What’s all this fuss about stretching? Besides preventing injuries, stretching helps dancers find correct alignment, improve flexibility, and strengthen muscles necessary for class and overall performance.
Stretching may not be as fun as working on turns or leaps, but for a dancer it is imperative – no matter your age, level, or degree of flexibility – to stretch before and after your dance class. There are two main types of stretching we use as dancers – static and dynamic – which we will go into detail about below:
Static stretching involves holding a single stretch for a long period of time before moving on to the next stretch. If you want to produce long-term flexibility, you can’t go wrong with static stretching. In order to get your body prepared, however, this method should only be done after your muscles are warmed up.
Dynamic stretching involves moving your body to the limits of your range of motion from one stretch to another without stopping. It is often used in choreographed warm-ups during class and can involve anything from circling the ankle and shoulders to swinging the arms and legs without jerking or bouncing.
Now that you know the difference between the two types of stretching, let’s talk about the benefits! What do you gain from all this?
Here’s what happens when you stretch regularly:
Increased muscle length and flexibility – The more you stretch over time, the more you’ll create length so you can do things like kicking your leg higher. You will also prevent muscle bulk in places like the calf muscles – so instead of short and bulky, you’ll create strong, elongated muscles – exactly what a dancer wants!
Improvement in dance class and performances – Stretching enables you to loosen the muscles and gets your whole body better prepared for dance classes and performances. Because your muscles are warmed up, you’re putting less energy into your joints and more into your movements. You have more energy to dance for a longer period of time – a win-win!
Promotes blood circulation and relieves pain – You can’t see it, but stretching every day increases blood flow to muscles, which improves circulation throughout your body.
Improves posture – Tight muscles and joints can lead to poor posture, and no one wants to be a slouchy dancer. If you consistently stretch the muscles in your shoulders, lower back, and chest, you’ll have better alignment and posture.
Decreases and manages stress – When you’re stressed, it can have a ripple effect in your body’s muscles and build up a lot of unwelcome tension. It’s those days in particular when you need to take a time out to stretch, from your face to your feet.
Stretching once a day isn’t going to make you magically stronger, nor will it make you more flexible overnight. It is something you have to work at daily and remain committed. Make it a priority! You will see a big difference in your dance classes and performances.
Keep calm and stretch on, dancers!
Written by Sara Embler, Assistant Office Manager