Dance Cross-Training Myths De-Bunked- Part 1


I hope you had an excellent time (d)ring(k)ing in the new year. I spent the night rocking out to my good friend Joe’s band at the Watermark Irish Pub (right across from where the National Ballet trains), drinking rum and cokes, and eating red velvet cake. For the first time! OMG red velvet cake is my new favorite cake. Or maybe I just really, really liked the cream cheese icing. Cream cheese icing is my weakness.

Let me take a moment to  forget about that sweet, delicious cake before I continue…

Mmmmmmm. Ok. Aaaand I’m good to go.

Now, I can’t think of a better way to dedicate the first DTP blog post of the new year, than to some myth de-bunkery. Let’s get our heads straight in 2013.

If you are a regular stalker (follower?), then you know that there is a lot evidence pointing to the efficacy of dancers performing strength training to correct muscle imbalances and build full-body strength, among other benefits.

If this is your first time reading this blog, then welcome, and might I suggest you’ll want to go back in time and read THIS and THIS, to get caught up. And THIS too.

To over-simplify in a huge way: Strong dancer good. Weak dancer bad.

But I want to get a little more into the why, what, when and how of cross-training for dancers. We already know the who- It’s YOU!

The problem is that dance is an art-form firmly rooted in tradition.  I love tradition (what would Christmas be without delicious egg nog and nanaimo squares??), but there are some dance traditions that I think it’s time we let go of in favor of new, healthier habits.

We are now in the era we call “post-modern” dance, where choreography is becoming more challenging and physical. Our dance training, however, is failing to prepare us for the physically-challenging.  Only those with superior genetics seem to be able to keep up. The current dance training system is failing us.

Speaking from experience, I graduated from Ryerson’s dance program feeling unprepared physically for the caliber of dancing I longed to perform. I could plead ignorance then, not having discovered the whole “strength-training thing” yet, but now I can’t. I know there is a way I could have stepped up my game, and I was just touching on it before I became injured and was forced to stop dancing.

Here’s the key to dancing success: Lots and lots of deadlifts. Just kidding (but I’m kind of not).

I apologize for the vertical video. Still haven’t figured out filming with my iPhone yet.

Though I would be remiss to not mention that there are other aspects of our dance education and training system which could be improved, I want to focus on my area of expertise– Cross-training. Strength training for dancers in particular.

I was told some questionable things, as a young dancer. Up until recently, I took these things as gospel, and they shaped the dancer I became- A chronically injured one. Not the most hire-able kind of dancer. Only now do I realize that I, and countless other dancers, were eating up that sweet Soylent Green. Maybe you were eating from the same plate as I was too…

Were you told that participating in activities other than dancing would ruin your dance technique, and that doing so was a sign that you were not committed enough to your dance training? I was.

Were you urged to dance as much as possible during the summer, because if you didn’t  your dance technique would be worse when you returned to regular classes in the fall? I was.

And were you ever educated that there were measures you could take to actually prevent the injuries that we dancers have come to accept as inevitable? I wasn’t.

Did you have teachers who preached that to dance was to be in pain every day? Yep.

I believed it all and I didn’t question any of it. What did it get me? Too many injuries and a dance career cut short. Maybe some of you can relate?

But I have good news for you! There is a way to prevent injuries, dance more efficiently, and keep up with the choreographic challenges of the 21st century. All it requires is the simple addition of a little something called cross-training, and you should try it! It’s time to debunk those dance training myths once and for all.

Which I will do. In part 2 of this article. Tomorrow.

You can look forward to seeing these myths punched in the jejunum:


1)      Lifting weights will make your dance technique worse.

2)      Strength training will reduce your flexibility, and create big unsightly muscles.

3)      Doing anything BUT dancing will cause your dance technique to become worse.

4)      During the summer, dancers should try to keep dancing as much as possible to retain technique.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow! Have a wonderful day.