warming up for dance

The Secret to Warming Up for Dance Auditions…The Right Way!

I get it. Warming up for dance auditions is challenging. You’re squished into a tiny holding room that’s basically a landmine of dance bags, water bottles, and feet. 

Half the room is doing their makeup, the other half is waiting to find out if they’ll be seen. And everyone else is being very particular about “the line.” 

It’s noisy, cramped, and definitely not an ideal space to warm up for dance. Especially if you are trying to actually warm up – not just sit in a deep second while you catch up with your friends.


But despite its challenges, studies show that warming up before auditions (or any physical activity)  improves performance. 

Active and passive warm-ups ensure your muscles are supplied with oxygen and are at the at optimal temperature for flexibility and efficiency, and it  helps to minimize stress on your heart. Because of this, warming your body up for dance also helps reduce the risk of injuries to muscles and tendons because they are already stretched and warmed.


Think of it like turning the air conditioner on. At first, the AC has to work extra hard to bring the temperature of the room down. But once it’s cooled, you can change the setting to “energy saving” which simply “maintains” the temperature by working at a lower energy level. 


So what should I do when warming up for dance auditions and classes?


A good warm up exercises bring the body temperature and heart rate up without over exhausting your system. 

The biggest thing is we want your warm up to be dynamic; consisting of an active cycle and a passive cycle (post warm up when you keep your body warm while waiting). 


A great way to do this is to have a consistent, active warm up that you do every time you are warming up for dance. That way, whether you are auditioning, taking dance class, or doing pre-production, your body is prepped to do what it needs to do. 


Then, after your active warm up, keep your layers on and stay warm. 


And Finally, don’t forget to warm up your mind. 


Studies have shown that athletes who prepare their minds before working out feel less stressed and more mentally ready use mental skills to exercise than those who did not.

Imagine walking into an audition room feeling less stressed, mentally focused, and ready to work physically?

A dream.


Want a sample of what warming up for dance should look like with all this in mind?

I thought you’d never ask.


Warming Up for Dance Auditions- Holding Room Approved!

Before we even start, I want you to first find a little space. In all my years as a professional dancer, I have learned that if you claim space people will give it to you. 

Now, don’t be a jerk, but find enough room to warm up, and people will respect that. Usually an acceptable rule of thumb is, enough room to do a plank will give you enough room to warm up. 

Let’s get started: 


  • Good Mornings:

Now that you have room, stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips. 

Now, soften your kneels and gently hinge your hips back, keeping your core braced. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings and a contraction in your glutes as you stand. 

Repeat this about ten times to “wake-up” the backs of your legs. 


  • Lunge with a Twist

For this one you’ll want to lunge forward, keeping your hips square. 

Then, slowly twist your shoulders toward your front leg,  and reach your arms in opposite directions. 

Finally, return to center and step back to parallel. 

Repeat on the other side, alternating for a total of 12 reps (6 on each side). 


  • Runner’s Lunge with Flexion and Extension

This warm up is wonderful for kicking on your glutes and core while also opening up your psoas muscle. 

To set yourself up, get into a lunge with bloth legs bent. For high intensity, place your hands on your hips rather than the floor. (If you choose to keep your hands on the floor, make sure your hips maintain a straight line with your back and remain square). 

Next, slowly straighten your back leg by pushing through your heel. Then, slowly bend back to the starting position. 

Repeat this for ten reps on each side. 


*Tip: the slower you move, the more challenging this exercise will be!


  • Kneeling Hip Tucks

Stay in your kneeling position for this one! Place your hands on your hips and, keeping your spine neutral, tuck your hips then return to neutral. 

You should feel the stretch in the front of the back leg, so long as your hips remain square, and your glutes stay engaged!

Repeat for 12-15 reps on each side. 


  • Kneeling Hamstring Hinges

You may want to place something under your knee for this one!

To set up, you’ll simply extend your front leg from your lunge so that one leg is straight in front of you, while your are kneeling tall on the other. 

To relieve pressure from your knee, make sure you are pushing into the shin of your bent leg and engaging your glutes and core. 

Place your hands on your hips and, maintaining a braced core, hinge your hips backward. 

Squeeze your glutes (much like a deadlift) to push your hips back to neutral. 

Repeat this for 8-10 reps on each side.


  • Hamstring Slides

For this next one, use your dance bag to rest your hand on for balance if you need! 

This warm up has the same starting position as our Hamstring Hinges, except, instead of hinging, you slowly slide your foot forward until you feel a stretch. 


Then, activating your hamstring, pull your hips backward to return to your neutral position.

(To add some extra range of motion, you can pull all the way back into a hinge before returning to neutral if you’re in need that day)!

Repeat this on each side however many times you need until you reach your maximum range of motion. 


  • Eccentric Push-ups (Standard or Kneeling)

Warming up for dance would not be complete if we didn’t warm up our upper body as well!

For this exercise, you’ll want to get into a plank position. (If that is too challenging for you, this also works from a kneeling position as well!) Your hands should aligned with your shoulder.

In your plank remember to gently pull your shoulder blades together, and brace your core. 

Slowly lower yourself toward the floor as low as possible with control. When you’ve reached your max, gentle let yourself down to the floor and reset in your plank. 

Repeat this for 6-8 reps. 


  • Mountain Climbers

Now, that our bodies are warm, let’s raise that heart rate a bit. 

Get yourself into your plank position. Shoulders down, core activated. 

Start slowly, and without letting your hips shoot up to the ceiling, pull your right knee into your chest. 

Then, shoot it back, while your other knee pulls in. 

Repeat this slowly for 4-6 reps, then pick up the pace for 8-10 more. 


Warming up for Dance Auditions, Mentally: 

Warming up for dance mentally is especially important for auditions. 

There is so much chaos around you in a holding room, getting centered is incredibly important. 


A mental warm up also gives you the opportunity to tune into your body and make sure you have enough layers on to stay warm passively. 

This might mean throwing and extra sweatshirt in your dance bag, just in case the wait is long. But maintaining the heat you generated in your warm up will only help you in your audition. 


So, what’s a mental warm up?

A mental warm up centers your mind on the task you are about to do. It strengthens your mind body connection and preps your muscles and nerves for the quick communication that is about to be demanded of them. This, in turn, reduces the stress and anxiety often assicated with performance.  


Sound like that might benefit someone who’s warming up to dance in an audition or show?

warming up for dance mentally






Let’s try it.

This guided mental warm up recommends that you stand- but you can easily do this sitting with a long spine, attention focused on where your sits bones connect with the floor if preferred. 


So, put on some head phones in, and let’s try it. 


Stand tall with soft knees and your feet shoulders width apart. Breathe through your nose and inhale, filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. Hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest. 


Take another deep breath through your nose and inhale, again filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. As before, hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest.


 Resume breathing normally. (You can use deep breathing to calm yourself as needed.)


Now take a moment to get a clear mental picture of the main thing you want to accomplish in your audition (or show).  Close your eyes as you think about something that is within your control. 


What do you see in this mental picture of what you want to accomplish? 


Do you notice any sensations in your body? 


How do your muscles feel? 


What sounds do you hear? 


Make the mental picture as clear and vivid a possible.


Okay. Now, let the mental picture fade and focus again on your breathing. 

Stand tall with your knees soft and your feet shoulders width apart.


 Breathe through your nose and inhale, filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. Hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest.


Now bring back the mental picture of what is in your control to accomplish in this audition (or show). 


 As the clear and vivid mental picture of what you hope to accomplish reappears, what do you see? 


What sensations do you notice in your body? 


How do your muscles feel? 


What sounds do you hear? 


Allow yourself to fully experience this mental pictur and  fill yourself with the belief that you can make it happen today.


Let the mental picture fade once again.


 Imagine a warm glow forming in your stomach, right in your core. 


This warm glow is full of energy and is slowly starts to spread throughout your body.


As the energy spreads, jump up and land with both feet. (or, if sitting, roll through your spine.)


Shake out your arms and feel the energy starting to surge from inside you. Feel the energy launch you into the air again, land, and shake out your arms.


Keep that feeling of energy and, as you do, bring back the mental picture of the main thing you hope to accomplish today one final time.


 Check your energy level. 


Use the warm glow of energy in your body to raise your energy level or your breathing to find the level of energy you need and get yourself ready to perform. 


You have the appropriate level of energy, you know what you want to accomplish, you believe you can accomplish it, and you are ready to do it. On the count of three, we will clap our hands (or tap your thighs, or inhale and exhale) three times and go do it.


A mental warm up like this can be recorded in your voice memos and played over your head phones, or simply meditated on daily! Why limit yourself to pre-performance success if the same can be applied to workouts and other tasks?


Most importantly, I leave you armed not only with the tools for warming up for dance the right way. But I also leave you with a guide for those days when you’re not feeling up for creating something of your own. 

Let us know if you try it.  We love hearing about your wins!

Negative Self-talk- Dancers Who Lift- Blog

Flip The Script of Negative Self-Talk


Let me tell you a story about the first time I flipped the script on my negative self-talk.

The day I met my Mother in Law for the first time, I was NERVOUS. I had no reason to be, I’d met other boyfriends’ moms in the past and it always went well. But for some reason, I was especially nervous to meet her. Maybe it was because I didn’t have a show to brag about being in, maybe it was because I had just lost my side hustle and felt a little lost, or maybe it was because I knew that *this particular* boyfriend was different than all the others. Either way, when the day arrived I sheepishly admitted to my- now husband- that I was very nervous. He chuckled a bit and assured me that everything would be fine and then he said,

 “Or you could do what I do when I’m nervous and give yourself a high five!” 

Perplexed, I looked at this sweet man and said “What? Like, slap my own hand?” 

“No!” he laughed. “You go into the bathroom, you look at yourself and say ‘You’ve got this’ and then high-five yourself in the mirror.” 

I erupted in laughter. No way was I going to high-five a mirror. No way that would help. I am a professional performer, I don’t need confidence tricks like that.


Fast forward to halfway through my gnocchi.

I was starting to get nervous- the kind where it’s going well so you’re nervous it’s going well- I excused myself to the restroom. I needed to stop the negative self-talk. So, I took a deep breath, looked in the mirror, and said “You’ve got this!” looked both ways and gave myself a high five. And I’m not going to lie, despite feeling immensely silly, it worked. What’s even crazier is, this seemingly silly technique is backed by science!

David Sarwer, psychologist and clinical director at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania says that speaking to oneself in the mirror is one of the first tools he uses with new patients. He says that physical transformation is not always enough if a person does not change how their body looks in their mind’s eye. Mirror affirmations are a step toward adjusting the way we think of ourselves. This goes way beyond our bodies too! Studies have shown that positive self-talk can affect how you handle and experience anxiety, improve technical performance, and help us cope with your emotions and mental stress.

On the flip side, research shows that negative self-talk can lead to cycles of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Basically put, if we are telling ourselves that we will never be good enough or thin enough or talented enough, we are less likely to work on those things and then, when we fail, think “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.” Additionally, some studies suggest that repetitive negative thinking is a risk factor for the persistence of depression and anxiety.

Now, before you get down on yourself, it’s important to know that negative self-talk is perfectly normal. Many people use it as a way to regulate behaviors they were taught were “bad” as a child – or even use it as a way to manage their expectations. But it’s important to know how to adjust those thoughts so you can get yourself out of a negative mindset and into a space that’s more conducive to your emotional and mental well-being. 

warming up for dance mentally

For Example…

 A few weeks ago I was in an advanced dance class. The teacher was excellent, the choreo was fun, and I was surrounded by my peers. But those final two counts of eight felt like they were taught at warp speed. I wasn’t nailing the turns, and I couldn’t seem to hit the transitions- making me fumble through the next four counts of choreography. The first time we ran it in groups I made an absolute mess of it. I was embarrassed and as we switched groups I looked around and thought,

“Is this class too hard for me? Maybe these aren’t my peers. Am I in the way? Maybe I don’t belong here.”

I sat in that for a moment and realized what I was saying to myself.  So, instead, I said to myself,

You are a professional dancer. You have a degree in this. You have danced on massive stages. You can get this, but you need to focus.”

 The next round, I nailed both the turns and the transitions.

Instead of allowing my negative self-talk to overwhelm my thoughts and disrupt my focus, I flipped the script. I affirmed my skills without negating the challenge ahead of me and I felt empowered. I had not only gotten the choreography, but I stood up to myself and gave myself the same encouragement I would have given a friend. This brings me to another effective tool for flipping the script on negative self-talk:

Talking to yourself as if you were someone else helps reverse negative self-talk.

Take a moment and picture someone you love. Maybe it’s a close friend, a niece or nephew, or maybe a younger sibling. Once you have this person, take a moment and imagine saying whatever you’re saying to yourself to that person. Odds are, you wouldn’t be as cruel. In fact, you might even be encouraging instead. Using that other person as a filter helps create distance between you and these thoughts.

I get it. Sometimes, mid-pirouette, it’s hard to imagine how you’d speak to your little sister. So what then?

Well, I have a little trick for you.  Studies have shown that using your own name instead of the “I” or “me” pronouns is just as effective at improving emotional regulation and self-control. The research team at MSU’s clinical psychophysiology lab discovered that using third-person self-talk can decrease emotional distress within one second of its use!

I know, SO COOL!

We have the power to change how we feel about ourselves immediately. This is because talking about yourself in the third person leads you to think about yourself as you would another person, creating distance from the situation–just like the visualization exercise above.   


So, next time you find yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts, take a moment and recognize what’s happening. Can you reframe your words to encourage rather than tear down? Now, insert your name and talk to yourself–it may feel silly at first, but once you start to notice a difference in how you feel it might become a daily habit! Have an audition? Have a chat with yourself in the mirror. Feeling the comparison thoughts pop into your head? Talk to yourself about how proud you are for showing up.

And if the thoughts become too heavy or too hard to talk yourself down from, it never hurts to reach out for professional help. In the meantime, these tools can be a big help. So, give it a try and let us know what you find! We’d love to hear all about how you’re cheering yourself on!