Cross-training is key for developing strong, well-rounded dance technique and reducing risk of injury. This has only become truer in the era of pandemic shutdowns, when many dancers are returning to their full training schedules after forced breaks and may still be looking at periods of quarantine following COVID exposures.
By investing in some props, dance teachers and studios can help their students build a strong training routine outside of class, which can be easily adapted for home as needed.
For intermediate students
- Turning boards reduce friction between the foot and the floor, allowing a dancer to turn more quickly and continuously than they could on their own. This creates an opportunity to work on essential elements of turning, including spotting, balance and placement. This is especially helpful for dancers working toward multiple turns. Turning boards can easily be used in the studio or at home, with flat shoes or even on pointe.
- Rotation disks can help dancers learn to turn out properly from the hip, and reveal technique issues that may be masked when standing on a stable surface. This can help dancers build the true strength they need to improve turnout, rather than forcing or faking it. Once dancers have mastered rotating in and out standing on both feet, challenge their balance by having them stand on one foot instead. Once a dancer has mastered that, they can add in more dynamic movement, such as practicing exercises like passé and développé while standing on the rotation disk, maintaining turnout in the standing leg. And don’t forget the upper body—holding in a plank position with hands on the rotation disks is an excellent way to challenge core and shoulder stability, which will help with everything from turns to port de bras to partnering.
- Thera-Bands are a dance bag mainstay. These highly portable bands are particularly useful for exercises that warm up and strengthen the feet. They can be purchased in 50- yard rolls so that new pieces can be cut and given to students as needed.
- A full set of resistance bands is great to have on hand to help dancers build a total-body strengthening routine. Bands are portable, lightweight and easy to use, making them ideal for at home or in the studio and safe for beginners.
For advanced dancers
- Ankle weights can help dancers build strength and stability for better, higher extensions. Have them wear ankle weights while practicing extensions to build muscular endurance and control, or wear them in exercises such as side-lying leg lifts to increase strength and stability in the standing leg. Look for an adjustable pair so that resistance can be set appropriately.
- A jump rope is an excellent tool for portable, versatile cardio workouts. In addition to helping dancers work on their conditioning, jumping rope is great for a quick warm-up before rehearsal or a performance. It has also been shown to improve coordination and balance, and may even prevent injury by improving the stability of the ankle joint.
- Foam balance pads are highly challenging to foot and ankle stability. Once dancers have mastered standing on a balance pad on one foot, many exercises can be done standing on the pad to work on balance and foot strength. Have dancers practice their adagio standing on the pad, or use it to make cross-training exercises like single-leg squats and lunges more challenging.
- Suspension trainers are versatile tools for full-body strengthening, leveraging the user’s own body weight as resistance. Plus, because they create instability, the body has to work harder in each exercise to stabilize itself. In addition to making each exercise significantly more challenging, these demands on balance, core control and overall coordination translate well to dance. The TRX Fit System comes with access to on-demand videos that will help dancers learn to use a suspension trainer properly.
- Kettlebells can be used for any exercise you’d use a dumbbell for, as well as for specialized exercises that help to develop explosive power. Kettlebell training is a great option for advanced dancers who have some experience with resistance training and are looking to improve the power needed for jumps, quick transitions into and out of the floor, and big traveling movements. Consider bringing in an experienced trainer to teach your students some kettlebell basics. After that, they should easily be able to incorporate these exercises into their routine at home or in the studio.