The importance of cross training in West Coast Swing
You’ve heard your pro saying this to you several times, best dancers are the ones that have better skills, but probably not just the dance skills itself. Now you want to improve as a dancer, and get into other activities that would help that goal ?
Here are a few suggestions and ideas on what to try, if you don’t really know what to try, what to choose and why.
Firstly, and this might seems obvious to a lot of you, but, like in any sport that requires movement, it is important to get your body going, the right way.
Performances are usually demanding for your body, and getting your body moving with regular exercices to develop your abilities is definitely a plus to get your performances higher. Lots of the pros are also addicted to the gym, but not just to get fit, they might focus more on mobility exercices, not necessarily getting fit for aesthetics, but as a functional tool to get your body working to a higher level.
The practice of a dance like West Coast Swing, when you want to do workshops, compete all day and dance all night, you need to develop your cardio abilities but also you might want to work on strengthening your body.
For example, work on the strength of the feet instead of stretching them, using the tried-and-true method of working through your foot with an exercise band. (Try writing the alphabet for example).
Finding that balance between strength and flexibility to improve your movement and energy in your dance.
But be careful, if you are stretching for warm-up before practice, Dr Nancy Kadel, co- chair of the Dance/USA Task force on Dancer Health says “It’s much better to walk, or do anything else to elevate the heart rate.”
Kadel says that static stretching can temporarily weaken muscles, impair coordination and reduce balance.Instead, your warm-up should focus on getting your heart rate up. This can include dynamic stretches, like moving through lunges or a yoga flow. Save short static stretches—30 seconds maximum—for after class or rehearsal when you’re warm.
Learn to prevent injuries, they are your worst ennemies, strengthen your core and learn to breathe correctly and fully.
In the case of a regular practice of the dance, socially, not only competitively, there is that dimension of ART in your own style. Letting your personality do the work, by training your art. Other forms of couple dances, for example will give you those influences that would determine your « uniqueness ». Developing your style, its what’s makes you, you!
Don’t aim for being the best at everything technically, learn the dance, break the rules, and add that difference, but do it fully with all your heart and with intention.
Moreover, Cross training in solo dance, since this dance (west coast swing) in particular gives you a lot of freedom and that the improvisation part is huge, you might want to look into training your solo movements, push them, learn about moving your arms, your frame and balance, getting interested in ballet isolations are always a plus, look into hip hop, momentum and ‘controlled weirdness’ dig deep into contemporary or lyrical dances.
Training in Yoga, that might sounds a bit more out there, but Yoga has a lot of benefits on the body for movement. Learning how to breathe and organic movement are essential to West Coast Swing as we need to use that breathing action for compression and stretch.
A Better Body Image
Yoga develops inner awareness. It focuses your attention on your body’s abilities at the present moment. It helps develop breath and strength of mind and body. It’s not about physical appearance.
In fact, we typically feel constantly judged as dancers (am I right ?!), and focus a lot on the appearances. Yoga could help working on mindfulness, meaning focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself.
Yoga studios typically don’t have mirrors. This is so people can focus their awareness inward rather than how a pose — or the people around them — looks. Surveys have found that those who practiced yoga were more aware of their bodies than people who didn’t practice yoga. They were also more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. For these reasons, yoga has become an integral part in the treatment of eating disorders and programmes that promote positive body image and self-esteem.
We believe this is really important for dancers to work on the image they have of themselves. Constantly working on this might be tiring, but we have better results if we work on positivity.
Training in acting or communication, this would help develop your intentions. They are more important than we think in dance, because they will help you « sell » your style, your interpretations and emotions. This might sound silly, but we don’t have to like your style to appreciate it.
Indeed, some dancers do crazy/weird stuff and we still consider them some of the best in our field, because they believe in what they do, their intentions are perfect and they push their art to their extreme limits.
Beauty has many forms and is subjective.
Emotions can only be felt when truly and genuinely displayed by the dancer. Learn about how to deliver your emotions, your feelings, open up and be vulnerable.
Be strong, be scared, be happy, express joy, sadness, or charm. Be sexy, Fearless or shy … learn that what you feel inside needs to show and be seen on the outside.
Finally, If you are looking into teaching, and want to push your knowledge and performances in this area, cross training in Anatomy sounds ideal to know what part of the body and the mechanism of it. It will develop your eye to see what a person can or cannot do physically and help them train their body to improve their performances. Previous injuries can be seen and analyzed by a dance teacher, and when it comes to stretch, leverage, weight support, balance on one foot, torsions of your bodies, it is really helpful to know how it works and how to overcome some things, using the proper technique for a better result. Body mechanics are fascinating, and the dance techniques have no limits if we know how to use our bodies.
Here are just a few of our suggestions, we are truly passionate about the dance and movement, tell us your favorite cross training to help your West Coast Swing 🙂