Who remembers those good ole' days when you were thrilled to get out of gym class because of a written note from your ballet teacher? Priceless. Back in the days of Balanchine, and old school teachers…their mentality was to encourage dancers to Live, Eat, Breathe only dance.
All you needed was a daily dose of plies and you were on your way to that perfectly sculpted, sinewy ballet body. But times have changed, and so has our information, education, and body awareness. Ballet works certain muscles and neglects others (like most genres of fitness), so in order to be fit, healthy and well rounded, we, as dancers, should branch out a bit, and raise the "barre" so to speak.
With the vast majority of body types out there, you have to discover what your personal weaknesses are and how to improve them. Maybe they have been hiding, or you just simply didn’t understand how to “use” them.
For instance, maybe your dance teacher discouraged you from running the cross country mile not out of hatred for running (Lord knows Ballet has a lot of it!) but for fear of your knees because of hyper extension or hyper mobile joints. Dance and most sports are based on repetitive movements and this can lead to a muscular imbalance and injury can result. Healthy cross training helps strengthen weakened and underused muscles, which is ideal for building functional strength and flexibility.
Learning about your body is the first step to becoming aware of how to “even out”. We should watch things like, “that’s my good side” or “ that’s my bad leg” and try to be well rounded as dancers and athletes in general. If your body is working imbalanced, then something else will overcompensate, triggering a myriad of repercussions that may eventually lead to injury. And who wants that?? So, what does that mean? Yes, that means left side! (if you are a "rightie") And maybe that means stepping out of the studio and into the world of cross training to improve your craft.
Remember...good dancers focus on their strengths, maximizing potential benefits while ignoring, covering up, and compensating for weakness. However, elite dancers confront their weaknesses and focus on them in their conditioning program, helping to avoid injury and allow for peak performance.