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On1 Dancewear Introduces Dance Ambassador Georgia Bunnell

 

 

So this month we were able to catch Georgia Bunnell between dance classes, competitions, and recitals to answer a few questions about her experience, her dreams, and her secret to performing at a high level.

 

Georgia Bunnell

When did you start dancing?

I first started dancing around 10 years ago, at age 4.

 

What motivated you to start dancing/singing/performing?

I started dancing because my mum wanted to put me in a hobby just for fun, but then she realised I was starting to get good. Since then, I had had many opportunities with [dancing] and it has lead on to other performance opportunities, such as singing and acting – which I am also very passionate about.

 

Who is your dance idol/inspiration?

My dance inspiration is the American child dancers, Sophia Lucia, Maddie Ziegler, and Kalani Hilliker.

 

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for the future are to be a world famous dance teacher. I also want to have my own albums, and to dance and choreograph in my music videos.

 

How do shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ impact you? You can choose a different dance show or film.

Dance shows impact me a lot because they show a lot of moves and styles I would have probably never seen otherwise. They motivate me to try new things, and inspire me to be like or better than the dancers on the shows.

 

What is the most important thing you have learned from choreographers you have worked with?

The most important thing I have learned from choreographers I’ve worked with is to not be afraid to just go for it. Whatever dance or move I haven’t tried before – to just go for it and not be afraid of the result or people’s opinions. Another one is to just perform full out even if I’m not used to the style, and put my heart on the line with every dance I perform.

 

What is your favorite genre of dance?

My favourite dance style is lyrical modern because I love the way you can tell a story and paint a picture to the audience. I love how moving it can be and how much emotion I can put into the dance.

 

What motivated you to become an ambassador?

I was motivated to become an ambassador because I wanted to show my love for dance to the world and be able to give my all to try and represent a company the best I can. Also, it is an amazing opportunity I would never miss out on!

 

What is your favorite dance item? Leotards? Shoes? and Why?

My favourite item of dancewear has to be the leotards! I have tons and tons of different leotards in all different colours because I just love clothing. I love all the pretty, different styles and colours. I love nothing more than receiving a new leotard and getting to show it off online and at places; even my in own dance studio during classes!

 

What technique tools help you the most (examples…, foot stretchers, exercise bands, turning boards)?

The technique tools that help me the most are my turning board because I love to nail my turns properly and see how many I can do! Also, I love to use my foot stretcher to make my arches bigger because it improves my point work and makes my legs and feet look cleaner and nicer.

 

If you could meet any professional dancer who would it be?

If I could meet one professional dancer it would have to be Darcey Bussle. She has been there and seen/ done it all. I would ask her endless questions and use her answers to improve myself and get more motivated. If I could meet her, it would be a dream come true. She is my idol.

 

What would be your dream dance job?

My dream dance job is to be a world-renowned dance teacher just like Abby Lee! I want to have my own dance company in lots of different places in the world. I would also love to be a sought-after, freelance choreographer and choreograph big award-winning numbers.

Dance Recital Necessities: a Checklist

As any parent of a dancer knows, backstage at a dance recital can be chaotic. In all the swirling action, many parents find themselves in a panic over forgotten items, wondering if they have time to rush to the store before the performance starts. You can ease last-minute preparations and maintain your sanity by remembering to bring the following items to a recital. Keep the majority of these items in a designated bag so you don’t have to hunt them down every performance, and check that the bag is stocked well in advance of a recital.

A Travel Package of Baby Wipes – these are great for quick make-up fixes and clean-ups

Extra Tights – Tights only ever seem to get runs in them right before a dancer needs to be onstage. Bring an extra pair of tights in every color your dancer will wear for the recital.

Shop Sweater Tights by Gaynor Minden

 

 

Safety Pins – A box of safety pins in multiple sizes are indispensable in the event you need to do some last-minute alterations or repairs to a costume. You may also save the day for someone else who didn’t pack any.

Clear Nail Polish – this product can keep a small run in tights from getting out of hand, if you apply it as soon as a snag starts. (If it’s too far gone, see those extra tights we mentioned!)

Hair Accessories – There are enough important hair accessories that we are making a list within this section, because your dance recital readiness kit is incomplete without them.

Shop Hair Accessories

A hairnet/bun cover in your child’s hair color to smooth down her ‘do
A bun builder, which saves the day if you’re not a pro at styling
Super heavyweight hair pins and bobby pins in the color of your child’s hair

Shop Whirl-A-Style Bunmaker

Elastics, glitter hairspray, and a brush are all lifesavers for flyaways, cowlicks, lumpy ponytails, or any other hair snafu you can think of
Velcro hair jewels to embellish your dancer’s style and coordinate with her costumes.

Snacks & Water – Hungry dancers will appreciate a nutritious snack before the performance, and things like crackers, string cheese, granola bars, and grapes won’t make a mess of a costume. Bottled water is a must for keeping hydrated.

Cosmetic Bag and Makeup – You should touch up your dancer’s makeup immediately before going on stage. Make sure you’re using lipstick and blush in the colors suggested by the dance teacher, and pack foundation/powder and mascara too. A sturdy cosmetic bag will keep all these beauty supplies together and organized.

Band-Aids & Pain Reliever – a small supply of bandages in various sizes – clear ones work best because they don’t show through tights – and some Tylenol or Advil can keep minor aches or blisters from ruining a special night.

Costumes and accessories, and don’t forget the SHOES! You might think this one is obvious but many a recital has turned into a last-minute crisis when a rushed parent realizes the dancing shoes or costume are at home.

Pointe shoe Ribbon and Glue – so you remembered the shoes, but then you forgot pointe shoe ribbon, or it breaks – packages of satin ribbon and elastic will save the day, and a tube of pointe shoe glue will fix and harden weak areas of pointe shoes on their last gasp.

 

 

Shop Pointe Shoe Ribbons

 

 

A Stitch Kit – some heavy-duty waxed nylon thread and some needles are indispensable when a costume rip or tear shows up just before showtime – and if someone else’s costume tears and you have a stitch kit to lend, you’re a hero.

Shop Stitch Kits

 

 

Every dance mom has great suggestions for their must-have recital items, so it’s smart to ask what’s on their lists too!

Pointe Shoes for Every Foot Type

pointeshoes1pointeshoes2

Finding the right pointe shoe can be challenging—and with tons of shoes on the market, there’s a lot to consider. Dance Spirit asked Josephine Lee, expert pointe shoe fitter and owner of Dancer’s Choice Dance Supply in Irvine, CA, to walk us through the best shoes for each foot shape.

Dance Studio owners: Are you making this mistake?

ballet-studio-owner

The BIGGEST mistake Dance Studios are making in their marketing right now…

Here’s a BIG question for you this week, lovely Dance Informa readers!

When it comes to your studio, are you marketing what you DO or are you marketing what you GIVE? You see, one of the biggest challenges is how to promote your studio in a highly saturated, competitive market when EVERYONE is trying to promote the same thing!

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/pH6vl6VFzmA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Every studio offers ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop etc. We need to discover your unique positioning and differentiation in the market.

The wonderful thing is that every studio is different. Some studios are more technique focused. Others give amazing performance opportunities. Whilst some studios pride themselves on individual nurturing and personalized attention.

Really step into the hearts and mind of that parent who is choosing a studio for their child. What are they looking for? What is important to them? How do they want their child to feel? What would turn them off choosing your studio? The more we can understand what your dream student is seeking in a studio, the more we can tailor your marketing message to speak directly to their hearts.

In a nutshell, shifting your marketing message to share what the students will EXPERIENCE at your studio as opposed to what you do in your studio is a wonderful way to connect more with your marketing and start attracting more students.

It’s not about the class itself, it’s about painting a beautifully vibrant picture of how they’re going to feel when they’re in the class.

The studio with the most connection in their marketing will win – and the best thing is that all it takes is a few little tweaks.

In the comments below, share how you describe the experience at your studio…

And, if you’re looking for more guidance on how to craft your studio’s marketing message, the best place to start is in the Free “30 Enrollments in 30 Days” mini course. This course has been designed for studio owners and will walk you through how to rapidly ramp up your registrations. Click here and watch the first video now. 

Here’s to more passion, more profits and more purpose in your studio!
All my best,
Chantelle

By Chantelle Bruinsma Duffield of studioexpansion.com

Dancers: How much protein do you need?

Protein Needs of Dancers: How Much, What Kind, and When?

 By: The Dance World Editor 

DI_protein_MAINFrom Dance Informa

Do dancers need extra protein? Do they need to use powders, drinks, shakes or amino acid supplements or should they just eat more? Sadly, the misguided “low-carb” fad continues to be a contributing factor in 70% of Americans being overweight or obese. In light of current research suggesting a link between meat and dairy and risk for long-term diseases…what should you think?

How Much:

Yes, dancers have slightly higher protein needs than the average non-athletic person, particularly if they are still growing adolescents. However, it is important that we think beyond this incorrect idea that most of our food should be protein and that we should avoid carbohydrates. Adequate protein is important, but too much can be harmful. Everyone is a little different, but guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) are that 12-15% of all the calories you eat throughout a whole day should be comprised of protein which are strings of amino acids joined together like a train with many cars.

Read the full article Full Protein Article!

Getting your students to perform

By: The Dance World Editor

By: By Angela D’Valda Sirico of Dance Teacher Web

DTW_perform_MAIN

With the new season just ahead of us it is important to get our students to perform for shows, competitions and in class! Students need to understand that it’s not just about the technique but to also get them to understand how to express themselves through their performance. When children are young it is relatively easy to get them to perform because they haven’t developed all the inhibitions that come along with pre-teen and teens, but once those hormones start to come to life it can be an uphill struggle to get them to just enjoy their dancing. Usually it is because they are afraid to demonstrate any emotion because they feel so unsure of themselves, but for those that have these issues they definitely need help to feel confident letting it all come out!

I don’t encourage “mirror dancers,” but very often students are afraid to really look at themselves in the mirror and to actually like what they see. This is the first hurdle that they need to get over. You know the dancers that I am talking about, the ones whose eyes are always darting from side to side giving a look of total insecurity. I encourage my dancers to get acquainted with themselves and to look in the mirror and see someone who looks fabulous and exciting instead of dull and unattractive. To find the qualities in their faces that they like and to make different expressions to see which ones they think reflect their personalities best. Of course, in the beginning they are unable to look at themselves without giggling and feeling supremely embarrassed but the more they get used to looking at their faces the more they begin to see their redeeming features. Then the key is to get them to dance to different types of music so that they can have an opportunity to express whatever feelings are appropriate.

Just as we teach technique so must we teach performance skills to our students so that they are truly able to not only express themselves but also to reach out to their audiences with something powerful and meaningful. There is so much emphasis today on how many leaps and turns dancers can do and all the other tricks that are used in choreography that the message can sometimes be very confusing to young dancers. Of course we want them to have clean, strong technique but let’s not get away from the real reason people dance, and that is as a means to express themselves. Let’s not override the beauty of movement and the feeling of being at one with the music, the pure joy and empowerment of making something memorable on stage that will leave the audiences wanting more!

I always tell my dancers that the technique is the vehicle to help them bring the most that they can to their dancing. It is extremely important to have correct technique, and the more you have the more possibilities open up for a dancer to show the world how talented they are, but technique alone does not a dancer make! There are many technically great dancers in every major city who struggle on a regular basis to find a job performing because they have become so hung up on only perfecting their technique that they have forgotten why they wanted to dance in the first place. I find this so sad because they probably didn’t have a teacher who could help them to develop their individuality and confidence to a point that they felt comfortable with themselves so that they could get out on a stage and express their feelings to their audiences. Some people are just shy and find it so difficult to come out of themselves and put their feelings on display, however if you can get them to do it as teens they will go out into the world with confidence and this will help them even if they don’t become performers because they will be well received everywhere.

Once dancers understand the whole picture and everything that is needed to make a terrific performance, they will fall in love with dance all over again! They definitely need help to arrive at this conclusion unless they just happen to have that “it” factor, but as we know, those individuals are few and far between. The more we are able to help them find themselves, the more they will be able to give to their audiences, and the better they will feel about themselves in general.

8 Ways to Make Pointe Pain-Free

By: The Dance World Editor

By: Rain Francis of Dance Informa

pointe

If you’re a professional dancer wearing pointe shoes all day long, you may experience some pain with pointe work. However, it is possible for pointe to be pain-free, especially for the beginner. If you have your shoes fitted correctly, and achieve the right level of strength and mobility, you shouldn’t be experiencing any real pain. Rain Francis teamed up with renowned dance physical therapist Lisa Howell of Perfect Form Physiotherapy to bring you this list of 8 ways to make pointe pain-free.

1. Get the right shoes.

Correctly fitting pointe shoes are absolutely essential. Once your feet have stopped growing, and have found a shoe that works for you, it may be more convenient to purchase them online, but for anyone who is still growing and developing, and especially for your first few pairs, make sure you see an experienced pointe shoe fitter, who has access to a wide range of styles. If the shoe is fitted correctly, it will be firm around the front part of the foot but should not be squashing your toes in together too much, as this can lead to ingrown toenails. If the box of the shoe is too wide, the foot will slide down into the box while en pointe, putting pressure on the toes, which can lead to bruised toe nails. If the box is too short it can cut in under the joint of the big toe and may contribute to the formation of a bunion. Always ensure that the wings of the shoe come up to the level of your big toe joint. As everybody’s foot is different, there is no one perfect shoe that is right for all dancers, and it is essential that all students at a school have shoes that specifically fit their individual foot type, even if this means that they are in different brands.

2. Be prepared. 

Every student should undergo a pre-pointe assessment with a qualified practitioner, for example a physical therapist who specializes in dance, or a private lesson with a very experienced dance teacher. This is important to ensure that you have the required range and strength before you attempt pointe work. Otherwise, you risk injury and developing incorrect technique, which can take a long time to correct. Be patient – if you don’t pass your pointe assessment the first time around, listen to the advice from your assessor and work on all of the elements that are identified before your next assessment. It may only be another six weeks of sticking to your exercises before you are able to get your first pair of pointes! Refer to Lisa Howell’s The Perfect Pointe Book for some exercises that will really help with your preparation for pointe work.

3. Strengthen correctly.

Ask your teacher for a structured program to improve your strength en pointe gradually. It is not just about being up on pointe or down on flat – it’s imperative to learn how to really articulate the foot in the shoe in every single rise and every tendu. Working through a graduated rise and being able to control your lowering is the most essential part of pointe work and will improve your strength and technique while helping to prevent injuries. For more information on this, check out the My Beginner Pointe program that Lisa developed with ex Australian Ballet Principal Artist Vicki Attard.

4. Use the right shoe for your level.

The shoes you wear should be appropriate for your level of pointe work. As a beginner, while just working at the barre, a softer shoe will help you learn to articulate the foot correctly in the shoe. When you move into doing things like multiple turns in the center, a stronger, more rigid shoe may be more appropriate. As you progress further with your pointe work, you may find you need a few different pairs of shoes – a really supple one for barre work and softer, more Romantic solos; and a stronger, more stable one for center work, or stronger variations, which require multiple hops en pointe.

5. Look after your feet.

Foot hygiene is extremely important, yet often neglected. If you don’t clean your feet and take care of your pointe shoes properly, you’re at risk of all sorts of nasties, such as blisters, ingrown toenails and fungal infections. Treat your toe pads or ouch pouches like socks: Remove them from your shoes and wash them frequently. You sweat a lot through your feet and wearing the same dirty pair of toe pads every day without letting them dry out can be a direct road to pain! If blisters do develop, make sure you deal with them hygienically and cover them up for class rather than letting the raw skin rub on the inside of your pointes.

6. Use appropriate padding.

There are many different options on the market these days, but when choosing padding for your toes, look for something that has minimal fabric underneath the toes. Too much bulk here can interfere with the placment and working of the feet. Any padding you use should be minimal. The biggest issue with pain en pointe is usually due to the toes clawing in the shoe, and the knuckles rubbing on the underside of the box. Most dancers then feel they need to put something in place to stop the rubbing. However, it is much better to deal with the clawing in the first place, by developing the articulation of the foot and strength to the correct muscles to keep the toes long in the shoe. Clawing indicates the incorrect use of the long toe flexor muscles which can lead to problems in the back of the ankle, such as posterior impingement. If your toes are clawing, focus on learning how to articulate the foot better during all aspects of class.

7. Keep your shoes strong enough.

If you leave any padding in your shoes after dancing, the sweat may soften the glue of the box. This can cause the shoe to weaken and will result in your foot sinking down too far in the shoe. Always make sure to dry out your shoes thoroughly between each use, especially if you live somewhere that gets very humid. Having a couple of pairs that you cycle through during the week will help extend the life of the shoe, especially if you are dancing on pointe every day. You can also use a glue, such as Hot Stuff or Jet Glue to help re-stiffen the middle of the shank to extend its life. Also, each pointe shoe may have a few reincarnations; it may start off as a performance shoe, then become a class shoe, then a rehab/pointe exercise shoe, before finally the shank is pulled out and it becomes a demi pointe shoe for class work. Make sure you have shoes that are each stage, so you’re not using your stronger class shoes to do the really deep articulated exercises, especially when you’re doing more than 4 or 5 hours of pointe a week.

8. Pre-weaken your pointe shoes.

Pre-weakening (sometimes called ‘breaking in’) your new shoes in the areas you want it to weaken will help to stop it from breaking in the middle of the shank. It is important not to cut the shank, heat it or wet it; these things may have been done in the past but are simply not relevant any more. Pre-weaken the shank in the demi pointe area a little so that you can rise through it correctly, and also soften in underneath the heel so that the shank can sit in close to the arch when you are en pointe. You can check out a video on how to do this here. Just using your feet to weaken the shoes can cause them to break in the middle of the shank, which will make you start sinking down and back into the shoes, meaning you’ll need to replace them more often. The shape of everyone’s pointe is different, so measure where the breakpoint is in your foot (where the heel becomes the arch) then weaken the shank of the shoe at this point so that it sits flat against your arch. It will feel better, look better and can also help extend the life of your shoe.

ClassJuggler

By: The Dance World Editor

From: Dance Informa

ClassJuggler

ClassJuggler Dance (www.danceclassjuggler.com), celebrating 10 years of service, is the premiere web-based business management tool of dance schools.

Rated #1 in customer service by customers, ClassJuggler functions as your dance studio’s “backend” system, simplifying the business of running your school. Our intelligent “cloud-based” software tools are continuously improving, giving you ever-better business intelligence, business control, and business efficiencies!

ClassJuggler Dance expands the business capabilities of your school with easy-to-use features, including online class scheduling, student management, parent accounts management, instructor management, business intelligence reporting, and customer self-service
ClassJugglertools such as online bill pay and class signup.


Location: Serving schools throughout the US, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia


ClassJuggler

Tel: (866) 214-6128
Email: info@classjuggler

DanceClassJuggler.com 

Boss Ballet Barres

By: The Dance World Editor

From: Dance Informa

 

Boss Ballet BarresBoss Ballet Barres provides the strongest free-standing dance and fitness barres available in North America.  Popular with studio owners, schools and home-users alike, they are the first choice for some of the biggest names in dance and fitness.  Using a patented design and high-strength structural steel, all Boss Ballet Barres come with a Lifetime Guarantee. You will see our Barres in some of the most famous professional dance companies across the continent, as well as many colleges and universities.  From one of our smaller, affordable 4 and 6-foot Intermediate Barres, all the way up to our longest 14-foot Extended Boss Barre Pro series, every one of our barres is constructed from the highest-quality components, and individually inspected with care before shipping, every time.

Feel free to contact us any time at info@balletbarresonline.com, to discuss your barre needs.

12-Foot Extended Boss Barre Pro
Our 12ft (144 Inch) Extended Boss Barre Pro is a specially-engineered version of our Pro Barres. The latest design to come out of our R&D Department, a special process was created to add extreme tensile strength and deflection-resistance to the middle of the barre. This allowed us to eliminate a third upright leg in the center of the horizontal bars, and have very minimal “sag”, if any at all. Our Boss Barre Pro Series consists of our strongest barres, using a larger diameter tube than our Intermediate Barres, for maximum strength when being used by 10 dancers in a school or studio setting. This strength allows for extra durability in a daily-use environment, while the smooth powder-coated finish retains its appearance for many years. Already in use in schools and studios across North America, our Pro Barres are the premium choice for instructors, professionals and competitions.

 

Features

  • Designed for users from beginner to professional
  • Ultra-strong construction using structural steel tubes
  • Extremely easy to set-up and take down using only one tool (provided)
  • Choice of semi-gloss black or white powder coated finish
  • Great for home, small studio/school use
  • Wide-stance leg system for maximum stability12 Foot Ballet BarreBoss Ballet Barres
    1-888-301-6403info@balletbarresonline.com
    www.balletbarresonline.com

Should you Strengthen your Quads?

 Should You Stretch or Strengthen Your Quads? [4 exercises to try]

dance legsThe way teachers sometimes talk about our quads, it’s easy to feel like we’re expected to dance without them.

“Don’t grip your quads!”

“The movement should come from underneath the leg, use your hamstrings, not your quads!”

“Don’t do squats, you don’t want to over-develop your quads.”

“Your quads are too big.” (FYI if a teacher ever tells you that, find a new teacher! Just my opinion…)

I’ve got news for you: Your quads aren’t bad.

And I’m going to explain why in today’s post.

*Guess who’s legs those are (—>) and you win an internet-hug! (answer at the end of this post, but please don’t skip ahead. Read the whole dang thing)

NO MUSCLES OR MOVEMENTS ARE “BAD”

Just like pronation isn’t bad. You may be warned against using your quads or pronating your feet, but you actually need these important muscles and movements to function optimally and avoid injury in dance.

You need to use your quads to dance, and ideally they should be strong. Trying to dance without your quads is just silly so you can stop feeling bad about it right now.

I’m talking about the “Lift your leg using your hamstring” cue during developpe or grand battement front and side, and other such movements. Sorry, it just isn’t possible. Your hamstrings don’t do that.

I’m sure you’ve had teachers tell you that to lift the leg, you shouldn’t be using your quads, but rather your inner thighs (adductors), hamstrings, and butt. And if you feel your quads “gripping” that’s bad bad bad and you will get big, bad, bulky quads as a result.

I would LOVE to see you do something badass like this developpe a la seconde without using your quads… Good luck.

I have muscular legs. It’s my genetic programming since puberty and even before. I’m athletic. I’m not a perfect ballet body-type.

As such, I was always told that this was because I was working the wrong way. My technique was all backwards. I was using my quads too much and that I need to stop because my quads would get too big and I wouldn’t be hired as a dancer. It made me feel awful about myself, my body, and my abilities as a dancer.

I’m sure many of you can relate to this fear of quad over-use.

But for the record, that’s all BS. You quads are supposed to lift your leg. Let them do their dang job.

THE QUAD-FEAR IS EVERYWHERE

Here are a few examples of this quad fear mindset from around the net:

A Q&A from balletdancersguide.com:

Q: “For two years I took a ballet class for one day a week. And my teacher told me I had extreme potential to be a professional ballet dancer. So she told me to sign up for the alabama ballet school which I did. In january she let me en pointe but the pointe classes weren’t that good so I had to practice and learn by myself at home. Everything went well except for developpes and grand battements. I used my quads instead of my inner thigh muscles. now i’m trying to figure out how do I not use my quads and just my inner thigh muscles for the developpes.”

A: “…Always remember, your developpes and grand battements both initiate from the backs on the legs (glutes). So during all your ballet classes, try to feel each movement initiating from the glutes as this will help to stop using your quads…”

Ok so yes it’s true that many dancers have trouble activating their adductors, but your goal shouldn’t be to stop using your quads. And FYI, your glutes don’t flex the hip (anatomy speak for ‘lift the leg’), so it’s impossible to use your butt for this movement. Your butt actually stretches as you lift your legup in front of you (more on that a bit further down this post).

And just check out some more comments under the main Q&A (in particular about the quads “bunching up”. How exactly does one make their muscles bunch up? Is that like an advanced spindle cell compression technique I don’t know about??)

Or check this out:

From this  thread on dance.net :

“In ballet when lifting your leg for something like a grande battement, you are not supposed to grip with your quads, you are supposed to push from underneath the leg, more so with the hamstring. This can be quite difficult because our first instinct is to grab with the quad.”

Our first instinct is to “grab with the quad” because one of your quads, the big rectus femoris, was designed to help lift your leg. Again, let it do it’s dang job! The hamstring  stretches when you lift your leg up, it does not do the work.

Nichelle from Dance Advantage does a really great job explaining the whole mis-interpreted “lift from underneath” cue HERE. She explains that this cue could just be a poor choice of language as the root of our quad confusion:

‘Note that the language in the phrase I’ve repeated above, “coming from underneath,” could easily be interpreted by students as implying that the muscles underneath the leg (the hamstrings) are responsible or must be used to lift the leg. It seems to me that this may be how the myth of lifting with the hamstrings gets passed along.’

Semantics are a bitch.

This post is to de-demonize the quads.

In fact, in the majority of dancers I work with, their quads are pretty dang weak. Sorry. It’s true.

All your quad aversion might be making you weaker.

For example, I love split squats as a supplemental strengthening exercise for dancers (more info on split squats later in this post). Many dancers I initially work with can only do 5 repetitions with their body weight before having to stop from intense quad burning. Does that sound like a dancer who needs to learn how to use their quads better?

Hell yes.

And just a note, even though we’re focusing on the quads for this particular post, remember that it’s not productive to isolate one muscle group under a laser, but rather I encourage you to look at how it’s functioning in context of whole body movement.

That said, welcome to quad city.

WHAT DO THE QUADS DO?

Lets talk about quad function.

There are 4 quads—–>

All of them straighten your knee.

Only one of them straightens your knee all the way(vastus medialis).

Only one of them also flexes the hip (rectus femoris).

Main quadriceps group functions: Knee extension + hip flexion. Aka anything that lifts your leg up above 90 degrees with your knee straight. That’s, like, a lot of stuff you do in dance…

The rectus femoris in particular is the quad muscle that lifts your leg up in hip flexion. Because it crosses two joints- the hip AND the knee- it is more common for this muscle to be inhibited, or weak, because it is bigger and has more responsibilities.

Here are some other important muscles that help to flex the hip in a developpe:

  • Adductors pectineus and magnus
  • Psoas major
  • Iliacus
  • Sartorius
  • Tensor fasciae latae (TFL)

Rectus femoris is the only hip flexor also responsible for keeping the knee straight. Because of it’s dual function, if it gets weak, any of the other hip flexors on that list could get over-used and tight.

Got tight hips? Maybe your quads are weak…

Or maybe one of the four quads is weaker than the other 3, and this imbalance itself makes your quads feel sore and “grippy”.

So to stretch or to strengthen- It’s not always a simple answer.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert at teaching dance technique and I’m not a ballet teacher. What I do quite well, however is provide dancers with supplementary exercises to help them experience their bodies in new ways that will automatically help them perform their dance techniques better.

So I’ll share some of my more quad-related nuggets with you today.

It’s not so simple as “foam roll and stretch your quads”, or “strengthen your quads with lunges”. Re-training your quads for optimal function is movement pattern dependent, meaning your quads might quite strong doing one thing, but soft as sh!t at another movement pattern.

I hope today to show you a few examples of different ways that I’ve worked with dancers on their quad needs.

SHOULD YOU STRETCH YOUR TIGHT, OVERWORKING QUADS?

Most of the time, no.

Try first asking “why are they tight?”  because “they need to be stretched” is rarely the answer.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important to not just to stretch or strengthen the quads  looking at them under a laser beam, in isolation. You have to look at whole body movement, and how and when the quads are working (or not) within that pattern.

Maybe your quads feel tight because they’re under-working and you need to stop stretching them… A viable possibility. A very similar thing happens with excessive hamstring stretching.

IMPROVE ALIGNMENT FOR OPTIMAL QUAD FUNCTION

Here’s what I see most often: A dancer who doesn’t have awareness of the position of their pelvis or spine or knees or feet during a given movement affecting how the quads (and other muscles, of course) are recruited.

Like the example of the split squat earlier, when a dancer learns where their pelvis should be in space during this exercise, it changes how it feels big time, and they go from being able to do 20 down to 5.

Another common example: Stiff feet and ankles can affect how the quads activate. Will just stretching the quads change how the foot functions? Probably not on its own, because the way your feet interact with the floor influence how things above them work.

And often hamstrings that hold too much protective tension (from overstretching, perhaps?) can prevent the quads from functioning properly. Trust me, all the hamstring stretching I did didn’t help me one bit to straighten my legs fully.

Stretching a muscle without working to improve the position of your bones- feet, pelvis, whatever- they are reacting to won’t change anything. It’ll just make that muscle feel kind of tight.

There are so many possibilities, and we all have our own unique story. I’ll share my own experience, and maybe you can relate.

MY QUAD CONUNDRUM

An n=1 example.

I’m a clear case of quads not functioning optimally because I never seem to be able to straighten my knees all the way while lifting my leg up. I got the “straighten your knees” correction a lot. Made me think, “dang, my quads are all grippy I should stretch them more”.

POP QUIZ: Which muscles straighten the knee and lift your leg? (you should know this by now…)

However, if I lie on my stomach and try to pull my heels to my butt to stretch my quads, I can’t get them all the way there. And I don’t feel a quad stretch despite the clear stiffness.

So which is it? Are my quads weak because I can’t straighten my knee? Or are they tight and need stretching because I can’t get my heels to my butt?

Should I stretch or should I strengthen?

The answer is kind of both, but mostly WORK ON ALIGNMENT. Which of course you couldn’t know without looking at me in person (this is why I can’t give you specific advice over the internet, guys!).

Remember your quads don’t work in isolation. They do what they do because of what’s happening above and below- The ankles, knees, pelvis, and spine.

In my case, mobilizing my hips and feet, and repositioning my pelvis helped me to feel better quad recruitment, and as a result of muscles doing their jobs properly and not needing to hold as much tension, I can get my heels closer to my butt, too.

I’ve seen this with several of my clients as well. Sometimes activating the quads will help them to release tension elsewhere that is preventing them from lengthening. Yes, activating the quads can release tension from the hips.

So yeah… It’s not as simple as stretch this, strengthen that.

Like many of my blog posts, you’ll probably have more questions than answers at this point. But that’s ok! I really do want you to think and ask questions. Don’t believe everything you think you know.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE QUAD FUNCTION FOR BETTER STRENGTH & EXTENSIBILITY

Strength meaning, you can activate them at the right time, generate enough force to lift your leg as high as you want, and protect your knees from exploding?

Extensibility meaning that because they activate at the right time, harmoniously with other muscles with similar and opposite functions, they can lengthen further because they don’t hold the excess tension that a poorly coordinated movement pattern tends to accumulate.

If  movements like plies, squats, lunges, hip bridges and even back-bends cause discomfort in your hips, lower back, or knees, could be sign your quads need some lovin’.

I’m going to suggest that the supplemental work you do to help re-train your quads should include movements and positions you don’t into very often in dance.

This means doing exercises that require:

  1. Breathing- Hard because I reckon you hold your breath for stability.
  2. Hip extension– Hard because our hip flexors get pretty tight and short in dance.
  3. Hip adduction– Hard because we’re always stretching our adductors
  4. Hip internal rotation– Hard because we’re always turning out.

Your quads might be pretty good at the dance moves, but get out of dance mode and the quad truth is revealed.

Not sure what any of those terms meant? I’m too lazy to explain in this post (it’s already too long), so prof Google can help you out if you want more info.

So what’s the solution for quad mastery?

MY FAVOURITE QUAD EXERCISES

For strength, releasing tension, and general awareness.

These will also help you to find center with your pelvis, making life better in general.

Split stance breathing

Inspired by Anatomy in Motion.

In this exercise you must stand with both legs parallel (internal rotation), and as narrow as you can manage (adducted). The back leg (extended hip) is the “working” leg, that you’ll be focusing on straightening while it is in extension behind you.

All you have to do is breathe. Put one hand on your back, one on your stomach, or even put your hands on the sides of your ribs. As you inhale, expand into your hands. As you exhale, get all the air out. Aim for a 3 times as long exhale to inhale. Exhale so much that you give yourself no choice but to inhale. Try to keep your butt relaxed.

As you do this, you may notice that the position of your pelvis changes subtly. As you keep your awareness on your back leg straightening, you may notice your hip, calf, or ankle stretching, and your quad starting to burn. Good. Keep going. Keep breathing. Go until that quad burn becomes too intense. I don’t know how long this will take you.

Go for a little walk around. How does it feel to have awoken your quad and reposition your pelvis with your breath and focused awareness? Probably kind of lopsided, but loose in the hip and awesome. Do the other side now.

From here, some exercises to strengthen your quads and improve alignment include:

Deadbug

Half kneeling

Split squats

 

Try these out, and see how your new positionally stronger quads feel in dance.

One client asked me once, how do these exercises transfer into dance?

Think of it this way-  You were a human first, and a dancer second. Make the human stronger, and the dancer will be too.

Also, take a look at the performance pyramid below.

Many dancers specialize so early and start dancing as young as 2, and so never got the functional movement, or general physical preparation part. Our performance pyramids are all upside-down!

By re-balancing our bodies to be good a general movement first, and then layering back on the performance, and THEN specific skill (arabesques and stuff), you’ll definitely notice a difference.

You’ll also be a lot more durable and won’t have to worry about your knees while you dance.

But you don’t have to agree with me or believe me. Just give the advice and exercises a try for yourself. Try strengthening your quads rather than stretching them. I think you’ll notice a huge difference in your alignment, your movement, mobility and strength, and how your body feels on a daily basis.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. How did these exercises work for you? And if you’re a life-long quad-stretcher, let me know how it feels, perhaps, to stop stretching them, and work on strength instead.

Very curious.

And if you want more exercises and ideas like the ones in this post, then you’re going to LOVE Dance Stronger.

Dance Stronger is my latest project- A book and 4 week training program designed to get you stronger for dance (duh).

The exercises in this post are actually directly from the program (the reject videos, because of the bad sound quality, sorry!), but to get a full understanding of how to integrate them into your dance cross-training, you’ll have to join the full program when it’s ready in August.

I think you’ll really love it (my trial group are getting fantastic results so far).

What you need to do is click —>HERE<—, and let me know that you want to be notified when Dance Stronger is ready for lift-off so you can be a part of our amazing community of strong, empowered dancers..

If you loved this post (or if you hated it) please share with a friend. Let’s stop the quad fear, together.

PS *Misty Copeland’s legs. Obviously

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