Cross-training. The first you may have heard of it was when buying sports shoes. “Do you need runners, court shoes or cross-trainers?” …What? (Insert sound of crickets).
Cross-training means to do another form of training to complement your main activity. For dancers, this could be almost anything. Every form of dance has something to offer another. Did you know that Irish dancers have incredible cardiovascular fitness? If you hate running, it could be just your gig (or is that jig? 😆) How does that Lyrical dancer do amazing leaps? She’s probably done gymnastics or acrobatics lessons. How does the contemporary dancer do an off-centre turn? He learned ballet…..and then learned how to break it down to apply it to contemporary.
If you only ever do one form of dance and never open your eyes to another, you limit yourself. You limit your future opportunities and you never truly learn what your mind and body can do, and where your true strengths and weaknesses lie.
I did over ten years of calisthenics before I learned how to move through the torso by attending modern dance classes. Calisthenics was fantastic for so many dance skills (classical, jazz, singing, theatre performance, and more as explained in ‘So what is calisthenics, anyway?’). I then went on to participate in Sport Aerobics and it improved my jumps, leaps and overall fitness in calisthenics (but I did lose back flexibility, which goes to show that fitness is highly specific and to be a well-rounded dancer, dance fitness needs to be in the forefront of our training strategies, constantly !).
Cross-training is a great way to improve your dance fitness. In the off-season, it’s about simply doing something you enjoy to stay active and limber. In the pre-season, focus on the fitness components you need to improve upon. The following are some suggestions for cross-training within dance and it’s close relatives:
- Cardiovascular fitness – Irish dancing, hip hop, sport aerobics or aerobics classes at the gym, Zumba
- Flexibility – rhythmic gymnastics, yoga, ballet, calisthenics, jazz or contemporary
- Power for leaps and jumps – gymnastics, sport aerobics or acrobatics
- Upper body strength – gymnastics, sport aerobics
- Core strength/stability – yoga, contemporary, ballet, calisthenics, pilates
- Performance skills – voice lessons, drama/theatre workshops or productions, jazz, hip hop, music lessons
- Balance – ballet, yoga, pilates
- Movement through the shoulders, torso and hips (breaking down the ‘stillness’ of the torso from years of ballet, calisthenics or gymnastics) – hip hop, contemporary, Zumba
- Total body strength and power – gymnastics, sport aerobics, martial arts
- Acrobatic tricks – acro, gymnastics, trampolining
I believe you are the sum of your experiences and am glad I was open to experiencing different genres and the close relatives of dance.
You don’t need to commit to a range of new classes at different studios, all you need to do is attend a class here or there when you can.
Right now there are a plethora of school holidays workshops happening, follow your favourite dance styles, studios and clubs on Facebook and Instagram to ensure you don’t miss out. If you are the enterprising type, arrange some cross-training classes for your club or studio.
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