Even though school and studio classes are still in full swing, it’s never too early to start preparing for the summer dance season. Many dancers have already chosen a dance program for the summer. Summer dance programs come in many shapes and sizes in terms of intensity, duration, location (close to home vs. out of state), style(s) of dance, hours, and teachers. However, every summer program has one thing in common – it’s a change from your normal routine.
Whenever you have a change in your routine, your body is always at an increased risk for injury. The body adapts amazingly well, but when there is change there is also opportunity for injury. Not to discourage summer program participation, on the contrary. Summer programs can be valuable in so many ways, in meeting new people, trying new styles of dance, advancing technique, promoting your career, and so much more. There are many reasons to participate in a program this summer. However while you are dancing at a summer program, stay aware of your body and do your best to decrease your risk of injury.
The most important part of surviving your summer program is to warm up appropriately. Make sure to avoid the extremes of warm up – either not warming enough, or overdoing your warm up. This is important for both the dancers and the teachers in summer programs. Warm up is essential in dancing and is even more important when you’re asking your body to perform new movements. You might need to tailor your warm up for each different style, but it is also good to remind your body of some basics. Also, we all have a tendency to want to “show off,” especially around a new group. Make sure you’re not pushing your extension or movement too far before you are really warm.
While cross training is essential for longevity in dance, it needs to be tailored for your summer program. If your summer program is more intense, or more hours, than you usually dance, choose a few cross training items (planks, pushups, therapy exercises, etc) and focus on those. Alternatively, if your summer program is shorter in duration, or at a more relaxed pace, then it might be the best time to try some new cross training activities (swimming, elliptical, Pilates, barre work out, etc). Of course, if you are taking the summer off of dancing, this is the perfect time to try out some new movements and activities. However, just because you are a good dancer, doesn’t mean your body automatically knows how to do Pilates (or any other new activity). Be patient and enjoy learning a new movement pattern. Planning ahead is key for surviving a summer program, so know your summer dance schedule and plan your cross training ahead of time.
Don’t forget to get enough sleep! Summer is almost always a time where your sleep changes schedule. Whether you are participating in a summer program near home or far away, it’s important to get enough sleep at night. Sometimes getting enough sleep is easier over the summer without some of the school demands, but often it can be harder because you are in a different routine. Injuries are much more common when you are fatigued. This can happen at the end of a long day of dancing and/or because of lack of sleep. Balance pushing yourself with attending to your body’s fatigue level.
Most of all, have fun! Dance is supposed to be fun, and your summer program should challenge you as well as give you a new perspective on your art.
Summer Program Do’s and Don’ts:
- DO push yourself / DON’T forget to rest your body
- DO cross-training / DON’T over-extend your body before you are warmed up
- DO drink plenty of water / DON’T eat too much junk food
- DO make new friends / DON’T hurt someone’s feelings
- DO try new things / DON’T neglect your technique
- DO have fun!
by: Dr. Kathleen L. Davenport, M.D.