The word ‘dance’ comes from the Latin word ‘dens’, which borrows from the idea of “moving the body while following a rhythm”.
One could say that this is fairly open to interpretation. The rhythm being followed could be music, poetry, or even the sound of your washing machine spinning. The German word ‘danson’ has a more direct translation – it means “to stretch”, synonymous with freeing or warming up the body.
Any seasoned dancer can confirm how dancing is a full-bodied commitment. It doesn’t matter if you are new to it or if you’re an OG (check out our Back To School blog post!) – warming up is the unsexy-but-essential first step that fast-tracks your plans to be a better dancer.
Warming up got the wrong name – as it never meant to imply ‘warm’ like ‘breaking a sweat’. The point is to relax your body before any dancing begins. A dancer warms up slowly before beginning to free up, and unpack a crescendo. Like a good song!
So here’s what we’ve gathered to make you warm up to warming up!
- Mindfulness → Coordination
Learn how to be a listening body and regard the rhythm and range of your limbs.
Dancing is a chance to focus energy on different body positions and movements, practise balancing, and working out non-weight bearing muscles so that you can “feel” the music in your bones better. Dancing requires a lot of confidence and coordination – both physically and mentally – and a get-ready routine bringing them in sync is essential.
Image lovingly borrowed from here.
- Expanding your range of movement
Dancing requires strong core strength, good fitness and a variety of movements and poses. To get the most out of your warm-up routine, it is best to keep a good range of motion in all the core stabilizing poses. Try out a few different hip openers with different ranges of motion in your hips, knees and lower back (here’s a video for beginners by Natalie Danza). Try out different movements and breathing techniques that help strengthen the muscles of the body from the inside out while keeping prior injuries in check.
- New muscles performing new work
Your body will thank you for preparing prior to your dance workout. Stretching your muscles helps make them feel tighter. So, whether you’re a seasoned dancer or completely new, set aside the time to warm up as it prepares your muscles to anticipate strength building and agility. Feel free to add on some hand claps or counts to truly feel the energy flowing through your body during this time.
- Forming a routine = forming a habit
A good instructor will give you a warm-up routine (like this one by Sonima) to prepare you appropriately for the scale of their lesson. The big idea is to also form a warm-up habit. It’s never too late to draw out a routine for yourself. Give yourself a few stretches, skip or hop for 30-40 seconds. Try to focus on some core strengthening openers and some poses to stretch out. Get your blood flowing, your joints loosened up and breathe easy.
- Self-motivation is part of the warm-up!
When you dance, you feel a high-intensity dopamine buzz going, and that makes motivation all the more important to keep going! So, include that moment in your warm up – that game face check-in-the-mirror before the music comes on. We ought to summon all the motivation possible, right?
There you have it. Put the above advice into practise, or share it with that friend who breaks into a dance at the drop of a hat!