The “CORE” of Dancing

When you think of your core, what comes to mind? What if I told you it was so much more than just your abs? Our core makes up everything beneath the surface of what we see. They are all the small muscles that stabilize our bodies and help us control the most intricate of movements. In fact, our core is the foundation for all limb movement and makes up the muscles of our torso and pelvis. The muscles of our core are responsible for transferring power from one part of our body to another during movement. Imagine moving and feeling as if you had no control of your body. Imagine not being able to feel your muscles pulling you into, or out of a position. Without a core, none of this would be possible. The art and sport of dance relies upon your core to move you.

“Our center is everything from which we, as dancers, stem our movement. Our ability to balance, fall off balance, hold and move through choreography with impeccable timing and musicality comes from strong core muscles and excellent kinesthetic awareness. The most captivating performers are ones that can control the music with their movement. Their bodies move when they move them not by anything else. Dancers with this know how are controlling each fiber of their person and have complete understanding of how the “core” works.” – Krystina Nelson

To properly train the core, we must train in all planes of movement. This enhances our strength, joint stability and helps our bodies produce power through movement. To portray the artistic message that you are delivering, your movement should look effortless…controlled. As we move through time and space, our center of gravity changes and our bodies must adapt and respond to those changes. Having a strong core can help our movement be more efficient allowing us to effectively and precisely move.

Some excellent core exercises are listed below (BONUS!!! All of these movements do not require equipment):

The Glute Bridge

  • lay on your back, knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  • as you push your feet into the floor, lift your hips until you are in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • hold at the top of the position and make sure to squeeze your glutes
  • slowly lower, then repeat
  • complete 25 repetitions with a 3 second hold at the top of the contraction


  • Lay on the floor face down place your elbows under your shoulders and lift your body 
 – your toes should be firmly planted into the floor and your body should be straight
  • Do not let your hips drop (this will place your back into an uncomfortable position) 
 – keep your belly button pulled toward your spine and your abs tight
  • Try to hold the position for 1 minute. If that is easy, try 90 seconds or more!

Side Plank

  • Lie on your side and hold your body in a straight line from your head to your feet
  • Place your elbow directly under shoulder with your forearm perpendicular to body
  • Place your upper leg directly on top of lower leg and straighten your knees and hips
  • Lift your body off the floor
  • Start with a 30 second hold and increase the time as you get stronger.

Opposite Arm/Leg Lift

  • Facing the floor, get on your hands and knees
 – your palms should be flat on the floor and your wrists and elbows should be directly under your shoulders
  • Your knees should be directly under your hips and your toes should be flexed and planted under your ankles.
  • Slowly extend your right arm and left leg until they are in a straight line (imagine you are pulling a string tight between your hand and your foot) making sure you are pushing back through your heel
  • Keep your belly button drawn toward your spine
 – hold, then slowly return to starting position before repeating on your opposite side
  • 15 repetitions on each side with a 5 second hold per repetition


Side lying hip abduction (side leg lifts)

  • Lay on your side
  • Make sure your hips stay perpendicular to the floor
  • You may bend your bottom knee for balance, but your top leg needs to stay straight down
  • Pull your toes up toward your knee (dorsiflex your foot)
  • Lift leg, but make sure to keep your foot parallel to the floor (DO NOT TURN OUT!!!)
  • 30 Repetitions each side

Reverse crunch

Lay on your back
  • Pick your feet up and maintain a 90 degree angle at the hips as well as the knees
  • Initiate the movement by trying to pull the top of your hips toward the bottom of your rib cage
  • Curl your butt off the floor
  • Slowly lower in a controlled fashion and repeat
  • Do not use momentum to complete any of the movement (do not swing your legs)
  • Aim for 20 repetitions


Having a strong core reduces our risk for injury and helps us perform better. It helps us move. Remember, dance is a sport and the dancer is an athlete.

Dancer Athlete Method was founded by dance educator and former professional dancer Krystina Alexis Nelson and Master Trainer, Marie Merritt. For more training tips, contact us at

To read related posts:

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Part 3

Part 4