relaxation for dancers

Conditioning for Dancers

Conditioning for Dancers book
Tom Welsh's book Conditioning for Dancers is a great addition to my library of books for dance and I would recommend it to teachers and dancers. It is well structured into logical sections and there are really useful study guides throughout for checking learning and understanding. The chapter on alignment provides very clear ways of thinking about and analysing alignment in dancers. It reminds us of key alignments and importantly that:

'whatever the position of the legs, the centres of the knees should align with the centres of the feet so the ankle and knee joints can both hinge without twisting'

This is vital for teachers to draw attention to when students are forcing turnout by twisting their knees or feet. This chapter offers a lot of excellent guidance and understanding about achieving proper alignment. The illustrations and pictures are useful, especially if you find the visual stuff makes it all crystal clear. I am a great fan of using relaxation techniques with dancers and so the chapter on improving endurance and releasing tension is a particular favourite of mine.

The book is full of gems of understanding that teachers and dancers will find fascinating - it is a book that you will want to keep returning to time and time again.

Welsh T (2009) Conditioning for Dancers Gainsville University Press of Florida

Shoulder and neck tension

Often when we feel a bit stressed our shoulders start to rise creating unwanted tension in the muscles in and around the shoulders and neck. If it is not reduced this muscle tension can lead to discomfort, pain and headaches. With practise we can become more aware of muscle tension as soon as it starts. Then we can take steps to reduce it before it becomes a problem. Doing regular relaxation exercises can also help to prevent unwanted muscle tension.

The following exercise is a great shoulder and neck tension buster for dancers (and dance teachers) and it only takes a couple of minutes. You can do it sitting or standing and with practise your ability to release the tension quickly and efficiently will improve.

Release shoulder and neck tension
Tense your neck and shoulder muscles by lifting your shoulders strongly up towards your ears (shrugging) - you will probably find that you automatically breathe in as you do this. Take a few seconds to feel the tension that this creates in your shoulder area before breathing out (try giving a big sigh) and letting your shoulders drop downwards to release the tension. You can repeat this a couple of times as required.

It's amazing how effective this simple exercise can be in reducing shoulder and neck tension.

Breathing when stretching

Breathing is an important part of stretching. Many people hold their breath when they are stretching without realising it. This causes muscle tension which makes it harder to stretch. Remembering to breathe fully when you are stretching can help to release tension and help your muscles to relax giving you get a better result.


It is easy to try too hard in dance and end up with muscles that are full of excess tension. When this happens it is a bit like trying to dance with big heavy boots on. This causes your muscles to struggle to perform at their best. Breathing and relaxation techniques can help dancers to recognise and release muscle tension. In this category I will share snippets of information about basic breathing and relaxation skills that are useful for dancers and dance teachers.