Warm-ups can be boring and are often overlooked because we can hardly wait to teach that brand-new combination or hot new move! But with a little time and
effort, a really good warm-up can create amazing energy and set the tone for the rest of class. So how do you take something that seems so mundane and add a little soul and spice to it? Why not add some hip-shaking, finger-snapping, shoulder-shimmying movement to your next warm-up and get your students fired up from the very first beat?

Before we begin, let’s remember what the warm-up is intended to do—prepare the body to move. It’s also an opportunity to become present and connect with your body. If you’ve ever taken a class from a dance studio, you know the warm-up is very thorough, sometimes lasting 20 minutes or more. Dancers know that a proper warm-up can prevent injury and allow them to dance with full range of motion and extension. Sounds like a good idea, right? Let’s look at a really fun, dynamic warm-up that incorporates the element of dance and can be used in almost any situation.

Big and Graceful

Get your students moving with simple movements and really good music.

  • Stand with legs apart and roll shoulders back.
  • Reach up and out to sides; repeat before starting over with shoulders rolls.
  • Repeat series at least 4 times.
  • Next, alternate side-to-side reaches in big, graceful sweeping motions (intention is to “lengthen” the muscles).
  • After 4 alternating reaches, shake hips side to side for 4 counts and then walk to one side on counts 5, 6, 7 and 8 (depending on your participants, you can really shake those hips or do more of an athletic-jog stance).
  • Step out to opposite side and repeat going the other way (that’s one block).
  • Repeat pattern at least 4 times and have fun!

Stretching, Energy
and Attitude

Now that you’ve created some warmth in the body with big movements, bring it down and continue with “lengthening” exercises.

  • Step out into wide second position with arms stretched out to sides.
  • Lunge to one side, reach one arm up and across in direction you’re reaching and then return to starting position.
  • Repeat in opposite direction.
  • Continue with this pattern a minimum of 4 times, twice each way.
  • Once you’ve completed the last move, you’ll be in second position with arms out to sides.
  • Plié down with arms following and then up with arms extended above head. Repeat 8 times.
  • Pull both arms down to one side and tap in with opposite leg. Tap out, tap in and return to start with arms extended above head.
  • Repeat on opposite side and then once more each way for a total of 4 repetitions.

Once this sequence is complete, step-touch or march with attitude and keep the energy going right into class. This warm-up should take no longer than 8–10 minutes. While the movements are simple and not overly choreographed, they serve the desired goal, which is to create body awareness and a sense of fun.

To ensure that students are prepared for their workout, help them release the tension they came in with so they can move without stress or strain. Dance is everywhere you look these days, so why not draw students in by having them imagine they just stepped onto the set of Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance? They’ll have a good time, feel great and be totally ready for whatever you throw at them next!