Ballroom & Latin Dancing – Sports Massage

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Just knowing you have an appointment with your favorite massage therapist can be an incentive to get through a long day in the studio. Achy muscles and tension will soon melt away and be replaced with that lovely sense of blissful relaxation.

Luckily, a massage is more than just a guilty pleasure. It can actually increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and relieve stress. But while massage therapy has many positive benefits, it’s not exactly the panacea some dancers wish it were. Before you skip the doctor, make sure you know both the benefits and limits of a good rubdown.

How Massage Works

Massage is not just about relaxation. Massage therapists look at how to make a muscle, joint and tendon fire more effectively and even decrease spasm.

There are several types of massage therapy. Dancers most often get a Swedish massage, which helps create a relaxation response in the body, or deep-tissue massage, which helps to reshape patterns of tightness by working on fascia (the connective tissue that wraps each muscle and groups of muscles, much like the casing of a sausage).

Massage also helps to prevent injury. After dancing, massage can reduce tension in the soft tissue as well as stretching the muscles to prevent injury; massage also helps to relax the mind. Deep tissue massages are very popular amongst ballet, ballroom & latin dancers as these improve posture and relax the muscles.


Can Massage…

…Prevent Injury?

When a muscle is “tight,” it can be a sign of overuse or strain, and circulation can be decreased and compromised, making the fascia dehydrated and sticky, which in turn creates adhesions. These adhesions can become painful to stretch and they limit movement, reinforcing dysfunctional movement patterns. “Massage can help break up these fascia adhesions, allowing for improved circulation to the muscle and restoration of full movement.”

By allowing the muscle to work more freely, massage helps prevent imbalances that lead to injury. Massage is one part of injury prevention and rehabilitation, along with exercise, nutrition and sleep. “The massage therapist is part of the dancer’s whole physiological team.”

…Reduce Muscle Soreness?

Massage can increase your circulation, which helps improve recovery. The relaxation effects can also improve your perceived level of fatigue. If a dancer relaxes after a rehearsal while their body is being worked on, they’ve already started the body’s healing process. “That sets them up to feel better, which means they can perform better.”

…Increase Your Range of Motion?

Massage won’t make your muscles more flexible, but it can help relax them. It won’t elongate the muscle, but if you are more relaxed, you will be able to move the limb or joint more easily, and that could increase your range of motion. 15-minute session before an important rehearsal or performance if they have a tight muscle. Dancers feel they have their range back, but it all depends on how fatigued they are and what else is going on with their body.

…Flush Toxins?

If you want to get rid of toxins, you’re better off focusing on hydration than massage. Drinking water right after a massage to rid the body of lactic acid is a myth, as a massage generally does not release built-up lactic acid. “But staying hydrated will help your body function better.”

…Relieve Inflammation?

Lymphatic drainage is proven to decrease inflammation, but that work requires a very light touch. Since a dancer’s schedule is often packed, inflammation is more efficiently treated through electrical stimulation, icing and medication than massage.

…Provide Stress Relief?

Massage has been proven to help reduce both physical and mental stress. The best thing massage can do for you is to help you relax your body. It is also known to improve sleep and help decrease depression and anxiety.

The Bigger Picture

Everyone has muscle imbalances, and staying injury-free is all about maintaining balance in your body. Dancers need to remember that massage is just one possible aid. “Be careful not to rely too much on restorative therapies that only help you ‘feel better.’ Adding stretching and strengthening to correct muscle imbalances is vital to help you get better, too.”

3 Tips for Self-Massage

• Try a lacrosse ball. It’s a good size for a lot of body parts, it’s only about $2 and it’s rubber

• Remember what your therapist does and try to re-create that, making sure it is never so painful that you hold your breath.

• If an area is too sore for pressure, try massaging your face, hands or any surrounding area. That will help decrease the body’s overall muscle tension, which in turn will help decrease tension in the sore spot.

Time It Right

If you have a rehearsal or performance later in the day, massage work should be more superficial, as deep-tissue techniques can leave you feeling too relaxed, loose, a bit sore and unresponsive. A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found a decrease in muscle-force production immediately following a lower-limb massage.

#ballroomdancing #socialdancing #salsadancing #competitivedancing #ballroom #latindancing #Chicago #Evanston #Northfield


Dance With Feeling

Dance With Feeling
“What is a dance? At one level, it is the dance position, the steps, the timing, the coordination, and the athletic strength to accomplish the steps.

Are you able to do a forward, lock, forward; or another combination of forward and locking steps; or even running forward locks in quickstep — without tripping?
Can you assume banjo position — not the side-by-side, hip-to-hip variety, but hips together in a closed position and only turned a little left so that you can step outside partner, upper bodies not square to line, but sliced, angled, man line and wall? Can you accomplish that little bit of contortion comfortably?
Dance is these things, but it is also your feelings about those steps, about the music, and about your partner.


As you move through a particularly sweet music passage are you walking or do you soar?
When you cuddle, do you just assume the position or do you show some cuddly feeling?
Is your caress perfunctory or does it linger just a little and include some eye-contact?
Is your arm work half hearted? A drooping arm projects a different feeling than one that rises and extends, even through the palm and fingers. Do you look and feel low and droopy or up and glad?
A dance is a physical performance, getting the movements right, but it is also communication of feeling and emotion and an interaction with your partner, even a celebration. A great athletic performance can be robotic, rote, and mechanical, the moves correct but cold. Or it can be human and emotional, not necessarily big and melodramatic, but real — movements not for their own sakes but with feeling behind them.

At the end of a dance, the cue is “apart, point.” Do you step back, settle, and collapse? “Whew, that’s over.” Do you look around, wondering what’s next? Or do you ease reluctantly apart from your delightful partner, poignantly release fingertips and truly point — something — in acknowledgement? Point your toe, your finger, your gaze — to say, “thanks, that was great.”

dance lessons, ballroom dance, dance classes, salsa, latin dancing

Foxtrot and ChaCha are light flirtation.
Rumba is more earthy seduction.
Jive and Quickstep are play.
Samba is the Rio Carnival.
Waltz is a 19th century formal ballroom and Jane Austin.
Dance is a partnership between two individuals, not a performance by separate individuals. It is built on indication and response, trust and cooperation, and surrender. It is a display of a relationship between two people.

Switching Grapevine
We could probably pick any figure and think about ways in which we could dance it less mechanically and separately, and more emotionally and together, but let’s look at a newish and not so common one — the Switching Grapevine.

In American Foxtrot, the vine is often referred to as a grapevine, and the Switching Grapevine is very American: done in open position, perhaps both facing wall, both with right feet free. Briefly, we do a front vine 4 moving toward line of dance, the woman rolls 4 in front of the man to left open position still facing wall, we do another front vine 4, and then the man rolls in front of the woman back to open position again.

This figure is not a Standard. It can begin in left open position, so the man would roll across first. It can begin with the roll across and end with both dancing a front vine. It can begin with the left feet free and progress to reverse, or facing center, again with either foot free. The pattern can continue for five, six, or even more measures.

We are not in closed position. We are not even facing each other, but at least we are holding hands. How else can we add to the expressiveness of the figure? We are moving pretty fast down line. The steps are all quicks, but let’s not make it a furious rush. We can stay close instead of at arms’ reach and keep our steps compact — flowing together instead of one dragging the other along. We can think about where we are looking and where we are focusing or aiming our bodies. It seems that the pursuer should be angled a little toward and looking at the one being chased. The pursued might look back to urge the pursuer on, or she might play a coyer, more flirtatious role. But do something. Don’t just plod along.

You might think that the one doing the rolling across is the one doing most of the work during that measure, and so the other might be tempted to take it easy until it is his turn, but both need to dance during every measure. While one does the roll, the other dances a “cross, recover, side, recover.” Don’t just dance in place, and certainly don’t just stand there like a lump. The initial crossing step especially has feeling to it. You cross in front and so draw on your partner, pulling him or her toward you. It’s an expressive gesture, a part of the flirtation — “come to me, baby.” The second recovering step let’s your partner catch you. Then the final “side, recover” specifically allows her to float on past. We chase once more. Play that role: pull her to you and then let her go. Put that feeling into your hand-hold, into the elasticity of your connection, and into your expression and attention.

It is easy to become emotionally distant from your partner. You’ve been dancing for years, thousands of dances. So, here she is again, posing, stretching, and lifting into a great Develope, and you are just standing there, waiting for your next step. Or you might be standing tall, chest swelled, as the matador in a paso doble, and she is focusing not on you but on her own movements and footwork. But, dancing together, you can go beyond the physical performance and reinforce and complement each other. Your dance can be more than the sum of its parts, or it can be only those parts. Any dance can include attitude, mood, emotion, feeling … Without these, it is just steps.”
by Harold & Meredith Sears

A version of this article was originally published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) newsletter, November 2010; reprinted CRDA Round Notes, March/April 2015.


From Risk to Recovery Ballroom & Latin Dancers

Don’t get waylaid by these five common dance injuries.

No matter how careful you are, sporadic overuse injuries are an occupational hazard of professional dance. “Dance looks great because it’s an unusual movement—it’s not natural to the body, so your body may react negatively to it over time,” says Johann Howard, physical therapist at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University Langone Medical Center. Fortunately, you can minimize the occurrence of chronic problems if you recognize the warning signs and are prepared to let your body heal effectively.

~FHL Tendonitis

Also called “dancer’s tendonitis,” flexor hallucis longus tendonitis is an inflammation or tear in the tendon that travels under your calf muscle, inside the ankle bone and along the bottom of the foot to help point the big toe. “This is one of the few tendons that passes through a bit of a tunnel, so when it’s swollen and inflamed, it can get stuck,” says Nancy Kadel, MD, orthopedic surgeon and chair of the Dance/USA Task Force on Dancer Health. “Ballet dancers with FHL tendonitis will generally feel pain when going from demi-pointe to full pointe, since that bends the big toe down.” FHL tendonitis can also cause a “trigger toe,” meaning the big toe clicks or gets caught, sometimes requiring straightening out with your hand.

Risk factors: FHL tendonitis comes from repetitive pushing off with your foot during jumps or while going from plié to relevé. “The key is to have balanced strength and flexibility all around your ankle,” says Kadel, who adds that it can be helpful to be evaluated by a physical therapist to be sure you’re not overstretching or compressing the tendon while dancing.

Recovery: It usually takes four to six weeks (or longer for a tear) to recover, as long as you don’t ignore the pain and seek medical treatment. “If your pain is above a 3 out of 10, don’t dance,” Howard says. “Instead, ask your physical therapist for safe strengthening exercises.” Kadel has her patients gradually return to class, perhaps leaving out pointework, grand pliés or jumps until pain has completely subsided. She may also recommend ice massages to reduce inflammation, or sleeping in a night splint to keep the foot in a neutral position.

Prevent relapse: Dancers should be able to avoid relapse as long as they maintain proper foot alignment and continue strengthening and stretching the area throughout their career.

~Stress Fractures

In dancers, stress fractures—tiny cracks in the bones due to repetitive overloading—are often found in the metatarsals (the long bones of the foot). “Dancers will describe a toothache-like pain on the top of the foot that gets worse when jumping or turning,” Kadel says. “In the beginning, you may not see any swelling or bruising, but it will gradually become more painful.”

Risk factors: Kadel suggests thinking of the long, thin metatarsal bones like wire hangers. “It won’t break the first time you bend it, but after bending it 50 times, it may,” she says. “Every time you load the bone beyond its limit, it has a reaction and then heals itself, but with overuse, you’re not giving that bone enough time to heal, so it cracks.” Stress fractures become more likely during periods of increased activity—like in preparation for a big performance or during a summer intensive—or for dancers with weaker bones due to poor nutrition.

Recovery: Katie Lemmon, certified athletic trainer at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, says this injury may land you in a boot for several weeks, especially if it hurts to walk. “Dancers with stress fractures shouldn’t be doing weight-bearing activity, but I’ll often give them other strengthening exercises like Pilates, so it’s only a modified rest,” Lemmon says. You’ll be able to monitor your recovery by how much pain you feel, but you should still be under the care of a medical professional to determine when it’s safe to return to different stages of dancing. It may take three weeks or more before you’re able to try jumping on two feet, and longer before you’re able to safely perform grand allégro.

Prevent relapse: “Since stress fractures are often caused by a muscle imbalance, use the recovery time to look for the underlying cause, which will prevent it from happening again,” says Lemmon. As long as you listen to your body, bone heals without scar tissue, so relapse is unlikely.

~Lower Back Pain

Dancers are at especially high risk for straining their lower back muscles. This pain feels like a dull ache or discomfort on one or both sides of your spine (not directly on it), and may feel especially painful in arabesque.

Risk factors: “Lower back pain often comes when dancers are trying something new, whether it’s new choreography or a different style of dance, and when dancers have weakness in their core muscles,” Kadel says. “For example, dancers’ back muscles may get overwhelmed by all the penchées on one leg while rehearsing La Bayadère.” Too much repetition on muscles that aren’t quite strong enough may lead to the muscle fibers being stretched, torn or inflamed.

Recovery: Strains in the lower back can take quite some time to heal—according to Howard, up to two or three months. Depending on the injury, you may be able to take modified class throughout your recovery or need to suspend all dancing to allow for proper healing. When appropriate, a physical therapist may help you stretch the affected muscles and offer back and abdominal strengthening exercises, like planks and movements that target the lower abs.

Prevent relapse: “With lower back pain, you can almost guarantee it will come back,” Howard says. “So it’s important to self-manage and come back to physical therapy when you anticipate something will aggravate it or if you start feeling pain.”

~Ankle Sprains

“A sprained ankle means you’ve partially torn one of the ligaments between your ankle bones,” Kadel says. “They’re often caused by fatigue, and are by far the most common injury I see.” While ankle sprains usually happen suddenly, the precursors are often dwelling for some time.

Risk factors: The biggest risk factor for spraining an ankle is having done it before. Others include higher-arched feet, very flexible ankles and, like most chronic injuries, muscle imbalances. Kadel encourages dancers to spend just as much time strengthening the outside muscles as the inside muscles of the ankle—those you use for winging and sickling.

Recovery: Sprains are generally graded on three levels, with the least severe healing in about three weeks and the most severe taking up to 12. For bad sprains, Howard says dancing at all may be off limits, and you may have to wear a boot for a few weeks. “Some ankle sprains are so painful that there’s no way you could dance even if you wanted to,” he says. “In physical therapy, we’ll slowly start to introduce perturbation exercises, which means balancing on a pillow or wobble board to build ankle strength.”

Prevent relapse: Your physical therapist may recommend core workouts to build strength to help prevent future sprains. “Even after you heal, it’s important to keep doing those physical therapy exercises like a religion,” Howard says. Once you’ve had one sprain, you’ll always be at a higher risk to get another.

~Shin Splints

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, describes a generalized pain on the inner edge of the shin bone (tibia). Shin splints may feel worse with certain movements, like jumping or pointing your foot.

Risk factors: Shin splints often occur during an increase in activity, which overworks the muscles, tendons and bone tissue. Hard floors can exacerbate the pain. Shin splints can be more likely in dancers with very high arches or flat feet. “We also see shin splints caused by dancers gripping their toes too hard on the floor,” Lemmon says. Teenagers are particularly at risk: When dancers grow quickly, their lower leg bones often grow faster than their muscles, which can lead to discomfort.

Recovery: With proper care, rest and ice, the pain of shin splints should subside in two to four weeks. “In physical therapy, we’ll work on core exercises, calf stretches and hip-strengthening exercises so dancers aren’t using their toes to keep their balance,” says Lemmon. “Usually we’ll start with less-weight-bearing exercises and progress to more-weight-bearing exercises over time.” Dancers can take a modified class, but as with any chronic injury, any movement that causes pain is preventing your body from healing and should be avoided.

Prevent relapse: Continuing physical therapy exercises and stretches long after you’ve healed can prevent relapse.

North Shore Dance Society, Ballroom, Latin, Social & Competitive Dancing

Ballroom dance Evanston social competitive Latin Salsa WCS Argentine Tango


Article from dancemagazine.

Too Sore To Move? Ballroom Dancing!

Every ballroom dancer knows the pain of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Both eccentric muscle contractions—where the muscle fibers lengthen as they contract, like while landing from jumps—and concentric muscle contractions—like doing too many relevés—can bring it on. The aching feeling that sets in after 12 to 24 hours is a side effect of the repair process as your body heals microscopic muscle-fiber tears. But what are the best ways to deal with it so you can get back to dancing pain-free?

Snack Smart

Certain foods have been proven to decrease the duration and intensity of muscle soreness: Nutritionist Heidi Skolnik recommends adding cinnamon, ginger and cherry juice or tart cherries to your diet regularly—even before you get sore.

Don’t forget to stay adequately nourished and hydrated during challenging rehearsals. “How well does a dry sponge work compared to a nice moist one?” asks Green. “Apply that to your muscles.” Keep snacks in your bag to eat whenever you get a break.

Within 30 minutes after dancing, reach for a combination of carbohydrates and protein. “It helps to repair your muscle tissue,” . Having a snack like yogurt, chocolate milk, a peanut butter sandwich or cottage cheese with pineapple on or before your commute home. “Don’t worry about saving your calories for dinner,” . “If your snack is nutritious, it’s okay if it makes you less hungry and in turn have a smaller dinner.”

Stay Loose

Addressing your particular tight spots with regular bodywork, such as massage or acupuncture, can help prevent soreness by keeping your muscle fibers mobile. If you can’t afford private appointments, at least make sure your dance bag is packed with self-massage tools, like a foam roller, rolling stick and tennis ball.

Rehearse Strategically

When you’re in an intense rehearsal, pace yourself. “You know your body best,” . “Are you tired or stressed, or are you able to push yourself right now? Figure out how to use your energy so you don’t get too depleted, especially at the end of the day.” Working smart is as important as working hard. “If you are doing a movement that uses new muscles, there is a normal amount of time the body needs to acclimate to it.”

Cool Down

Although it’s just as important as warming up, cooling down often gets overlooked. “If you don’t stretch out, bring your body temperature down and do some self release at the end of a rehearsal or show, everything that follows in your commute, evening and sleep will conspire to make you tighter,” . “When you wake up the next morning, the tightness and soreness will feel 10 times stronger.”

Decrease Swelling

Once you get home, elevate your legs. “When you work the muscles really hard, the body responds to those microtears in the tissue by bringing blood to the area, which is inflammation,” . “While it marks the beginning of the healing process, it can also create swelling.” Experts debate whether icing, which can interrupt the inflammation process, is helpful. So far, research remains inconclusive, so experiment to find out what feels best on your body. If ice is not reducing the soreness, try alternating it with heat, or perhaps trying heat alone. “As a person and as a PT, I can’t imagine not icing,” . “I have never seen it work against someone.” She cautions against overusing ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), as they can mask injury and prolong necessary treatment.

Go to Bed

Your muscles have their best chance at recovery when you’re sleeping. Without enough rest, they might not fully heal, which means you’ll continue pain

to strain muscles that are already weakened by microtears. So hit the pillow early, and avoid caffeine and alcohol so that you can get quality sleep.


Find what works for you

“Each individual knows his or her body best,” . “One remedy may be great for one person but useless for another.” Figure out what works best for you and don’t be afraid to try new strategies as your body or dance schedule changes.

Original Article at dancemagazine


Ballroom Dancers and the Salt

Do ballroom dancers need more sodium?


Most diet guidelines tell us to watch out for salt—the U.S. government recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or the amount in just one teaspoon of table salt. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is even lower: 1,500 milligrams per day.

Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and heart failure. But when we sweat, we lose electrolytes. And sodium and chloride—the two components of table salt—are two of the electrolytes lost in the highest concentrations, according to the American Council on Exercise.


“Dancers need salt,” says Heidi Skolnik, a nutritionist who works with dancers at The Juilliard School and School of American Ballet. “The recommendation for a low-sodium diet is really not geared toward the active individual.” Sodium is vital during exercise because it helps regulate muscle function and the amount of water in the body. “I often recommend that athletes consume slightly more sodium than the average person due to their vigorous training and increased sweating,” adds Dr. Scott Weiss, a physical therapist and exercise physiologist.


Typically most dancers can get adequate sodium as long as they include some salty foods in their diet. However, “clean eating,” or diets that advocate eating mostly plant-based, unprocessed foods, are all the rage right now, and Skolnik warns that they can be too low in sodium. “If you crave salt,” she says, “absolutely add salt. You don’t need to avoid it.”


In extreme cases, losing too much sodium can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. “In essence, you begin to hold on to too much water—you’re diluting your own blood,” says Skolnik. Symptoms include nausea, confusion, headache, muscle cramps and fatigue. This condition is most common in endurance athletes, like marathon runners, who may drink large amounts of water without properly replenishing their electrolytes. But Weiss warns that long hours under hot stage lights can make dancers sweat more and increase their risk. Dancers’ perfectionism can also be dangerous. “They often have trouble finding true balance between their health and performance. Some compound excessive travel, exercise, performance and rehearsals, and simply do too much,” he says. If dancers don’t make time to eat and rest on long days, they put themselves at risk for hyponatremia.


Exact sodium requirements vary depending on genes and on how much you sweat. (And the fitter you are, the more you will sweat, as your body becomes more efficient at cooling itself.) If you’re concerned about not getting enough, or eating too much salt, a medical professional can check your electrolyte levels. Weiss also recommends consulting a dietitian to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, including sodium.

The Gatorade Question


You may have heard that you should stay away from sports drinks because of high amounts of sugar and sodium. That is true for the casual exerciser, but sports drinks are designed to help highly active people like dancers replenish fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates lost during exercise. If you are just dancing for an hour or two in class, says Heidi Skolnik, you probably don’t need more than water and a snack afterward. But the longer and harder your day, the more you can benefit from a sports drink’s extra boost.


Concerned About Going Overboard


If you’re afraid of eating too much salt, stock up on fruits and veggies that are rich in potassium. It counteracts the potential negative health effects of sodium by helping the body pass excess amounts out through the urine, and may also help blood vessel and muscle function. Top sources include potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, oranges and broccoli.


Good Sources of Sodium



~Salted nuts
~Sports drinks

What is Dance Psychology? North Shore Ballroom Dance Society

Performance anxiety:

Feeling a heightened sense of arousal and anxiety before a performance is common. A certain level of energy sparks a good performance. However, on occasion our thoughts and feelings can be out of control, and they can negatively impact performance. They can create a situation in which we think we are not good enough, or we fear that we may not be the right body shape. Before stepping on stage we may worry that we will miss the jump in the opening sequence.What do you think about when you dance? What do you think about just before or after dancing? Do you experience performance jitters? Do you worry about what you look like, what others look like, or what others think about your dancing? These are the kinds of questions that often arise in performance. Knowing how to handle intrusive and sometimes negative thoughts, or how to manage performance anxiety, are some of the topics addressed by dance, sport and performance psychology. Today’s blog is about dance psychology in general. The next will be about managing your performance jitters.

North Shore Ballroom Dance Society

What is Dance Psychology?

Dance psychology is a field that entertains the following questions, among others:

~how the mind can facilitate performance?
~how can performance anxiety can be managed?
~how do you recover from injury?
~how do you cope with the stressors of working in highly demanding situations?

It is an area of study and practice that uses research, theory and practitioner’s wisdom to address psychological issues related to dance and dancers. The field of dance psychology has evolved from sport psychology, which is some 50 years old. Dance psychology is about using the mind to enhance dance, improve well-being, and offset negative aspects of life in the unique and challenging world of dance. It is about using psychology and the mind to help us be the best that we can be.

Using The Mind In Dance

Often we overlook the importance of the mind despite knowing that the mind and body are intimately tied. The interaction between the two can have profound effects on our performance, health, motivation, and sense of who we are. Dance psychology can provide us with insights, skills, strategies and techniques to enhance dancing, create stronger selves and to improve our ability to navigate through the creative, challenging, and complex culture of dance. There are numerous benefits of including psychological skills into the artistry, and athleticism of dancing. Here are some of the benefits of training your mind as well as your body:

Improved management of performance jitters.
Improved coping with the stressors in daily living.
Increased confidence.
Improved attention and focus.
Identification of short and long-term goals to improve performance.
Emotional regulation to move through performance highs and lows with greater ease, and reduced anxiety.
Performance enhancement.
Enhanced well-being and the ability to feel in control of your career and your life.
Better energy management to help you with your resources.
Enhanced injury management and coping.



by Lynda Mainwaring, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Dance Hip Flexibility North Shore Ballroom Dance Society

Don’t get me wrong, proper ballroom dance technique is essential for Cuban motion. Once you have the dancing basics down however, you might be asking yourself: How can I do more to capture the look of a Latin dancer? And a big part of that comes from increasing your dance hip flexibility, which gives you more range of motion on the dance floor. Here’s 6 ways to do that.

1. Keep a neutral spine.
Many dancers, due to an imbalance in their core and back muscles, end up sticking their butt out while dancing. This is like stretching an elastic band to it’s limit before twisting it. If you then try to twist your hips, at best you’ll find your hip flexibility is lower than usual – at worst you risk tearing something.

2. Make sure the core is working.
Many muscles can play a roll in the rotation of the hips, but the ringleaders are the core muscles (your abs and lower back muscles). If you find it hard to use the core muscles while dancing, stand 2-footed with legs straight, and imagine you have bungee cords crossing from your hip to the opposite lower ribs. Practice dance tightening the muscles in the latter to pull to opposite hip forward (it won’t move much).

3. Add the knees and feet.
Engaging your legs won’t actually increase hip flexibility, but it can certainly make the dance action bigger! Think of how you climb a flight of stairs: you bend your knee to step onto the stair, shift your weight over the leg, then straighten to push yourself up. We use these same muscles when Latin dancing to move our hips. Turning the toes outwards also helps open the hips for bigger rotation.

4. Stretch the hip rotator muscles.
If you’ve tried the above three tips and the dancing movement still feels tight, you might need to increase hip flexibility through stretching. I’ve talked about some great stretches in the past, but here’s one specific to the hip rotators:

A. Sitting on a chair, place the LF on top of the right thigh, so the knee points out to the side.
B. Push gently down on the left thigh until you feel resistance.
C. Tilt slightly forward at the hip as you exhale, and hold for 30 seconds.
D. You can get a different stretch by starting with step A and pulling the left knee towards the right shoulder.

5. Stretch the IT band.
Another common area that dancers need to stretch regularly isn’t a muscle at all; it’s a thin, sheath of connective tissue that runs from the hip down to the knee. This is the iliotibial (IT) band. IT bands are notoriously difficult to stretch, although I suggest one here that works for some. However, the only method I’ve found that works for almost everybody is (*wince*) foam rolling.

Consider picking up a yoga matt along with your roller so you have something to rest on during this stretch:

A. Buy a foam roller and lie sideways on it, so it rests just below the hip bone.
B. Slowly walk yourself upward, rolling the length of your leg down to just above the knee. Feel free to scream loudly while doing so.

It’s definitely not comfortable, but it feels great once you’re done!

6. Drill it!

Sometimes, the best way to improve hip flexibility is simply by practicing the Cuban motion you learned in class. Try it to a Rumba or Cha Cha beat, 20 minutes and 3 times a week, making sure you are pushing yourself to go a little further each time. Flexibility and dance practice in one exercise!

North Shore Ballroom Dance Society


by Ian Crewe

Musical Accents Ballroom Dancing North Shore

North Shore Ballroom Dance Society

Let’s start with an exercise: What’s your favorite food? Would it still be your favorite if it was all you ate for a year? Of course not – it would get boring! Unfortunately, this is typical of most ballroom dancers: For all the musical expression they have, they might as well be dancing to a metronome.

Learning musicality is often difficult, because we begin by learning very understandable, clear-cut movements, until someone shouts: ‘Now, be musical!’ We can make a good beginning however, by identifying the different accents in music, and what we might do when we hear them.

1. The Downbeat

The downbeat is the most common music accent, occurring as a regular accent throughout the song. You might hear it expressed through the drums in a swing song, the accordion in a tango, or the hi-hat in a foxtrot.

Since the downbeat is so common, you can make a mess of dance trying to express every one. If the beat is strong however, you can make your general dancing slightly stronger, through sharper movements of the body or feet, or quicker weight changes.

2. The ‘1’

The first note that begins every ‘phrase’ of music, the ‘1’ is worth listening for, because it reflects either a change or a repetition of the notes played previously. As most phrases of music happen over a count of 8 (or 4 downbeats), you can learn to hear and anticipate when the ‘1’ is coming in your dance.

You can express the ‘1’ by beginning a new step, changing the speed, or changing the distance traveled. Try to match slower, simpler movements to the quieter parts of the song, and break out the high energy ‘picture steps’, when the chorus begins.

3. The Legato Note

‘Legato’ in music are longer, drawn-out notes, like the strings in a waltz. It’s also possible for an entire song to be legato, at least relative to more high-energy tunes. Legato notes are often used to express deep feelings, like sorrow or romance.

Since legato phrases are softer, smoother, and more emotional than their staccato counterparts, make your dance softer and smoother as well. Focus on ‘filling the music’ with continuous movement, rather than a start-stop action. Imagine you and your partner are moving together on a well-made rollercoaster with no bumps.

4. The Staccato Note

The opposite of legato, staccato reflects sharp, or sudden beats. Staccato music tends to be full of passion and fire, and usually have more energy than their legato cousins. Drums and percussion instruments are classic examples of staccato sounds.

Practice reflecting staccato phrases of music with move staccato movement – quicker snaps of the body, for instance, or shifting your weight more quickly, then pausing to let your feet catch up. A great way to get a sense of legato vs staccato is by comparing waltz to tango dancing respectively.

5. The Break

Less common in ballroom music but very powerful, some songs have a literal break in the sound, to create tension, anticipation, or to give the music that follows or precedes greater power. Breaks aren’t always complete – the drums might cut out for example, to make room for passionate vocals.

Breaks are perfect for dramatic, drawn-out movements, like the tango oversway, or the Viennese Waltz x-line. They usually only happen once per song though, so bonus points if you catch it!

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.



North Shore Ballroom Dance Society

Dance Lessons

Life Skills You Develop From Being A Dancer

After class, on your sweaty, post-adrenaline-high walk back to your car, you marvel at the dance community and how far you have come since that fateful day you happened upon that one workshop.

You’ve received your team shirt, your team nickname, and started eating instant ramen to afford the comp fees and costumes.

Somewhere in between 9PM and 2AM the night before that big show, it hits you;  there is so much more to dance than just learning steps and formations.

Here are 5 valuable things you have learned from being a dancer.

1. When to step up – and when to step back

You aren’t the only person on your dance team. Having to share the spotlight means you begin to build awareness of the role that you play amongst the 40+ people you dance with.

Being on a dance team encourages us to challenge ourselves with introspection, and to be comfortable with switching between being heard/seen, and stepping back to let others shine.

On any team, there are those who may be more gregarious and outspoken as well as those who are shier and more reserved.

We also know that a team full of outspoken dancers tends to bring about inefficiency, so it becomes an important skill to build to learn when to speak up (stepping up), and when to listen (stepping back).

This goes for class-takers as well: switching lines while taking class, letting other people stand in the front if you’ve learned the choreography before, and pushing yourself to stand in front for groups (if you know you tend to shy away from center stage) – these are all good practices in learning to step up/step back.

2. Grit

Between taking classes and workshops, casting for pieces, and getting feedback from your choreographer/director/coordinator comes with the territory of dejection.

As much as we still lament about these things at post-practice outings with our teammates, we learn to develop thicker skin.

Grit is exactly that – building strength of character and resolve.

Learning to take these feelings of dejection in stride helps us build such resilience; being able to receive feedback with open ears and an open heart is crucial to success.

Here’s an amazing TED talk about how grit is the key to success:

3. A sense of oneness with those around you/a sense of community

It’s all about that home away from home – on a team, we learn to develop a strong sense of family; we look for one another, spend copious amounts of time with one another, and and grow to become protective over one another. In class, there is a sense of looking out for one another.

Asking the person next to us what that last move was, being respectful to other class-takers, sitting down if we’re in the front few rows while the choreographer demonstrates his/her musicality are all evidences of a sense of community within a class setting.

We learn to build rapport with others and the importance of gelling well with others.

4. An eye for detail

We practice the art of mimicry of movement. We undergo thorough team cleaning. We look at class or performance footage with a sinking realization our arms didn’t extend like we thought they did, or our angles weren’t as crisp as we would’ve liked. Over time, we build a hyper-awareness of what the choreographer is doing compared to what our body is doing.

We develop a keen awareness of what pictures our body is hitting and whether they match that of the choreographer’s, and if we discern that there is something off, we learn to pinpoint what it is and fix it.

5. Mental stamina

You too, can eventually join other class enthusiasts and take 3-4 back-to-back classes without feeling like death.

Mental stamina is a natural byproduct of your craft – whether you’re a dancer on a team or a zealous class-taker, in between learning choreo and remembering changes to choreography and blocking, we build mental endurance.

And while taking back-to-back classes may at first be your Everest, with practice and repetition, you will find that retention gets easier with time.


The article was found at and it was originally published on September 8, 2014.

North Shore Dance Society

North Shore Dance Society Set and Achieve Your Dance Goals

All of us have things we want, as dancers. But the difference between those of us who get what we want and those who stay wishing, is that the former group of individuals set goals.

Ready, set. Now.. how do you reach your dance goals?

The path to making them a reality will most likely not be smooth, and require a lot of impromptu sub-goals along the way. But knowing your direction and working towards something you want will give your actions a sense of purpose, and force you to stay resilient.

#Goals isn’t just a trending hashtag, it’s a real thing.

But where does one start? What is a good dance goal to have, even?

Keep reading to discover some helpful ideas in the practice of setting and achieving your dance #goals.

1. Meditate On What Fulfills You As A Dancer

There is a difference between something you’re mildly interested in and something you’re die-hard passionate about, something you’d fight for.

Before you think about setting a dance goal, find what moves you.

Spend some time in introspection, even recalling on specific instances in the past that made you think “yeah, this is it, this is what dance / my life’s supposed to be about,” and study what it was that made you feel that way.

Does choreographing get your heart pumping? Is it the act of creation that makes you happy? Do you enjoy telling stories or sending a message through dance? Do you love teaching and watching your students improve? Are you interested in competition planning?

Whatever your cup of tea, make sure it’s not something that’s temporarily gratifying and won’t (tea)-leave the second things get tough. It needs to be a sustainable feeling, something that you believe in and are willing to sacrifice for.

These are the things in your life that fulfill you.

2. Set One Specific, Long term, First-Tier Goal

Write out your mission statement as a dancer. Your top-priority, your driving force, your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

A good dance goal is S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

It needs to articulate the who, what, when, wheres- the details of what this achievement will look like.

Example 1: “My goal is to: have shot my first full-blown contemporary x hip hop concept video on (theme) with (cast) by the end of 2015.”

Example 2: “My goal is to: choreograph for, direct, and lead a project to perform at Maxt Out 2015.”
Notice how all of these are different, but include all aspects of “S.M.A.R.T.” You need to know what you want, in order to get what you want- and drafting a goal according to this handy checklist can help summarize this want.

3. ..And Some Short Term Goals

A goal is your final destination, but there are a lot of routes you can take. For any goal worth achieving, there will undoubtedly be a lot of roadblocks in that route, as well. Sub-goals allow you to list and strategize the prerequisite actions you must take before moving on to the next step.

Example 1: “Train and exercise flexibility” / “Save $(specific dollar amount) for costume and production budget.”

Example 2: “Start reaching out to dancers to gauge interest and schedules” / “Inquire (show producers) about project requirements and performance guidelines”

4. WRITE Your Goals Down!

Everything becomes 10000% more solidified once the words are written down. It can be in your phone’s notes, your journal, whatever. Heck, make it your screensaver!

Tips in goal-writing:

a. Make sure it is written in a positive language, such as “introduce yourself to more people in class” instead of “stop being so shy.” This is you talking to yourself, make sure you speak with an optimistic and hopeful tone.

b. Keep it in a place where you can see it, and will constantly be reminded of your running checklist. It won’t be of much use if you jot down your goals on a Starbucks napkin and end up throwing it away.

I use my planner’s “Notes” page, where I’m continually crossing off or adding new items to my list. I always have it on me, and I’m always checking back to see my progress.

c. (Counterintuitive, but) Don’t tell anyone! Or, too many people. Broadcasting what you want to, or are about to do, can have this pesky psychological effect of making you believe you already did some of the work.

No! You did not! Telling your friend “Yeah I’m about to make this super fire piece..” tricks you into thinking the matches have been lit. But where the flame at?! In your head, is where it is!!

Keep your goals, for the most part, as private and minimally announced. After all, it’s YOUR goal! You’re aiming for a sense of personal satisfaction, not to have people tell you “good job.”

5.  Make Sure Your Dance Goals Are Measurable, Within A (Realistic) Timeline

Checkpoints, key performance indicators, whatever you wanna call it- set specific, measurable timelines that’ll make it obvious to know when you’ve completed something.

Example 1: “To have shot my first full-blown contemporary x hip hop concept video on (theme) with (cast) by the end of 2015.“
The BOLDED parts are the deadlines for these specific sub-goals:

– “Finish choreography by October 17th, record for reference”
– “Save x amount of dollars by November 1st”
“Month of November: reserve rehearsal space at Snowflake Eyeglass Studio for Thursdays and Sunday 8 pm -11 pm”

Example 2: “To choreograph for, direct, and lead a project to perform at Maxt Out 2015.“
The date of the show is obviously the “deadline” for this goal. But what are some other parameters to guide you along the way?

– “Recruit and confirm x number of dancers by July 17th”
– “First practice on July 26th, teach first piece and bonding activity”
– “Costumes made and paid for by August 11th“

If you’re a more visual person, lay out all these dates in a monthly calendar so you can have a birds-eye view of your remaining time.

6. Be Mindful Of Obstacles And Challenges 

..and be open to changes to accommodate. What Charles Darwin meant by “survival of the fittest” actually means, the “survival of those most adaptable to change.”

We all know that your journey is not going to be perfect. But what can make you even less deterred by the random challenges along the way, is the flexibility of your goals and sub-goals. No, you shouldn’t settle or quit the moment things get tough. But you need to learn to work with what you’ve got

7. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

What are goals if not for the euphoric sense of accomplishment and self-worth when they are reached?! Oh, the journey in getting there. But still!

Celebrating what you’ve done is not only well-deserved, but it’s great positive reinforcement. You now armed with more confidence and the reassurance that you can do anything you put your mind to, so you’re more likely to pursue other #goals with more vigor and excitement. Yeah!

8. Don’t Stop.

To me, the saddest successes are singular ones. When an artist has a one-hit wonder or otherwise produces something amazing then disappears, convinced that no other work will match up to their first.

No! *slaps face* if you keep growing and believing in your abilities, what you make/do will grow along with it. Yes, we’re all hungry. But those with consistent achievements are the ones who stay hungry and refuse to grow complacent.

The dance scene has evolved exponentially these past few years. This growth would not have happened if not for the hungry, ambitious, goal-setting dancers who made their dreams a reality.

Who’s to say you’re not one of them? Get up, get out, and get on your #hashtag# goals TODAY!


Author: Jessie Ma