Modifying Capacity and Performance for Dancers

What is the purpose of increasing movement capacity, and increasing physical capacities, if all you want to do is dance? Dane Cook jokes aside, it is incredibly short-sighted to not want to increase movement capacity.

At the end of the day, pure, uninhibited

creativity is my goal for you, the dancer.


For example, Person A has 3 moves at their disposal. They are great moves. But they are only 3 distinct movements. Person A can combine them in all different ways, but at the end of the day, they have a finite amount of combinations as well.

If Person A competes against Person B – who has 20 moves – than Person B will be able to perform with combinations of literally thousands (or more) of transitions and other movements.

Which person will have more room for creativity?

The person with more movements, and in essence, a higher capacity for more movements.

If a person has a higher capacity for more movements, it should logically follow that they have greater chances for creativity. (If a person has 20 movements to pick out of a hat, and they can perform 6 of these movements in any order with repetition, they can perform up to 1.7 million combinations.)

So have I caught your ear yet with my chatter on movement capacity?

Fortunately for you, movement capacity is certainly within the realm for modification. If you only have 1 really good move now, you can certainly change that with proper practice and focus.

Movement Capacity and Performance

The thought process for improving capacity and performance will generally be this:

  1. Where am I now? (Screens, assessments, questionnaires or surveys)
  2. What are my goals? (Where do I want to be?)
  3. What are my performance gaps? (Observation of data obtained from step 1)
  4. How can I improve these gaps? (Assuming data from screen is limiting factor towards improved performance, a gathering of philosophies for exercise programming is combined.)
  5. Application of Philosophy (Do the work!)
  6. Did I improve my results? (Re-screen and re-assess.)
  7. If not, what did I miss? (Indicating that person performing and applying philosophies is inadequate for specific problem or gap.)
  8. If yes, can I replicate results in similar fashion across multiple scenarios?

How Can I Measure Movement Capacity?

If you’ve been keeping your ear close to the ground within the fitness and strength and conditioning industry, by now you may have heard of some acronyms such as FMS and PRI. These two philosophies embody both a gross movement pattern, along with providing a subset of action steps of how to approach movement if our current “movement dictionary” is not adequately defined.

In other words, if our movement is lacking in one way or the other, these assessments may pick up on it.

Further, while the focus of individualized movement assessments may be too cumbersome for the expectations of this series, understand that there are both quantifiable and qualitative standards that are adhered to if you choose to use these methodologies.

The FMS details a battery of tests in which your movement can be classified and “bucketed”, more or less, into what movement incompetencies you may or may not have. (If you are a symmetrical 1s, 2s, or 3s for all screens, then refer to point number 5 above.)

However as an example, if you fail to do an overhead squat within the FMS’ standard, then you will be held to a secondary choice of standards (and score a “2”). If the compensations given afterwards do not resolve the issues, then a tertiary set of standards will be taken (with a score of “1”). This test will then be compared alongside other tests, and an informed decision by the practitioner will be made.


Further, the FMS agrees that symmetrical quantification is the desirable goal, or at least that is what I ascertain from my own readings, musings, and understanding from chatting with other coaches and therapists that utilize such standards. (I myself am not FMS certified at the time of this blog post – this may change in the near future.)

The other subset of a philosophy that I am most familiar with is PRI. I’ve written extensively about the main tenets of what PRI espouses, along with my own musings and random takeaways from the courses and my application of this philosophy.

And finally, I’ve written about the idea of increasing movement capacity by creating a foundation for movement within a broader scheme, and then fine-tuning and becoming more specific as you age both literally and relative to your training age within the dance.

Altering Physiological Capacity

With regards to dancing, and almost every sport in reality, barring baseball, golf, and perhaps shot-put or javelin throwing, there is an alactic quality necessary that must be realized and enhanced in order to succeed. The energy systems that lend themselves to success within my chosen dance of bboying often entail the alactic  energy pathways. In lay terms, this means that there is a large amount of power output evident in the dance (lots of energy being dissipated), with short amounts of rest (30 to 60 seconds of rest). In other dancers, this may not be the case, as they may require relatively low levels of energy requirements, for a longer duration of time.

I’ve also written about this idea with regards to the concept of “running” for a long, slow duration in order to build “cardio” for the average bboy (the same thought process can be utilized for any athlete or layperson).

If your activity requires this specific amount of enzyme available within a specific amount of a timeframe (before it loses its effectiveness due to other limiting factors), then why train a completely different energy pathway that will not be directly beneficial to improving performance?


This of course, is also variable by these individual aspects within a given athlete or dancer:

  • Individual [Dance] Style
  • Individual Genetic Response to Stimuli
  • Nutrition (for without appropriate food stuffs, how can the body restore the used energy sources?)

Individual [Dance] Style

This point along with the next, point out the individual differences that are evident among any two specific people. To compare yourself to another individual and respond that “you want to look/dance/feel/move like that person” is unfounded – that person has several other environmental, genetic, and individual physiological factors that comprise their own specific being.

To model is one thing, but to copycat is another.

Your dance, your own movement – they are individual in and of themselves. Granted, if choreographers are looking for similar movement for a routine, then everyone’s movements will look similar. Look closely and hopefully you can see even the most individual movements in a choreographed routine.


Further, the type of dancer that you are will change the type of training that you will overcome. If you are a cypher head, you will need to realize that the dance is 360°, and thus train accordingly. Stage performers will need to enhance their style to accommodate a very stage friendly presence – no one will enjoy a show where movements are dazzled towards the back of the stage.

Individual Response to Stimuli

If one person sees success by doing XYZ exercise, then it must be a good exercise for hundreds of other people, right? Not necessarily. Another person may not develop in the most positive manner if this approach is taken. Heck, they might even be worse than before they started.

If 8/10 people respond favorably to a given stimulus, you are leaving out 2/10 of the team out of the response. These 2 individuals who were left out of the majority can either see a minimal favorable response, zero response, or even see a negative response. All three of these responses leave a lot to ask for in terms of maximizing potential for any given athlete or dancer. In fact, those two individuals may be holding the team or crew together, or are responsible for the majority of the results of winning.


Rather than digress into the issues with nutrition in the America, understand that the basic nutrition of the general population within the nation is already misguided, to say the least. To hone in on a specific population such as dancers, it may be assumed that the problem is magnified, with more psychological issues being enhanced with regards to aesthetics and maintaining an “ideal” figure at the forefront of every dancer’s mind. This is of course, opposed to fighting the logistics that maintaining a certain amount of macronutrients and basic supplements in order to enhance performance entails. With that said, nutrition should support and enhance recovery from a hard day of work, training, and life.

Fine Tuning Your Assessment

If anything, it should be noted that maintaining a certain degree of integrity with regards to assessing dancers should be at the forefront of enhancing dance performance, as opposed to simply following a method blindly, or even no method at all.

Despite my attempts at dissecting the factors and thoughts that embody an assessment for any given athlete or dancer, these are merely the tip of the iceberg. At the end of the day, by altering and favorably modifying these factors involved with movement and physiological capacity, you can increase your opportunities for creating, pure, artistic movement.

Keep it funky.


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