Times are changing, and we as a dance society are slowly but surely moving away from the idea that the body is simply just a frame, and instead we are beginning to see the body as a whole. From the inside of our body which fuels, moves and supports us, to the outside of our body which allows us to express ourselves, while discovering and exploring all that life has to offer!
Loving the body, and treating it with kindness is the key to fully experiencing the joys of dance, as well as discovering the full capacity of your dance abilities. Knowing how to take care of your body is all about truly listening to yourself and your needs, from physical training to rest and nutrition!
Remember that we all have uniquely different bodies, even if we can be somewhat “categorised”, our bodies are still entirely different from one another. Which is why it is important to give yourself the time to try out different dance styles and supplemental forms of physical training that allow you to reap the most benefits. Common forms of supplemental training that dancers turn to include Pilates, Yoga, Cross-Fit, Running, and Swimming. But have you ever thought about taking up Muay Thai Boxing, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Ice Skating, Rock Climbing, or maybe even joining a Trampoline Dodgeball team? By training the body through different types of physical activity, we are setting up the body to be more versatile in dance. We expose the body to unfamiliar movement patterns, rewire our muscle memory, and even target muscle groups that have never been touched! So instead of hitting the gym next time, think about trying a new form of physical training, and who knows you might surprise yourself!
With all that talk on the importance of physical training, we sometimes forget that we need to let our bodies rest. Once again, the definition of rest can vary from person to person. Some of us need to let our bodies completely rest by avoiding all forms of physical activity. While others, may define ‘rest’ as being gently mobile throughout the day, doing light stretching or mobility sequences. It is important to know when to rest the body, to avoid overuse injuries. Dancers tend to need that extra rest reminder, as their determination to train and ‘push through’ is one that sometimes causes serious injuries overtime. Resting the body is the first step, but resting the mind also allows dancers to refresh and rejuvenate their ability to pick up choreography or combat those performance nerves.
It goes without saying that our daily diets are never one in the same. We all have different food preferences, tastes, and dietary restrictions. Of course, there are plenty of books, experts, television shows and articles that provide recommendations for a healthy diet. But as dancers, it is important to listen to your body. How does your body respond or react to different types of foods? How often do you need to fuel your body so that you can grand jeté all day? Ideally as dancers, we want to aim for foods that energize us, provide our body with nutrients so that we can use both our brains and our bodies, and of course food that tastes good! Don’t forget to bring your water bottle to class, because staying hydrated allows you to spin, leap and glide for hours on end. One reason why we dance is because it is part of the many joys of life, which is the same reason we love food too! For all the dance foodies out there, be sure to check our Dancers’ Cookbook page!
Give yourself the biggest hug and learn how to find the right balance of training, resting and fuelling your body. Everybody deserves a little TLC! So be patient and take the time to respect the beauty of your uniqueness and individuality. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to treat myself to some dark chocolate, a couple of minutes of shavasana, and maybe even try out tree trekking!
Photo Credits: Dancewear Centre, and Bruce Mars from Pexels