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Sean Boutilier Academy of Dance
Active Rest

About the Author:

Rhonda has been dancing for over 39 years, 15 of that as a professional and has been studying fitness and personal training for more than 12.

She has performed across North America and Europe in productions like the Tony® Award-Winning Disney’s The Lion King and the Tony® Award-Winning Ragtime. Similarly, she has entertained on the stages of the Stratford Festival in musicals like Guys and Dolls and Anything Goes and has many other well-known productions to her credit.

When you spend years doing 8 demanding shows a week, you have to know how to maintain your body. You also have to know how to nurture a good sense of humour. That’s what you will find at TAB - a serious session blended with fun and creativity.

Rhonda has also appeared on television and the big screen including in the Academy® Award-winning film Chicago and the dance classic Hairspray: The Movie. 

She has also been a sought-after dance adjudicator across North America for the last 12 years and has spent the last 7 years instructing in the Faculty of Phys. Ed. at the University of Toronto.

Rhonda has a B.A. from McMaster, The Triple Threat Award from The Randolph Academy, a Guthrie Award from the Stratford Festival, and more recently was a Top 3 finalist for CanFitPro Fitness Professional of the Year.


Active Rest, by Rhonda Roberts Smid
Posted on July 13, 2017

Why a dancer needs it and how can you get it

As we come to the end of a busy dance year, we parents often struggle to find the right kind of activities for our young dancers. Given that we want them to continue to improve their skills, our first thought may be to enrol them in some further summer training. Seems natural. But we may want to consider holding off on enrolling them in the next big dance convention right after their final recital. We want to make sure that we choose activities that will allow them to actually have a break. Dancers are athletes. And like all athletes, they need to have a break so their bodies are able to recover and perform at their best in the following season. The idea of Active Rest is not a new concept. It’s the idea that the body and mind will benefit from being used in a completely different way. The break doesn’t mean that your child can’t be active - especially if they are anything like mine. Neither does it mean that they shouldn’t take part in dance over the summer.

For a short period of time, allow your child to do other activities that have opportunities to be physical and explore movement in other ways. Activities like swimming or cycling, hiking, jogging, skipping, hanging out at the play ground, or even yoga are all great ways to assist in recovery. Having our kids move their bodies without instruction is also a wonderful opportunity for physical discovery without the added mental challenge or frustration of being monitored. These are great ways for young dancers to develop confidence and trust in their abilities, and help to maintain or establish new strengths.

FOUR IMPORTANT REASONS FOR REST

1.Create opportunities to work on imbalances in the body.

2. Add different physical experiences to your child’s palette.

3. Allows your child to have a physical and mental holiday

4. The value of “Family Time”

1. Creates opportunity to work on muscular imbalance and decrease chances for strain and injury

When we use our bodies in very specific ways, the muscles that are used most often become dominant allowing weaknesses to develop in the musculature that is not so challenged on the opposing side. Unfortunately, for a body to be balanced, all sides need to be strengthened. As a competitive dancer, your body trains for specific dance numbers, or a style of dance, or trick that perpetuates this cycle of imbalance and can open up the opportunity for strain or injury. All athletes experience this because each sport requires focus on certain areas of the body to work. With competitive training and performance schedules this is unavoidable. Know that the body functions better and is less prone to injury when it feels balanced, because it works more efficiently. Active Rest, will give your dancers an opportunity to explore and address some of these imbalances. It’s also a great time to seek massage, or physiotherapy and acupuncture if you need to help reduce strain or injury, and bring homeostasis to the body.

2. Add a different physical experience to your child’s palette

Learning to use their body in ways that have nothing to do with dance can add interesting flavour to your child’s physicality as a dancer. How and what you do as a person affects who you are as a performer. Learning to use their bodies physically in different ways help kids access other parts of their bodies which will come in handy depending on who your child has as a choreographer. For example, when you are swimming, a set group of muscles are engaged to help position you in the water and others are engaged to move you through it. The feeling of resistance that you feel in the water and the lift you feel through your abdomen when you are floating are great pieces of imagery that can help you move in a more grounded way as a dancer. Any experience in a child’s life is a gift that will expand their emotional range. Friendships, managing disagreements, loss and learning to love all contribute to emotional growth. Life experiences help to make a dancer’s performance richer, distinct and more memorable since they can draw upon a memory - it feels personal. To an audience this is far more interesting to watch. Active Rest can provide an opportunity to discover their world outside of dance and in turn enrich their dance experience.

3. Allows your child to have a physical and mental holiday

Children can have enormous pressure as competitive dancers. They are able to do some pretty extraordinary things and sometimes we can forget that they are still just kids. Anxiety, stress related to injury, or feelings of insecurity all face young dancers. Children need to have fun. They need to explore, play and experiment. They grow up so quickly, and play gives them permission to imagine, story tell, and be creative. All these qualities are so important to the artistry of dance. So give some time for play; they will appreciate their dance classes even more

4. The value of Family time

One of the many issues families face is managing the schedules of the kids. The hours it takes to train or practice is necessary, and we happily do it, but the family does get burnt out. Splitting our time between kids can be exhausting. Successful management of schedules in any competitive sport only works when the whole family is on board. Everyone in the family is a part of that team. It’s great to take some well-deserved time after a busy dance season to reconnect and spend time together. Remember when you were young? When summer was something of a blank canvas? We forget one child’s passion may be a pain in the butt for the other sibling. Taking a break to just do absolutely nothing schedule-worthy is a rest every family deserves. So my dear parents, before you jump into some other crazy schedule over the summer, you need to take a break as well, so you’re rested and ready for the coming dance season. Having that break also lets your child miss what they love and appreciate it more. For parents, some of the stresses you may have with scheduling, or other studio issues just seem to disappear with a little separation. It’s amazing how we’re able to get some perspective with distance. A “dance vacation” is great way to keep your child loving what they do. It helps to avoid the physical and mental burnout, and provides a fresh out look. So, taking a week or two to refresh, re-evaluate and rediscover is a healthy choice for everyone.

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