Healthy Dancer

Strength and Flexibility: Alyssa Martin’s Warm-Up

By Dr. Blessyl Buan
In “Overstretching: The importance of strength to flexibility” in the May/June 2016 issue, Dr. Blessyl Buan explains the importance of using dynamic and ballistic stretching as a warm-up for dance activities. Here she provides Alyssa Martin’s warm-up as an example of a sequence that uses these forms of stretching to prepare the body for both strength and flexibility.
Alyssa Martin, choreographer and artistic director of Rock Bottom Movement, leads her dancers through a dynamic vinyasa yoga stretching routine that incorporates breath while tuning into the sore and tight spots of the present moment. Her stretch practice emphasizes breath expansion, spinal articulation and facial stretches to help with theatrical performance of the character being performed.
Breathing and Preparation
  • Close your eyes and focus on sending your energy outward to fill the space for ten breaths. 
  • Follow with orbit breaths: Take big, dynamic breaths in a deep plié in second position. When you inhale, swing the arms outward to meet at the top of your head. On the exhale, swing arms down to return to your sides.
  • Continue taking deep breaths while stepping your feet together. Reach your arms toward the ceiling and push away from the ground with your toes and heels.
  • Flow through five vinyasas, using a roll down as opposed to the usual dive down. 
  • In each downward dog position, play with the shape depending on what the “sticky spots” are in your body that day. 
  • Finish each vinyasa by holding a plank. Perform variations from the plank position that reflect what you will be doing with your body that day: flowing back and forth from plank to downward dog, or serratus anterior dips in a plank, for example. 
  • Come to a sitting or kneeling position. Begin to move by twisting, bouncing or shaking in this position with swift inhales and exhales until you start to feel warm.
  • Lie back on the floor. Begin simple movement explorations that focus on joints and big muscle groups. While improvising, pause and hold stretches that get into the adductors, hip flexors, hamstrings or neck. Incorporate gentle reach-and-recoil improvisations to find these “sweet spot” positions and hold for several breaths.
  • When muscles are warm and joints are adequately lubricated, bring yourself to standing.
  • Begin shaking or vibrating from the centre and let this movement radiate out to your limbs. Continue shaking and vibrating, gradually making the movements bigger and bigger. Try isolating different parts of the body to find your “fun muscle.” Make the movements even bigger, allowing yourself to travel, jump, fall, etc. Continue the dance party until you start to get very warm and the heart rate is elevated. 
*If I’m warming up with the company, we’ll add in face stretching for theatrical work to open up the face and get in touch with the movement potential of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth. 

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Martin

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