When we initially start to take dance classes, we all want that full split and 180-degree kicks and flexible back and long legs. But in the long way, you need to realize that flexibility is sufficient to make you a good dancer but you need strength along with flexibility to become a great dancer.
If you are flexible but lack strength, how will you hold your leg in a tilt without support? Will you be able to do a penché instead of an arabesque? Would you prefer being called a willowy, nimble-footed and feather-like dancer over a strong, tough, fierce and explosive dancer?
And if you have strength and lack flexibility, you know how it feels to be centimeters or inches above the floor while everyone else relaxes into their splits and/or over splits.
Hyper-Flexibility and Injuries
Dancers do impossible things. They extend their limbs as if they are made of rubber or latex, they twirl faster than a tornado and they even fly! But, they are also athletes who deal with the risk of injury just like other athletes. Reduced muscular strength has been reported to be associated with an increased risk for injury in dancers.
Flexibility training on a regular basis causes connective tissues to loosen and elongate. When the connective tissue of a muscle is weak, it is more likely to become damaged due to overstretching, or sudden, powerful muscular contractions. The likelihood of such injury can be reduced by strengthening the muscles bound by the connective tissue.
There are innumerable pros of being flexible but nothing in excessive amounts is ever good for health. Hyper-extension or hyper-flexibility increases the potential risk for injury. Focusing on developing strength is therefore important to avoid injuries and to facilitate improvement and growth. It is a prerequisite to becoming a smart, strong and self- aware dancer.
Dancing can be particularly taxing on the spine, especially in young dancers with hypermobile joints. Core strength helps to support the spine and the core muscles not only stabilize the spine but also trunk and pelvis, preventing back injury and allowing for powerful rotational movement.
Core stability is also important in controlling turns, jumps and transitional movements as well as essential to improving height with developpe, arabesque, attitude etc.
Along with flexibility and strength, dancers are also required to build muscular as well as cardiovascular endurance. Endurance refers to the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to perform work for a long time. Advanced level dancers are usually suggested to take up ballet classes to improve their technique and alignment and reduce the risk of injury. There is an increase in need for endurance to live through prolonged combinations and longer rehearsals or classes efficiently.
Some investigators even recommend: “Strengthen what you stretch, and stretch after you strengthen!”
Every dancer must work equally on both strength and flexibility from the very beginning. If one works on flexibility first and they become flexible without having strength, what use will their flexibility be if they can’t lift their leg and hold it for an extended period of time, as dancers are required to do?
Strength forms the base on which flexibility stands and a dancer must maintain a balance of both for holistic growth. After all, one must bend and not break.