flexibility and fitness for ballroom dancers

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by alemana, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. alemana

    alemana New Member

    i'm a newbie ballroom dancer, a salsa dancer (for about two years) and happily, a bit of a fitness buff. i love to lift weights, and force myself to do cardio a couple times a week as well.

    one thing that's increasingly evident to me is my lack of flexibility in my back and trunk. i always fancied myself flexible, but the truth is, here in my mid-30s things aren't moving and grooving the way they used to.

    in addition, my little weightlifting hobby, while performing admirably in the body sculpting arena, probably isn't helping with flexibility. i do stretch after every workout and have recently become more committed to it, but it's not enough.

    the knee-jerk answers seem to be pilates and/or yoga. i'm also very interested in taking beginner ballet (for a variety of reasons.) the truth is that i can't afford to do them all, and some are less expensive than others. i'm trying to pick the right complementary practice for my problems and goals.

    i would love to hear suggestions from folks who've done any or all of the above. i know all three would help me, but i'm searching for the one 'extra' thing i can do that will help me the most.
     
  2. Laura

    Laura New Member

    Have you ever tried taking a Feldenkrais ATM ("Awareness through Movement") class? They are group classes so they aren't very expensive, and you spend about an hour to an hour and a half exploring your body, where it's stiff, and finding other ways to move. See, stiffness isn't just due to muscle fibres not being able to stretch -- it's also from just being stuck in the habits you have for moving that particular area. If you can find other ways to move, you can break up the habit or "holding pattern," and can find new awareness and freedom and movement etc.

    I've been going to a Pilates teacher who incorporates a lot of Feldenkrais into her sessions. In my city there is an excellent ballet teacher who does 1/2 an hour of Feldenkrais ATM at the start of her 90-minute class. For some reason I think you're in New York...if so perhaps you will be able to find something like that out there.

    I love Pilates, but I feel it's my teacher and her approach that has made the difference for me. Just like there can be six-week-wonder ballroom teachers, the same is true of Pilates teacher. Mine was certified back in the day when you had to go through a year-long training process and then teach under the eyes of another trainer before you were turned loose on other people. She is a dancer herself (ballet/modern/jazz background) and used to teach ballet. Since since retired from that, but she still takes ballet classes every week and still can dance on pointe and do full splits even though she's old enough to be a grandmother. She even comes to my competitions from time to time to see me dance and get an idea of what we're going to work on next.
     
  3. alemana

    alemana New Member

    that's really interesting... perhaps i will c heck it out. there are a ton of dancer-turned-pilates-teacher types here in NYC, you're right, and i've seen Felden.. however you spell it signs all around too.
     
  4. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    Try the YMCA. They have a pretty decent membership fee and have those classes inlcuded in it. In Florida, I pay $88 month for our whole family and I have unlimited Yoga, Pilated, Weights, Cardio, Kickboxing, you name it. The Pilates class alone would run me upwards of $50 if I could even find one. Beats "just" the gym....
     
  5. alemana

    alemana New Member

    i can't join anything new (plus the Y is pretty pricey here in nyc.) I already have a gym membership and spend several hundred dollars a month on private ballroom lessons and floor fees. plus i take salsa classes and go out social dancing.

    my gym does have some classes but i never take them. perhaps i will investigate, since i've technically already paid for them.
     
  6. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    If they are included in your gym membership then by all means. Our Y has an awesome gym facility in addition to all the classes and stuff, so we only use that.
     
  7. Laura

    Laura New Member

    One thing I've found in doing Pilates/Feldenkrais: a good teacher will teach you things about moving your body that are just like the corrections you will get from your ballroom coach. In my experience many coaches will tell you what to do, but they can't always tell you how to figure out how to make your body do it properly and consistently. That's where the additional movement training via Pilates etc. comes in. I spend significantly less per hour on private Pilates sessions than I do on dance lessons, yet the two disciplines support each other so much the way that I'm learning that I consider the time spent in Pilates to be as important to and equivalent to time spent practicing. I feel there's simply no way I could have gotten as much out of Pro/Am and now Amateur dancing as I have without the Pilates/Feldenkrais with my teacher.
     
  8. alemana

    alemana New Member

    this is *exactly* the kind of feedback i was looking for. thank you so much!

    i know what you mean about the dance teacher "do it this way" thing... he can show something, a move or a combination, to me a million times, and try to break it down, but sometimes it's just not enough.

    and in any case he's never going to be able to train me to unlock my back - he doesn't have the experience or training to diagnose/fix that sort of thing. it's not a "dance problem."
     
  9. Laura

    Laura New Member

    Exactly, alemana -- so much of learning to dance isn't about the dancing at all, but about how to use your body so that you can dance. I've seen teachers spend days, weeks, forever on things the student could and should be working on outside of lessons (and for less money). For instance, why should a student spend $70/hour to have a teacher take up the first 30 minutes of nearly every lesson showing him how to do simple stretches on the floor? He could take an adult beginner ballet class or a Pilates mat class for like $12 to get the same information, and then have more time to actually work on the dancing in the lessons. But some people don't think that way, I guess.
     
  10. alemana

    alemana New Member

    right, yes. i see what you're saying.

    i definitely feel like i want to maximize my time with him. at the same time, i want to train my body *all* the time, not just during the lessons and for the super-motivated hour i have afterward.

    i'll ask my teacher and the others i know for a good movement practice and/or practioner...perhaps they will have some concrete recommendations for folks in my area. i found a Feldenkrais class in my neighborhood this weekend - i will check it out and report back.
     
  11. alemana

    alemana New Member

    anyone else?
     
  12. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    In the other thread you asked baout my splits. Here is how I did it, Tae Kwon Do. Since taking yet another class is not in the cards for you, I will just say that kicking a pad as hard as a I can for an hour a day helped get me over the hump.

    Front Kicking forward and up into a pad held firmly in place by a stand or a good friend is the main kick. It is explosive and each time you do it you are going to kick a little higher, but you are also building muscles at the same time. And that is what seems to be the key for me. I have tried to stretch my entire life but it wasn't until I added the strength aspect into it that it finally worked.

    The other kick that I think helped me is the Axe Kick. You bring your straight leg up as high as you can and then pull it down as hard as you can into the pad. It is meant to disable someones shoulder. There is the upswing which is pretty freeflowing and then the downswing that contains the power.

    So you are working the muscles that work to expand your legs apart and also the muscles to bring them back together, in addition to simply stretching the muscles but with no strength to back it up.

    I will also say that at my age (pretty close to yours) I am in the absolutely best shape I have ever been in my life. I am tone all over, I am more flexible, I lost a little chub that I had around my low waist and hips, my stamina is amazing. This past weekend at the competition I walked off the floor and felt amazing instead of drained. Granted my TKD Master works us really hard. I am sure he understands our goals are not to be TKD Champions (although I am now the Mass State Womens Color Belt Champion and Steve is the Mens Champ, it was fun to go see what would happen if we stepped into another a different type of competition) Mostly our Master just makes us sweat and work, kick...punch...run...kick...

    And I definately got this by going a different route than simply stretching. Perhaps your Gym has a Martial Arts class? TKD would be the best for lower body stregth and flexibilty since it is based on Kicking.
     
  13. alemana

    alemana New Member

    wow, this is TOTALLy not the type of answer i expected.

    i was a serious karate practioner until my knees just couldn't take it anymore, and i defected to dancing as a 'replacement' activity. i didn't find my particular practice increased my flexibility by that much, although i guess if i tried to go to a brown belt workout now, after having been away from it for two years, i'd probably feel differently.

    so you did your kicks, and then you practiced the splits incrementally until you could do them?
     
  14. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I never even thought about doing splits until one day I felt a particular warm-up stetch was simply easy. Then at dance practice I said to Steve, I wonder what would happen if I tried to do a split. Boom... I could do it so we put it in the routine. I never practiced them incrementally, it just worked one day.

    Karate is not about kicking (from what I think I know). TKD is all about legs, strength, speed, and flexibility. So I bet we have different workouts that a Karate school.
     
  15. Katarzyna

    Katarzyna Well-Known Member

    This sounds great Larinda. I am working on mine incrementaly, but it's not there yet... It will still take some time...
     
  16. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I have knee problems too. The only part of TKD that makes my knees ache is kicking into thin air. The snapping of my knee joint is bad, unless the impact is absorbed into something else. I love kicking the pads, I could do that all day and my knees wouldn't mind.
     
  17. alemana

    alemana New Member

    (we kicked a LOT, but yeah, karate is a little more straight-line and regimented and formal - from what i've seen - than TWD.)
     
  18. alemana

    alemana New Member

    whoa, you just SUDDENLY did a split? wow.

    i want to 'get there' but don't really know how to work on it other than by stretching a lot.
     
  19. Angelo

    Angelo New Member

    Most karate styles have kicks in them, its just that trying to hit someone in the head or shoulder with your foot is a major characteristic of the Korean martial arts (I think it is also prevalent in some northern Chinese martial arts as well).

    Sorry to digress from the topic at hand.
     
  20. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    :D :D :D
     

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