Why Core Muscles Are Important For Dancers
Dancers are constantly being told by their dance teachers to use their stomach muscles, engage their cores, find their centres, or maybe they’ve been told to simply “suck in”. There are many variations for giving this one very important correction to dancers, but perhaps parents and students don’t completely understand why dance teachers talk so much about core muscles.
Physically, the core is the centre of the body and because of this, it can act to control movement in the rest of the body. Every dance technique using the arms, legs, or spine, requires the type of “controlled freedom” that a strong core provides.
Most dancers know that their cores give them stability. That’s why we call it your “centre” sometimes because when engaged, it keeps you “centred”. When a dancer moves, they should want their torso to move with them, quickly determining new centres of gravity in each new position. More clearly, when the stomach muscles are engaged, they should feel connected to the rest of the body. A dancer should feel the energy (or tension) in their torso, spreading out to their limbs. Having stronger abdominals also helps other muscle groups conserve energy. If the abs are being used, it lightens how much work other muscles have to do, which is more efficient and can keep a dancer’s body from fatiguing too quickly.
Dancers almost always feel tightness or strain at some point in their lives in the hip flexor region where the pelvis connects to the upper thighs. Pain in this muscle group can serve as an indicator that the abs need strengthening. The hip flexor muscles are a lot bigger and stronger than the abdominal muscles, so they like to take the brunt of the work when dancing, walking, running, or doing other exercises. They act as great stabilizers, but what we really want hip flexors to do is worry about their primary job — flexing at the hip. If we work to strengthen the abdominals, they’ll become strong enough to do the job that the hip flexors have been subbing in for, which will alleviate hip pain.
A great core strengthening exercise that I really like is plank. Forearms placed on the ground straight out with the elbows aligned right under the shoulders, the body hovering horizontally with the toes digging into the ground. Planks require the same posture and alignment that dance does so that’s one reason why it’s a good choice for dancers. It focuses on stability and is a good lesson in body awareness because the dancer learns to feel what proper alignment is like. Kind of like when dancers think that their knees or feet are stretched, but their teachers think differently… body awareness! Normal healthy people should be able to do the plank on their elbows (on your hands is easier) for one minute; dancers should work for two minutes with good form.
Especially in the early stages of dance training, having stability and strong core muscles is important because it provides a good foundation for dancers to work with. Your teachers will continue to tell you to engage your core until it becomes second nature, allowing you to focus on other corrections that they give you.
Dance Extreme Instructor Miss. Kayla trained in Burlington for 13 years most recently at Burlington Dance Academy. She has had competitive level training in styles including Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Modern, Tap and Hip Hop. Currently, she is attending Western University for an Honors Bachelor Degree in Medical Sciences with a Minor in Dance studies. Miss. Kayla is always thrilled to share her passion for dance with her students. She aims to inspire her students and hopes to see them move forward, learning and improving with every class.