Everyone wants to stay faithful to any exercise class they have paid for, and subsequently, committed, to attend. That can only be possible by remaining injury-free. When taking a dance class with a group, one of the things that is quickly noticed, is that dancers really do warm-up and stretch their limbs, for a fairly long time, before they proceed to more serious exercise!
They do this before beginning any type of work-out dance class or dance routine, especially one that is going to over-extend their legs, feet, or cause stress on their joints, such as when they are jumping or turning. Think about how runners always stretch, before taking off on that 3-mile run, and this helps prevent injuries for them.
Even though someone looking at a typical ballet class might suspect the dancers are not really working that hard, but they actually are working every muscle in their legs, arms, and many of the muscles around their waists and backs.
Oftentimes, dancers begin by warming up and stretching their feet, by standing flat-footed, and bending the ankles, and lifting the foot up from the heel, and then lowering it back down. Pulling up the feet and toes, and standing on the heels, and then rotating feet out and placing them back on the ground is another great warm-up for the feet and ankles.
The Achilles tendon in the back of the ankle, does not need to be stretched so far that it tears, but warming up this area will improve the dancer’s demi-plies’ and help with strength in their ankles, which will help with leaps and turns.
Ballet classes generally begin at the barre’, and once the dancer has gone through a series of moves, the instructor will usually allow them to stretch their leg up on the barre. After all those degages and grand battements, these long, slow stretches feel so good! Moving to center work, without the support of a barre, allows the dancer to continue warming up those over-used muscles, and stretching them, allowing the dancer to achieve better form and posture.
In between classes, the dancer should do some stretches at home. A typical runners stretch, a “downward dog” pose from yoga, and simply lying on your back and lifting the legs over the body, are all good ways to stretch out those often too-tight hamstrings. Warmed up muscles stretch better, and allow the dancer to perform at their best level, and improve without injury.