Why Dancers are Athletes…but their regular Dance Class is Not Enough

Whether you regard dance as a sport or an art, great dancers now consider themselves athletes.

Why? Because dancers need all-round fitness to cope with the demands of training and to produce perfect performances in a variety of genres.

Dancers need to develop fitness in all areas of the body (i.e. upper lower, left, right, core, spine). This is not limited to strength and flexibility, but extends to aerobic and anaerobic fitness, endurance, power, balance and agility.

However, your regular dance class is not enough.

Research* has shown that your regular dance classes, where you are learning and rehearsing the choreography, is not enough to prepare you for the demands of performance.

The research shows that regular technique, repertoire, choreography and rehearsal classes are a lower intensity, with activity bursts of less duration and breaks longer and more frequent.

Whilst this is entirely appropriate, as issues such as choreography, experimentation, lighting, safe dance, technical correction and execution are attended to, it means that dancers need to give specific attention to fitness training in a class specifically designed for dance fitness.

These classes are scientifically designed to build the dancers’ fitness towards the demands of performance in the peak season.

There are a number of considerations for a dance fitness program, including:

  • Timing – Dance fitness assessment and fitness training is best suited to particular times within the dance season, with greatest attention given in the pre-season and tapering into peak performance season.

  • Specificity – Fitness is highly specific to purpose. There is less use in adopting a runner’s program or a generic strengthening program at the gym than having a program specifically designed that mimics the demands and movements of dance.  Within this, further specification can be achieved to the type of dance (e.g. ballet versus hip hop).

  • Custom-designed – further building on the concept of specificity, a program designed for individual needs will ultimately produce a dancer with complete dance fitness.
  • Measurement – how do you know when you have improved? Why do you want to know? What is a realistic starting point and what are you aiming for? These are all questions that should be answered in the front-end design of a training program, especially one designed specifically for an individual.

  • Qualifications – a fitness program should always be designed by a fitness professional or dance teacher. This person has an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of a dancer and can translate this to an effective, enjoyable program.

As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

Attention to regular dance fitness training will not only improve your dance performance, it can help to reduce the chance of injury and improve your technique and execution.

If you are interested to learn more, or have any specific questions, please comment below and I’ll tailor my next blog post accordingly!


Bronner, S., Ojofeitimi, S., Lora, J.B., Southwick, H., Kulak, M.C., Gamboa, J., Rooney, M., Gilman, G. & Gibbs, R. (2014).  A preseason cardiorespiratory profile of dancers in nine professional ballet and modern companies. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 18(2):74-85.
Rodrigues-Krause, J., Krause, M.& Reischak-Oliveira, A. (2015). Cardiorespiratory considerations in dance from classes to performance. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 19(3):91:102
Rafferty, S. (2010). Considerations for integrating fitness into dance training. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science,14(2):45-9.
Wyon, M. (2005). Cardiorespiratory training for dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 9(1): 7_12.

2 thoughts on “Why Dancers are Athletes…but their regular Dance Class is Not Enough

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s