I love to dance. I love to feel the music deep inside and have the movement find its voice. I love that dance sets me free. So here’s some dance-related tips I hope you’ll find helpful.
☯ TEN STRETCHES FOR JAZZ DANCERS
- Butterfly Stretch
Start this stretch by sitting up, flat on the floor. Bring the bottoms of your feet together so that they are touching and your knees are out to each side (like a butterfly’s wings). While keeping the bottoms of your feet flat together, gently pull your feet in towards your pelvis, until you feel the stretch in your inner thighs, and hold for a count of ten and release. Let your feet out just a bit then gently press your knees downward until you feel the stretch throughout your upper legs and hold for a count of ten and release.
- Piriformis Stretch
Start this stretch by lying flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bring your right foot up and place the outside of your right ankle onto your left knee. Bring your left foot up to a 90° angle and place your hands behind your left leg. Clasp them together and gently bring your left leg towards your body until you feel the stretch in your outer right thigh. Hold this position for a count of 10 and release. (Be sure to keep your right knee outward, do not let it come in toward your body. If needs be, place a hand on your right knee to keep it outward for this stretch while your other hand pulls your left knee into your body.) Repeat this stretch for the opposite side.
- Hip Flexor Stretch
From a standing position, put your left leg behind you as if you are doing a rear lunge. Be sure to keep your front leg at a 90° angle (do not let your knee go over your toes). Keep your upper body very straight. Place your hands on your hips and push your hips forward with your rear leg. Tuck your pelvis in to ensure proper back alignment. You should feel this in your hips most, but also in your upper thigh of the leg behind you. Hold for a count of thirty and release. Repeat this stretch for the opposite side. (If possible, do this stretch in front of a mirror to ensure that your back is straight and your front leg is at a 90° angle and your knee is not going past your toes.)
- Stretch Left/Stretch Right/Center Stretch
From a standing position, place your feet just a bit wider than hip-width apart with your toes pointed outward. Gently bend to the left from your waist, reaching both hands toward your left foot. The goal is to lay your upper body down over your left leg so that your chest is touching your leg (if you cannot get your chest to touch your leg, just lean down until you FEEL the stretch. DO NOT stretch until you feel discomfort). Hold for a count of thirty and release. Repeat on the right side and hold for a count of thirty and release. Do the same for the center, but gently reach behind you until you feel the stretch.
- Side Straddle Split Stretch
Sit flat on the floor with your legs as far out to your sides as possible. Gently bend to the left from your waist, reaching both hands toward your left foot. Again, the goal is to lay your upper body down over your left leg so that your chest is touching your leg (if you cannot get your chest to touch your leg, just lean down until you FEEL the stretch. DO NOT stretch until you feel discomfort). Hold for a count of thirty and release. Repeat on the right side for a count of thirty, and repeat for the center for a count of thirty, reaching forward and lowering your body as far to the ground as possible.
- Calf Stretch
From a standing position, gently slide your left foot behind you, keeping both of your feet flat on the floor as the left foot slides back. Continue sliding your left foot until you can really feel the stretch in your calf. Once you really begin to feel a good stretch (but NOT pain), stop sliding your foot and hold the stretch for a count of thirty. Be sure to keep your upper body straight, and do not let your front knee go forward over your toes. Return to a standing position and repeat this stretch for the opposite side.
- Quadriceps Stretch
Lie flat on your stomach on the floor (or exercise mat) with your head turned to your right. Bend your left leg and grip your left foot with both hands behind you. Gently pull your left foot to your buttocks. Hold this stretch for a count of thirty and release. Turn your head to the left and repeat this stretch with your right foot. Be sure not to pull your leg out to your left or right sides as this can cause hip pain. You should be pulling your right foot directly toward your right buttock, and your left foot directly toward your left buttock.
- Spinal Twist
Stand straight with your feet just at hip-width apart. Tuck your pelvis in and keep your back perfectly straight. Keeping both of your feet planted flat on the floor and letting your arms hang limp, begin to twist your upper body from the waist up, going from left to right. Just let your arms twist with your body as you build momentum. Your arms should be just about straight out when you twist to one side and the other. Continue twisting to both sides for a full minute. This stretch loosens your lower back as well as helping to strengthen your core muscles.
- Hip Rotation
Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips and slowly begin to make small clockwise circles with your hips. Continue to make the circle larger until you really feel a good stretch in your hips, keep the circles at the widest circle range as is comfortable for a count of ten-fifteen rotations. Return to center, then repeat in a counter-clockwise rotation, widening the circle range until you really feel a good stretch in your hips. Again, count ten-fifteen rotations and return to center. This stretch is really good for your entire core and back as well as your hips.
- Ankle Rotation
Lie flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your left foot off the floor, pointing it toward the ceiling, and grip behind your knee with both hands, providing support for your leg. Point your toe and gently begin rotating your foot clockwise in as wide a circle as is comfortable (as if you are drawing a circle with your big toe). Rotate ten-fifteen times then reverse to counter-clockwise in the same fashion for another ten-fifteen times. Return your foot to the floor and repeat with the other leg.
☯ TEN JAZZ DANCE MOVES
- Hip Step/Hip Walk
This “sexy strut” jazz step requires you to keep your arms/hands rounded behind your back (as in a plie), while your pelvis is tucked forward and you are standing straight up. Start by taking a step forward with your right foot and move your right hip forward with your foot in an exaggerated manner, then follow with your left foot and your left hip in the same exaggerated fashion. (This move is nicknamed “sexy strut” because it imitates a fashion model walking down the catwalk.) Continue for a few paces then plant both feet and bring your hands forward and around in a sweeping gesture and plant them on your hips.
- Ball Change Cross
With this step, you start in a standing straight position with your feet just slightly turned out and your arms are raised to parallel with the horizon to each side. You raise up onto the balls of your feet while stepping out slightly diagonally with your right foot onto the ball of your foot (it’s VERY important that you only step onto the ball of your right foot, this is why it is called a “ball change”), putting all your weight onto the right ball of your foot for just a moment to lift your left foot to the ball. Step slightly back with your left foot into a flat foot position with a slightly bent knee and bring your right foot across in front with a turned out position. Next, bring your left foot forward onto the ball of your left foot, putting all your weight onto the left ball of your foot for just a moment to lift your right foot to the ball, then step slightly back with your right foot into a flat foot position with a slightly bent knee and bring your left foot across in front with a turned out position. This can be done continuously and you can add some shoulder flare to the steps for a dramatic effect.
- Jazz Layout
Start with your left leg behind you, foot turned out, knee slightly bent and your right leg in front of you, foot pointing straight out (known as a “quasi” position). From this position, you want to sweep your left leg forward (known as a davante) with your foot turned outward and upward straight out in front of you. At the same time, sweep your left leg straight out in front of you, you will want to lean back (known as combre) and sweep your arms behind you and upwards above your head so that your upper body is almost in perfect alignment with your left leg in front of you, leaning your head back so your back has a good arch. Then bring your body back up and sweep your arms to the sides in a rounded position and land your left foot down in front of you in a turned out position. Remember to do this with both sides to build even muscle tone.
- Soutenu Turn
With this turn, you start in the “fondu tendu” position, or with one foot forward turned out, knee straight, toe pointed at the floor, other foot behind flat on the floor, turned out, knee somewhat bent. With your front foot, step out slightly to the side onto the ball of your foot and bring your back foot around in a sweeping motion along the floor over your front foo. Then set it on the floor and spin your body back into the original starting position. Your arms should be in circle to the front as though you are holding a large ball in front of you.
Start in a standing position. Lunge with your left leg going forward and plant the ball of your left foot in front of you. Bring your right foot up to your left knee with your right toe pointed toward the floor. Hold yourself straight up and keep your arms stretched out to your sides. As you lunge and are bringing your right foot to your knee, use the momentum to make yourself spin and bring your arms in to form a circle as you spin. This move seems very simple, but it is actually very hard to keep the balance on your front supporting foot and remain perfectly straight while you spin. Be sure to stretch your ankles properly before performing this move. After much practice doing a single spin, try doing a double or a triple spin. To keep from getting dizzy with this move, it helps to focus on a fixed point and move your head around to keep focused on the fixed point as you spin.
- Tack Annie
Start with your legs wide, feet turned out, with your hands out to your sides. Bring up your left heel and tap your left toe behind you while, at the same time, bringing up your left hand and snapping your fingers at the same time as you tap your toe. Then “bounce” to the opposite foot and bring your right heel up and tap your right toe behind you while, at the same time, bringing up your right hand and snapping your fingers. Continue to “bounce” back and forth tapping your toes behind you as you snap your fingers in time with the beat.
- Naomi Skank
Start with your legs wide, feet turned out, with your hands out to your sides. Jump backwards, keeping your feet wide while, at the same time, bringing your arms up and across each other in front of you and snapping your fingers. When you land, bring your arms back down and snap your fingers. Your arms should be crossed in front of you on the jump up and fingers snapping, and then your arms should be out to your sides and fingers snapping when you land your jump. Bounce your shoulders a bit dramatically as you are swinging your arms in front of you when you jump, and swing them back down on the landing.
- Across the Floor/Wide-Stance “Grapevine”
Start with your legs wide, feet turned out, with your arms outstretched to the rear, fingers splayed. With your left foot, step behind your right foot (count 1), then step out wide with your right foot (count 2), then step behind with your left foot behind your right again (count 3), and then step out wide with your right foot again (count 4). As you bring your left foot in again, do a half spin outward (a “turn out”), so that you are facing the opposite direction of how you started and repeat the steps again. This is usually done to a count of 8, doing the first 4 count, then turn out and finish with the second 4 count.
- Box Step
This step is done exactly how the title explains it – in a box or square. Start with your feet together then take your left foot and step behind and straight beside the outside of your right foot as if you were stepping on the bottom corner of a square. Then bring your right foot forward and “step” onto the “top corner” of the square. Bring your left foot up to step onto the other “top corner” of the square, then bring your right foot back to step on the bottom corner of the box/square. Continue to go around in a stepping motion on all 4 points of the “box” with an 8-count dance step to the beat of your music. You can also swing your arms and snap your fingers while doing each step for added flair.
- Mess Around
For this dance move, you stand with your feet turned out, hip-width apart, with your hands on your hips. (This move is similar to the hip rotation stretch). You just rotate your hips around to the beat. This move can be added to the box step above for added effect.
☯ TEN FOODS THAT ARE GOOD FOR DANCERS
I stopped eating animal products earlier this year but still recommend eggs because when my body was fine with them, they worked wonders. Eggs are an amazing way to get a good dose of your daily protein intake. Protein from eggs helps build lean muscle without bulking up. Protein helps repair muscles as much as it helps to build them which makes it important to eat them at least 3 times a week. Eggs are a key fuel source and help with energy and metabolism as well. Eggs also have important vitamins and minerals, such as iron and vitamin B12, which helps with blood building and flow. Without B12 in your system, you become tired and weak, which is the exact opposite of how dancers want to feel, so be sure to eat an egg or two for breakfast on the morning of your next practice.
- Peanut Butter
Yes, you read that correctly, peanut butter. The all-natural version is best. Try to avoid the brands that are packed with sugar and salt additives as these just make a good thing turn into a nightmare. Peanuts are an amazing source of protein as well. But they are also full of fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer, and keeps you regular. Peanut butter also helps stabilize blood sugar and is also rich in magnesium, which is an essential mineral that helps maintain your nervous system. The healthy monounsaturated fats in peanuts also help protect the brain so you can remember all those routines.
Blueberries are very high in antioxidants which neutralize those nasty “free radicals” that cause damage to our bodies. They are high in fiber so they are filling. They are a low calorie super food that provides vitamin C and K, both being very important for our immune systems and building our bones, and we all know strong bones are very important for dancers. 😉 Blueberries may also help fight UTIs which can be detrimental during daily practices. These amazing berries have also been found to help accelerate muscle recovery after extreme workouts, so that can be extremely beneficial as well for dancers who work hard.
- Organic Yogurt
This super food is one of the most beneficial foods for dancers because it has two key ingredients that your body needs to build strong, healthy bones: calcium and magnesium. Because of the good bacteria found in yogurt, it also helps ward off yeast infections and keeps the digestive tract healthy, in turn boosting the immune system. This delicious creamy snack is also easier to digest than milk because of the fermenting bacteria, so your body can more easily make use of all the nutritional benefits. It may also help ease chronic pain, which can help you stay on the dance floor longer.
Oatmeal is another good food for dancers because it has a large variety of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, as well as being another great source of protein. It is also a really quick and easy meal for those morning when you are running late for your dance rehearsal. Oatmeal is another of those high fiber foods that keeps you feeling fuller longer so it helps with weight loss and keeping off those extra pounds. Oatmeal is high in manganese which helps with nutrient absorption, bone development, and helps your immune system to keep you healthy. And, lastly, oatmeal has avenanthramides, which are anti-inflammatory agents, and those are always beneficial to dancers.
This delicious member of the melon family is packed with vitamins, minerals and key nutrients that are super important for dancers, including cucurbitacins, which are anti-inflammatory, as well as vitamin C and K, which, as already discussed, are important for bone health and our immune systems. This low-calorie food helps hydrate our bodies because it contains electrolytes and the vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and hair. And guess what else cantaloupe contains? Choline, which helps reduce inflammation and helps muscles move properly because it helps the transmission of nerve impulses, which is definitely important when dancing.
These green-skinned fruits are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and are another great source of fiber. One of the best things about avocados is that they help the body to naturally balance potassium and sodium, in turn helping to prevent swelling and muscle cramps. The beta-carotene and lycopene present in avocados help skin stay healthy and free from wrinkles. They are also rich in vitamin C and E, which we know are great antioxidants that keep us healthy and fight the damaging free radicals. Avocados also help with nutrient absorption and the minerals they contain help improve bone density.
We all know beans are good for your heart, but what else makes them so amazing? They are protein packed and nutrient dense, of course! Folate is an important nutrient in beans that helps fight fatigue, heart palpitations and weakness which can all be disastrous for dancers (and anyone…). They are also rich in antioxidants, which combat inflammation and the risk of certain cancers. They are low in fat and help balance blood sugar and are also filled with fiber. Beans are also a lower-cost food and they can be used in many different dishes or by themselves with some key seasonings.
Kale is a low calorie, nutrient-dense food that helps just about every function in your body, including your blood, your metabolism, and your digestion. Kale has more iron than most meats and helps with the formation of red blood cells and proper liver function. Kale is also high in vitamin K, which is important for bone strength and blood clotting. It is also full of antioxidants, which fight free radicals that make us sick, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties. This is yet another food that is high in vitamins A and C, which help the immune system and keep your skin looking young.
These crunchy, bright-orange vegetables are well-known to help with vision issues, but they are also good for boosting your immune system, improving the look of your skin, helping with digestion issues, and are also good for your heart. They can also reduce the risk of certain cancers, including lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. Carrots also help regulate blood sugar. They are full of fiber and vitamins A, C and K, and are also rich in potassium, copper and manganese. Copper is important because it helps your body use iron efficiently and also helps wounds heal faster. It also improves the health of connective tissues which is extremely important for dancers.
Please note about ‘Stretches for Jazz Dancers, Jazz Dance Moves, Foods that are Good for Dancers’: The information above is not from an expert opinion and should not be taken as professional advice. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or a sport coach. Please contact experts.
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