Author Archives: Elise

How to match your foundation to your fake tan_irish dance_ready to feis
The Feis Look
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How to match your foundation to your fake tan

When you’re using fake tan for a competition and you’re turning your skin an unnatural shade of brown, your regular foundation is not going to cut it. The biggest danger is that you’ll end up rocking The Eagle – white face, brown body. Make up artist, professional dancer, and TCRG Caitlin Golding talks us through matching your face to your fake tan without looking like an Eagle. Hot tip: don’t put foundation on your neck, use bronzer for that.

Products used:
Bobbi Brown Hydrating Rich Cream Cleanser
Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream
Bobbi Brown Hydrating Face Cream
Bobbi Brown Long Wear Cream Compact
Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush
Bobbi Brown Corrector
Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer
Bobbi Brown Bronzer

Drug store alternatives: 
Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser
Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Eye Cream
L’Oreal Paris Hydra-Renewal Continuous Moisture Cream
L’Oreal Paris Infallible Advanced Never Fail Makeup
Outop Change Foundation Brush
BH Cosmetics 6 Color Concealer & Corrector Palette
Maybelline New York Fit Me! Concealer
Physicians Formula Bronze Booster Glow-Boosting BB Bronzer SPF 20

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Can ballet improve your Irish dancing_ready to feis_irish dance
Fitness and Conditioning
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Can ballet improve your Irish dancing?

It’s a simple question – does doing ballet improve basic Irish dancing skills? There are many similarities between the two art forms – turn out, carriage, grace, poise, extension. But there are also many differences in technique and form. In exploring the pros and the cons, we tapped Mary Lynn Collins-Callanan, an Irish dancing teacher and ballet master, to weigh in.

Pro: Pointing

“Ballet is all about pointing”, says Collins-Callanan. She goes on to explain, “In ballet, so much time is spent practicing how to point. You go from the ball of the foot, to the point, back to the ball of the foot, back to fifth position. In Irish dancing we just teach dancers to point, we don’t teach them to use the balls to the point. As kids get older, you can see that a lot of dancers are pointing, but their toes aren’t pointed – it’s because they have never understood the power of the ball of the foot to the point.

“The thinking behind something as basic as learning how to point properly – ball to point, point to ball, back to fifth – is so critical because it’s firing the muscles that they need to go up from the ball of their foot to their point.” Is this good for Irish dancing? You bet. Learning how to point through the foot, and get up high on your toes, are basic skills that will serve you well in Irish dancing.

Con: Wide Knees

While we pull up in Irish dancing, crossing the knees and keeping the legs tight, ballet dancers are taught to keep the knees wide and steady as they perform fluid movements like plies, bending into the knee and then rising up. Could these wide knees become a problem for Irish dancing? According to Collins-Callanan, “If you’re using ballet as a supplement to help your Irish dancing, you’re not really going to have a wide knee problem. You’re not going to be in it that long, and you’re going to take from it what you need and that will help your Irish.” Wide knees are something that comes from years of training, and if you’re at a point in your ballet training where wide knees becomes a problem, then congratulations because you are obviously very dedicated to your ballet training.

Pro: Leg Lifts

While Irish dancers are often just taught to kick, ballet dancers spend years at the barre perfecting the grand battement, learning how to raise the leg while turning out from the hip, controlling it on the way up and the way down, while using the bottom leg for support. “In ballet, we spend a lot of time talking about how you lift you leg, what muscles you fire, and how you do that safely” says Collins-Callanan. “It’s learning how to control extension. In ballet when you’re teaching a child how to lift their leg, even to 90 degrees, you’re working on the bottom leg that’s supporting you, while also learning how to do that with the absolute turn out coming from the hip.” If you’re not controlling your leg lifts from the hip, you can get injured. Learning how to safely lift your leg up and down with control is a very valuable skill for Irish dance.

Con: Spotting

Something that most dancers who have done ballet before switching to Irish dancing struggle with is keeping the head still. “In ballet, your head always faces out to the audience, and in Irish dancing it doesn’t.” explains Collins-Callanan. “In Irish dancing, we’re asking the dancers to do really hard turns, but we don’t let them spot.”

“If you’re in a theatre production, like Riverdance, or if you’re in a ballet show, or a gymnast or a skater, you always get theatre time before you actually have to do your performance. And there’s a couple of reasons for that – one is spacing, and figuring out where to move. But as our dancing becomes more complicated, in ballet especially, if you had a solo, you would have to figure out where you were spotting. For Irish dancing, you have to learn how to spin without spotting.” Will ballet training impact your ability to dance without spotting? No, but it might confuse your ballet teacher.

Ballet has many positives and negative for Irish dancers. If you are using ballet purely to enhance your Irish dancing, then be mindful of which exercises are going to help you most and which will actually be a hindrance. Your ballet teacher will know what you need and be able to help you get the most out of the exercises you’re doing in class. If you are serious about both dance forms, then work with your teachers to devise ways to work around the differences.

Do you do ballet as a supplement to your Irish dancing? Or are you a ballet dancer who has made the cross over to Irish dancing? We would love to hear your experience doing both – share in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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how to compete without destroying the friendship_ready to feis_irish dance
Mental Preparation
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How to compete without destroying the friendship

One of the greatest joys of Irish dancing is the friendships. Whether it’s the classmates you started with as beginners and grew up together, the feis friends you see every weekend as you travel the countryside together, or those international friends who you chat to online and see once a year, the friendships in Irish dancing are special and long lasting. Many of these friendships stem from competition – the same age group, the same class – so while the friendships are strong, the competitive nature of dancing can sometimes get in the way.

Separation

What happens when competition gets in the way of friendship, or more importantly, teamwork? It can be hard to be friends, be teammates, and also step on stage as competitors. According to sports psychologist Dr. Neal Bowes, Ph.D., the skill we need to be working on is separation. “Friendships and competing are two completely separate things. When you’re competing, when it’s time to get changed and warm up, you’re separated. You’re now in competition mode, and when you’re in competition mode you’re there to to focus on you and what your job is, either as an individual or as a team.” Dr. Bowes goes on to say, “the only thing you should be focused on in that period of time is competing. Once you’re finished, you’re finished, then you stop being a competitor and now you’re a friend. The brain is designed for separation.”

Class Time

But what if your biggest competitors are in your own class? One of the most interesting things about competition is actually the latin root of the word. Dr. Joseph Havlick, Ph.D. explains, “The etymology of the word is working side by side to be the best you can be and having your competition actually push you further. So the whole idea behind competing in the true sense of the word is being rivals but also striving together.” Dr. Havlick also points out what a blessing it is to have competition right in your very own class, but that you need to approach it in the right way. “The mentality should be that it’s a gift to have this person in my life because they are really good. If I don’t bring my A game they are going to do better than I am. So I have to up my game – it increases my focus and my concentration on what I’m doing because I’m going to use that to inspire me to do my best, not to beat them, not to humiliate them, not to hurt them in any way, but to enhance myself and thank you for been there.”

For teachers looking to foster this type of environment, the emphasis needs to be on personal competition – making sure that if you want a competitive environment, then the competition is against yourself. Dr. Bowes points out the need to “cooperate and collaborate rather than compete”. The attitude from students should be “hey can we work on this together as opposed to saying, well I don’t want to work with you and I don’t want to be friends with you or you know I wanted to be friends with you but it’s kind of difficult because everybody compares me to you”, explains Dr. Bowes. “All those things go away when a teacher is saying, hey you know your job is competing against yourselves. That’s the reason everybody comes to the studio and when you work hard to get better yourself, collectively we will all be better. Then allow time at the end to socialize, but within class time there really shouldn’t be a lot of socialization. This line says it’s okay to be friends and be learning and competing all at the same time.”

A Sporting Gesture

Regardless of whether the results go your way, or you have a bad day, Dr. Havlick expresses the importance of the sporting gesture at the conclusion of competition. “Sportsmanship is the ultimate manifestation of being an athlete, and at the end of the day it expresses to each other our appreciation of the hard work that we put in.” Whether this is a hug, a handshake, or a simple congratulations, a simple gesture creates that separation and acknowledges that while competition is good, friendship and sportsmanship are more important.

Do you compete against friends or classmates? How do you separate friendship from competition? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Image: courtesy of MJ Collins-Escobar
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improve your posture for irish dance_ready to feis
Fitness and Conditioning
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How to improve your posture for Irish dance

One of the fundamentals of Irish dancing technique is good posture. This seemingly simple instruction – stay up straight – is actually very difficult to master as steps get harder, with lots of traveling, leaping, and kicking up as high as you can. Suzanne Cox, TCRG and Accredited Exercise Physiologist (ESSA) with the Australian Institute of Fitness, gives us the insight into why our shoulders might hunch and what exercises we can do to fix it.

Why do my shoulders hunch when I dance?

Irish dancers are renowned for their lower body strength but what influence does the upper body have? With an art form that has a large focus on footwork it can be easy to forget about what is happening from the hips upwards.

Hunched shoulders are primarily down to 2 main reasons;

  • A lack of muscular strength to keep the shoulders back and the shoulder blade in a good position.
  • Tight muscles that are pulling the shoulders and shoulder blades forward.

Let’s take a look at the first issue to begin with. How the shoulders sit will be directly related to how the scapula (shoulder blade) sits, and the muscle strength around it. Weakness in particular muscles controlling the scapula and shoulder can be from weak and untrained muscles, or can be from a poor postural habit that has become the norm over time, which actually causes muscular weaknesses. There is some commonality in what tends to be going on for a large amount of the population, including dancers who hunch their shoulders. Generally speaking, here is what happens;

  • The muscles that surround the scapula (shoulder blade) and shoulder are weak. These muscles act to hold the shoulder blades back and down. They can become weak from spending time at a desk for long periods while studying or reading, continually sitting hunched over, or having a ‘slouch’ when traveling.
  • Muscles work in pairs, so if the muscles on the back side of the body around the scapula become weak, the muscles on the front side of the body become tight. In this case the most common muscle groups are the chest muscles and the muscles at the front of the shoulder. When these muscles are tight it becomes even harder for the muscles in the back to do their job properly.

How can I correct my posture?

Here are a couple of basic exercises and stretches that can help. It’s important to remember that poor posture doesn’t develop overnight so consistent and long term muscle re-training is vital to make a difference.

Prone back extension

Prone-back-extension_posture_irish dance_ready to feis

This exercise is great for strengthening muscles on the back side of the body, in particular some of the ones that will help to keep our scapula in a better position.

  • Lying on your front, place one hand on top of the other with your palms facing the floor. Put your forehead on your hands.
  • Lift your arms, shoulders and head off the floor ensuring you don’t bend from the neck. The neck should remain in line with the upper back for good alignment and good postural development.
  • Aim to hold this for 15 seconds to start and build up to 30 seconds. Work your way up to a minute but remember this will take time – this exercise is usually very hard for Irish dancers!

Chest stretch

chest-stretch_posture_irish dance_ready to feis

This stretch is great for stretching the muscles in the front side of the body that can pull the shoulders and shoulder blades forward causing a hunch.

  • Using a doorway, place your forearm up to your elbow on the side of the doorway, bending your elbow at 90 degrees.
  • Rotate from your feet slightly, away from this arm until you feel a stretch across the front part of your chest.

Do you struggle with your posture when you dance? Do you have any exercises or stretches that have helped you? Leave a comment below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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how-to-apply-false-lashes_irish-dance_ready-to-feis
The Feis Look
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How to apply false lashes for the Irish dancing stage

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the eye lashes are a very beautiful frame. Wearing false lashes for competition is absolutely not essential, but when you’re on the big stage and everything else is big – big hair, dark tan, bright lipstick – wearing false lashes helps to balance out the face and create an overall pleasing look. False lashes can be very fiddly though, which is why we brought in Bobbi Brown makeup artist and professional dancer Caitlin Golding. Once you master this simple application technique for applying false lashes, you’ll be fluttering your way across the stage.

 

Products used in the video:

Bobbi Brown Black Ink Gel Liner
Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara
Ardell Lashes –  Demi Wispies
Kiss Ever Ez Eye Lash Glue

Great drugstore buys that won’t break the bank:

Duo Lash Adhesive
Maybelline New York Expert Tools Eye Lash Curler
CoverGirl LashBlast Waterproof Mascara
L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Million Lashes Waterproof Mascara
Maybelline New York Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner
NYX Cosmetics Gel Eyeliner and Smudger
Kiss I Envy Beyond Naturale Lashes Demi Wispies

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ready to feis_irish dance_what i wish i had known world irish dancing championships oireachtas rince na cruinne_world championships
Mental Preparation
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What I wish I had known before my first World Championships

Making it to the World Championships is a huge achievement. Only the best of the best qualify, and it’s a huge commitment of time and finances to train and travel, not to mention a huge emotional investment.

It’s also an incredibly daunting experience – big stage, high stakes. The first time on that stage can be very scary when you’re not quite sure what to expect – no matter how much you train, there is nothing that can compare to the world stage – it’s different to the Oireachtas or Nationals. We asked some of the most experienced competitors what they wish they had known at their first Oireachtas Rince Na Cruinne, and they shared their advice in the hopes that it helps those who are new to the big stage.

Learn from the experience

I wish I had known to watch more of the top dancers in my competition on the day. I eventually started watching those dancers and studying what they did to become champions which pushed me to work harder towards my goals. – Lexa Hickey, TCRG An Clar School – competed at 9 World Championships for the Broesler School

If I had the opportunity to go back to my very first Worlds in 2010, I wish I had known, or more so, understood the scale of the Championships – the size of the stage, the massive number of people that attend and the incredible standard of dancing. Coming from the most isolated capital city in the world, Perth, Western Australia, it was very overwhelming! – Dara McAleer, age 18, Keady/Upton – competed at 6 World Championships (competing at her 7th this year)

I wish I had understood the level of prestige that the Worlds carries, and with that, how talented the competition is. My first Worlds was only my 3rd “major championship” and I did not understand how high the standard of dancing was at these championships. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I properly trained for the Worlds at all and I’m amazed I still placed decently (no recall but not far off). It was an eye-opening experience and from that Worlds was when I really changed my attitude and work ethic. I started to approach dance differently, allowing more time for practice and really taking more note of what my teachers were saying to me. – Jason Hays, age 24, McTeggart Texas – competed at 11 World Championships, two time World Champion

The one thing I wish I had known is that results aren’t the only thing that matters. Having fun while dancing is the most important thing and if you if stress out about results too much, you’re I’ll miss out on so much. Have fun with your friends and enjoy the little things. – Owen Luebbers, age 17, Broesler – competed at 6 World Championships (competing at his 7th this year)

Preparation is everything

Walking onto the World stage waiting to begin your dance never gets easier or less overwhelming. However, over the years, I have learned to turn those nerves into excitement and adrenaline. When the musicians start playing, I embrace those immense feelings and turn them into positive energy. By the time the music count hits eight-two-three, I’m ready to release that energy into my dancing for a strong first impression. I wish I had known how to channel that energy before my first Worlds. – Gabriella Wood, age 23, Doherty Petri – competed at 11 World Championships, two time World Champion

I wish I had known how detrimental a short break in our incredibly hot Australian summer would have been to my fitness. – Dara McAleer

Own the stage

I wish I had known more about stage presence and how to look like I own the stage. I was very shy looking when I danced and I held back. As I got older I realized how important it is to go out there and act like you are number one even if you’re not. You have to dance as if a for sale sign is taped on your forehead. If you believe you’re the best everyone will believe it too! – Sarah Oldam, age 20, Heritage Irish Dance Company – competed at 9 World Championships (competing at her 10th this year)

There are three things I can think of that I wish I knew before I walked onstage. First would be don’t underestimate the size of the stage. It’s a lot bigger than you think and you have to make good use of that stage. The second would be to make sure all the judges see you! This goes right with using the stage. Your goal is for those judges to look at you and only you. And the last thing I would say is, of course, have fun. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you. You’ve put in all the hours you could and now it’s your time to shine. Remember we love to dance and it’s that love that got you to the big stage! – Joseph Riley, age 25, Heritage Irish Dance Company – competed at 7 World Championships (competing at his 8th this year)

Tan your legs!

I wish I knew I had to tan my legs! At my first worlds I never in my life tanned my legs before. When I got off the stage after my first round my teachers grabbed me, immediately bought tanner and started tanning my legs in between rounds. I’ll never forget that moment! – Sarah Oldam (ed note: thanks for the chuckle Sarah!)

Have you danced solos at multiple World Championships? What do you wish you had known at your first Worlds? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Milton Baar, Media Images
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irish dance_ready to feis_What to eat on feis day for maximum performance_nutrition
Fitness and Conditioning
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What to eat on feis day for maximum performance

The morning of a feis can be tough – there’s hair and makeup to contend with, tanning (if you’re into that), making sure you don’t forget anything, stretching, warming up, and perhaps some serious time in the car if the feis is a distance away. Amidst this chaos it’s really important that breakfast doesn’t get overlooked. If you don’t fuel yourself properly in the morning, it can throw you off for the whole day and you’ll give a lacklustre performance – definitely not what you want after all that hard work.

Breakfast

According to Frances Dunne, personal trainer and founder of Fitness Formula Irish Dance, “The morning of a feis you really need to make sure you fuel up for the day.” Dunne goes on to explain, “ It depends on what you’ve had the day before, but you want to make sure your body is stocked up with glycogen for energy – that means having some form of carbohydrate like oats or potato, and protein to keep you feeling satiated. Adding some healthy fats into the mix will also help maintain your energy levels throughout the day.”

Breakfast checklist:

  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Yogurt

Snacks

Keeping your body fueled doesn’t stop at breakfast. You’ll likely be at the feis for hours on end, with a wait before you dance or breaks between dances. Keeping your bag stocked with snacks for the day means you can grab what you need and keep energy up without relying on feis food.

Dunne recommends “Granola bars (flapjack/oat bar) are a good source of quick energy, and simple sugary foods like jellies, although not healthy, will help quickly replenish glycogen stores if they’re depleted. It’s also useful to have foods such as bananas or salted nuts on hand to replenish electrolytes. Electrolytes are vital for keeping your muscles working properly!”

Feis bag checklist:

  • Granola bar
  • Banana
  • Salted nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Gummy candy/jellies
  • Water

What do you eat for breakfast on feis day? What snacks do you keep in your feis bag for energy? Share below in the comments, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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Ready to Feis_Irish dance_why are my muscles sore_delayed onset muscle soreness_header
Fitness and Conditioning
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Why are my muscles sore?

If you have ever had a tough dance class and walked out feeling okay, but then woken up in a world of pain the next day…welcome. You’re part of the DOMS club. That would be Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

What is it?

According to Riverdance star and personal trainer Chloey Turner, this feeling is when “your muscles feel stiff and painful hours after exercise, sometimes even many days after.” DOMS occurs when an eccentric muscle action occurs – that is, an activity that causes muscles to lengthen while force is applied, like Irish dancing.

Soreness can kick in as soon as six to eight hours after exercise, and tends to be most sore around the 48 hour mark, although this varies from person to person. Turner adds, “If you change your exercise programme, or work your body harder than you are used to, whether you’re a conditioned athlete or somebody new to exercise, you can get DOMS.”

Is it bad?

No. Frances Dunne, personal trainer, founder of Fitness Formula Irish Dance, and current lead dancer in Lord of the Dance, explains “DOMS is essentially microtrauma done to your muscles during training. The repair and adaptations done as a result of this damage is how we get stronger!” That all said, you need to be able to read your own body, and know the difference between muscle soreness and an injury.

How do I ease the pain?

Sadly, the only thing that can ‘heal’ DOMS is time, but there are ways to help ease the pain and get back to dancing sooner. Turner explains that you should “have a combination of protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercise, like a protein shake and a banana. This will help to refuel your body, promote muscle recovery, and keep you energised.”

Dunne says, “encouraging blood flow will encourage repair, so things like warm baths, gentle stretching and light movement or cardio will help you deal with it.” Turner agrees with this, and adds, “Make sure to always warm up and cool down properly and of course keep hydrated!”

Have you ever dealt with DOMS? What’s your secret to getting your muscles back in shape after a tough class? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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How to apply bronzer for the Irish dancing stage_ready to feis_irish dance makeup
The Feis Look
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How to apply bronzer for the Irish dancing stage

When applied incorrectly, bronzer has the power to make you look orange, muddy, streaky, patchy, or like an eagle (brown body, white head). When applied correctly, however, bronzer can make you look lit from within, highlighting your best bits, giving you a healthy glow, and evening out any fake tan. Bronzer can seem scary, but Bobbi Brown makeup artist and cast member of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games Caitlin Golding is here to help you fight your fears and beat streakiness with this easy to follow tutorial. Once you master this simple application technique you’ll be golden, pun intended.

Remember – tap it off, tap it in, make an E!

Products used in the video:

Bobbi Brown Longwear Compact Foundation in Natural

Bobbi Brown Corrector in Light to Medium Bisque

Bobbi Brown Natural Creamy Concealer

Bobbi Brown Pale Yellow Sheer Powder (Pressed or Loose)

Bobbi Brown Natural Bronzer

Bobbi Brown Blush in Pale Pink

Bobbi Brown Rose Shimmer Brick

Great drugstore bronzers that won’t break the bank:

NYX Matte Bronzer

Almay Smart Shade Powder Blush

Pixi Beauty Bronzer

Palladio Mosaic Blush

Rimmel Natural Bronzer

Maybelline Fit Me! Bronzer Pressed Powder

Milani Bronzer XL

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Building stamina for Irish dancing
Fitness and Conditioning
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Building stamina for Irish dancing

Stamina. Just the word can send shivers down the spine. Irish dancing is such a physically demanding sport that having high stamina is crucial. Dancers need to perform anaerobically for up to 3 minutes (Planxty Davis at 76, anyone?) and it’s very tough to get and maintain that kind of endurance.

The key to stamina

This is not the time to get lazy. According to Frances Dunne, personal trainer, founder of Fitness Formula Irish Dance, and current lead dancer in Lord of the Dance, “The most important thing to building your stamina is thinking about specificity and not cutting corners!” Specificity? Dunne explains, “If you want to be able to get through a heavy jig with maximum effort, why would you go for a slow and steady jog? Equally, if it’s technique you need to work on keeping consistent, letting it slide just so you can keep your energy up a bit more by the last step is just going to create bad habits.” This means building up to working at maximum output for the required length of time while also working at maximum technique – no point maintaining energy to the end if it’s sloppy.

But how?

Dunne points out, “Cross training isn’t a necessity for stamina. It is however important for staying injury free, getting stronger and more mobile, and keeping your body on a progressive path.” So should you be dancing or cross training? “When it comes to stamina, a mixture is ideal. Run your dances to make sure your dancing is technically strong, and cross train to get your muscles up to the job and your sanity intact! There’s nothing worse than dreading doing a dance the whole way through – it just puts negative associations in your brain.”

Working independently

To build stamina while also conditioning muscles for peak performance, Dunne recommends plyometric or sprinting style exercises that are demanding on your legs, such as:
Squat jumps
– Bike sprints

Exercises like squat jumps are easy enough to do at home while still getting a successful workout. Dunne says, “The aim is to reach fatigue by 30/40 seconds and keep pushing through that!” Cross training should be managed like dance classes, making sure your body has enough time to recover between sessions, with space carved out for rest and repair each week.

Do you cross train to improve your dancing? What’s your balance between dancing and cross training? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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