Whether dancing to classical, modern, jazz or hip-hop music, dancers require a tremendous amount of strength and flexibility to bring the music to life through their bodies. Although your daily life may not require you to lift your leg toward the sky or bend over backward, dance stretches to increase flexibility can help you avoid injury in your regular activities.
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1. Butterfly Dance Stretches
Include the butterfly stretch in your list of stretches for dancers to elongate the muscles in the groin and inner thigh.
HOW TO DO IT: Initiate the stretch by sitting on the floor with your feet flat against the ground. Allow your knees to fall to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. Pull your heels as close to your groin as possible without causing discomfort. Keeping your back straight, gently bounce your knees up and down to loosen the muscles. Continue the bouncing motion for eight to 10 seconds. Then, use your elbows to gently press your knees toward the ground for another eight to 10 seconds.
After practicing this stretch regularly, you should notice that your increased flexibility allows you to press your knees easily to the ground.
2. Ceiling and Toe Touch
The combination of movements used in this common dance stretch provides an effective stretch for the back, sides, arms and legs — an efficient way to incorporate flexibility exercises for dancers.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Reach your arms to the ceiling with your fingers extended and palms facing one another. Stretch your left side by pressing the left arm toward the ceiling for five to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Then, extend both arms in front of you. Keeping your back straight, hinge forward at the waist and reach for your toes. Go as far as comfortable possible and hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.
Toe touches can be performed in both a sitting and standing position. The standing version tends to be slightly more dangerous than the seated stretch, because it places greater stress on your knees and lower back.
3. Kneeling Quad Stretch
The kneeling quadriceps stretch not only improves flexibility along your inner thigh and hamstrings, but also prevents injury to the entire upper leg.
HOW TO DO IT: Kneel on the ground. Carefully bring your left foot out in front of you and place it flat against the ground. Your left leg should have a 90-degree angle at the knee. Keeping your back straight, gently push your hips toward your left leg. You should feel a good stretch in your right quadriceps and left hamstring. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds before repeating on the other side. If necessary, hold onto a low table or chair for balance.
4. Stretch Your Arms
When thinking of a dancer's flexibility, most people only consider flexibility in the legs, waist and back, but dancers must also have tremendous flexibility in the shoulders and arms. Include the overhead triceps stretch in your dance stretches.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin the shoulder stretch by interlocking your fingers and rotating your wrists so that your palms face away from your body. Gently lift your arms above your head and hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. Return to the starting position and place your left hand behind your head. Grasp your left elbow with your right hand and gently press it down your back as far as comfortably possible. Hold for eight to 10 seconds before repeating on the other side.