Monday, January 14, 2013

Dancer workout goals: My Four F's

Hey there,

So I wanted to write a piece about my four goals working out as a dancer. To put this into context, it's been forever since I've worked a gym...with weights...regularly. It's been since running Varisty Track in high school at St. Albans. And I graduated from high school in '99...

Anyway, thanks to an awesome roommate, I had the opportunity to work out again regularly, beginning this past November, at Vida Fitness. As a dancer, though, I had certain goals in mind, and so wanted to share them. And yay for alliteration, as I will share them as my Four F's!! Check 'em out, let me know what you think.

Visuals are thanks completely to Autumn Mist Belk, a colleague and friend from our overlapping tenure in UMD's Dance Program, and Artistic/Executive Director of Code f.a.d. Company, based in NC, who responded to a request for photos to compliment this piece.
Indulge, choreo Autumn Mist Belk
Photographer Stephen Aubuchon
Performer Kelley Y. Murphy

  • Flexibility - This is probably my highest priority. While flexibility speaks directly to range of motion, on a philosophical level it addresses my desire to have more options for movement, a wider range of choices for articulation.

    Regardless of whatever else I do, I will not work out at the expense of limiting my ability to move. I don't want to work out just to look good, but for my body to work well. At the least I want to maintain my current range of motion, but at best I want to consistently increase it.
Yves Saint Laurent: Fashion Manifesto
choreo by Autumn Mist Belk
Performer: Brooks Owens
Photographer: Mike Harten
  • Force - This is probably my lowest priority, but still a priority. Force addresses my goal to increase my strength, particularly upper body.

    It also relates to flexibility, though. I can stretch all I want, in mostly static grounded positions, but then I need the muscles to be able to take advantage of that as well.

    Force also relates to just moving through space in general, particularly vertically, as the photo Autumn selected for this element so wonderfully depicts.
Coiffure, choreo by Autumn Mist Belk
Performer: Jill Bradley Hall
Photographer: Jameka Autry
  • Function - Function is the larger context for my workout goals. I want to do things that are functional as a dancer.

    This means that I keep in mind how a muscle group I'm working on applies to movement vocabulary I know, and affects it. Or if I'm doing cardio, how it is prepping me for extended choreographic pieces. Even with lifting weights, it's not a matter of how much I want to lift, but how much I need to lift, specifically my own limbs, my own body weight (particularly with inversion work as pictured), as well as partnering.
Dancer: Autumn Mist Belk
Photographer: Bridget Daily
  • Form - And finally form. Form, as I'm defining it for my purposes, relates to the form of the movement. What comes immediately to mind is working with weights. I don't just want to be able to lift a certain amount, but I want to be able to lift it well, in control and fluid, fulfilling the movement as well as keeping my muscles engaged.

    I notice some people lift weights with a large amount of immediate force, but then the returning motion is often sloppy and unengaged. A specific example might be a bicep curl, how the initial burst will provide momentum to complete flexion and then the extension is completely released.

    And I know it's a choice or a preference, and I'm not saying it's wrong. However, as a dancer, I suppose I treat my lifting the way I treat my plies, that the movement is sustained & even, and the muscles engaged in both flexion and extension.

    Because as dancers, it's not just about completing the movement, but often being able to give tempo and rhythm to it. It's about the aesthetic of it, not just getting there, but how we get there. So I treat my workout the same way, often times using the music playing and lifting in time to it.
Anyway, so there's that. Many thanks to Autumn, for providing the wonderful photos!! Make sure to check out her company, Code f.a.d. Company. And the "f.a.d." stands for "film. art. dance.". You can also like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their YouTube.

And in terms other dancers working out, let me know what goals you keep in mind. How and why do you work out? How do you apply your dance training to your gym routine and how do your workouts affect and impact your dance? Have you ever switched up what you did based on the demands of a particular piece?

Would love to hear all about it in the comments, especially if it relates to any work coming up!!

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