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Students dance their way to a healthier life

Senior dance major Maira Montes practices her dance skills outside of school. She also teaches lessons in her spare time.

Leaping across the stage with grace and agility, these performers will leave you in awe of the talent they bring forth. Students who are pursuing dancing as a major are preparing to become performers or choreographers. They will spend hours rehearsing in order to achieve the perfection they desire. Like in any sport, dancers must keep healthy and in shape if they want to succeed.

The training of an aspiring professional dancer must possess a balance between developing fine motor skills, along with personal and acquired practices that nurture their uniqueness.

— Andrea Vazquez

This is in order to develop an expressive and personal sensibility,” said Andrea Vazquez, visiting assistant professor of theater and dance.

According to Vazquez, the body is an instrument that must be stimulated by an array of movement perspectives with somatic techniques, fitness principles and dance practices.

The dancers create a multi-dimensional routine for practice involving different styles to discipline themselves—from ballet to jazz. In order to rehearse the variety of dance styles, they need to develop motor skills in order to create connections between the nervous and muscular system.

“There is enough evidence that points that exercises, or movement sequences, that involve the coordination of the whole body are beneficial and conductive to develop inner-awareness,” Vazquez said. “A dance technique class should intend to develop first self-awareness before giving students complex movement sequences.”

While staying fit is important in dancing, so is obtaining the vitamins and minerals that will nourish the body. The dancers must keep healthy eating habits to complement the physical activity they will go through.

“I personally encourage my students to stay away from sugary beverages and instead to drink water. Each dancer is different and in many cases physiological factors dictate the way a dancer needs to eat to function well,” Vazquez said. “Keeping a healthy weight helps to keep the skeletal system in optimal function, despite the constant load of dance training.  Being in shape is a complex balance.”

Keeping up with a specific diet or weight in order to perform, is one of the misconceptions that dancers may have believed, but according to Vazquez, having the dancers on a diet is not mandatory, but it is recommended that they have healthy nutrition.

“In our program, the faculty do not force students to maintain a certain weight or follow a diet, but rather we suggest based on evidence, and encourage healthy eating habits like eating fresh vegetables and fruit instead of processed snacks,” Vazquez said. “They should do their best to maintain a healthy and positive relationship with their bodies.”

Dancing is very physical and involves keeping the body healthy by working out and eating properly. By doing so, dancers are able to achieve their desired outcome in performances and succeed in what they do.

“Some training methods are dictated by stereotypes,” Vazquez said. “In some dance programs, dancers need to audition and fit specific body-type requirements. Here at UTEP, that is not the case. All aspiring dancers are welcome and we do our best to help them be successful.”

Amber Gomez may be reached at [email protected].

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Students dance their way to a healthier life