Some dancers may stretch improperly at times, and while doing so may not affect them immediately, but eventually can, causing serious injuries that may affect their dance career in the future.
Stretching properly before dance is very important for strengthening your muscles, increasing flexibility, and making your moves flow more easily and gracefully. Stretching is the best warmup for dance, and it helps dancers to leap higher, do the splits, turn faster, and have more focus. In this article, you’ll find many helpful tips on how to stretch properly before dancing.
1. Get the right gear. You will need comfortable clothes, such as a t-shirt or tank top and dance shorts with tights, jazz pants, or sweat pants. If it’s cold, wear a comfortable sweater. Make sure you can move your body in these clothes and that they aren’t too small.
- For the gear, it’s good to have a yoga mat, a big yoga stretching ball, and a nice, wide space to stretch. Have a bottle of water near and a snack for after you stretch
2. Choose some music. While stretching, music helps you reach your inner soul. The beat of the music should not be fast, so try meditation or Arabian music. Also, never have the volume up too loud. This defeats the purpose of relaxing. If you choose to do a fast warm-up stretch, faster music is fine if it’s alright with you. It really depends on what type of dance you’re taking. Ballet, is slow, elegant, and very detailed. For ballet, choose soft, quiet music, such as a slow piano song. However, hip hop dance classes are energetic, fun, and bubbly. You may want to choose an upbeat pop song for stretching to get your motivation level up and to get you pumped. It just depends on what your style is.
3. Begin stretching. The first stretch is aimed at engaging your hamstrings and increasing flexibility. It is good for jazz and modern dance.
- Lay down on your yoga mat, one knee up. Make sure your hips stay planted on the ground.
- Slowly and carefully pull your leg in the air, holding your leg completely straight, toes pointed.
- Do not hold your leg with your hands behind the knee, as this causes an injury to the hamstring.
- Depending on your flexibility level, either hold your leg behind your thigh, or your shin, which takes some skill in flexibility.
- Hold your leg there for two sets of eight counts, not bending your knee at all.
- Slowly, pull your leg back in, holding the knee for eight counts. With that same leg, hold your leg out beside you, like you are doing a sort of straddle split with one leg. Again, do not hold behind your knee.
- Pull down your leg as far as it will go. Hold this position for eight counts, and slowly bring your leg back in for four counts.
- Repeat this whole stretch with your other leg and then do it again with both legs at the same time. This stretch takes up to 10 minutes to perform if you do it completely.
4. Proceed to the next stretch. Stretch two focuses on increasing flexibility and stretching your shoulders and abs. It is good for ballet and jazz dance.
- Sit in your butterfly position, with your legs held attitude (bent), your feet facing each other, like a mirror.
- Slowly, holding your feet, drop your head touching your feet, and hold for two sets of eight counts.
- Rise up, contract your back, and dropping your head again, and hold.
- Do this stretch five times, contracting your back before you drop. This stretch should only take 1 minute or less to perform.
5. Do the next stretch. Stretch three focuses on increasing flexibility and engaging hamstrings. It is good for tap and jazz dance.
- Sit up straight, with your legs also straight directly in front of you, coming right out of your hips.
- Flex your feet, grab the arch of your foot, put your head down, and hold for eight counts. If you cannot reach your toes, go as far as you can, keeping your head down.
- Rise up, and sit in your straddle position, similar to Stretch One, only sitting up and with both legs.
- Choose a leg, and bend to touch your toes, flexing your feet.
- Point your feet and rest your head on your knee while arching your arm over your head.
- Repeat the previous action with your other leg.
- Shake your legs when finished to release tension. This stretch should take no more than about 4 minutes.
6. Proceed to the next stretch. Stretch four is aimed at increasing flexibility and loosening arm muscles. It is good for any dance, including ballroom.
- Stand up, in ballet first position.
- With both arms arched above you, bend down, letting your arms brush against your toes.
- Hold this position for two sets of eight counts.
- Then, in second position, reach down, putting your hands on the ground in the middle.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- After that, bend your arm, putting it behind your back.
- Using your free arm, hold your elbow and pull it in the direction of the other side (for example, the left arm is bent behind your back, the right hand pulling to the right).
- Repeat with other arm. This will take about 3 minutes.
7. Move to the next stretch. Stretch five aims to loosen your neck and clear your head. It gets your focus and stretch your neck, a must for any type of dance.
- Be in second position with your hands down by your sides.
- Slowly, to the beat of your music, shake (side to side) your head to each beat. Do this for eight counts.
- Then, start nodding to the beat (up and down) for eight counts.
- Roll your head slowly, feeling the occasional pop or two. Roll the other way. This should take about 2-3 minutes at the very most.
8. Work on your splits. Now that you have stretched your arms, legs, and your back, it’s time for the splits. Get on one knee, and slowly straighten both of your legs. With one hand on either side, slowly and carefully slide all the way down, as far as you can go, and hold for as long as you can go. Repeat this procedure with the other leg. For a straddle split, sit in your wide straddle and lift up. Make sure that you toes are pointed the whole time. Just take as long as you need. This is a must for any type of dance, as you need to stretch your legs, always!
9. Add a little agility. This may seem harsh, but it strengthens your core and helps to make you stronger for dance. Every day, even when you don’t dance, do 15-20 sit-ups, 10 pushups, 5 pull-ups, and run when you have the chance. If you can, try to do half a mile a week at the very least. Take as long as you need. This step is vital for any dancer who wants to improve.
Go dance! Have fun and dance with confidence, a smile, and your heart