Balancing dance and fitness

Amrita Prasad
Sunday, 26 May 2019

Sayli Kulkarni Joshi, city-based contemporary dancer and choreographer, emphasises on the importance of ‘fitness’ for dancers 

From hip-hop to contemporary to classic, dance fever is sweeping our country. Wonder how dancers maintain their fitness? Where do they get their flexibility from? Let me tell you it is not just ‘dance’.

As a dancer I feel, the term fitness is often vaguely used in conversations and many a time, people perceive dance and fitness as one and the same. When I tell people that I am a dancer the immediate reaction is: ‘That is why you are so fit!’ Of course, but dance is just one branch of this tree called fitness. There are lots of other things that I do to be physically fit. 

Now let us clear this misconception between health and fitness first. Health reflects a person’s state of being free from any sort of illness, disease and injury whereas fitness is the ability to do physical activity or perform physical work. 

Physical fitness is of utmost importance for a dancer to achieve strength, flexibility, and endurance. One must understand dance is not a 9-5 job with Saturdays and Sundays off. As a dancer, I work 24X7, 365 days around the year. With erratic classes, performances and rehearsal schedules, the body tends to give up on stamina. This is exactly where physical training helps me.

I normally get bored of following the same routine of exercises daily so I add variety to my workout. I believe it’s extremely important for all of us to include some other type of fitness activity in our training. Cross training helps avoid injuries.  

I love to go for a run outdoors wherein I keep challenging myself to run faster or slower or beat my own previous timing.

What dancers need to remind themselves is that just dancing is not going to help them build physical fitness. Many dance styles require lifting, leaping and different kinds of stunts — all of which require a muscular drive that only dance may not be able to fulfill. Boost your upper and lower body strength, work on your core, improve your flexibility by doing an alternative fitness regime like multi-fit training, yoga, kickboxing, aerial hoops/ silks etc.
I do my weight training at home. There are multiple videos online that will help you through this process if you are new to the world of weight training and that is what I do. I love to practise Kalaripayattu which helps me with endurance and flexibility.

One of the most important routines that I follow without fail after every workout is stretching and cooling down. So why is a proper cool down necessary? To reduce muscle soreness, stiffness and regaining your range of motion which reduces the risk of injury. Stretching helps the blood flow back into your muscles at a more regulated pace, allowing your heart rate to come back to normal. 

— As told to Amrita Prasad

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