environment in which you feel comfortable and is spacious enough.
The result depends entirely on you, the time you want to spend and your basic level. Remember that flexibility is not attained in a day, but that with perseverance and motivation, anything is possible.