The absolute first thing I hear when I get off stage after I perform is, “Wow…you’re so petite, but you look so big on stage! How do you do that?!” To be honest, I thought all along it was because I always had to push my way through to the front so that I could be seen at NYC auditions, but over time I realized it was something totally different.
But before I go further I wanted to ask you this…
You know that moment after a conference or hafla, when you get that email with the link of your dance performance, and rush to your computer to watch it?
I sure do.
You then watch the entire video and it’s like, womp womp! You’re like, dang I forgot that move or moved too soon on this move, yada, yada. But what you notice even more is your lack of energy in hitting the moves – especially in your drum solo.
So, you do what you always do… go home and work on those specific moves or that routine over and over, and over again.
And then you think you’re doing the right thing by rerunning and rerunning, only to find out, womp womp – you see just a slight improvement. So, you thought what you were doing was working, but only to an extent. (sorry to burst your bubble.)
As a dancer, a spectator of dance, and a judge of bellydance competitions, the 2 things that stand out to me in a performance are sharpness of movements and the execution of skills. And rerunning your routine will only get you so far.
Strength training makes the difference that simply drilling your skills cannot. You must cross train with weights, your own body weight and by doing other movements besides dance. Your body needs to both get strong and work in different ways. And even better..it’s how you prevent injury!
So, the reason your skills aren’t improving is because you haven’t addressed the muscles that are giving you the weakness in your skills. In order to significantly change how you perform so that you can hit your moves harder, have sharper turns, and have more control over each move, you need a stronger core, back, and upper body.
Now why upper body strength, you may ask?
Your shoulders down to your hips is your trunk, and if that’s strong, you are more stable. Then you’ll be able to move your arms and legs more quickly so that you can wow your audience.
Now, do you have to do hour-long strength workouts in place of your dance practice?
You only need to add a few minutes to your dance practice with specific movements that will target those muscles.
Below are traditional fitness, (not dance!) upper body and core exercises (with videos linked) for sharpening your skills and execution. I suggest you start with 2x per week and every week you add two more repetitions so that you can see and feel the results.
Here’s how to do it:
- Tie the band around a stable object. Place your hand on it and position yourself so that the band is stretched and your arm extended in front of you.
- Bend your elbow directly behind you, as far back as possible. You should feel resistance from your band.
- Return to your starting position by straightening your right arm in front of your body.
- Do 20 rows total with your right arm. Then repeat on the left side.
Reminder to keep your elbows close to your body as you do each row. It should feel as if you’re squeezing your shoulder blades together. This is key to working the back muscles, so your movements can be sharp and clean.
Here’s how to do it:
- Get into a basic plank position with your weight resting on your toes and forearms. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- With control, rock your body forward and back so your body moves up, over your hands, and back to your starting position. That’s for your triceps (arms).
- Now, the plank jack. Use your core, arms, and toes to jump and lift your body a few inches into the air. While you’re in the air, move your feet further apart. When you land, your feet should be wider than when you started.
- Use your core, arms, and toes to lift yourself off the ground and bring your feet closer together. When you land, you should be in the plank position that you started in.
- You’ve completed one tricep plank jack!
- Do 12 tricep plank jacks total, and you’re done.
Think of this exercise as a jumping jack, but you’re facing the floor in a plank. It’s the same type of movement, but since your arms support your entire body, it works your core and arms too. I love this one because it’s effective in strengthening multiple areas at the same time. Be sure to pull your belly button into your spine to help keep correct alignment throughout this exercise. Option: Instead of doing a jack you can walk your feet out.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place your hands shoulder width apart on the band, have the band taut, and extend your arms straight above your head.
- Pull your hands away so that the band stretches and there is a slight bend in the elbow.
- Bring the hand back up above the head while keeping the band taut.
- Do 20 lat pull-downs or as many as you can for 30-40 seconds.
To feel the lats really work, squeeze your shoulder blades together when you bend your elbows. The lat muscles cover your mid to low back, connecting your upper arms to your hips and back. When your lats are strong, it’s easier to move and extend your arms for quick, clean, and precise movements.
So peeps…now it’s not a mystery on how to nail your skills and nail your performance every time. It’s just a matter of working those muscle groups to help you with those specific movements.
It’s that simple. And YOU have to decide if you want it. Let me make it easy for you. At the SharQui Virtual Studio we offer a class called Dance Strong and we’d love for you to try it! Not only can you take it LIVE but you get the replays for the month so that you can do it over, and over, and over again. Join us for only $5 your first week here.