When we dance we use our bodies, and as such, we have to keep the body in good shape at all times. For a dancer, the body is an instrument – it assists us in completing motions such as walking, sitting or sleeping. In the world of dance, this instrument has to be ready to complete movements that require different levels of effort, strength and agility. Very easily, the body can become a danger to itself, just like starting a vehicle for the first time in the morning, you have to allow time for the engine to heat up before you head out. The same principle applies with the body, you have to raise the heart rate, allow blood to rush through your muscles before you begin vigorous movements.
As I write this right now, I know there is someone contemplating on starting a presentation, dance performance without warming up because they have run out of time, or they want to do a quick demonstration and be on their way. Look around you and tell them to STOP!!! For a while, I ignored this basic principle and for a while I thought I was demystifying ‘the warm up myth’. Boy did I get a rude awakening when I pulled a muscle right before a career defining presentation while I was still at Dance School. As someone who always despised warm ups, and as a teacher now, I make sure to devote time to creating interesting sequences for my students. There are three (3) basic types of warm ups e.g. cardiovascular, technique exercise, and thematic warm ups. In a different blog post, I will elaborate on these, but for now, it is important that you take note.
The dance teacher usually teaches using locomotor (running, skipping, jumping etc.) and they are non-locomotor or axial (bending, stretching, twisting) movements in the classroom / hall or outdoor. Learners find their own space and at the beat of a drum they run/skip/slide around the room. For example, the students can move around in regular beats with arms making figure of eight movement, first low then high. The teacher can at any point call out a signal for the learners to stop. The use of “hold or freeze’’ is important to give the learners the opportunity to process the information before proceeding to the next task/activity, throughout the lesson.
Instruction in dance often requires some basic warm –up activities to help us to reduce the possibility of injury. The teacher may lead the class in stretching and basic physical activity to allow students to warm up their muscles and be prepared to perform simple and complex movements most individuals do not perform during normal day-to-day activities. Another one we warm up is through folk games such as 'Kachembere keGudo' (Old Baboon) – designed to raise the pulse rate, increase the body temperature (especially in this Winter after the El Nino) and mobilise the joints and warm the muscles. This same game helps children in our classes to become more aware of the spaces as well as their peers in the class. It’s also an opportunity to become present and connect with your body. Dancers know that a proper warm-up can prevent injury and allow them to dance with full range of motion and extension.
So why is warm up important for us at African Dance & Wellness teaching programme AfroFeet?
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