Health & Body

How to Help Your Students Choose the Right Cross-Training Routine

Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.


What's missing from your students' dance training?

Cross-training helps develop versatility. "I think with dancers it's a little trickier than some other athletes, because what dancers do tends to be versatile already. However, there are generally still holes, which depend on the kind of dance someone is doing." Grubb cites upper-body strength, aerobic capacity and the ability to move dynamically through space as areas for dancers that cross-training can improve.

Upper-body exercises like this push-up series are great for strength-training.

Will this type of exercise fill in the holes?

Consider the physical requirements of your students' dancing. Will they need to be able to change directions on a dime? Do they need more strength for lifts? "I'm not a fan of classes that do 50 to 200 repetitions of the same exercise targeting a small muscle group," says Grubb. "You have to ask yourself, 'Is this going to help me move the way that I want to move?'" While many repetitions of a concentrated exercise will help build strength in a specific area, they may not help with full-bodied coordination.

To perform this piece with AXIS Dance Company in 2012, Grubb had to have significant upper-body strength. Cross-training helped him prepare.

Is it fun?

Cross-training is only beneficial if the dancer actually does it, and the likelihood that they'll stick with it goes up exponentially if they're having fun. "I encourage people to look for cross-training modes that feel like play, because they're going to be challenged creatively while expanding their adaptability and responsiveness, learning skills and enjoying themselves," says Grubb. "If you're doing something a lot in the name of being physically balanced, it should be fun for you."

If you're stumped on how to begin cross-training, talk to a certified fitness trainer who has worked with dancers.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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