You know it's essential to cross-train outside the studio as a teacher. "The only times I've had major injuries have been when I'm teaching," says Michele Miller, a Pilates instructor, veteran movement teacher and professor of dance at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. "I think when I'm teaching class, I'm not in my own body the same way. I'm not paying attention to me; I'm paying attention to my students."

She relies on Pilates to keep her whole body strong and safe in the studio. But even with her workout routine, she notices areas of weakness. "When I teach my modern class, I tend to do everything starting on the right side, and I noticed it felt like my pelvis was getting a little twisted in one direction," she says. She began alternating which side she demonstrated first, and it evened out.

Miller isn't alone—specific muscles tend to go undertrained or forgotten in teachers' daily studio routines. Paying particular attention to these parts of your body could be the key to increased strength or even pain-free days at the barre.


Core

Miller and several of her teaching colleagues at Cornish suffer from lower-back pain, which she says is likely linked to core control and core strength. Most teachers aren't dancing with their whole bodies while they demonstrate. That means you have to do more for yourself outside of class to make up for it. "Instead of feeling my back, arms and legs in tendu exercises, I'm focusing on my legs, because that's what I'm talking to [the students] about," she says. "When I do [Pilates] mat, it helps my back not hurt. Core work a couple times a week definitely helps. That probably means my core is something I tend to neglect when I'm teaching regularly."

Psoas

Connecting the femur to the lumbar vertebrae, the iliopsoas are the strongest hip flexors (and also part of your core muscles). In addition to helping with walking, running and high leg extensions, they support the lower back and help you sit up straight. They're one of Miller's "favorite muscles," because stretching and strengthening them (Pilates class is the best way, she says) can help be a less-than-obvious way to relieve lower-back pain and keep you demonstrating extensions front, side and back. Plus, she says, using the psoas correctly encourages pelvic floor engagement. (See sidebar for an easy psoas-strengthening exercise.)

Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor, or the sheet of muscles that is the undercarriage of your pelvis, holds in place organs like the bladder, rectum and, in women, the uterus and vagina. It also maintains bowel control and sexual function. It can be easy to overlook as a possible source of pain or discomfort, especially after having a baby, according to certified strength and conditioning specialist Lauren Saglimbene. "Teachers don't take into account life circumstances and events that will change our bodies," she says. "Tissues become less pliable. Giving birth can affect how pelvic floor muscles work."

If you suspect a pelvic floor issue—aching or discomfort in your pelvic floor area, urinary leakage or pressure during pliés—talk to a women's health physical therapist, says Saglimbene. For this overlooked muscle group, it's best not to dive into a pelvic floor–strengthening regimen on your own, she warns, because pelvic floor issues vary, from uterine prolapse, which may not be curable with strengthening alone, to muscles being overly tense or underdeveloped.

Lats

There isn't much specific training for the latissimus dorsi muscles in dance. If you're holding a correct second position in your arms, they should engage, but for the most part, your lats won't get much work.

These large triangular muscles run from the armpits across the mid-back to connect with the lower half of the spine. They help with rotating the torso, as well as posture and how you carry yourself. Saglimbene recommends directly training the lats with pull-downs, either using gym equipment or a resistance band over a door, or pull-ups or chin-ups. Swimming the crawl also activates the lats with every stroke.

Bonus: Bones (not a muscle, but kind of important)

Dance, while requiring anaerobic fitness and great muscle-strength control, often doesn't involve consistent load-bearing beyond jumps and partnering. And while it's good for your joints to avoid overdoing high-impact exercise, some load-bearing is required for bone health. Jump rope or jog if your knees and hips allow it—and if you aren't already suffering from bone loss. Otherwise, a doctor may recommend lower-impact load-bearing activities, like fast walking or using the elliptical. Strength training goes hand in hand with load-bearing for preventing osteoporosis as we age. Saglimbene recommends strength training with free weights two to three times a week. Holding dumbbells puts weight on the spine and engages hands and wrists, while building muscle to support the skeleton.

Show Comments ()
Dance Teachers Trending
Choreographer Andrea Giselle Schermoly, center, demonstrating. Photo by Andrew Yew, courtesy of Schermoly

You might think ballet competitions are all about the dancers—offering them valuable exposure, scholarships and job opportunities. They serve as vehicles for growth, with dancers spending countless hours working to perfect every step they'll take in front of the judges. But these same events have also become a way for choreographers to launch their own careers. The competition work they make helps to refine their voices, and it offers the chance to dive further into the creative process with pre-professional students. DT spoke with five award-winning choreographers about their roles on the ballet competition circuit, and how this unique opportunity has both inspired and elevated their craft.

Keep reading... Show less

Dance education for preschoolers has many benefits. It exercises the whole body and the mind. It also creates a love for dance that develops into a lifetime desire for being fit. If you have the insight to get your preschool age children to love learning dance, you have taken the first step in establishing a core of students who will be with you for years to come. Preschool age is when you cultivate an early love of dance, and that is a major responsibility. Studio owners should always have preschool teachers that are high energy, creative and love children.

Keep reading... Show less
Madi Hicks in Jeff Edwards' ballet class at Juilliard (Kenneth Edwards)

You know what unfortunately goes hand in hand with the greatest time of year? The dreaded cold and flu season. But, never fear—you can stay ahead of the curve this year by keeping your immune system working smoothly before the sniffles set in. We've rounded up our best tips and tricks to help you stay healthy (and dancing!) all season long.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Odyssey Dance Theater on Instagram

Halloween is on the horizon, which means we should all be embracing the spookiest aspects of the season. If you're a dancer (or dance lover), your list of holiday fun should include watching some seriously fabulous Halloween-themed dancing. Whether it's a live show in a city near you, binge watching old Halloween episodes of your favorite television show, or digging into the black hole of dance videos on YouTube, trust us—it's a riot!

Here are three Halloween-themed dance performances you should DEFINITELY check out!

Have a terrifying time!!!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Mastering a fish lift, with Nicholas Mishoe and ADA students Connor Medrow and Renee Shubov. Photo by Sori Gottdenker, courtesy of ADA

What makes someone ready to leave a successful performance career to buy a dance school? For Nicholas and Shayne Mishoe, that turning point came while Nicholas was touring in the Netherlands with the Dutch National Ballet. "Dancing late into the night on a hard stage, getting on a bus and driving a couple hours and doing the whole thing again the next day, for a month—one night, I thought, 'I've had enough of this,'" Nicholas says.

"We train dancers to be accountable for their own dancing," says Shayne Mishoe. Photo by Sori Gottdenker, courtesy of ADA

"The life we were living didn't feel sustainable long-term," adds Shayne, who was performing on a project basis in Amsterdam, while also teaching ballet, Pilates and Gyrotonic. Operating their own school had always been their dream, and after Nicholas' bus tour through Holland, the stars aligned. Shayne knew that the founder of her childhood studio in New Jersey, where her mother has also taught since the early 1990s, had been thinking about selling. She and Nicholas talked it out, made the phone call and set the plan into motion.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

As much as we wish otherwise, bullying is something all dance teachers have to deal with at some point in their career. Unfortunately, it just seems to come with the growing pains of aspiring artists (sigh 🙄).

Because it's such a tricky thing to manage, we reached out to dance teachers on Facebook to see how they choose to handle unkindness at their studios.

Check out what these three teachers had to say, and let us know the things you do at your studio to stop bullying in our comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What do you do when a dancer shuts down because of a correction?

Keep reading... Show less
via capezio.com

As of today, there are only 13 nights until the spoOoOokiest evening of the year—and just 1 week left, if you're planning to dress up over Halloweekend. Do you have your costume(s) yet?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Thinkstock

Just like foodies pursue their favorite taco trucks, dance lovers can track beloved choreographers and teachers through pop-up events advertised on social media.

"I've stopped thinking of myself as a starving artist," says Natalia Roberts, a Brooklyn-based dancer who has almost 5,000 followers on Instagram. "I am my own business."

Through Instagram posts, Roberts, who has a background in fitness and architecture, chooses off-beat locations to showcase site-specific choreography for events, like this gallery opening at Long Island City's Cigar Factory. Her strong web presence operates as a 24-hour business card cultivating the element of surprise.

Pop-ups rely on the delight of being in the right place at the right time. Such flashes of intrigue have changed the way consumers engage with products and services, according to "How Pop-Ups Took Over America's Restaurants." Because dance itself is built on impermanence, many artists embrace fleeting moments to market themselves on the web.

Below are five suggestions to get you onboard the pop-up train.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

For decades dance teachers have worked tirelessly to get their dancers to look cohesive onstage. From perfectly matched costumes, to the exact brand and style of footUndeez, to buns that are all parted on the exact same side (the bane of my existence), you people know how to get your kids to look uniform. And when it comes to getting your dancers' makeup to match, your attention to detail is no different. You have each spent hours with parents teaching them how to apply it so that it looks just the way you want it to.

Those are precious hours you could have used cleaning choreography or correcting a student's arabesque. Am I right? Thankfully, the internet has come to the rescue and created YouTube tutorials that you can send out to your dancers' parents so you don't have to spend unnecessary time on it. They can even watch the video each time they do their makeup to make sure they get it just right! Heaven bless modern day technology.

Scour YouTube to find the look that fits your studio. Here are three clips we think are great for the stage!

You're welcome, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Thinkstock

Cary-Grove Performing Arts Centre co-owner Amy Krigas instituted a pointsbased loyalty program when she opened her Cary, Illinois, studio 20 years ago. "I don't give scholarships to boys for free. I don't give sibling or multiclass discounts," she says.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored