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Anatomy of a Dancer: Warm Up and Cool Down

It’s tempting to think that dancing doesn’t require an organized warm-up or cool-down.

Arguably, the traditional social dance scene has been a staunch supporter of simply showing up and putting on your shoes – as a perfectly fine way to begin. A voice of reason would suggest, however, that as your dance challenges increase and/or your mode of dancing requires increased physicality, a graduated warming and cooling of the body is highly beneficial.

The benefits include:

  • Injury prevention
  • Mental preparedness
  • Increased muscular tone and elasticity
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Neuromuscular coordination
  • … and a host of others

A simple yet effective warm up/cool-down for dance does not need to last for more than 3-5 minutes and certainly not for longer than 5-10 minutes.

Depending on the dance form, and subtracting any specific technique training necessary, an ideal warm up consists of moving:

  • Forward and backward
  • Side to side
  • Rotationally

These 3 combinations address each of the planes of movement used in human motion. In their simplest forms, the actions can be performed by walking forward and backward, stepping side to side, and twisting right and left. Although your warm up can be as complex as you wish, it is important that each of these actions are performed, in order to adequately prepare your body for all of the possible permutations of dance movement.

Cooling down at the end of a dance class or performance signals to your body systems that you can now relax and recover. Light stretching, or simply repeating the warm-up sequence at a slower cadence, is the best way to soothe the muscular and nervous system, reduce stress on the cardiovascular system, and decrease any strain that may have been caused by the action of dancing.

Consider devoting a few minutes to a pre and post warm up and to a cooling period for your body, in order to optimize your dance experience and consistently perform at your best.