Stretching to enhance your dancing

Eshta

New member
Hi folks, been a while :D!

If you look at stretching for dancers online it becomes apparent how critical it is considered in most dance forms... except ours :think:

I'm not talking about the ones you do as part of your warm-up/cool-down regime, I'm talking about setting aside time to stretch and work on flexibility.

I confess I know very very little about it, but can tell there are some people here who do!

I am thinking of building in a little dance-related stretching when I finish a session at the gym, is there anyone who can help me build a short (15 mins) stretch routine that will reinforce my dancing?
 

Ranya

New member
Hi Eshta,

have you enough space at the gym? I REAAAALLYYY recommend the "barre au sol" method, it basically consists of imitating the exercices of ballet that the dancer's do at the "barre" but on the floor, which is better for beginners, since it does not put extreme weight on your back (it is actually very good for your back).
If the gym has a barre, USE it - ballet exercises really really lenghten AND strenghten your muscles.
Even at Reda's in Cairo we always had 2 hours of ballet and one of folklore, in order to be supple and have a better control of our bodies.
(I am not speaking about extreme ballet exercises !!! You don't need to do it like the Bolshoi Grand Soloists...but ballet exercises are more efficient that one would think, even if you do the most simple ones!)
 

shiradotnet

New member
I am thinking of building in a little dance-related stretching when I finish a session at the gym, is there anyone who can help me build a short (15 mins) stretch routine that will reinforce my dancing?
Rania Bossonis has a video called Bellydance Fitness For Weight Loss: Daily Quickies that has several short (10-minute) workouts on it. It has been a long time since I looked at it, but I think that at least one of those is called "flexibility" and contains stretches. I like all of them.

Speaking for myself as an individual, after I have danced I like to choose stretches that will target the muscles I specifically used in that day's practice. For example, if I did a whole bunch of stuff up on the ball of the foot (such as Nubian or Khaleegy), I'll do a stretch that targets the calf and the Achilles tendon.

If I'm trying to condition my body for doing certain types of dance moves, I'll do stretches that promote the flexibility needed for those particular moves. For example, if I'm going through a phase where I want to focus on floor work, I'll do stretches similar to the yoga poses of camel and reclining hero. If I'm trying to improve my backbends, I'll work with yoga poses sphinx, cobra, and camel. And so on.

When I teach, I tend to include these stretches at the end of class to help students build the necessary muscle flexibility to belly dance with ease:

  • Lie on the back, pull first one knee to chest and hold for a while, then return to floor and repeat on other knee, then both knees. Purpose: the one-knee version helps stretch out each glute after using it a lot in class for hip bumps and such. The both-knee version helps stretch out the lower back after using it a lot for stuff like figure 8's and hip circles.
  • Lunge, both a standing version with bent-knee foot residing on a raised surface and a squatting version with bent-knee foot on the ground. Purpose: stretch out the psoas muscle - a lot of people have tight psoas muscles, which lead to swayback posture and lower back pain.
  • Cat and cow yoga poses with several transitions back and forth between the two. Purpose: encourage the spine to learn how to move fluidly. Also helps release back tension caused by belly dance moves such as figure 8.
  • Lie on back with buttocks near wall, feet up on wall with legs straight. This is the very last thing we do. It's a hamstring stretch, but it also promotes release of lower back tension. Some lower back pain can be caused by tight hamstrings, and because a lot of belly dance moves utilize the lower back, it's good to be kind to it.

Of course, oblique stretches and the yoga cobra pose are always beneficial for belly dance.
 

Kashmir

New member
I am thinking of building in a little dance-related stretching when I finish a session at the gym, is there anyone who can help me build a short (15 mins) stretch routine that will reinforce my dancing?
Best time to do it. Great idea. Before you do anything else find out what areas you need to improve your range of motion. For every person it is a little different. For instance, there is no point doing calf stretches if you already have good calf ROM.

To do this you need to check your ROM for common muscles - preferably one at a time. Easiest way is to get a professional sports assessment. Tell them it is for dance so they will concentrate on lower body. Once you know what your major issues are then find effective stretches for each of those individula muscles (multi-muscle stretches are less useful). The assessor will probably point you in the right direction.
 

Darbla

New member
I do yoga for that, and I can testify that downward facing dog pose has made my shoulders more flexible so that when I'm doing high arm poses (such as temple) it's easier and looks much more relaxed and natural to the audience. I know in the beginning I looked and felt like I was straining when I would do that kind of pose.

I do a version of the sun salutation that includes downward facing dog, upward facing dog, child's pose, among other movements, and I add pigeon pose after several sun salutations for hip flexibility.
 

Lydia

New member
Hi all ,if you done aaall the above,then i give you another one that is realy nice easy and a great help,can do this anytime and anywhere and it is good!! It is called,, I T BAND STRECH,, can look it up in the net,.....see youuuuuuuu
 

kayshier

New member
I do yoga for that, and I can testify that downward facing dog pose has made my shoulders more flexible so that when I'm doing high arm poses (such as temple) it's easier and looks much more relaxed and natural to the audience. I know in the beginning I looked and felt like I was straining when I would do that kind of pose.

I do a version of the sun salutation that includes downward facing dog, upward facing dog, child's pose, among other movements, and I add pigeon pose after several sun salutations for hip flexibility.
in what sequence do you do the poses? do you start with a child's pose?

downward facing dog, opens and stretches everything, its a great way to stretch, i also find that the piegon pose, and ever the warrior series of poses does well for flexibility.
 

Eshta

New member
Hi Eshta,

have you enough space at the gym? I REAAAALLYYY recommend the "barre au sol" method, it basically consists of imitating the exercices of ballet that the dancer's do at the "barre" but on the floor, which is better for beginners, since it does not put extreme weight on your back (it is actually very good for your back).
If the gym has a barre, USE it - ballet exercises really really lenghten AND strenghten your muscles.
Even at Reda's in Cairo we always had 2 hours of ballet and one of folklore, in order to be supple and have a better control of our bodies.
(I am not speaking about extreme ballet exercises !!! You don't need to do it like the Bolshoi Grand Soloists...but ballet exercises are more efficient that one would think, even if you do the most simple ones!)
Hi Ranya, I forgot to mention it's a resident's gym in our building so quite often I am the only person there (oh the luxury, it's awesome) so space is no issue. But sadly we don't have a barre.

I'm intrigued by the 'barre au sol' idea though. I have zero ballet experience though, do you think I would do more harm than good?
 

Kashmir

New member
Hi all ,if you done aaall the above,then i give you another one that is realy nice easy and a great help,can do this anytime and anywhere and it is good!! It is called,, I T BAND STRECH,, can look it up in the net,.....see youuuuuuuu
The IT band doesn't strtech - it is non-elastic (fascia). It can be a real problem but actually very hard to release. For most people it takes somee heavy duty massage.
 

Ranya

New member
Hey Eshta,

even if you do not have any ballet experience the barre au sol is a good idea. Of course, you will not be able to do some of the exercises but there is a whole bunch of easy-going ones!!
The best thing is that you do not need a barre for the "barre au sol".
As for doing more harm than good, it is important that you first ask someone who
knows "barre au sol" (maybe one of your students has had previous ballet training???) in order to correct you and avoid harming yourself. But all in all there should be no issues, unless you have medical problemes with your joints (which I suppose you don't).

You will start to see the effects after about 4 to 6 weeks (I mean REAL results :) - if you do the exercises properly).
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Flexibility increases in gradual increments for most students as they learn to dance, and I haven't found that belly dance requires the same kind of flexibility in belly dance as does ballet. Please note: that is not to say belly dance does not require flexibility, but despite some evidence to the contrary on YouTube, one does not need to be able to do the splits or dramatic backbends in which one's head touches the floor in order to belly dance. ;)

In my classroom, I have a barre, but don't use it a great deal for student stretches. Most of my students have little or no dance training before they come to me, and if I start barre training in addition to belly dance- oh, lah! I prefer ground and floor stretches for my students, though I think a barre routine might be an excellent addition for students with more dance experience than mine have.
 

shiradotnet

New member
In my classroom, I have a barre, but don't use it a great deal for student stretches. Most of my students have little or no dance training before they come to me, and if I start barre training in addition to belly dance- oh, lah! I prefer ground and floor stretches for my students, though I think a barre routine might be an excellent addition for students with more dance experience than mine have.
I use the barre for 2 things:

1. Teaching the use of the core muscles (as opposed to pushing with the foot/leg) to produce hip lifts and drops. I have them rest a hand on the barre just for balance, stand on just one foot, and then do up-down-up-down with the hip on the unweighted side. This teaches them to use abs, obliques, and back muscles to power the move rather than using impetus from the leg. The role of the barre is solely to help them keep their balance while standing on one leg.

2. Doing standing lunges for psoas flexibility. As mentioned in my earlier message, this is primarily to help those students with swayback as their default posture overcome one of the causes of swayback, tight psoas. Swayback can lead to back pain, especially when we belly dancers start swinging our hips in all directions. But even non-swayback students can benefit from these stretches, as the psoas gets a bit of stretching when you do a standing backbend.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I use the barre for the first of your two items, but not the second. The second is a good idea, though I don't teach anything but an American Cabaret cheater backbend.
 
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