So you’ve had a long, restful winter break filled with lots of Netflix, sleeping, and relaxing, and all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you have 8am ballet class on Monday morning, followed by two more technique classes, an audition for the Spring Concert, and your liberal arts class in the evening. Where did all the time go? You don’t want to face this scenario.
First of all, don’t feel guilty about not taking dance classes over the break. It is essential to give yourself at least a week off once in a while throughout your jam-packed year of dancing. You could certainly use the first week to break from rigorous activity, heal from any developing inflammation, rest your overused muscles, and give yourself some mental space from dance. Then, two to three weeks before your start dancing again, you will want to get your body moving lightly.
The important thing to keep in mind while on break is to rest mindfully–that is, to get plenty of sleep and eat well. But no matter what, it is important to transition carefully and gradually back into class in order to prevent injuries and protect your body. Here are some helpful tips!
Two-three weeks before returning to class, cross-train at a low to moderate level. Taking the time to cross train and use different muscles that will supplement your training will be highly beneficial. Pilates or yoga classes can help keep your abdominals strong while keeping your muscles mobile and stretched sufficiently. Other good options are using the TRX, which is available for free use at some gyms. The TRX is easy to learn and is really great for modified workouts that strengthen your whole body without putting strenuous pressure on the joints. Swimming is also a wonderful way to work your body without weight-bearing pressure. Lastly, light cardio and weight training at the gym are great ways to get in an easy workout and keep your body moving, so long as you don’t overdo it! Alternating these activities is the best way to achieve a well-rounded period of cross-training.
Keep your core active. If you can’t manage to get to the gym, there are easy exercises you can do on a mat at home. A dancer’s priority is to keep a strong core, as it is the foundation for all movement. This can be achieved with simple physical exercises such as marches and planks. For marches, lie flat on your back with your legs in tabletop position at ninety-degree angles. Keeping a neutral pelvis, lower one foot down to the floor at a time and return to tabletop. For a slightly more intense core workout, hold plank for one minute at a time. You can hold planks either in a push-up position, or by holding yourself up on your forearms. Keep your body in one straight line. Increase your core exercises as you get closer to returning back to dance.
Get yourself back into the dancer mindset. The key thing you want to avoid after a break is jumping into overly strenuous stretching and workouts. When conservatories hold Spring Concert auditions after break, it can set dancers up for injury risk in going from one physical extreme to the other. Naturally, you will want to be physically and mentally prepared to do your best in an audition, and in order to do this you will need to keep in shape over break. In addition, it would befit you to get back in mental shape as well.
If you are unable to take open classes before school starts back up, visualization exercises can help. Visualize yourself in the audition setting, and get yourself ready to perform. Dancers should have an established warm-up routine that they utilize every day. Establishing this kind of consistency in structure can feel mentally and physically reassuring, especially before an audition. All in all, preparation is unique to the individual, and practicing these preparatory techniques will be a valuable and fundamental skill for every dancer trying to pursue a professional career.