It’s that time again… Time to talk about off-season training! Which means that glorious, glorious, summer is coming.

Last week I presented my final workshop of the school year at York U. I will miss these guys, and am looking forward to coming back next fall.

We had some fun times…

Talkin’ ’bout breathing:

york breathing 1

Workin’ on dem abs (sortof):

core training 2

Turning ourselves into magic-elastic shock absorption machines:

jump landing 4

And finally, a relevant topic for this time of year, off-season training.

If you’re lucky, summer means you get a bit of a break. If you’re in university or college, you get 4 months off regular classes, rehearsals, and performances. That’s a long time… What are you going to do with it?

This is exactly what I wanted to discuss with the dancers that came out to the workshop.

What is off-season training and how is it different than in-season training? What are the components of a solid off-season training program, and how should you prioritize them? Where does dancing fit into this? How do you schedule everything in without going insane and still having a life?

I learned some stuff, too. In particular:

  • Based on this small sample, seems like dancers are not using their off-season effectively, and the understanding of what are the components of a well-rounded off-season program remain relatively illusive.
  • Dancers need to feel that it’s ok, and sometimes a really good idea, to prioritize rest and rehabilitation, because they may often feel pressured to keep dancing, or just don’t appreciate that rest is a component of fitness.
  • The gaps preventing dancers from participating in off-season training include time/priority management, budget, and not knowing what to do.

Below you can check out a few video clips from the workshop:

My understanding of what is good off-season training for dancers is incomplete. 4 months of off-season makes things easier to plan, but what about when you dance year round and don’t have a predictable off-season?

What happens when you’re an independent dancer, living from gig to gig, never knowing when you’ll get a break, and dreading too long of a break because if means no cash money?

What happens when you’re a professional in a company, and you get 5 weeks of the year off, and maybe not 5 consecutive weeks?

Where does “off-season” training fit in when you don’t have a clearly defined off-season? And with such a busy schedule, how is there even time to fit in “in-season” training?

These are the questions I wish I had the answers to. Here is one of the problems: We have research showing evidence that supplementary training and periodization for dancers is good, but we don’t know how to implement it.  As I was discussing with my colleague, the wellness director for the National Ballet, unless the way a company’s rehearsal and performance schedule are adapted to include extra training, there is no way to fit it in without over-training the dancers.

This is important. The difference between “making space for”, and “fitting it in”. It’s a huge difference! And until that shifts, and every dance institution/ individual dancer decides that supplemental training is something to make space for, it will remain this illusive thing that, no matter the amount of evidence backing it’s efficacy, will never be actualized.

Kudos to the ballet companies that are “making space”. May they set the stage for other companies around the world.

And you can check out the handout from the workshop, too:

OFF SEASON TRAINING <– The main handout

OFF-SEASON SAMPLE SCHEDULE<–And here’s the sample schedule work-sheet