When you start dancing, you might find it stressful from the slow pace of learning. Day after day you are practicing, but it never looks as good as the YouTube video. It is time to try something new.
Today, I will be introducing how to enhance your dance move by building flexible muscle.
If you have a naturally stiff body, worry no further. It is not difficult to start loosening your muscle with proper stretching technique. To make it most effective for dancers, I laid out some key take away points that are important for amateur dancers.
Do I need flexible body for dancing?
Many people give up dancing blaming their stiff bodies. Certainly, you can dance without being able to split your leg. But, having a minimum level of flexibility helps not only prevent practice accident but improve the speed of your learning.
There is a long-term downside to practice with your stiff muscle as well. Imagine you are practicing a robot move. Your arms only go up way below your shoulder line. That will inevitably restrict your reach sphere, giving the audience impression of being shy and timid. Worse, the more you practice this way, the more natural for your body to make a small move. It will become harder to reverse the constraint. Start exercising stretches to improve the confidence in your move before it's too late.
3 stretch understandings for dancers
I want to clarify that doing stretches alone will never get you to become a better dancer. You should be practicing dance move in isolation. This is why we want to split the stretching time, for the most efficiency.
Here are the 3 things to keep in mind:
- Target particular body parts
- Schedule it for the right body condition
- Throw for two birds
Stretching as the first step
In the perfect world, you would do stretches throughout your entire body from top to bottom. For each stretching, you want to keep the position for at least 20-30 seconds. If you follow that procedure properly, it can take up one hour. Repeating that every day sounds implausible in our busy lives. It is especially true when you want to dedicate as much time to mastering new dance move.
That is why it is important to focus your stretching on the parts that improve your isolation and enlarge your reach. Those are mainly necks, shoulders, and waist. Those parts are used often in many moves, and it will build transferable skills. The neck is especially important because most people have never focused on moving their neck explicitly. That is true even for professional athletes. Moving your neck quickly on the beat in an isolated manner will add easy but effective accent in your dance move.
Schedule your stretching before and after practice
Physiologically speaking, stretching is best done after your bath, when your muscle is warm and easy to loosen. But, the stretched body is useful in improving the quality of your dance practice. I'd recommend stretching every time before. (and after your dance practice.)
This is temporary, but effective before your training.
In preparing this, you can take advantage of breathing technique. The great majority of stiffness comes from insufficient blood flow to your muscle. But it also comes from your stress and mental state. You can use deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) to relax your body and remove a few knots before training.
After practice stretch is usually the hard one. Once you burn out practicing, you just want to go about resting or start texting with your friends. That would be wasteful since your body after being warmed up is in the best condition for keeping your flexibility more permanent. This is the most effective timing for stretches. There is no easy trick here except your sheer willpower. Even the tiny stretches are ok. That is what makes the difference in the fast learner from the slow.
Keep stretching on beat
To improve time efficiency, you should do it with music and count the stretches with beats. Most dance instructor does this unconsciously. But while you are just starting out, it is important that you do this with conscious effort. Most modern music consists of 8 beats frame. You should start the stretch move with the beginning at the 1st beat. And end at 8, 16, 24 beats, depending on how fast your song is (remember you want 20-30 seconds at every stretching). It will improve your musicality significantly. If you are a multitasker, you can even close your eyes and start visualizing your dance move. In a sense, your brain and muscle are separate beings.
Keep up with your practice
Keeping up with practice is a hard task. You have to dedicate time to learn how to dance. On top of that, you need to be stretching. The mentioned techniques above will help you minimize the time and effort needed to stretch your body more flexible. Focus on the key parts especially neck, stretch before and after dance practice, and execute musicality training while stretching. Some time ahead, you will be thankful for your past self in building these fundamentals.