Trinity College and IADMS now offer the Certificate in Safe and Effective Dance Practice, which I think will eventually end up being the standard bearer across all dance forms to say you know enough not to lead your dancers into an unsafe class or rehearsal. If you lead dance in any form it's worth doing (you can do it in most parts of the UK check their website for details). Again most of it is common sense, but it makes you think of the application of this during classes, making it less likely you forget anything obvious.
Anyway, the basics are the same in all forms of exercise - check for injuries, remind people to drink water, warm up properly, cool down properly.
People have a tendency not to think about things that become habit, which far too often extends to warm ups and cool downs. It should go without saying that these are pretty fundamental in any dance class but unfortunately it doesn't.
So on that note...
Everyone knows you need to do it. If you ever doubted that you soon learned the first time you threw yourself straight into a piece of rep and pulled a muscle. All of us are guilty of skimping on it now and then as it's hardly the most exciting part of class, but it's still important.
The premise of warming up is clear - you need to warm up your body to prepare it to work physically. Warming up raises the body temperature, increases blood-flow preparing the muscles, ligaments and tendons for more strenuous work. When you are fully warmed up, your muscles are better served by your blood moving round your body meaning they can react to neuromuscular signals more quickly. The nervous system works better when the body temperature is raised, and so warm up also improves your agility, coordination and sense of proprioception. The colder the environment you're dancing in is, the harder you'll have to work to warm up correctly.
Static stretching is NOT warming up.
Before class or rehearsal or an audition when you're watching everyone shoulder their legs and sitting in the splits, do yourself a favour, check your ego and leave the static stretching until afterwards. By static stretching you're not preparing your body to do anything, you're just fatiguing the muscle while it's cold, so you will be no warmer but already weaker when you come to dance.
A proper warm up should include both a cardio warm-up and dynamic stretching - lunges, leg swings, whatever. Make sure that dynamic stretching is incorporating all the muscles groups you're going to be working. If you insist on static stretching, at least wait until you've warmed up with some form of cardiovasular work and have performed dynamic stretches first, or until after the barre section in a ballet class, however you really, really should be leaving it until after you've finished dancing.
|Dynamic stretching should replace static until the end of class or rehearsal|
10 minutes can be enough, especially for a single dance class or if people are coming straight in from a previous class or rehearsal. Equally, depending on the schedule for the day, you may wish to run a 30-60 minute warm up before moving onto anything involving technique. The effort the individual puts in will also affect the rate of warm up, even starting at a sedate pace, the duration of an adequate warm up can be relatively short if the intensity is steadily ramped up. Remember though whatever the duration, the point is to prepare, not fatigue. Exhaustion results in bad technique.
I often think ballet class is one of the easiest classes to get this right in; the barre section should function as a pretty solid warm up, and then as you build from adagio through to petit and then grand allegro you are steadily working up to the most physically demanding section. If you make sure you give each section of the class a reasonable amount of time for the body to adjust, you should be managing to schedule the workload well. In classes or rehearsals that are less obviously structured, you need to do the extra work in ensuring the order of exercise is coherent and sensible for the dancers to perform.
Fear not, you are now allowed to do all the static stretching you like (provided you're not going straight into another class or rehearsal). The cool down is the opposite of the warm up section. A lot of teachers skip it; if your teacher or rehearsal leader skips it use your common sense and do it for yourself. Even if you have to vacate the studio for another class or rehearsal take time in the hallway before you call it a day. You need to get your heart-rate back down to normal, if you've just done grand allegro your heart rate will be through the roof and you'll be considerably out of breath; don't just stop and get changed. In ballet the reverence section, especially if it is a considerable length, will function well as a cool down. Other styles of dance will have a short cool down section in place; if you're instantly out the studio and have no space but the hallway at least walk it off until your breath and heart-rate are approaching normal.
|Save static stretching until you're done dancing|