If you are looking to improve your dance skills, here’s a helpful framework: strength, flexibility, and control. Figure out where you need to improve with regard to these three attributes, and you will know where to focus your efforts.
Many dancers have overlooked strength training for fear of developing large, bulky muscles. It’s an unfortunate misconception, particularly because strength training is so important to becoming more proficient in a great many dance styles.
A key concept in strength training is progressive overload, placing more demands on your muscles over time to increase your strength. Of course, you will want to be careful to avoid injury.
Your first step in strength training should be to determine your needs, which will vary based on your dance style and your own current fitness. You may decide to emphasize upper-body strength, or your lower back, or your legs.
Your workout routine should consist of a variety of exercises designed to train all your major muscle groups, but you should especially focus on the muscle groups you will rely on the most in your chosen style of dance.
One of the most important aspects of strength training for dancers is movement patterns. If you rely on a specific movement pattern when working out a particular muscle, most of the strength you gain will only be available for that movement pattern. By working out with different movement patterns, you can build up more general strength gains.
How flexible you are will determine what range of motion you can carry out. Of course, your range of motion will in turn determine your dance abilities.
In general, you can develop flexibility through stretching. This is a generic term referencing any exercise that conditions the central nervous system to allow for greater movement.
Properly executed, stretching exercises will help you to avoid injury. The kneeling quad stretch, for example, enhances flexibility along the inner thigh and hamstrings, which in turn helps to prevent upper leg injuries.
The stretches you do will depend, to a considerable degree, on what style of dance you are working with. If you find yourself lacking in flexibility, take the time to figure out which muscles are feeling inflexible, and then work on conditioning those muscles with proper stretching exercises.
Enhancing your control in dance will help you to become more accurate, and you are likely to find your dancing will become more rewarding.
Control is best achieved through repeated practice, especially repeated mindful practice. You can work to achieve better control of your posture, frame, timing, balance, footwork, and more.
You can seek to improve your control in every move you attempt by paying careful attention to what you want to do and what you are actually doing. One important strategy is to start slowly, at half speed or slower. It’s a good opportunity to find areas for improvement.
By getting in touch with strength, flexibility, and control, you will be better prepared to evaluate your own dance performance. You may find one of these areas is holding you back more than others.