Dance warm-up tips from the pros

Ensuring your dance students warm up properly is one of the most important parts of a dance class. It helps to prepare the body for exercise by raising the heart rate and allowing the blood to be pumped more efficiently around your body, as well as minimising the risk of injury; but which warm-up techniques are the best? We spoke to three dance teachers and asked them for their top three warm-up routines.

Naomi Wallen, Principal of DanceMatters, Bassingbourn (near Cambridge)

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My three top warm-up exercises are designed to prepare the body in different ways.

Firstly, the dancer needs to raise their internal body temperature. And, no, wearing a thick jumper doesn’t work! Spend 5 to 10 mins on brisk movements. Begin marching on the spot in time to the music, developing into more elevated movements like springs, bounces and jumps. Do these in an interesting order and pattern. Nobody wants to jog on the spot for 10 minutes!

Secondly, once the heart and breath rates have increased, start doing whole body movements that lengthen and stretch the muscles, such as large arm swings and circles. Twists of the body can feel fabulous and exhilarating; reaching up, over, forwards and sideways, particularly in one-leg positions, help to stretch the muscles of the body as well as challenging core stability and balance.

Thirdly, in order to prepare the brain as well as the body, do some coordination exercises to wake up your focus and attention. I use an arm isolation exercise where one arm does one series of movements whilst the other arm does something else. Then swap sides. Then do it backwards! Then quicker! It’s a bit like rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head – only harder.

Helen Wilson, Freelance Dance Teacher, Sunderland

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Warming up is not only to warm up your muscles; it gets the blood pumping faster around your body – a cold body with a slower blood flow is more prone to injury. It allows the blood to be distributed more efficiently around your body and gives it chance to adjust to a faster pace and heartbeat.

A good warm up should not be punishing to the body, nor should it over exert the class members. If bodies are pushed too hard, an injury is more likely. If bodies are tense, the blood will not be able to flow freely enough to all parts of the body. I like to start with gentle movements, then go on to isolated movements of one particular part of the body and end with time to rest.

Leana Darbyshire, Founder of Mummy and Me Club, Lancashire

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Darbyshire, a blogger and mum of two, mainly teaches children to dance in the Lancashire area.

Warming up is so important to prepare the body for the dance class ahead. It’s about raising the heart rate and warming up the muscles and joints to prevent injury.

My top 3 practises for kids’ dance classes are:

1) I will start with games like scarecrow tig or relay races, as it gets the kids moving straight away, which is fun for them to join in with and breaks the ice for any newcomers.

2) Mobility – I will get the joints moving, starting from the neck down to the ankles. I like to use head rotations, arm swings, knee bends and ankle circles. It’s important to mobilise the joints of the body to increase the amount of synovial fluid within the joint. It’s a bit like putting oil onto a hinge to stop it creaking and helping it move better.

3) Dynamic stretch – it is the best way to prepare the body for stretches in class like splits and kicks and it keeps the kids moving and keeps their attention. For example, leg swings and lunge steps. It’s imperative, especially for a dance class, when the body is going to be pushed to its limits, to have prepared the muscles for what is to come and work through the ranges of motion within the warm up.

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