As I am writing to you, it is May 2020 in the Washington, D.C. area. There is a stay at home order for most states, and people have been encouraged to only go to public spaces for essential things such as groceries or medications. People are struggling in so many ways with social distancing. People are working from home the best they can, homeschooling their children the best they can, trying to keep their sanity by trying not to eat every comforting snack in the pantry, and making their living rooms their gyms.
Dancers of all types are struggling in their own ways. Social dancers are missing the social scene, human contact and basic partnering. Studio dancers are missing the support of the barres, ideal flooring material, and wide-open spaces of their studio. Both are likely also missing their individual training styles of their favorite instructors and the verbal and tactile corrections that they receive.
How are we supposed to stay in dancing shape while self-isolating?
The silver lining is that the whole world is going through this crisis, so you are not alone. The fact that you’re not alone is going to work in your favor greatly, because everybody is learning to adjust. Some studios are giving classes online for a decreased fee. Even better, instructors all over the world are offering free classes, asking just for donations if you are financially able. This can truly be a time to stay in dancing shape if you are well and is also a great time to transition into full dancing if you are recovering from injury. Sometimes dancers recovering from injury feel shy to speak with their instructors about modifications or sitting out certain activities, so now is your time to do only what feels good for you.
For dancers to stay healthy during this pandemic, there are a few basic things to think & do.
1) Proper nutrition.
I know we’re all a little bit stressed, but stress eating all the ice cream and cookies is not going to help nourish your body to help keep you moving. Give your body proper, nutrient dense foods, and you’ll truly start to feel better, because at least you would know that you were kind to yourself by taking care of yourself. Don’t worry though. A treat every once and a while is also taking care of yourself.
2) Get some fresh air.
I know we are told to stay inside, but when you can, get outside and take a short walk or bike ride in a wide open space where there aren’t too many other people. If you are injured and cannot do these things, at least open a window for a short time and see the sunshine or listen to the sounds of the outside world.
3) Sleep well and get on a schedule.
I know that binge watching a lot of low-quality entertainment until the wee hours of the night is tempting, but try to get your rest. Sleep is such an important life function that we cannot live without it. Our bodies actually do a lot of healing and regenerating during sleep phases. Often times, in our everyday lives, we complain that we don’t get enough sleep. Now we are in a rush to go nowhere, so get your sleep.
4) Take prerecorded or live dance classes.
If you do a quick internet search, I am sure you will find a plethora of ballet barre videos, ballet center work, and social dance drills classes; you’ll find that many teachers are using their social media accounts to host live classes. Keeping safety first in mind, find a nice open space with flooring that will work for you. If you are doing a ballet barre, try to find the back of a chair or couch that is sturdy. Know your limitations. If jumping or turning in your home on your floors seem dangerous, don’t do it. Many teachers will prompt various modifications as most of us are in non-ideal circumstances.
5) Stretch, conditioning, and rest days.
Like everybody else, when I started taking classes online, I was taking classes all the time, but the only problem is that I was feeling like I was getting worse. I was doing a ballet barre every day and feeling weak and tight. I realized that I wasn’t going through my normal pre-class ritual of ballet warmup and post class stretching or foam rolling. I forgot that taking class was just a part of my routine and not the whole routine. I started taking classes less often per week and when I do take class, I do my typical personalized ballet warmup that I would normally do at the studio 10-15 minutes before class. On the days when I am not dancing, I am adding in stretch and conditioning sessions that include floor barre routines, band exercises, core stability exercise, static stretching and foam rolling. This has made a huge difference.
We are all trying to adjust to this new way of life that we have been living in for weeks and now months. We can only hope that things will go back to “normal” soon. In the meantime, keep dancing to the degree that works best for you. Don’t forget to take some rest days and remember that dancing is only part of the routine. Make sure that you are taking time to add in extra stretching and conditioning.