Now that we’re in fall and approaching winter, stretching and keeping warm are more important than ever. As the weather starts to get colder, our bodies and muscles can be more prone to injury. A great way to avoid injury and pulled muscles is to find your own “signature stretches.” This is a perfect way for you to follow a set routine and is a useful way to avoid missing any important stretches.
Having your own “signature stretches,” as I like to call it, has really come in handy when I’m auditioning. It was also great once I booked my first professional job and had to perform every day and night. Many dancers think that just stretching in the splits is sufficient enough to get them ready for class, auditions, and shows. This can’t be farther from the truth! Even if you are only warming up for a 3 minute dance, you must fully stretch your entire body and all of your muscles. I like to start with a quick circuit of cardio to get my body warm and my heart rate up. I normally do jumping jacks, high knees, and jog in place. Once I feel warm, I move onto a ballet barre. I fully stretch my feet and ankles with the help of my theraband. My theraband is one of my favorite stretching tools, and it fits perfectly in my dance bag. After my barre and feet exercises, I do lunges on each side, hamstring stretches, and then the splits. Also, I absolutely love to use my Flexistretcher to help me stretch my second splits, tilts, and arabesques. Plus it comes in my favorite color…pink!
When you walk through the doors of any audition, you really never know what might be thrown at you. That’s one of the reasons why it is so vital to fully stretch beforehand. That way you’re prepared and ready, no matter what. Having your own “signature stretch” is extremely useful when you are in a show. At times you can have multiple shows in an evening. This is when stretching is an absolute priority. On nights when I had several shows, I would do a longer warm up and make sure I was really stretched. I also found it useful to engage all my muscles by doing some strengthening exercise like pushups and planks. Although I needed to let my body rest, I was careful my muscles did not get cold between shows. No matter how sweaty I may have been, I would put my warmups back on.
It’s very important to refuel as well. I drank a lot of water and had a healthy snack. Normally, I would have a Kind bar, a banana, and a box of raisins. I would keep loose and engage my muscles, so they didn’t get stiff. Everybody is different. The next time you are warming up, whether it’s for a performance or just a dance class, try to pay attention to what your body needs. Hopefully, you can find your “signature stretch.”