Dancer Health
Nikki Calonge at Jaya Yoga Center in Brooklyn. Photo by Rachel Papo

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously asserted "Life is flux." Dancers most certainly know this to be true. Whether they are early in their training or seasoned professionals, change is your students' persistent companion. Dancers must nimbly adjust to shifting expectations, choreography and opportunities, as well as to transformation within their very own bodies, the instrument of their art. Physical change occurs, for example, as young dancers come into physical maturity and as adult dancers meet the natural process of aging. Dancers of any age may face change in their bodies due to injury.

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Dance Teacher Tips
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The pressure young dancers feel to succeed at competition can lead to unhealthy stress levels that take the fun out of performing. To help your students feel calm, cool and collected before dancing, teach them these three stress-reducing exercises to do before going onstage.

Trust us, learning how to manage anxiety will benefit your dancers for the rest of their lives!

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Jay Sullivan Photography, courtesy Julie Granger

Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).

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Dancer Health
Perri noticed after one or two classes how it completely changed the way she was dancing. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Guess what, dance teachers. Today is the third annual International Yoga Day. In honor of the event, a special free yoga and meditation session will be held at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, NYC, 5–8:30 pm. To register, click here. The first 500 participants get a free yoga mat!

For those of you not in the greater NYC area, take a look at how NYU professor TaraMarie Perri teaches yoga for dancers.

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Biking develops strength in the quadriceps and glutes. Working at a lower resistance will enable dancers to avoid building bulky muscles.

An elliptical gives you an intense cardio workout without the impact on your joints. Adjustments to the incline and resistance can add variety to the workout.

Pilates stabilizes the core and targets specific muscle groups for increased strength and flexibility.

Swimming’s gravity-free environment allows you to build strength and endurance without putting pressure on the joints.

Yoga helps elongate muscles while strengthening them, and can be especially helpful for developing stability in the muscles of the feet.

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Back in the day, dancers often studied a single technique and swore allegiance to one choreographer. Now, dancers typically must handle a much wider range of physical and creative demands. One way to gain the mental and physical resilience their careers require is through the practice of yoga.

Yoga classes that incorporate all aspects of the practice, from philosophy and breath work to poses and meditation, have the most to offer. A good class will balance internal and external rotation in the hips and shoulders, stability with mobility in the torso and even the exhale of breath with the inhale. Perhaps most helpful of all, yoga draws us into the present moment, settling our attention so that the mind can begin to quiet. Students are encouraged to work from the inside out; to let go of attachment to specific shapes and tune in to the felt experience of each pose. By freeing dancers from fixating on the mirror, yoga can deepen a dancer's kinesthetic intelligence and depth as a performer.

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a dancer who hasn’t taken yoga to supplement her training. Many don’t realize, however, that B.K.S. Iyengar is to thank for the Eastern practice’s proliferation in the U.S. The legendary yoga guru died this morning at 95 in Pune, India.

Iyengar began practicing yoga to restore his poor health as a child and went on to develop his own system, notable for its use of props and for breaking down asanas (poses) into digestible steps. He first brought yoga to the U.S. in 1956, and by the early '60s the practice was already growing immensely in popularity. He founded yoga institutes on six continents, including one in Pune. There are now more than 100 Iyengar yoga institutes around the world. His best-selling book, Light on Yoga (1966), has been translated into 17 languages. He practiced asanas well into his 90s. Read more about Iyengar and his influence on the dance world here.

Photo by Raya UD, courtesy of Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York

New Jersey–based yoga enthusiast and teacher Laura Kasperzak uses social media to document her practice and update students on her class schedules. She has recently stumbled into Instagram fame, largely thanks to her daughter’s guest appearances in her yoga photo shoots.

Kasperzak even appeared on “Good Morning America” in a segment on how to turn a social-media presence into business opportunities. "GMA" suggests choosing a specific topic (your favorite dance genre, perhaps?) posting frequently, responding to comments and working your connections. If you’re taking Kasperzak’s example, eye-catching leggings seem to help, too!

Take a look at a few of the mother-daughter pair's most memorable poses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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