top of page

Get Performance Fit

Have you ever noticed that when you first start learning a dance for a concert that the first few times you go through the whole dance you’re puffing and panting all over the place?

Well, given the way that dance classes and rehearsals are structured, that is not surprising. dance lessons are not designed to elicit cardiovascular fitness or adaptation.

For example, a Pettit Allegro or even Grand Allegro exercise may go for between 10 and 40 seconds, performed once, then the dancer may ‘rest’ for a minute or two whilst the next group performs the exercise or corrections are given. This type of activity pattern utilises what is called the glycolytic pathway (anaerobic glycolysis) for energy*. A dance performance, however, usually goes for longer, with between one to four-minute intervals of activity and brings with it higher levels of lactate.

So, if dance lessons don’t train for performance fitness, what can dancers do to improve their own fitness?

Many research articles exist studying this very problem. To mention a couple here, one study on low intensity aerobic training had dancers cycling for 30 mins, 6 times per week over 6 weeks. This did not impact (therefore did not increase) dancers capacity for performance (1). A different study, however, on circuit training combined with vibration training twice a week for 6 weeks, resulted in increased physical fitness (2). These results suggest that high intensity interval training (HIIT) produces the best results for dancers, especially those with demanding schedules. HIIT also mimics more of todays choreography, specifically that which incorporates falls to the floors, transfers of weight and even lifting other dancers.

What does HIIT for dancers entail?

Varsity dance suggest using Tabbatas – a 4 minute workout designed by a Japanese Scientist whereby exercises are performed as hard as possible for 20 seconds followed by rest for 10 seconds.

This is repeated for 8 rounds in total. The main points for best results and adaptation is to ensure:

  • The exercises are performed with correct technique

  • The exercises are performed at the highest possible intensity for the individual

An example might be:

Round 1 and 2: 2nd Position Sautés with Deep Plie,

Round 3 and 4: Passé Runs,

Round 5 and 6: Burpees,

Round 7 and 8: Jump Lunges

But the exercises can be varied and suited towards specific dance performance / choreographic requirements. They can also be dance related or non-dance related movements.

For optimum improvements, training during a usual class timetable should be three to four times per week and during peak rehearsal and performance times, only one or two sessions a week. Ideally all training should be periodised and developed with the demands of the specific performance.

Take home messages:

  1. Dance classes don’t prepare dancers for the cardiovascular requirements of dance performance.

  1. High Intensity Interval Training has been shown to increase cardiovascular fitness in dancers.

  1. HIIT can incorporate dance specific exercises as well as general fitness exercises.

***Dancewright can help you assess where you are now with your cardiovascular fitness and help you work towards your performance goals. Contact Julie now for a training package that will suit you! ***

More info on the technical stuff….

* Go here for a short video that explains energy pathways

** Go here for a short video that explains how lactate or lactic acid is formed . (‘Fermentation’ which is what you would know and would have felt as lactic acid)


  1. Angioi M, Metsios GS, Twitchett E, et al. Effects of supplemental training on fitness and aesthetic competence parameters in contemporary dance: a randomized controlled trial. Med Probl Perform Art. 2012 Mar;27(1):3-8

  1. Smol E, Fredyk, A. Supplementary low-intensity aerobic training improves aerobic capacity and does not affect psychomotor performance in professional female ballet dancers. J Hum Kinet. 2012 Mar;31:79-87

Rodrigues-Krause, J., Cunha, G. S., Alberton, C. L., Follmer, B., Krause, M., & Reischak-Oliveira, A. (2014). Oxygen consumption and heart rate responses to isolated ballet exercise sets. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 18(3), 99-105. Retrieved from

Rodrigues-Krause, J., Krause, M., & Reischak-Oliveira, A. (2015). Cardiorespiratory considerations in dance: from classes to performance. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 19(3), 91-102. Retrieved from

Wyon, M. (2005). Cardiorespiratory training for dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 9(1), 7-12. Retrieved from

bottom of page