Dancing can be a great way to release stress and tension. However, it may not always be easy for some people to dance without feeling stiff and awkward.
Stiffness can be caused by poor posture and not enough muscle tone, or it could indicate that you lack confidence in your dancing abilities.
Stretch Your Thigh Muscles
If you find yourself feeling stiff while dancing, it could be due to tight thigh muscles. Tight muscles can increase the risk of injury and restrict movement; stretching these muscles before and after dance lessons is an effective way to combat this issue.
Your thigh muscles are responsible for moving your legs out to the sides, opening up your thighs and stabilizing your pelvis. They also offer support and alignment for your knees.
To increase thigh flexibility, start with static stretching – this involves placing your body in certain positions that target specific muscles. These stretches will loosen up the mechanical structures of your muscles and increase their range of motion (ROM).
Donna Flagg of Lastics Stretch Technique recommends lunges as an effective way to increase your thigh flexibility. To do a lunge, place your feet shoulder-width apart and step forward with one leg until it bends at ninety degrees.
Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg. This thigh stretch targets quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Though often associated with ballet, hamstring stretching can benefit all dance styles. A proper hamstring stretch works the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which work together on your calf when performing releves or jumps.
Another source of tightness in the thigh is the IT band, a large fascia running along its length from hip to knee. This muscle can become stiff from repetitive motions of the thigh and high impact dancing.
Maintaining flexibility in the ankle-tibia region is vital for dancers. This muscle helps control the direction of your ankle and toes when you point them, so it’s essential that dancers keep this muscle strong.
An effective stretch for the ITB is to stand near a wall and hold onto your ankle with one hand. Pull it up and back until you feel an immediate stretch in the front of your thigh.
Alternately, you can lie on your back with bent knees and place one foot on the opposite knee. Hugging one thigh toward your chest will provide a nice stretch. For an even deeper stretch, rotate your legs until you feel good stretch in the rear of your thigh.
Do Contra-Body Movement
Many experience stiffness when dancing. Whether you are new to the art or have been practicing for some time, it is easy to develop a tight body that doesn’t allow for fluid motion. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it may also give off an unnatural and robotic appearance.
To prevent this, it’s beneficial to practice doing contra-body movement when performing your dance steps. This technique teaches your body how to shape in opposite directions so that your hips and shoulders can move without becoming rigid.
Begin by placing your right foot behind your left and rotating both shoulders and core so that your hips point towards the other side (left). Exaggerate this rotation for a moment to get used to it, then decrease it back down to an average amount of contra-body rotation.
Another technique for contra-body movement is performing triples with your feet in different positions. As you perform these moves, rotate your shoulders and core in the opposite direction from where your feet move.
Once you’ve mastered this drill, try doing it when performing a turn. For instance, when performing a right closed change in the Modern Waltz, step forward with your right foot and then lower into your left knee; feel as if your right side comes forward as your foot moves.
Finally, as you lower your left foot back into its original position, rotate your left side slightly forward. You will know you have done this correctly when your hips and shoulders turn towards the moving foot.
Contra Body Movement Position, or CBMP, should be utilized for all moves to give off a more organic aesthetic.
You can practice doing this by taking a quick warm-up before beginning to dance. This will help avoid injury and improve your flexibility. During your warm-up, also perform push-ups to strengthen your core so that your muscles are ready for more intense dance movements. Finally, stretching after the warm-up will reduce overall body stiffness and make dancing more comfortable for you.
Avoid Overextending Your Elbows and Knees
No matter if you’re dancing for fun or professionally, staying flexible and injury-free is essential. This is especially true when performing difficult moves in a dance routine. Fortunately, there are several tips that can help prevent stiffness and injuries during your exercises.
One of the best ways to keep your limbs flexible is by avoiding overextension of your elbows and knees, known as hyperextension. This can have detrimental effects on both health and performance for your body.
To determine if you have hyperextension, stand in front of a mirror and observe how your elbow and knee joints move. Ideally, these should not move more than 180 degrees angle.
Though hyperextended elbows and knees are not uncommon, it’s wise to check that you don’t experience this issue while performing. Doing so could cause a great deal of pain and discomfort during performances.
If you tend to hyperextension, it’s time for a regular regimen of awareness and muscle control exercises. These will improve your stance, balance, joint rotation and control.
In addition to stretching, you should also engage in other exercises that will increase your flexibility. These could include strength training, balance drills and yoga.
Utilizing proper techniques can help you avoid overextending your elbows and knees during routines, so that you can dance with comfort and ease. While these exercises may take some effort and practice to master, the rewards will be immense! Don’t forget to check out our other helpful tips on having a flexible thigh and how not to be stiff when dancing!
If you want to avoid feeling stiff while dancing, it’s essential to breathe properly. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, many dancers – both beginners and advanced – tend to hold their breath when performing.
Breathing is an essential element of dance technique and essential for maintaining high levels of stamina. Unfortunately, many dancers lack the capacity to control their breathing effectively enough to perform at their best.
Breathing properly while dancing begins by paying attention to your breathing rhythm. This could be as easy as resting one hand on each chest and abdomen, allowing your ribs to expand as you inhale.
Over time, you’ll become used to this new way of breathing. While it may be distracting at first, over time you will discover that it makes a significant difference in your ability to dance with maximum intensity.
Another way to breathe effectively while dancing is keeping your body centered on the floor. According to Susan Molnar, director of the Center for Movement Arts in New York City, directing your breath toward your back rib cage can help stabilize your spine and increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).
By practicing proper breathing techniques, you’ll be able to maintain a high level of energy while performing and help yourself stay injury-free. This is especially essential when performing in high-energy situations such as dance performances.
Staggering your breaths can be beneficial when dancing to a fast-paced song that requires lots of energy.
For those struggling with breath control, adding yoga exercises into their routine can be a beneficial start. Yoga works the diaphragm and strengthens abdominal muscles, so it also helps you improve breathing technique.
Dance Spirit Magazine suggests practicing nose breathing is a beneficial practice if you’re having trouble breathing deeply while dancing. This method is deeper, slower and allows more oxygen to reach the lower lobes of your lungs; additionally, it will calm you down and slow down your racing heart while replenishing both brain and muscles with oxygen.