Below is a sampling of my beginner, center musical theatre warmup. It’s always important to remember to include a solid technical warmup as well as stylistic, cardiovascular and performance elements into your class. This will create a well-rounded foundation and get your students introduced to the basic elements of theatre jazz while building strength, flexibility and technique!
Standing Stretch: I always suggest starting class at any level with continuous movement that builds; starting from top of the body to bottom, introducing a nice opening of the different muscle groups but also taking the time to pay attention to detail through each part of the body. This will get the dancers ready for the next section of isolations. Exercises to include: slow head circles, slow shoulder circles, slow reaches side to side through rib-cage, wrist rolls, large under-curves and over-curves of the arms to include deep breathing, three bounces in a low level (with knees bent and hands on floor) which straightens into a straight leg stretch, slow roll-downs and roll-ups through the spine to feel the articulation and stacking of vertebrae to find correct verticality and alignment.
Basic Isolations: Again starting with the top of the head, start with basic isolations to include: Looking right, left, down and up; repeat other way. Repeat 2-4 times with no arms. Repeat two slow head circles. Reverse direction. Progress this exercise to shoulder, ribs and hips! I also always like to include basic, slow walks with hip initiation, lateral traveling hip circles and “showgirl” walks in the center as a small progression of what the dancers have just done and what they will see in bigger traveling combinations when they get to across the floor.
Plies: Here, I like to stay pretty traditional including two demi plies and a grande plie. Jazz first port de bras. Incorporate parallel first position and a stretch out of the grande plie to warm-up the large muscles group of the legs. Add a bevel weight-shift change in between positions, snapping wrists rolls, etc. to further enhance the genre for a stylistic element.
Tendus: Again, I like to stay pretty traditional with my beginner dancers and want them to really focus on the stretch of the feet (especially if they are going to eventually be working in heels!) and working in the parallel position. Give four tendus in each position (front-side-back-side) and add four three-step turns into a plie bevel to transition side to side. 2nd port de bras. It is also a great way to slip in a spotting exercise while inserting these turns when transitioning right to left side and again slowly introducing the style element!
Rond de Jambe and Pirouette Preparations: With rond de jambes, I always like to work in a turn-out first with my beginners with arms in a second position port de bras. I usually work the right side, then the left and include: 3 rond de jambes front- to-back, (with the last one ending with leg extended in second position tendu.) This progresses to a pas de bourree into preparation for a parallel jazz pirouette. There is then a repeat of the exercise reversing the rond de jambes back -to- front. Teachers can also progress to single or multiple turns based on their class level.
Cardiovascular Aspect: A great break from the technique aspect here for a few minutes and great way to condition your dancers! I always have a set series of crunches, sit-ups, pilates based exercises, planks, “mountain climbers,” “half-burpees,” push-ups, jumping jacks, high-knee runs in place and sautés in turned out first, parallel and second position for a solid 5-10 minutes straight! The kids might moan and groan a bit but you will get them energized for sure!!!
Floor Stretch: Here is a point in class where I will either determine whether to lead a floor stretch or let the dancers stretch on their own. Sometimes the dancers are vocal about whether they are feeling they have specific areas they’d like to stretch on their own so it’s up to you as a teacher to decide what is right on a given day. For beginners, I always include: stretch in second, stretch with legs extended in front. Point and flex feet slowly. Splits: right, left and center. Laying on back, grab right leg at ankle, calf or thigh- hold 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat other side. Circle the knees to stretch hips. Child’s pose stretch. Downward dog. Pedal the feet for a calf stretch.
See you in the dance studio,
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