Different elements of an effective warm up and cool down in Belly Dance

by Jennifer Lim 

 

Warm up and cool down are very important in any dance practise. An effective warm up should help students reduce any pressures of the day and focus on dance. A proper cool down will help ease any muscle tension and students should go away feeling relaxed and fulfilled.

 

Elements of an Effective Warm Up 

Warm up prepares the body and mind for dance which will contribute to a better performance. More importantly, warm up will help prevent the risk of injury.  

The key elements of an effective warm up are:  

1.       Pulse Raising Activities 

2.       Joint Mobilising Exercise 

3.       Muscle Lengthening Movement 

4.       Class Specific Exercise 

Pulse Raising Activities  

Engaging large muscle groups while performing low intensity rhythmic movements such as travelling hip lifts and hip bumps whilst rotating shoulders and arms will gradually raise our pulse rate. This consequently increases the supply of oxygenated blood to our working muscles. Our body temperature will be increased by one or two degrees and our body will be warmed up without any feeling of exhaustion and breathlessness.  

Joint Mobilising Exercise 

As we move our joints in a controlled and normal range of movement, synovial fluid are released in the joint. The synovial fluid lubricates our joints, ligaments and the muscles. It thereby allows freer movement of the joints. This also improves the joints’ shock absorbing qualities and enhances better proprioception.  

Muscle Lengthening Movement 

Slow and controlled short stretches will help improve the elasticity of our muscles and increase our range of motion. This element of warm up should only be executed after “Pulse Raising Activities and Joint Mobilising Exercises”. That is when our joints and muscles are warming up. For example, to execute figure 8’s and chest lift’s later on in the class, the warm up will include dynamic stretches on the gluteal muscles, hip flexors and scapula muscles. 

Class Specific Needs 

Warm up now progresses towards specific dance movements needed during the class also students are reminded about correct dance posture. In a Belly Dance class, we work on specific dance techniques, breaking down moves in small and easy sequences. This prepares the dancer mentally and physically when learning dance moves.  

 

Elements of Effective Cool Down 

An effective cool down will help dancers minimise or eliminate soreness and stiffness, help prevent injury and relaxes the mind and body. Hence it is important to allocate enough time for cool down after dance activity. 

Key element of effective cool down 

1.       Pulse Reducer 

2.       Mobilise Joints 

3.       Stretch Muscles 

Pulse Reducer 

Following a belly dance workout, it is important to gradually reduce the dance intensity with continuous rhythmic movements of the main muscle groups for about 1 to 5 minutes. Walking gently with moves such as grapevine and snake arms will gradually decrease the heart and breathing rate, help get rid of any waste products such as lactic acid accumulated by the muscles and increase circulation thus reducing the chance of “blood pooling”. 

Mobilise Joints 

The following exercise helps to mobilise joints and relieve joint tension in Cool Down especially those used excessively in the class. They also help release any tension to the spine as a result of prolong standing on our feet. 

·         Rolling forward through our spine in slow movements whilst bending the knees slightly 

·         Rolling up gently 

·         Do this movement in slow repetition 

Stretch Muscles 

Stretching should be carried out when the muscles are still very warm. Muscles that are tight, contracted or shortened during dance will be released and lengthened.  By moving slowly into a static stretched position then gently applying pressure the muscles begin to relax.  Each stretch should be held for 10 to 20 seconds to bring the muscles back to pre-exercise length. Stretching during cool down is an ideal way to develop and improve flexibility. Stretching the oblique muscles on the right and left side will improve the range of motion in hip lifts and hip drops.

 

Conclusion 

Warm up and cool down is essential to ensure longevity in dance. The steps should be simple and safe and adapted to suit the current physical fitness and ages of the students. These routines should be monitored carefully during classes to prevent unnecessary injury. 

 

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References 

Franklin, E. (2004). Conditioning for dance.  Training for peak performance in all dance forms. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics  1:9  

Harris & Elbourn (2002). Warming up and cooling down: practical ideas for ensuring a fun and beneficial exercise experience. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics  2 :12 1-7 (warm up) 3: 26-29 (cool down) 

Laws, Marsh & Wyon (2006) Warming Up and Cooling Down. Dance UK Factsheet  

 

 

 

Belly dance with Jenn


"When I dance, the sun sails safely through the night;

When I dance, the future is formed by my feet;

When I dance,the stars move through the heavens;

When I dance, Venus shimmers the desert;

When I dance, dust becomes silver, stones are made of gold!"

Cosi Fabian

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