As we wrap up the summer and head into our new season of dance, you might be faced with a brand new team filled with varying levels of dancers.
Whether you lost a bunch of seniors or you have a huge incoming freshman class, it’s important that you take the time to bridge the gap between different levels now — before you start competing.
What you might notice most is that your oldest dancers have the ability to connect their minds to their muscles and their muscles to their movements. That means they understand which muscles to use for a specific skill and when.
Because of older dancers’ mind-muscle awareness, they fix corrections a little bit faster than your younger dancers. So when you give your team new skills, older dancers seem to be in more control of their bodies. And that’s the biggest difference.
Your younger dancers, on the other hand, are growing fast. Some of them may have just gone through a recent growth spurt so finding stability and control is already hard enough. Then you ask them to stabilize their bodies and have control while jumping or rotating and it’s almost impossible to get everyone to look the same.
💥Here’s what you can do to bridge the level gap for your new dance team.
Core and Glute Strength
If you’ve been around Dancer-Fitness for a while, you know that I love to focus on the core and glutes. These two major muscle groups are key to your dancers developing power and control in their skills to bridge the gap in your team’s skill levels.
All of your dancers need to understand how to control separate areas of the body at the same time.
Do the 4 exercises below as a warm up in your next practice. They’ll help younger dancers understand how to engage their core and glutes so they level up, and you’ll bridge the gap in skills as a team in no time.
Do each exercise with your dancers for 40 seconds or 12-20 repetitions, 2 or 3 times before your next class.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent, both feet flat on the floor, arms relaxed at your sides, and palms facing the floor.
- Raise both knees to a 90° angle so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your calves are parallel to the ground.
- Straighten your left leg as you extend your right arm above your head, and touch your right knee with your left hand.
- Then switch so your right hand touches your bent left knee and your right leg is extended straight.
- Alternate opposite sides for 40 seconds.
Remember not to let your dancers rest their extended leg on the floor. Encourage them to press their lower back into the floor and use their hips and core to hold their leg a couple of inches off of the floor.
If dancers’ backs start to arch, creating a space between their back and the floor, have them bring their extended leg a little higher off of the ground to relieve any strain on their back.
- Begin by getting on your hands and knees on the floor. Your arms should be straight supporting your body, hands directly under the shoulders, and legs at a 90° angle, with your shins and the tops of your feet on the floor.
- Lift your right knee and bring it forward, toward your right elbow.
- Keep your knee at a 90° angle and rotate your leg as close to hip height as possible. Your outer leg should be facing the ceiling.
- Finish your glute circle by slightly moving your leg back and return to your starting position, to complete the entire circle with your knee.
- Repeat your glute circles on the right side for 40 seconds. Then repeat on the left side.
This is a continuous motion with the goal of hitting each point — the knee to the elbow, to the outer leg facing the ceiling, then back and to the starting position. Try to keep your hips square, your belly button tucked in, and your back flat. Soon you’ll feel it in your butt cheek.
Upper Body and Stability
The next two exercises help dancers improve stability on one leg and learn how it feels to work their upper and lower body at the same time. These exercises help your dancers develop the mind muscle awareness they need when doing the most simple skills, like a single pirouette.
- Start in your plank position on your forearms and toes.
- Straighten your right arm and use your right hand to support your body as you straighten your left arm. Now you’re in your plank on your hands and knees.
- Do one push. Bend both elbows at the same time, then straighten your arms. Finish your push up in your plank position on your hands and knees.
- Put your weight on your left arm to support your body as you bend your right arm and transition your weight to your right forearm, on the floor.
- Use your right forearm, on the floor, to support your body as you bend your left arm. Your left forearm should help support your plank on your knees and forearms.
- Repeat this exercise for 40 seconds or 12-20 repetitions. And repeat on the other side.
Make sure dancers keep their belly button tucked back toward their spine so their back doesn’t start dipping. The constant movement in this exercise teaches your dancers how to keep their bodies stable when they move during a routine. So be sure that their hips stay in place as much as possible during this exercise.
- Let’s start by standing with your arms relaxed at your sides. Move your right leg behind you into a lunge. Both legs should be at a 90° angle, arms straight at your sides.
- Use your right toes to push yourself off of the floor. Extend your arms above your head and lift your right leg as high as you can behind you, creating a straight line from your fingertips to your right toes, facing the floor. Your left leg is your straight, supporting leg. Your body should look like a T shape.
- Place both hands on the floor and keep your right leg lifted.
- Now do a fondu. Plié with your left leg and bend your right leg into a coup de pie to the back, at the same time.
- Then straighten both legs at the same time, lifting your right leg back to an arabesque-like extension.
- Repeat as many fondus as you can in 40 seconds.
Your dancers will definitely feel this in their supporting leg and in the glutes. Combo single leg focuses on stability and glute strength. So remind your dancers to lift the back leg as high as they can and to take their time on their fondus for the biggest impact.
Level Up Your Dancers
It’s frustrating when your dancers don’t look like a unified team because of different ages and skill levels. But it’s totally possible to bridge the gap in your new dance team.
Focus on strengthening the core and the glutes so all of your dancers are able to move with stability and control in any skill you give them.