Surviving Back to Dance

Beat the back to dance madness with these simple tips and start the new year organised, focussed and ready to go. 

1. Get your head in the game.

It can be all too easy to think that back to dance will just magically come together and that you (or your young dancers) will easily slip back into your pre-holiday routine, but trust us when we say that if you are mentally ready the whole process will be so much kinder to everybody.

Accept that there will be long nights at dance classes, weekends spent in rehearsals and homework slotted in around a busy dance schedule and you’ll be so much more prepared for when the madness actually begins. It can be difficult to change gears after the summer holidays, we know it’s all too tempting to sleep in that little bit longer in the mornings, but if you start early by getting your head in the game, setting your goals for the year (more to come on this!) and preparing yourself, the transition will be so much easier.

Parents of young ones need to take a deep breath and brace themselves – the holidays are over and life will get busier. Embrace the chaos, double-check those dance schedules and get ready to adjust to busier weeks spent ferrying dance-loving tweens to and from classes.

2. Be organised.

Once you’ve accepted that the long, lazy days of summer are coming to an end and that back-to-dance busyness is just around the corner, you’ll want to get organised.

First step is to suss out your uniform list. Grab a pen and carefully go through the list to see which items are missing from your dance wardrobe, what you need to get that you might not have had last year and which items you do have but don’t fit anymore! Now is the time to pull your dance shoes out of your cupboard and try them on. Kids in particular go through growth spurts, so shoes that may have fit like a glove last year, could be on the tight side this year (and you don’t need us to tell you just how important it is to have proper fitting dance shoes!).

Once you’ve gone through your school’s uniform list, it pays to suss out your local Energetiks store or stockist so that you can buy those items you need. Don’t wait until the last minute to head in store; long waits aren’t fun for anyone (just like elbows to the ribs, fractious kids and shoving others out of the way are enough to send any parent completely insane!). If you need pointe shoes fitted for your darling dancer, it helps to make an appointment so you’ll have our undivided attention, ensuring those new pointe shoes are fitted perfectly.

Get your printable Back to Dance Checklist here.

3. Set your goals for the year.

We all know that a new year is a time for new resolutions and that having clear goals makes it more likely you will achieve those goals, so grab that piece of paper and get scrawling. Think about what you want to achieve this year: Is there a correction you’ve been hoping to perfect? A new style of dance you want to try? A role you are desperate to play in the end of year performance? Sit quietly and reflect on your previous dance year, think about all the advice you’ve been given, soak in all the corrections, and decide how you can achieve these in the coming months.

It pays to follow the age-old S.M.A.R.T. rule for setting your 2017 goals. Makes those goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.

Specific goals are easier to achieve than general goals and abide by the five ‘W’ questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why. A specific goal might be, ‘Attend ballet class at least three times per week’ as opposed to a more general goal of, ‘Go to ballet.’

Measurable goals have clear criteria for measuring their progress. Ask yourself, ‘how will I know I achieved this goal?’ and then tailor accordingly.

Achievable goals are exactly that – achievable! It helps to think about which goals are most important to you and how you can go about achieving them. Keep them Realistic and you’ll have a far greater chance of success (realistic goals are those objectives that you are willing and able to work towards).

Lastly, keep your goals Time-based. Planning to achieve a certain goal by a certain date makes it far more likely that you achieve that goal rather than using a whimsical ‘someday’ as your timeframe.

4. Stay active.

We all know the first week back will hurt, so ease the pain by remaining active over the break. Do what you need to do to keep moving (we do realise the call of the couch is a tough one to ignore!). Go for a walk, ride your bike, swim at the local pool, play tennis, just stay active!

The unfortunate reality is that while it takes weeks to build up strength and flexibility, it takes half the amount of time to lose it.

The saying, ‘use it or lose it’ couldn’t be more apt, even for dancers. Don’t give up what you’ve worked so hard to gain. Keep moving! We love using a Thera-band while we’re away from dance to maintain flexibility and strength in the feet and ankles. Start slowly by doing some light foot and ankle stretches and you’ll stay on track for success when you return to dance.

Parents need to be prepared for children that will be physically and mentally exhausted once they return to dance. While all kids need downtime over the holidays, couch potatoes will find it so much harder to get back into the swing of things. Get your children out walking everyday, take them riding or get them to kick a ball around at the local park. Anything that keeps them active will help them deal with the rigours of a busy return-to-dance schedule. 

5. Be inspired.

If you’re looking for some motivation to get you over the post-holiday slump, why not pick up a dance book, watch a dance-themed movie, or get together with your friends for a little improv. dance session? It’s a great way to get into the dance mood and feel inspired for the year ahead.

Try reading Misty Copeland’s ‘Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina’ or Michaela DePrince’s ‘Hope in a Ballet Shoe.’ If watching a movie is more to your liking try First Position, Ballet 422, or any of the Step Up movies. If you’ve got a child at home that needs a bit of a push to get back on the dance train, why not take them to see the new kids' movie, Ballerina? It’s sure to inspire them in a format they can relate to.

If you’re more of a visual person and need to see images that will keep you energised, take a peek at our Pinterest page. It’s brimming with dance-themed boards and motivational quotes that you can re-pin to your heart’s content to make your own 2017 mood board.

6. Take your time.

Whilst you may want to get back into the dance season with the same energy and enthusiasm as last year, it pays to ease back into it. You have a long year ahead of you that will be filled with classes, rehearsals, concerts and auditions, so take your time in those first few weeks of term to really settle into the new dance year. You don’t want to get too overwhelmed too early in the year – and if you’re a parent it pays to keep your young ones on their good side. Epic exhaustion-fuelled tantrums can wait until later in the year.

Use the time during the summer holidays to think about what corrections you need to make and put aside the time to work through them. Get your summer homework done and think about how you’ll take care of yourself once you return to dance. It pays to have a read of our exercise recovery post to learn about how to prevent those sore muscles that you’ll inevitably get once you return to dance after the holidays.

7. Stretch!

You will be sore, there’s no way to get around it after a break from regular exercise, so ease the back-to-dance pain by taking the time to stretch everyday whilst you’re on holidays. Regular stretching not only maintains your flexibility, it reduces stiffness in the muscles, decreases your risk of injury and can improve your range of motion.

We’re big fans of yoga as an integral part of any dance-conditioning regime and love that it improves body awareness, mental focus and joint stability in a way that is surprisingly challenging yet incredibly achievable. To kick-start your yoga practice, read up on our six of the best yoga poses for dancers article – the poses are ideal for those looking to improve their flexibility, build strength and perfect their posture.

Dance doesn’t have to equal eternal stiffness in your limbs, so incorporate that daily stretch and you’ll feel so much better when you do finally get back into your normal routine!

8.   Fuel up.

Setting your nutrition plan early on in the year will make it so much easier to keep up with the rigours of a busy dance schedule. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can improve the way you function in life and in dance, it keeps your immune system strong and gives your body the right fuel at the right time.

The key with any nutrition plan is organisation. If you’re heading straight to dance after school, pack your lunch, dinner and snacks in advance. Think about how you can structure your food intake around unrefined carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats and where you can slot vitamin-filled fruits and vegetables into your diet. Keep healthy foods on hand and shop in advance where necessary. Parents will find it so much easier to keep their young dancers energised if they plan meals in advance and fill their pantries with nutritious foods (you can’t hand over sweets if you don’t have them in the house to begin with!).  

Food can and should be enjoyed, so have a read of our Perfect Dance Diet article for inspiration or head to ballet student, Alexandra McMasters’ Food Diary of a Dance Student piece to discover which foods she eats to fuel her days as a full-time dancer.

So there you have it, dancers! That's everything you need to be back-to-dance ready. Now go forth and enjoy the new dance year!

Article by Sarah Fennell.