I do this warm-up in some fashion or another every time I practice my solo dancing. Even when I’m practicing with partners, I try my hardest to spend at least ten to fifteen minutes warming up on my own. The meat and potatoes of this warm-up really is meaty and starchy and unfortunately is a lot easier to show than to write about. That is why I wrote it in a kind of coles-notes format so you can just get a general idea of what I try to do rather than reading movement descriptions for twenty minutes.
1 – Turn on Ipod and Hit Random
I always make sure that I’m practicing in a studio with mirrors. It’s essential to be able to see yourself so you can make adjustments while practicing as well as simply practicing just looking up.
Even before I can think about what I want to do for the day, I play two or three songs and try to dance it all the way through without stopping. The goal is not to go full speed flailing arms and legs dancing but to focus on flowing my movements together without stopping or choking up for an extended period of time.
I usually try to just play a random song so I don’t end up micro-choreographing a tune that I’m familiar with but it doesn’t really matter too much. Sometimes I like to live a bit dangerously and even listen to some current popular music… har har.
2 – Internal Check
- How do I feel right now? (am I tired/energetic? hungry? bloated/full?)
- How did I feel about the last practice?
- Are there any parts of my body that’s feeling particular stiff that I could focus on today?
- Any injuries I should be careful of?
I find that quickly making a note of my current state helps settle into the right mind set for practicing on my own. For example, I noticed that earlier this year I would get pretty hungry by the end of practices and this was because I simply did not have enough fuel or specifically carbohydrates before going on an hour or two practice. Can’t flail without some fuel!
Another reason why I do a quick internal check is so that I don’t indadvertedly hurt myself during practice. Most dancers that I know go into practices with a small injury or strain so I always make sure that I’m practicing smart. For example, it’s way too easy to roll your ankle while practicing when you have been social dancing the night before and are feeling a bit fatigued. Take care of your body, you’ll need it for a long time,
3 – Body Isolation
- Rotate clockwise/counter clockwise.
- up-beat groove (“nodding”).
- Rotations – left shoulder, right shoulder, both.
- Forwards/backwards & up/down per shoulder.
- Alternating between quick and slow movements.
- Working on moving the arms up and down in various ways.
- Isolating one arm and moving it in straight angles then “flowy” movements.
- Rotations from the elbows to the hands.
- Contra-body rotation with the arms.
- 90 degree angles.
- Rotation of the hands, opening and closing.
- Forward, back, left, right.
- Clockwise/Counter clockwise circles.
- Same as chest.
- Side to side movements.
- Isolating one side stretching.
- Mostly doing curls and bridges.
- Plantar flexion and dorsiflexion exercises.
4 – Rhythm Isolation
After doing some body isolation, I go through the motions of trying to isolate various rhythms while focusing on one or two body parts. So whatever rhythm i choose (for example quick, quick, slow (1,2,3&4)), I try to replicate it with body isolations.
While doing focusing on body isolations, I change the rhythm up every phrase for one song, then every half phrase for another song, then every 8 counts (fun challenge!). All the while focusing on one or two body parts to “stylize”.
5 – Internal Check (Again)
At the end of the warm-up, I do a quick internal check again to see if there is anything that stands out in my mind that I can keep track of. Sometimes I feel that a particular rhythm or styling I did was good enough to keep in my repertoire of moves while other times I notice that I had challenges moving a particular limb to a specific rhythm. Doing a quick check again for myself forces me to think about what to work on for the next practice.
It is worth to point out that these are just my own techniques and thoughts for warming up before practices. Your mileage will of course vary and what works for me might not work for you.
What I believe is important is to always be thinking about how you can improve your training and practice sessions. Let’s face it, practicing is hard work and it is very easy to just call it a day when you don’t find yourself getting the most out of it.
For myself, doing this style of warm-ups has actually kept me more engaged about dancing over the long term because I see little personal mountains that I have to climb over to get to the next level. It feels great when you do finally cross those chasms and even if there is no one there to see it, you know you did it for yourself.
Lastly, if you can, film yourself practicing. It sucks to watch but trust me, it’s for the better.