How COVID Brought Back a Key Component to Better Training
by Brittany Cohen
I had never seen such a pause in the dance world as I did in March of 2020. In the middle of performance season, dance training had taken on a whole new look. Young dancers began expanding their training and performing to new locations beyond the dance stage and the studio. Before our new normal for the dance experience emerged, dancers were stuck in a moment of pause. It may sound crazy, but this pause could be seen as the greatest reminder of a component in proper training that is often overlooked in our industry: R-E-S-T.
Dancers are athletes that are always "in season". Each time we step into a studio to take a class we are in "performance mode," working hard to execute each movement and develop our abilities. With constant effort and hours of training, dancers can start to plateau in their development, or worse, experience injuries from being overworked. As a young dancer, these were two major struggles I encountered but struggled to overcome. When we look at these issues more closely we can begin to question the true cause and solution. If we aren't reaching our dance goals, do we need to be dancing harder? Do we need more hours of training, classes, or rehearsals? Or can we assess limitations from a new perspective, taking fitness, functionality, and physical preparedness into consideration?
Though commonly overlooked in our highly demanding dance culture, rest is considered to be an integral component of fitness. The Oxford Dictionary defines rest as "an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity". For a dancer, rest time is when the body and mind are able to recover from the fatigue of a demanding dance schedule. "Typical schedules of dancers that include dance classes and rehearsals throughout much of any given day may not be conducive to rest unless dancers purposely ensure they find time for adequate breaks and leisure" (Russell, J. 2013). Rest isn't often included in the common class schedules young dancers experience during the year, making each dancer responsible for their own periods of active resting.
When we are so very focused and passionate about our goals, it can be hard to see rest as a necessity for reaching them. This is where our mindset comes in. I often tell my dancers, "dance smarter, not harder". This simple phrase has become a favorite of mine, one that I wish I knew earlier on in my dance training. When we are taking classes and training but trying harder isn't helping (or it is causing pain or injury), additional hours of coaching or rehearsals may not move us forward. This is the time to pause. In this pause, we can re-assess fitness, movement mechanics, and dancer understanding which forms the basis of any performance development. If there is a limitation in any of these foundational areas, it can be supported with rest and addressed when the body and mind have successfully recovered from fatigue. Rest is an essential factor in supporting the prevention of injury and development of performance ability. For all the struggles we have encountered in the dance community since the onset of the COVID pandemic, I believe that we can overcome and become stronger in our utilization of rest within our dance training.
Russell J. A. (2013). Preventing dance injuries: current perspectives. Open access journal of sports medicine, 4, 199–210.
Are you looking for more resources to help you improve your dance abilities and understanding? Check out the resources created and cultivated just for passionate dancers like you on the BCA Website - link https://www.bcartistry.dance/bca-dancer-resources
Brittany helps you, the passionate young dancer, develop performance abilities and limit injuries so that you can reach your goals on and beyond the stage! A lover of all movement, Brittany received her Masters in Dance Education from Rutgers University and graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with her B.F.A. in Dance Performance. Brittany is also a Certified Human Movement Specialist and a Yoga Therapeutics Instructor, using her knowledge for research in the support of safe practices in the development of dance abilties. She has inspired and supported young dancers through her work with BC Artistry LLC, offering personalized and comprehensive education, training, and consultation. Brittany works with other local dance medicine and wellness specialists as the team leader for the Bridge Dance Project New Jersey Chapter. You can learn more about Brittany and her work by visiting www.bcartisry.dance, and share in her passion for dance on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/bcartistry.dance/?view_public_for=337597600396109 and Instagram-https://www.instagram.com/bcartistry.dance/.
Brittany Cohen, EdM & BFA in Dance
BC Artistry LLC - Founder/Owner