By: Susan Angell-Gonzalez (President/CEO ShowMakers of America / Former Texas State University Strutters Director/Choreographer)
We know that strength training can help build speed, and full-body conditioning gives dancers the ability to fire their muscles quickly and prevent fatigue. Yet strength and endurance are only part of the package. Dancers need the right force, energy, mental focus and musicality to learn how to move their bodies at a faster speed. How do we start?
To move fast, dancers must demonstrate control of their bodies. Encourage students to move with energy and purpose from the beginning of their training. I always trained my students during high kick sessions to “power up” and “power down” the kick for timing purposes. In some movement, grand battements should go up with great energy and come down softly and controlled. Make sure your students understand that they are in control of their bodies during ALL movement.
Moving slowly might seem counterproductive when you are trying to build speed. But it’s important that your dancers develop muscle memory and proper alignment before they can move at a faster tempo. If you give 16 counts of a very fast movement right away, most likely they are not going to be able to do it correctly. Work on the basic movement first along with all the technical aspects of the movement. You should always begin with the basic things and build on it. Then they will be able to move better and faster.
Use the Music
Musicality is one of the most important tools. There’s a constant counterpoint happening audibly and physically. Try double-timing an exercise to see what happens. Dancers who study more than one dance style will benefit from an increased knowledge of musicality. Incorporating various styles of dance into your curriculum, are sure ways to see increased improvement in your teams speed, articulation and counter-rhythms, as they are now all embedded in their education.
When dancers forget to take a breath, they prevent oxygen from flowing to their muscles. They feel tired and look like they are moving slower. When legs and arms go away from the center, they should be breathing out. While dancers should avoid being tense, they shouldn’t relax. Their bodies should be pulled up and ready to go. Remind your students to breathe!
Coordination is key. The hands and feet work as one, as do the knees and elbows, shoulders and hips. The rotation and flow of these parts all aid in adapting to any tempo. Encourages your students to keep their weight over the balls of their feet. In an effort to be fast and efficient, some dancers might want to cut corners. They should be as big as they can, even when the tempo gets faster. If your students try to anticipate the next step, they might end up rushing the music or tripping over the choreography.
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