By Roger Lee for The Dance Journal
In the 21st Century dance world, genres are becoming more blended by the day. Classical ballet has been fused with modern dance, contemporary techniques have been applied to jazz dance, and hip-hop has taken on a lyrical persona. Since the professional landscape of dance is steadily evolving, it is important for dance students and professionals to cross train in a variety of genres. After teaching jazz and hip-hop dance to classically trained students at ballet conservatories, I am convinced that there are three main benefits of dance cross training.
I have learned that a dancer with cross training increases their own marketability. Many choreographers, directors, and producers are looking for dancers that have command over a wide range of dance forms. While dancers can still specialize in a particular genre, they are still expected to be fluent in other genres. This is evident in the recent changes at University of the Arts Dance Department. While dance students used to choose between majors in Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Education, they are now under one large dance umbrella. This mimics the trend that is happening in the professional dance world today. Although many dance companies consider themselves to be contemporary ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop, they find themselves borrowing from other dance genres. Choreographers, directors, and producers are often looking to employ dancers with strong technique, stage presence, and a personality that fits within a particular dance culture. The dancer that can properly execute choreography that draws from a variety of movement disciplines is usually the dancer that gets employed. I recommend that dancers cross train to increase their marketability within the field.
Unfortunately nobody can dance forever. When the body runs its course, a lot of dancers turn to careers in teaching and choreography. Dancers that have been exposed to and received training in a variety of genres have a lot of inspiration to draw from. Cross training can give dance teachers and choreographers new ideas for movement, new approaches to helping students gain proficiency in a given genre, and new thoughts on the dance industry. A dancer that has trained in ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, and even dabbled in Yoga, Pilates, and Martial Arts will most likely be a well-informed, creative asset to the industry. They will bring such a wide array of experiences and ideas to their dance creations. This not only benefits the artist but also the people working with them and viewing their work. I believe that the more genres a dancer can train in, the more creativity they can bring to their work.
I have worked with a lot of dance students who are primarily trained in classical ballet. I have witnessed a lot of injuries in my young students. Some were lucky enough to bounce back from sprained ankles, busted knees, and misaligned hips. Other students were not as lucky. They were forced to give up their dance dreams and focus their attention on other endeavors. In any case, injuries are something that dance students do not want to experience. I believe that one of the roots of injury, especially in young dancers, is over training in one area. I have seen young students, who take approximately 5 hours of ballet a day, suffer free knee-related injuries. I can’t help but wonder what their bodies would be like if they diversified their dance training. If these ballet students were taking jazz, modern, hip-hop, and more, would they be injured as easily and as often? I would bet that young students who cross train experience less injuries as a result. This is something that I would love to research in future.
In essence, cross training provides dancers with a lot of benefits. Aside from being good at multiple dance genres, cross-trained dancers can benefit from increased marketability. This makes it easier for dancers to work with a wide range of choreographers, directors, and producers in both the concert and commercial dance arenas. Cross-trained dancers also experience more creative freedom. They have more experiences, skills, and ideas to work from when creating new work independently, in collaboration, or for a group. Lastly, cross-trained dancers, especially those under the age of 18, seem to lower their chances of being injured during their studies. These are just a few of the many benefits that cross-trained dancers can experience. All they have to do is broaden their horizons and consider training in multiple dance genres simultaneously.
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