Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made. ~Ted Shawn
When we consider everything that happens in every system of the body on a daily basis, we begin to realize that the human body is truly a miraculous creation.
My students hear me repeat daily that we are only given one body, and it is our job to take care of it.
If I had a dime for each time I have heard a dance teacher tell his/her students to go into the studio and start stretching to warm up, I would be rich. Yet, every time I hear it, I cringe.
Stretching is certainly an important part of a dancer’s training but should never be done at the beginning of a class or rehearsal. Time in the studio should always begin with a cardiovascular warm up. The warm-up should include the entire body and could consist of rapid walking or jogging, prances, small jumps or full body circles. I have been known to spend the first 5-10 minutes of class having my students move through circuits that included jogging, jump roping and jumping jacks.
This type of warm-up does exactly what it claims to do; it creates heat in the body. These large movements increase the heart rate, which increases the blood flow to the muscles. The blood, therefore, is able to quickly carry oxygen and “fuel”, in the form of glucose, to the muscles. The heat combined with the increased oxygen and glucose delivery, increases the speed of muscular contractions and increases the speed of messages, or impulses, that are carried along nerve pathways between our brains and muscles.
Additionally, warming up the different joints of the body releases something called synovial fluid, which acts as oil would in a car engine, lubricating all the bones that move against each other.
Beginning a class or a rehearsal without a cardiovascular warm-up increases every dancer’s risk for injury. All dancers are aware of how difficult it can be to heal from an injury and how quickly technique begins to deteriorate when a dancer must take time off to heal. Taking care of our bodies takes a little bit of knowledge and some effort, but the payoff of having a body that continues to function optimally is well worth it.
We are only given one body. A musician has an instrument to use to create his/her art and a dancer has his/her body. Musicians respect their instruments and take great care to protect and keep them working well. Shouldn’t we do the same?