25 exercises for Dancers using Pool Noodles

Here’s the trailer for my new workshop:

25 Exercises for Dancers using a Pool Noodle

Summer is approaching and water toys are everywhere! During my days as a studio owner in Upstate NY, I often looked for inexpensive props to use for training my dancers in the studio. The Dollar Tree was (and is) my go to for cheap finds for classroom aids. I developed a ton of exercises using a pool noodle to train dancers in everything from Port de Bras to acro alignment. The noodles were easy to “customize” by cutting them to the correct size for each dancer. I used these techniques over the years at countless studios, teacher trainings and master class workshops and decided to create a workshop video for teachers. During this time of “at home training”, the exercises can all be done in a small area and could be a fun and engaging way to train during virtual teaching.

The Noodles are $1 each and you can get at least 2 props for each dancer out of one noodle. It might be something that teachers pick up and “deliver” to their dancers doorstep with a little note to create some excitement about online class and add a little personal touch.

Many of the exercises I have seen being done with a yoga block ( which is also a great classroom tool). I personally like the noodle because the material is less dense than a yoga block. Dancers tend to be overachievers and use counterproductive pressure when given a prop. The pool noodle will bend if too much pressure is applied, so muscle engagement is activated without being overworked.

The biggest struggle I had recording the video was having a student demonstrator. With the corona pandemic, I do not have access to the dancers I normally work with. I have a client, a non dancer, that I work with on acro /gymnastics at her home during the quarantine, but she is a very new, beginner level client. Most times, teachers have advanced level assistants/demonstrators who can make everything look easy and flawless and I was afraid a less polished demonstrator may reflect poorly on the program. But after some thought, I decided that using a new, beginner student could actually be MORE helpful to teachers viewing the workshop. Most of the students they will be working with will show some of the same “mistakes” and my cueing/correction could actually make the training more insightful for teachers.

The workshop is a 30 minute video recording created for dance educators. To access the video content contact me and I can get you registered. I have reduced ALL of my video workshops to only $10 until June 1st, in support of teacher continuing education during our stay at home orders.

The 25 exercises are probably things that you have seen and done before. However, the approach and use of the props I think can shed some new light for both dancers and teachers. There are literally 100s of exercises you can come up with using the noodles, and my goal is to inspire others to think out of the box when it comes to training. I would love to hear some skills/drills others come up with and use! Please share your exercises in the comments.

Dance Conditioning: One of the best things you can do during quarantine to be prepared when we return to class

Dance Conditioning classes are not usually the first thing dancers choose to do. And while they may not have the artistry of a dance class, dance conditioning, when done correctly and consistently, can dramatically improve your dance performance. During this time of “stay at home” orders, dancers have the opportunity to improve their technique and help prevent injury through dance conditioning.

Early in my career as an educator in dance, I strictly focused on dance movement without getting much into the science behind it.

During my 20 years as a studio owner, conditioning was always part  of our program for our serious dancers and it wasn’t until I started teaching dancers outside of my own program that I realized how important dance conditioning was, and how it contributed to solid technique and injury prevention. For the last 6 months I have focused my continuing education as a dance professional specifically on conditioning and the science behind movement.  I recently obtained DancemED specialist certification under the mentorship of Dr. Alexis Sams and attended the Neurokinetic Therapy Training Course in preparation for certification NKT.

Why is dance conditioning so important? Many times, dancers that are seriously focused students want to take as many classes as they can. In most cases, ballet technique is where they build their foundation of movement and take ballet several times a week. And while ballet builds a solid foundation of technique for dancers, it’s primarily done turned out. Over time, if you are focusing on building muscle and brain/body connection in a turned out position, you’re not working opposing muscle groups and overuse injury becomes an issue. The dancer is then usually sent to physical therapy and ordered to rest. The problem is that when your brain sends a signal to your body to “perform” a movement, the neurokinetic chain will go to the most familiar path. It takes 700 repetitions to correct a dysfunctional movement pattern. So even though the dancer is going to PT and doing the exercises, when they are dancing, the new pattern has not been reprogramed and hinders rapid improvement. A great example of this is a dancer who does a backbend. A backbend done correctly should maintain a parallel position the entire time. Most dancers know this, and despite “trying” to maintain the parallel position, many end up turned out by the time their hands touch the ground. As dancers, we stretch in both turned out and parallel positions, but often dancers do not strengthen these opposing muscle groups and so the body reverts back to the path of least resistance (ending up turned out). In a backbend, when your feet are turned out, alignment is compromised, knees pronate and can cause knee, ankle, and hip issues. 

How do you go about creating an effective conditioning program? 

I encourage dancers to focus on the trunk, hip/pelvis, knee and foot/ankle muscle groups since they all play vital roles in dance technique of any genre.  A conditioning program is different than a stretch class. Agility, balance, speed, coordination, power, and reaction time are skills that should be considered when creating a dance conditioning program to optimize performance in dance. Make sure that the person that is creating the conditioning program is trained in both functional movement and dance so that the program is safe & effective. Consulting an athletic trainer or Physical Therapist with a dance background may be beneficial. 

  1. Find exercises that are simple, yet effective, in targeting a specific muscle groups. 
  2. Some simple props can help activate muscle groups and provide stability. Resistance bands, tennis balls, yoga blocks, ropes, sliders are some examples.
  3. Proper form overrides EVERYTHING! As dancers, we naturally want to do everything bigger, better, and higher which often leads to compromised form. Remind dancers that sometimes the smaller, refined, visual movement will yield better results. Props can also be used to help maintain form.
  4. Consistency is key. Like anything else, you get better and stronger with practice. Set up a conditioning schedule and track it!
  5. Rotate skills and drills! While conditioning is key, it is also important that you vary the exercise to ensure complete training and muscle shock, maximizing stimulation and training benefits. Change it up every 6-8 weeks. 
  6. Slow & Steady wins every time. Do not overdo conditioning. While you may be a little sore, if your conditioning program is interfering with your dance performance due to tight, fatigued muscles, it will be counterproductive. 
  7. Self care: Roll & Recover.  Perform myofascial release, so your body works at optimum levels. Self massage and lymphatic drainage helps dancers perform and feel their best. 

Most dance conditioning programs can be done in a small space & once you have a program in place, it does not require a teacher at every session. I do advise an instructor to check in/evaluate students to ensure proper form and execution, but well trained dancers that are committed to their craft can condition on their own. So in this pandemic, while at home, one of the best ways a dancer can improve their dance skills is with consistent dance conditioning. I will be hosting a Dance Conditioning class online April 23rd and I am always available for private sessions with dancers, teachers, and studio owners who want Acceler8 Training. I will be hosting a  Dance Conditioning Class 101 online April 23rd and I am always available for private sessions with dancers, teachers, and studio owners. Follow up classes will be held in May & June that will have specific focus, in depth discussions and progressive exercises to help teacher create a program that is best for their dancers.

Who could be the next “Travis Wall”? They might be found at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards…OR BREAK The Floor LIVE!

Break The Floor Productions announced this week that they will be hosting a FREE 2 day Virtual Convention / Competition featuring faculty from Nuvo, JUMP & 24Seven Conventions. This event, April 18-19, will be hosted by Travis Wall. Travis is a dance icon known to both dancers and non-dancers alike for being a master of his craft as both a performer and creator. With most of the nation under stay at home orders this week and off from school obligations for “spring break” I thought it was a perfect time to share with dancers the life changing opportunities the Capezio ACE Awards offers to choreographers, and invite dance fans to check out some of the 2020 Finalists on Youtube.

In 2009, Travis Wall won the Capezio ACE Awards for his choreography “It’s Gonna Be A Long Walk”. Since then he; had his work featured on SYTYCD, is a 6 time nominee and won an Emmy for his choreography, founded the dance company, Shaping Sound, and has been part of countless projects on stage and screen. And Although many knew of Travis from his journey on SYTYCD, winning the ACE Awards was an important shift from performer to choreographer for him.

The Capezio ACE Awards had always been held in conjunction with the Dance Teacher Summit, an annual event that brings together dance educators and studio owners from across the globe to connect, collaborate, and grow as artists, educators, and business owners. The ACE Awards brought out the best emerging choreographers in the dance world to share their work with Summit attendees, and I was always blown away by the creativity, staging, story telling, and athleticism from both the creators and the performers. It is no surprise that this event, which was part of Break the Floor Productions, often led to faculty and residency positions for many winners. Some past winners that you may know include: Al Blackstone (2011), Talia Favia (2014), Kirsten Russell (2015), Martha Nichols (2016), and Mary Grace McNally (2018).

In 2019, The Dance Teacher Summit was held in Long Beach and was different than year’s past. For me, the most disappointing part of The Summit was the announcement that they were postponing the ACE Awards. I did not hear much about the event and thought that maybe it was no longer being held. In January of 2020, I attended NUVO Dance Convention with some of my dancers in Long Beach,CA and found flyers announcing the ACE AWARDS were being held the following week in Los Angeles, so I immediately contacted the venue and got tickets.

Since I did not hear much hype about the event, I was not sure what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when I knew 3 of the dancers performing in the very first piece. That evening I got to see so many friends (and some of my friends’ children) perform, and I was inspired by the diverse genres, music, storytelling, and staging that each choreographer had brought to share. And although it was a packed house that night with the who’s who in the LA dance community, I felt like the audience, usually of studio directors and teachers, truly missed the opportunity to see some of the amazing choreographers that the next generation is producing.

During this time of social distancing and “online” study, check out some of these emerging artists. Not only do I think it is inspiring for both teachers and students alike, but with the financial struggles we will all face in the coming months, studios may want to consider some of these finalists for guest teachers and or choreographers for summer programs, or next year’s company work. I have created a “Dance Review of the Capezio ACE Awards” worksheet (www.BrendaBobby.com). On it includes many of the pieces that were part of this year’s show. I encourage you to share it with your dancers, and who knows, maybe inspire one of your students to submit a piece in the next show. Maybe YOUR son, daughter, student, friend, teacher could be “the next Travis Wall”!!

Break the Floor Productions is a leader in the dance convention world and is always striving to provide relevant, necessary resources to the dance community. If you would like more information about the LIVE event that Travis Wall is hosting, visit: https://live.breakthefloor.com/about

You will get to see the creative & inspiring Travis Wall, and quite possibly other Capezio ACE Award finalist, winners or performers at this virtual event!

Acro board game: Homework for dancers during social distancing….

This is a VERY stressful time for everyone, and when things get tough our first priority is to stay healthy! That doesn’t mean that students cannot work at home on structured activities. I have put together a little game for dancers / acro students with the focus being on core stability, balance, & flexibility. The board has 25 activities (most are holding postures) that can be done in living room or bedroom. When the board is completed correctly it should take about an hour to complete ( about the same length as a class). All of the exercises can be helpful to all levels of dancers and you can make more advanced progressions if necessary, ie: side plank ( advanced version may have student lift top leg and hold with big toe to hand). Non dancers can also play along: siblings, babysitters, mom, dad…. I will create another for next week should we still need to shift our classroom to home schooling again. Stay positive, and use this time to enjoy the ‘break’ from normalcy.

Private coaching at a glance…

Any Age, any ability.. One on one training to give you the training that is right for you!

IN Home, On Location or in a private studio setting..

ACRO ARTS: guidance in correct alignment, muscle engagement, weight placement for optimal results with safety being at the forefront of teaching!

PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique): Training of the body using props for core stability improvement and proper body lines.

DanceMED Specialist: Using neurokinetic therapy, fascia release and dance conditioning, dancers can gain greater range of motion, sound movement quality, greater flexibility, and correct dysfunctional movement, often the cause of dance overuse injuries or reoccurring injuries.

Acceler8 Train to be YOUR best!

It’s no secret that LA is the place to be for cutting edge commercial dance. Home to the best and up and coming choreographers, dancers in SoCal have amazing opportunities to take class and keep up with the latest dance trends. Many are already working in “the business” . In the age of INSTA everything, the process of training seems to be a lost art, yet is essential to really have a long, healthy, successful career . Seeing this obstacle, I have created a training program for the focused, serious dancer to keep working technique while not missing out on other opportunities. Acceler8 is a 2 hour per week training program using a blend of methods and my 25 years of teaching experience that focuses on proper alignment, posture, rotation, flexibility, core stability and strength. This program is not meant to replace a studio training program, but enhance technical training . The Inaugural Session begins in 2020. Dancers from anywhere in LA can apply for the program. For more information, or to apply for the program, please contact me directly. Space is limited to 8 dancers per session.