It’s now widely known that cross-training with Pilates is an essential ingredient to a dancer’s success and longevity. Dance class alone cannot provide the physical adaptations to ensure optimal performance and reduced risk of injury.
For most dancers, Pilates is a perfect choice when it comes to supplementary training. Founder Joseph Pilates, began developing his movement program during World War 1. He immigrated to New York City in the 1920s, where he gained notoriety with the New York City Ballet. Dancers flocked to Joe’s studio because his method vastly improved their performance. Ever since, Pilates and dance training have been deeply interconnected. Pilates focuses on deep core support, pelvic alignment and full ROM allowing for fluid and controlled movement throughout the body. Pilates teaches us to how to integrate our spine with our limbs so overall movement is more fluid. This leads to efficient, fluid, whole body movements that are essential principles of dance.
By building awareness about how movement works, where it comes from and how to connect to it kinaesthetically, dancers can bring a new level to their dance practice. Supplemental Pilates practice creates stronger and more flexible and mindful movement to the dancer’s conditioning.
An experimental study by McMillan and associates found that a 14-week Pilates intervention improved dynamic alignment in ballet students. As well, a study by Amorim and Wyon found that dancers who participated in a 12-week Pilates Mat intervention increased their levels of muscular strength and flexibility compared to a control group who showed no changes participating in normal dance class. Due to these muscular adaptations, dancers were able to hold a developpé position for an average of 9 seconds longer, and increased their height 4-10°.
It’s important to note the importance of conditioning outside of dance class for both improved performance and protection from injuries. Dance movement stresses similar muscle groups because of repetitive movements. Pilates can encourage muscle balance by working joints through full ROM and building support in all layers of soft tissue.
Lastly, Pilates as a supplementary training feels familiar to dancers because it embodies artistry quality of movement and an emphasis on breathing, alignment and adaptation, deep core support and mobility. Because of this, dancers may enjoy and commit to Pilates with ease. This can mean a higher rate of adherence to supplementary training.