Often, I get asked by dancers what items are absolutely necessary when it comes to dancer cross-training to improve their dance technique.
From the many years in the business, I have come up with a few items I find absolutely necessary and a few that just are a gimmicky waste of money!
Let’s start with the items I use daily for my training:
1. Resistance bands:
Really it doesn’t matter the brand of the band. I always recommend dancers have light, medium, and heavy resistance on hand so that when an exercise becomes too easy, they can progress it up.
Don’t get sucked into brand names with bands, these bands I use every day are some of the best I have ever had and you can purchase them for cheap on Amazon with this link here!
2. Ankle Weights:
This is something I actually advise you to spend money on to not interfere with your technique. While traditional ankle weights can be bulky and interfere with technique if you take an entire class with them on, the SpeedWrapsTM by El Toro Training are by far the best ankle weights for dance training regardless of dance style.
These weights are evenly dispersed and even allow you to hold a tight fifth position without interfering with your technique. They’re also quality that will last. I can’t tell you how many cheap ankle weights I have burnt through spending around the same in the long run.
My favorite things to train with these weights are extensions, jumps, battements, and even pirouettes. Doing a pirouette with these weights on your shins can actually help you hold turnout and get a more powerful pirouette. You can buy these weights here and use the code VERONICA15 to get a nice discount!
A mirror gives you the opportunity to have immediate feedback on whether or not you’re performing an exercise correctly. If your coach has given you specific instructions on what to look for that is right or wrong, it will be easily detected if you’re training in front of a mirror. This will condition your brain to stay in habit of the correct muscle activation patterns as well.
Don't have room for a mirror in your house? Try these really cool sticky tiles & build your own mirror. Plus, it's a cute decoration. Click here to see!
4. Yoga blocks:
I love using yoga blocks to improve my mobility or even progress a balance exercise. There are so many uses of a simple yoga block that it’s hard to say no to purchasing one. You can purchase some simple ones at this link here!
5. Child's Play Ball $1 Dollar Store
A simple ball is actually really effective for strengthening feet, adductors, and a lot of other muscles in the body when it comes to cross-training. You can find one for super cheap at your local dollar store or you can purchase one at this link here.
Dancers & new dancers have also asked me, "what type of clothes do I need," or "where do you get your black shorts?"
If you're an adult participating in ballet fitness you can wear just about anything that is free to move in (like athletic wear). If you like leotards and want the full ballet assemble, scroll below and you'll see some links for leotards, ballet slippers, and tights!
If you like my black shorts I wear in just about every video I make and in every day life, you can get those here.
Okay, now onto the waste of money and waste of time items that you don’t actually need so much.
Things that you can get by without:
1. A foot stretcher:
Not only are these dangerous and proven to cause problems with ankle impingement, nerve compression, and plantar fasciitis but, they’re not important. You can gain the mobility and flexibility in your ankle by doing a lot of different things with resistance bands and a child’s play ball that will accomplish the same goal— only safely.
If you're still set on using a foot stretcher because someone swears by it, remember that they may have a different type of foot than you. I would be EXTREMELY cautious of using it especially if you have flat feet. This can cause you to overstretch your arches causing them to be fallen and not actually improve your feet.
2. Over the door stretch bands:
I like normal looped stretching bands. But, you can also use a long towel to stretch with it you don’t want to shell out $10 + on a band. The over the door hook device is also dangerous but, gimmicky and tries to draw in dancers who want higher extensions.
Stretching passively with a device like this actually will not improve your extensions. To gain height in your extensions you need mobility which is a combination between strengthening and stretching.
Contortion isn't dancing. Remember that.
3. Turning boards:
In theory, I guess this can help you train your spot to spot faster but, I like to use a variety of different exercises to train pirouettes and turns. I don’t like how this encourages you to skate around the floor and not be in a full relevé either. Not to mention, if you push too hard it’s not difficult to fall and hurt yourself on one of these.
4. Weight rack or machines:
Some people like to use machines but it isn't essential to making you a stronger dancer. Dancers don’t need a ton of crazy devices to train their muscles. Resistance bands work just as well.
5. Name brand bands:
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen bands, balance boards, or weights with Capezio or Bloch written across it for TWICE the cost of the SAME PRODUCT on Amazon or at your local Target. There’s NO reason you need a resistance band that says “Gaynor Minden” on it if you like your money.
Trust me these bands are going to snap just as fast as the ones I recommend above.
6. A barre from a dance shoppe:
While I absolutely think that you should have a ballet barre you can save a TON of money by building one on your own. My husband built mine for under $40 and sprayed it pink for customization.
On average, dance shoppes and Amazon charge around $150 + for a ballet barre. Trust me, it's just as stable as the one that we built.
We just used this YouTube video here and we bought supplies from HomeDepot. If you’re looking for more stability and have the wall space, you can even build a wood barre with a handrail for stairs and secure it to a stud in your wall.
Another general rule, if it looks fun but, you have no idea what to do with the device...then do not buy it! It's probably just a gimmick that will soon fade out and you'll stop seeing them on the market.
I hope this list has been helpful to you as I had no idea what to purchase when I was a younger dancer or even when I started cross-training!
Once you’ve got your supplies and you’re ready to start working on improving your turnout, extensions, feet, turns, core, arms, and entire dance body for better technique click here!
I’ll teach you how to become a safer and stronger dancer that will keep you dancing for years to come!
You'll find some other recommended products of mine below!