Apr 29, 2014

Dance: Pre-performance tips you SHOULD be following

1. Breath 

Breathing very fast and not filling up your lungs completely results in the engagement of the sympathetic nervous system - which is the system engaged during times of crisis. It activates the physiological changes related to the Fight-or-Flight response. Many people tend to use this system especially when experiencing stage fright. 
Breathing slowly, fully engaging your diaphragm, will make the parasympathetic nervous system to be engaged instead. This system is considered the "rest and relax" system of the body, bringing it back to homeostasis (stable conditions) after the Fight-or-Flight state. It induces the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which lowers your heart rate allowing you to relax

 Tip: Breath in for 6 seconds and breath out for 6 seconds as well. Do this at least 4 times, focusing on your breathing and not on the external noises. 

2. Visualize

Visualization of movement activates an area of the brain called "Pre motor cortex". This area is intimately involved in selecting a specific movement or sequence of movements from the repertoire of possible movements. It is not connected to the physical movement itself, but rather with the decision of which movement to follow. It's basically the area that "plans movement". Hence, when visualizing your own performance you are creating neural pathways in your brain as if you were physically doing it. Then, when you do perform the dance (or the skill you are visualizing yourself completing) it is easier for the body to follow since the "decision-making" system has already determined what paths it will follow. Visualizing will also enhance your focus, self-discipline and self-confidence (plus, you are giving your body some rest before performing!)

Tip: Find a quiet place and sit down. Close your eyes, and whether you are listening to the music or not, engage all your senses in the visualization. Remember how a specific movement makes you feel, remember your transitions and let yourself fully immerse in the visualization. 

For more info, refer to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10796/

3. Warm up and Stretch 

Many people don't warm up and stretch properly before performing. Stretching up correctly can help you reduce the risk of injuries (note I don't say it completes helps you prevent them) given that stretching increases the range of motion about a joint and reduces the stiffness of the muscles. You should also focus on dynamic stretching, rather than static stretching. Static stretching means to hold a specific stretch for 45 seconds or more. Much research has been done on athletes which shows that static stretching actually decreases power and strength in your muscles. Dynamic stretching focuses on speed, strength and power. My suggestion is to find an adequate balance for your own body. When holding a stretch, keep it no longer than 30 seconds per muscle, and always aim at stretching every part of the body (arms, legs, neck, core, ankles, feet). Stretch enough for the flexibility you need during your performance.

In 2012, the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, published an articled that focused on 104 case studies about static stretching. The results showed that stretching more than 45 seconds can decrease power by 2%, muscular strength by 5% and explosive performance by 2% for up to two hours.
For more info, refer to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22316148

VERY IMPORTANT: Most dancers forget to stretch AFTER performing. Stretching after performing helps you increase your flexibility (given that your muscles are already very warmed up). Flexibility requires discipline too. 

 "To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul." - Luigi

And in the spirit of this day, to everyone that loves, enjoys, shares, teaches, appreciates and supports dancing in any form...