Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Each individual plays a huge role on an Irish dance team. You need to be both physically and mentally strong to endure the long rehearsals and perform at the same caliber of all your teammates. But how do you do this? Check out our top 5 tips to being a physically and mentally strong team dancer!
Strengthen Core, Calves & Upper body
Strengthening your body for Team Dancing will allow you to physically make the corrections your teacher is asking of you so that the entire team looks as if you are one.
STEP 1: Strengthen your Core
Core strength is critical to the stabilization of your spine, pelvis, and legs, especially for dancers. According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a lack of core control increases strain on the surrounding bones, joints, and ligaments and has been related to increased risk of injury in the lower back and legs. Since these are common areas of injury for dancers, incorporating core strengthening exercises could play a key role in injury prevention (1). Additionally, weak or underdeveloped core muscles can lead to less efficient movements, especially with movements as complex as Irish dancing. An underdeveloped core can also lead to compensatory mechanisms in your dancing - your body’s way of ‘cutting corners’ around weak muscles to achieve movements like jumps, kicks, and even rhythms - that can lead to strain and overuse injuries (2).
CLICK HERE for more details and exercises for the core
STEP 2: Strengthen Calves
Toe height is critical to team dancing. And long training days can really exhaust your calf muscles. Build up your single leg calf strength and endurance outside of class by doing exercises like the single leg calf raise. Stand on one leg with your upper body and hips in neutral alignment. Take three counts to raise up on your toes and three counts down. Maintain neutral ankle alignment by making sure all your weight stays between your big toe and second toe.
STEP 3: Develop your Upper Body Strength
A strong, steady posture that looks relaxed and at ease makes the top teams stand out. Some of the common postural comments team dancers get are, arms in (anyone ever get this comment during the lead around in a Ceili!?), shoulders back, and shoulders moving. Check out the below blogs for some excellent exercises to help correct these common postural corrections.
Visualization, or imagery, is a mental rehearsal that builds upon your strengths and helps eliminates your weaknesses. Studies (3,4) have show that a regular visualization practice will
build and maintain confidence and focus
develop coping strategies
maintain existing skills without adding stress to your body and avoid irritating existing injuries.
Many team dances are incredibly complex with hundreds of cues you need to remember. Visualization will help you execute those cues much more effectively and help you apply your corrections. Check out THIS article for more details on the importance of visualization for Irish dance and how to do it.
Research shows that an athlete’s performance suffers when they do not get an optimal amount of sleep. This includes important components of an Irish dancer’s performance such as a decrease in speed, accuracy, reaction time and emotional state (5). If you have not had an adequate amount of sleep before a team rehearsal or competition, your performance will suffer. The Mayo Clinic recommends children 6-11 get 9-13 hours of sleep, 14-17 year olds 8-10 hours of sleep, and adults 7-9 hours of sleep (6).
“To perform at their best, dancers need to be adequately fueled for the activities in which they participate regularly: classes, rehearsals, and performances/competitions” (7). Young athletes also need to meet their age appropriate nutrition needs to maximize their growth and developmental potential. As with training, each dancer is different – they each have different metabolic needs, a specific balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, micronutrients, fluids requirements, different goals and should have individualized approaches to their dietary (fuel) intake. Make sure you eat the appropriate servings from the five major food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for general information about the appropriate number of servings of these foods you need each day.
Lead By Example
Show up early and prepared, respect teachers and teammates, offer to help those who need assistance, and maintain a positive attitude. Your actions and emotions are contagious. Lead by example.
If you're interested in a full body team training workout, check out the TEAM WORKOUT on the Target Training Online Institute. Begin today and receive your first month free on the Trainer subscription when you use the code 1MONTHFREE at checkout. Get started at institute.targettrainingdance.com
1. International Association of Dance Medicine & Science, Education Committee, (2015). Core Control: "Not Just Abdominals." IADMS, retrieved from https://www.iadms.org/blogpost/1177934/211325/Core-Control--Not-just-abdominals?hhSearchTerms=%22core%22&terms=.
2. Fredericson, M. & Moore, T, (2005). Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle- and Long-Distance Runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 16, 669-689. Retrieved from https://www.pmr.theclinics.com/article/S1047-9651(05)00026-4/abstract.
3. Post P. G., Wrisberg C. A. (2012). A phenomenological investigation of gymnasts’ lived experience of imagery. Sport Psychol. 26 98–121. DOI: 10.1515/jirspa-2014-0005.
4. Thelwell R.C., Maynard I.W (2002). The effects of a mental skills package on ‘repeatable good performance’ in cricketers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. (2003) - 377-396. DOI: 10.1016/S1469-0292(02)00036-5.
5. Mah CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, Dement WC. The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. J. Sleep Res. 2011; 34(7): 943-950. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/.
6. Olson EJ. How many hours of sleep are enough for good health? Retrieved on: Sept. 4, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898.
7. Challis, J., Stevens, A. Nutrition Resource Paper 2016. International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Retrieved from www.iadms.org.