While the ballet festival circuit allows dancers to show off their skills, it also requires a physical and mental endurance from its participants as they perform countless shows, traveling from theater to theater.
Sara Mearns, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, is one of these performers on the move. Recently wrapping up New York’s Lincoln Center Festival, the ballerina’s next stop is in Massachusetts for the Nantucket Dance Festival. Constant strenuous activity over the 31-year-old’s life has resulted in a few injuries, so to work with and prevent further physical strain, Mearns collaborated with fellow NYCB dancer and rehabilitated talent Joaquin De Luz to find exercises that strengthened the body in a different way. While dancing, and the training that comes with it, makes the body strong, De Luz has found special moves that target key muscle areas for improved and sustained performance.
The training program, called Dancer Fit, takes a proactive approach, addressing the problem of injury before it happens. Not only for ballerinas, Dancer Fit has been applied to everyone from dancers to doctors, because being healthy and fit should be a goal for all.
Below, we highlight some Dance Fit moves that Mearns has shared with Vogue.com. Whether you’re an up-and-coming dancer or are simply looking for new ways to strengthen and protect the body, these exercises will help you break a sweat!
Starting in a plank position, place a light weight or other object directly between the hands. With one hand, pick up the object and move it forward, returning to plank. Then, with the opposite hand, pick the object up and move it backwards, below the naval. Continue to alternate sides.
“Every time you move the object, your brain has to send messages to fire up your core and keep your body in balance,” De Luz explained in the same article.
With resistance bands around the upper calves, lower into a squat while raising the arms above the head. While extending the legs to stand, shift weight to one side, lower arms, and extend the free leg back. Finish in the lowered squat position and continue to alternate sides.
Torso twist with extension
Starting in a plank position with arms on an elevated surface and a resistance band around the lower thighs, lift and extend one leg back. Bending the extended leg, bring it forward to meet the opposite side’s wrist while lowing into a push up and engaging the core in a twist. Unwind and return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side.
“This is a full-body exercise—a total whammy,” De Luz told Vogue.com. “The leg extension hits the glutes, the twist targets the oblique muscles, and the push-up works the upper body. Focus on proper alignment when doing this exercise, and come back to the original position every time.”