Notes from my Dance Bag to Yours: Tips,Tools, and Exercises for Dance Training
By Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Associate Director for Community Engagement
As a young dancer, I’d just hop into class without much preparation and go directly home without cooling down following the day’s work – which was almost always very demanding. Looking back now, I can see that I was lucky; I got away with this routine for many years. When I finally became a professional in a company setting, I was fortunate that there were physical therapists on staff to take care of those aches and pains that came along with the hard work. Admittedly, I took this necessary part of my dancer’s life for granted, and I soon learned that, although necessary, it was a luxury and not a part of every dancer’s experience.
As dancers, our bodies are our instruments. We have to care for them and make sure that they are “well-oiled” and that our muscles are being treated properly. Strength training and stretching are certainly essential for a dancer’s regimine, but maintenance between these exercises and in the “down-time” is just as important.
A Dance Injury Reminded Me of the Importance of Body Care
“As a dancer, you know your body well. This means you can describe clearly what you’re feeling, and that’s great. But you dancers are also some of the most determined people around. I’ve seen you use sheer willpower to persist in doing something that’s painful and possibly damaging.” – Gregory Rakowski
Fast forward a few years to when I began freelancing. I found that I reverted back to my childhood routine of just jumping into class — and that’s when my luck ran out. I fully ruptured my Achilles’ tendon and have spent the last year learning how to better prepare and repair my body for a healthy physical journey in dance. I spent that difficult and trying year learning how to fully appreciate and celebrate my body, which means I listen more carefully to what it is telling me.
Learn to Listen to Your Body and Say No to Physical Strain
In learning to have more reverence and respect for my instrument – my body – I try to understand the difference between pain from overuse versus pushing my physical boundaries. And most importantly, pain as a result of injury and pain that will lead to an injury. I pay closer attention to when I need to see a professional (a physical therapist, a massage therapist, an orthopedic physician, an acupuncturist) for an injury and when I can open up my dance bag of therapy assistants (check out my list of resources below) to get me through to the next rehearsal or performance.
Taking care of a dancer’s muscles allows for much more than just preventing soreness and stiffness. It allows the dancer to continue to be fluid and maintain an excellence in muscle condition so that they can have a career that is sustainable and lasting. What we do is incredibly physical and the strain does take its toll. Listening to what your body is telling you in and out of rehearsals and treating it accordingly is essential. And it doesn’t have to all be work! You can find fun and relaxing ways to take care of yourself. Get outside of the studio, talk with your peers and mentors to find out what they do to maintain their bodies.
Yusha-Marie Sorzano is the Associate Director for Community Engagement with Francisco Gella Dance Works, Director of the Joffrey Ballet School’s Contemporary Summer Intensive in Dallas, and an independent teacher and choreographer. She’s been a member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as other renowned dance companies. Currently, Yusha is a company member of the highly-acclaimed Camille A. Brown and Dancers. She has performed alongside recording artists Wynton Marsalis, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Rihanna. Deeply passionate about the powerful role that educators play in the lives of young artists, Ms. Sorzano enjoys teaching both nationally and internationally. As a choreographer, Ms. Sorzano was most recently a part of the creative team for NBC’S “Jesus Christ Superstar,” acting as a movement consultant to John Legend and curating promotional material for the live event.
Yusha is one of our content experts for Dance 360 and in this example of the exclusive material available through Dance 360, she shares the importance of caring for one’s body in-between dance rehearsals and some tips and tricks from her own dance bag.
Continue the Shared Learning with our Online Community, Dance 360
The dance scene is shifting rapidly – much has changed even within the last five years. The reality is that with all of the amazing collegiate programs, students are now more than ever gaining employment at a greater rate upon graduation from college versus graduation from high school. Directors of dance companies – both ballet and contemporary – along with commercial choreographers, now look to college programs and college directors when seeking out dancers. In order to make dance a lifelong career, if you should choose to do so, you’ll need a strong education behind you to make a lasting impact and to have enduring success. Our bodies as dancers will only last so long, but our minds and our knowledge will last a lifetime. Education is key.
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