Dancers, Maximize Your Cross-Training with The Ellové Technique®

I had the distinct pleasure of attending an Ellové Technique workshop taught by Master Instructor/Business Manager Laura Haney and facilitated by Doctors for Dancers. I subsequently was able to speak with Laura and Ellové Co-Founders Lisa Buchmiller and Erin Zintek. As a dancer and dance instructor myself, I was impressed with the caliber of their knowledge, and moved by their deep passion for the dance community. Cross-training is a necessity in dance, and Buchmiller, Zintek, and Haney have something very special on their hands…

Dance is a time-consuming endeavor. It takes time to adjust to class etiquette, learn the techniques, understand the terms, and above all, it takes time to fashion yourself into the best possible dancer you can be. There is no magic spell, potion, or incantation that will speed this progress along, as much as we may wish for one. While those pursuing dance as a career and a passion may find themselves dancing six to seven hours per day, even recreational students may dance as frequently as five hours per week. Regardless of performance level, dance takes up time.

Dancers and parents often have a preliminary belief when it comes to seeking improvement: simply take more dance classes. These dancers continually stack their schedule with more and more, assuming that increased time spent under the eye of their dance teacher will naturally equal exponential improvement. This is, unfortunately, not the answer. The constant focus on one mode of movement can open the dancer’s body up to muscular imbalances and weaknesses that may eventually spawn an overuse injury. It is far more beneficial for dancers to step outside of the traditional dance class setting and pursue cross-training to further their goals.

However, here another problem arises. As it is, dancers already spend an inordinate amount of time concerned with dance outside of the studio. As with any athletic endeavor, dancers have a heightened concentration on their nutrition and overall physical wellbeing, and they begin to spend additional hours in physical therapy, in the gym, or attending various Pilates and yoga classes. How is a dancer supposed to keep up with both their demanding class schedule and their diverse cross-training needs? This constant drive and attention to one aspect of life can lead to burnout, exhaustion, frustration, and an insidious feeling that you just aren’t doing enough.

The Ellové Technique aims to meet this need head-on. Developed and perfected by three dancers, who also hold various academic degrees, personal training, yoga, and Pilates certifications, the Ellové Technique is a shining example of getting the most out of a cross-training experience without further narrowing a dancer’s already slim margins of free time. With intimate knowledge of the physical toll dance can take, founders Lisa Buchmiller and Erin Zintek alongside Business Manager/Master Instructor Laura Haney have worked to create a cross-training program that provides a structure for injury reduction, performance enhancement, and increased body awareness. Typically taught in an hour-long format, the team has taken the highlights of strength and fitness training, yoga, Pilates, and dance and condensed them into one class.

Working to bridge the gap between the dance studio and the physical therapist’s office (they have a contributing dance PT on their team), the Ellové Technique cultivates physical mindfulness all while staying deeply rooted in musicality. The hour-long class flows smoothly from start to finish in tempo with whatever playlist has been selected. This aspect is particularly attractive to dancers, who are used to stitching music and movement seamlessly together. Haney calls the incorporation of music Ellové’s “secret sauce”. Alignment and joint tracking are a specific focus, as is the pursuit of building balanced and equal strength throughout the body. Time is even spent on mental relaxation and cooling down at the end of the class, furthering the experience of the class as a journey. This prioritization of general health and wellbeing over aesthetics and skills is beneficial for dancers who so often fixate on a specific visual outcome, rather than investing in the relationship between body and mind.

Though dancers, dance studios, and parents are generally aware of the benefits of cross-training, the trap of too little money and not enough time frequently stops them from pursuing it more vigorously. Studios may believe they should stay in their niche and offer dance classes, and parents will often opt to pay for more dance classes rather than tack on additional bills at yoga studios and gyms around their city. Once again, the Ellové Technique has managed to sidestep these typical obstacles. The class does not have to be taught at a specific studio; any certified instructor can teach the class at any location, meaning that dance studios can easily fold the class into their schedule, and students and parents don’t have to rush across town just to cross-train.

From a business perspective, dance studios can profit by promoting wellness for kids and adults alike. Though it may seem counterintuitive to offer a seemingly non-dance class on the schedule of a dance studio, the potential payoff is far greater than a momentarily raised eyebrow from one or two families. The introduction of consistent cross-training will produce stronger, healthier, and more well-rounded dancers, while also improving technique. Furthermore, because no dance experience is necessary, Ellové can also be offered to waiting parents and outside clients who might have never entered the dance studio otherwise.

Aside from the economic and administrative perks for the studios, and value provided by the class itself, Ellové also possesses attractive advantages for the individual. The class requires no additional props (yoga mats and small hand-weights are optional; I used two cans of food in my Ellové experience), and is customizable to the needs and goals of the students on any given day. Slower, stretchier classes can be created, as can more explosive and dynamic experiences. Students can also be assured of their instructor’s prowess and attention to detail, thanks to Buchmiller, Zintek, and Haney’s detail-oriented and interactive certification process. An Ellové instructor receives knowledge distilled from their vast well of experiences and certifications.

Ultimately, a dancer, a studio owner, and a parent all want the most bang for their buck. The Ellové Technique delivers a unique and powerful cross-training experience that is beneficial for the mind, the body, the clock, and the wallet. Certified Ellové instructors are all highly trained; the basis of Ellové rests in science, not personal anecdotes. The sooner the dance field can embrace, uplift, and promote intelligent and safe manners of cross-training like the Ellové Technique, the better off we will all be in the long run.

You can view the playback of the Doctors for Dancers Presents: Elevate Your Dancers with the Ellové Technique. It includes a workshop taught by Business Manager Laura Haney as well as an informative discussion and Q&A.

By Caitlin M. Heflin