8 Ways to Keep Up with Your Dance Training During COVID Lockdownedit
As dancers, the time we spend in class is the best part of our day. When we head into the studio, we can leave all our problems behind for a while and just dance. There are so many different reasons we might come to dance, whether that be to get a workout, make those elusive adult friendships, or to support our mental health. In addition to being a really fun time, putting in all those hours at dance class is great for developing our skills. We all know that if you are looking to improve your technique, consistent training is the key to success – so it can be tough when COVID has us stuck at home. While there’s nothing quite like the amazing energy that comes with getting sweaty together, there are still lots of things we can do to continue to work on our dance skills while we keep our Nova Scotian community safe by staying home. Whether you want to destress, improve your flexibility, or work on your technique, here are 8 ways you can continue your dance training during COVID lockdown here in Halifax.
Dancing requires a ton of strength and stamina! We might neglect working out when the studio is open, preferring to save our energy for class. Since lockdown is keeping us at home, use this opportunity to build up muscle and increase your endurance so you’ll be ready to go when it’s time to head back to training. Try conditioning methods that work well for dancers like Pilates, bodyweight exercises, or High Intensity Interval Training. YouTube is an excellent resource for workout guides – try channels like Move With Nicole and Chloe Ting. If you have the means to, there are many local fitness studios in Halifax providing virtual fitness classes -check out our friends at Move East and R Studios for some great options. Maybe you have some weights laying around and can do some strength training. Going for a run is a great way to maintain your cardio that also gets you out of the house! There are lots of beautiful outdoor trails right here in Halifax – head to Point Pleasant Park or run along the waterfront for some refreshing ocean air.
Get creative – House of Eights community member Hanna @hannamariecochrane uses a mini trampoline (she calls it her Quarantine Trampoline) to burn off excess energy throughout the day.
Did you know that the stretches dancers do during warmup aren’t held long enough to increase flexibility? Static stretching, meaning holding a stretch for at least 15-20 seconds, works to build elasticity and muscle control – both super important for dancers. You can try this easily at home by simply holding the classic stretches you know from warmup for slightly longer. If you want to work on something specific, there are many online resources that can help you do so safely. Working on your splits? Try this tutorial for dancers from HannahMartinRG. Just remember to always get warm with some quick cardio before stretching to prevent injury. Yoga is another great way to improve your flexibility – Yoga With Adriene has a wide range of practices for all experience levels, so you can easily find something to suit your needs. Spending a little bit of time every day will yield the best results, so be patient with yourself!
Most styles of dance have a unique groove that brings their steps to life. Grooves can be challenging to master, especially if your dance background is in styles like ballet or jazz. Don’t lose hope – grooves are all about feeling the music, something every dancer can learn how to do! House of Eights faculty and queen of grooves Carolin @carolin_mateus suggests focusing on just grooves for the entire length of one song every day. You can nod your head, shake your shoulders, circle your hips, or just work on getting some bounce in your knees. It’s a simple and effective way to get your body used to moving with a groovy vibe. Just like stretching, a little bit of time every day adds up quickly!
EDUCATE YOURSELF AND GET INSPIRED
Dance is a universal language. There are so many different styles of dance practiced all over the world, each with a rich history and culture. As dancers, it’s important that we educate ourselves about the styles that we love. Did you know that waacking was born in the Los Angeles 2SLGBTQ+ community in the ‘70s? Or how about the elements of funk styles and their roots in Black American culture? Learning about the history of dance helps us to have a greater respect and appreciation for our art.
YouTube is a great way to get inspired. Explore different styles of dance from all over the world, like India’s bharatanatyam dance, Zaouli from the Ivory Coast, or Ori Tahiti. You can also take advantage of resources like the Hip Hop Dictionary to learn Old, Middle, and New School hip hop the way it’s supposed to be done, and learn the names of the steps. Ebony @ebony_abe, who has taken over 700 classes at House of Eights, suggests following choreographers and dance studios from all over the world on social media. She is a big fan of the unique grooves of South Korean dancers!
Setting goals is so important for dancers. When we’re busy with class every day, it can be hard to find the time to reflect on our strengths and the areas that we want to improve. Take advantage of this time away from the studio to think about what you want to get out of dance and come up with a plan for how to get there. Maybe you’d like to master a double turn, work on your facial expressions, or start creating your own choreography. Clearly defined goals can be broken down into manageable steps – this is a super effective way to focus your efforts and quickly level up your dancing. A great place to start figuring out where you’d like to improve is by watching your own class videos on the House of Eights pCloud. Pay attention to what you do well and look for elements where you tend to find yourself struggling. You can also reach out to your teachers or friends to get an outside perspective – often others notice things about our dancing that we might miss!
Long time House of Eights member Shelby @shelbyravenskyee says she keeps her imagination active by planning future projects. Having something to work toward is a great creative outlet and can help to combat the stress of spending time in lockdown.
Let’s face it – dancers hate taking breaks! For many of us, dance is the best form of stress relief and a big part of our social lives. Having to spend any time away can be really difficult, so we’ll often push through fatigue or even injury when it might be better to get some rest. Take advantage of the forced break from classes by letting yourself have some extra rest days during lockdown. Our bodies can only take so much strain before we risk injury, so read a good book or catch up on a favourite show and remember that rest days are a vital part of training. House of Eights regular Alyssa @alyssajuliennee reminds us that slowing down and being gentle with ourselves is especially important during the pandemic, since this is an emotionally exhausting time for everyone. Take some time out to relax and recover, your body will thank you!
CULTIVATE BODY AND BREATH AWARENESS
Learning how to breathe properly is a great way to take your dancing to the next level. Many dancers find ourselves so focused on getting the choreography right that we end up ignoring our breath, or even holding it! Our bodies need a steady flow of oxygen to properly execute steps with energy and full extension, so breathing is very important. Try relearning an old choreography and planning how to breathe most effectively while dancing it. Yoga is another great way to practice pairing breathe with movement.
Staying fully conscious of where our bodies are in space as we dance is another difficult and important element. Focusing on proprioception (our awareness of our body position) is a great way to improve control when dancing. Tai chi and qi gong are excellent methods for practicing moving with awareness and intention, as are simple balance exercises like standing on one leg with closed eyes. Work on your breathe and body awareness at the same time by trying a guided meditation like this body scan. This has the added benefit of helping to support your mental well-being, something we all need right now!
For many dancers, the hardest part of freestyling is doing it in front of other people! It can be so anxiety-provoking to freestyle in class, which might discourage us from working on this skill. Since we’re all at home, this is a perfect opportunity to practice. Try dancing to music that you love, or if you want an extra challenge, try a style of music that you’ve never danced to before. If you find yourself repeating the same moves every time, try structuring your freestyle session with specific exercises. Think about moving like a particular animal, moving like you’re made of water or fire, moving one body part at a time, or telling a story with your body. Don’t worry about how you look and stay away from the mirror! This is about getting to know your unique style of dance and how things work most naturally in your body. With time and practice, you’ll be able to build up your own movement vocabulary and gain confidence in your freestyle.
Although we’re all looking forward to getting back into the studio as soon as possible, we can still make the most of our time at home and keep up with our dancing. You may even find the extra time spent finding new and creative ways to train makes you a stronger dancer. We will get through this! Our community at House of Eights can’t wait to dance together again. See you soon Halifax!
About the Author:
Gabrielle Greener has been dancing at House of Eights since it first opened in January 2019! She is part of the House of Eights Training Program as well as the Work Study Program, and is excited to share her experiences on our blog. Fun Fact: She was the first person to take over 100 classes at House of Eights, and has now taken over 750 classes in just two years!