Leaping into a barrel jump, I spiral to the floor and recover with a pitch turn, finishing in an arabesque. The music stops. Sweat trickles in my eyes as the rehearsal director nods his head announcing rehearsal is over. Quickly throwing on a coverup, I take the cross town bus to the Pilates studio. While I sit on the NYC bus, I think about keeping myself strong, lean, compliant, flexible, and more importantly – injury free. Yes, it takes work. But, Pilates enhances athletic performance! And, I want to be my personal best.
Do you desire to be your best and have an edge over other dancers? Be an intelligent dancer. As a dancer, you must have knowledge of the body and respect for it. You must invest in yourself and your artistry. I was invited to join one of the top three dance companies in the world and it wasn’t because I didn’t do extra body work outside the studio. I worked hard inside and outside the studio. This included a Pilates regime, which I kept throughout my twenty year professional dance career.
Observing legendary dancers on and off the stage, I learned the good and bad of dance habits. Baryshnikov taught me good warm-up habits, while choosing the right instructors I learned from my mentor. Just because someone is a good dancer or has been trained in a famous school doesn’t mean they are a good instructor who understands how the body truly works. Pilates gives you the knowledge of understanding the mechanics of the physical body. Using this information will help you choose appropriate instructors who will help you advance your career in a healthy manner.
Your body is your only instrument; keeping it fine tuned, injury-free, and supple is a must. What does ‘pull your tummy in’ really mean (hint: you really don’t want to pull it ‘in’)? Being a dancer requires extremely strong abdominals. You cannot dance well without them. Pilates helps strengthen abdominal muscles as well as teaches you how to truly use them. Benefits? Spinal stabilization and correct anatomical posture. This leads to improved range of movement. Think greater leg extension and higher leaps.
Dancers who take Pilates notice a significant difference in not only their dancing (which is markedly better because their body is properly aligned), but in how their body feels before, during, and after class. They also notice their injuries go from consistent to nonexistent. Pilates is many things, one being isotonic. Since it incorporates spring resistance training, it can support movements around an injured area. This offers sup- port and the opportunity to rebalance the musculature. Not only is Pilates a fantastic rehabilitation practice, but it helps prevent injuries as well as strengthens and conditions the body.
Dancers who employ a Pilates practice are overall technically better dancers with extended careers. Through Pilates you will see how open and fine tuned your body, and by extension, your movement becomes. It is up to you to become the best intelligent dancer you can be.