Dance and Pilates: They’re Better Together
Pilates has been an important part of my training as a dancer since high school. The reformer was introduced to me by a teacher who wanted me to strengthen my legs and work on alignment. After this first exposure I fell in love with the way I could strengthen in a holistic and low impact way, allowing my body to recover in between classes and rehearsals while still training in my free time. As a dancer with long limbs and relatively slow reflexes, pilates allowed me to finally find the connection of my core to my arms and legs, something that is essential for total body coordination. I saw my balance and control improve which lead to higher leaps, more consecutive turns and better control in slower “adagio” exercises. I was sold, I knew that pilates had to be an essential part of my training and artistry as a dancer. It became so important that I decided to get certified while still in college so that I could share what I have learned about the body and pilates with everyone! Below are just some of the benefits of pilates for dancers and movers who want to improve their craft.
- Core connection and coordination is probably the most important concept that pilates has taught me. Through pilates you learn that the core isn’t just a muscle that flexes, but it actually moves through space and can move your spine and pelvis the way your bicep moves your arm. Understanding that your spine is your ‘fifth limb’ and your pelvis is the steering wheel in your body is essential for dancers. For years my teachers would shout ‘use your abs’ and I never understood what they meant, but pilates showed me how!
- Injury management and prevention is another benefit of pilates training. Dance is a difficult and demanding art form that takes a toll on your body. It asks us to defy gravity and logic, and repeated stress on the joints can lead to injury. When you’re coming back from a surgery or time off recovery can seem daunting and full of potential re-injury. Pilates is an excellent way to strengthen in a low impact way and slowly ease back into movement. Through increased range of motion and improvement of muscle plasticity pilates can prevent injury and leave you stronger than you were pre-injury.
- Relaxation and awareness, something we could all use a little bit more of in our lives. When I first lie down on the reformer during class, that is my ‘me’ time to check in with my body and scan myself for unnecessary tension or misalignment. Dancers are notorious for being multitaskers, perfectionists and pleasers; and the stress that we hold from all of these self-imposed expectations is evident in our bodies. Pilates asks you to breathe through each movement, to meet yourself where you are today and work with your body as it is. Having time away from the highly competitive dance world while still doing something for yourself as an artist is truly invaluable.
Pilates can do amazing things for your technique and reshape how your body works, and these benefits truly can apply to dancers at all stages of their career. Whether you’re just beginning your serious training or you’ve danced for years and are coming back from hip replacement surgery, pilates can help you find freedom and power in your movement. Dance is an art form with a fleeting window of opportunity in our lives; one day you’re performing at the top of your game, the next day you’ve torn your ACL and your career is possibly over. Pilates can help slow down the clock and make each minor injury into a challenge for you to overcome and get stronger from, preventing bigger injuries down the line. Even if you have left your dreams of dance behind, pilates can make you feel like you’re dancing again. So come dance with me on the reformer at Reforming Indy and see what pilates can do for you!