General Exercises

Disclaimer: These exercises are provided for information purposes only. Please consult with your physician before undertaking any program of exercise.

These are some exercises to warm up from head to toe before dancing.

Neck and head

First check posture and make sure blocks of weight are properly lined up.

    • Head forward and back.

    • Head to left, hold (don't break neck, neck muscle is stretched, but don't be stiff). Back to center. Head to right, hold. Back to center.

    • Roll head and neck in circle. Reverse direction.

Arms and Shoulders

  • Roll one shoulder front, then back. Switch to the other shoulder.

  • Roll both shoulders in circle, front circle and then back circle.


  • Knees/leg straight. Bend one part of body at each count from head to waist.

  • Count 1-8: bending forward head, neck, shoulder, upper spine to lower spine.

  • Count 1-8: coming back up in reverse. Ending position, body has slight curve, knees on front of foot, balanced by head more back.

Rib Cage Isolation

Start: stand with legs a little more than shoulder width apart. Keep hips still and only move rib cage. (To help to make sure hips don't move, this exercise can also be done when sitting on the edge of the chair.)

  • rib cage front and back: Head and shoulders stay upright. Contract and expand rib cage.

  • rib cage side stretch: Left, Right (with arms extends to both sides, or at hips), move hips as little as possible, shoulders and head flat. Need to compress one side while extending the other side.

  • rib cage circle: front, left, back, right - separate distinct positions first, then make smooth circular movement. Reverse direction: front, right, back, left.

  • rib case diagonal stretch: rib cage goes diagonally forward and back, keep shoulder flat

  • Upper body horizontal figure 8 (good for Latin)

    • Move rib cage to diagonally forward left, then to left side, then back. Then, immediately to the second half on right side next.

    • Move rib cage to diagonally forward right, then to right side, then back. Repeat

  • Upper body vertical figure 8: (good for Smooth), keep arms in front

    • Rib cage does figure 8 on vertical plane, practice both side ways, and in diagonal direction.

Upper Body Pendulum, Metronome, Rotation

These exercises develop the flexibility required for rotary isolation of the rib cage relative to the hips, required for CBM and CBMP in Standard, and for hip rotation in Latin.

Pendulum & Metronome

This exercise can be done either sitting, or standing with feet slightly apart (for bigger movement and counter balancing with hips).

    • Pendulum - rib cage does "happy face" pendulum movement. Start with one side rib cage expanded (the other side compressed), then down in middle, then to the other side.

      • Do pendulum exercise both side ways and in diagonal directions

      • Do same exercise side ways, keep arms at hips, adding head rotation - rotating to the side that is compressing. Do not break head/neck, just rotate around spine,

      • Do same exercise side ways with feet apart, changing weight from one foot to the other (full weight), together with head rotation, hip angle is changed when weight shifted

    • Metronome - rib cage does "up and over" metronome movement from one side to the other.

      • On the lower side, make sure arm does not bend down lower than parallel to floor.

      • Do this both side ways and in diagonal direction.


Stand with legs apart, blocks of weight lined up, tuck in stomach muscle (pull center back to spine), arms parallel to shoulder, bend elbow in front of body (or keep it straight out to the side).

    • First, keep hip/waist area still, just rotate plane of shoulders around spine, keep head still looking forward. (This one can be done while sitting on chair. Engage core, that helps to keep hips still.)

      • If you start out with your face, hips, and shoulders facing 12 o'clock, in the stretched position to the left, your hips and feet will still be facing 12 o'clock but the plane of your shoulders and arms will be facing somewhere between 9 and 12 o'clock, depending on your flexibility.

      • Rotate gently between 9 o'clock (to left) and 3 o'clock (to right), or whatever angles you can reach feeling a gentle stretch.

    • Then, keep upper body still, rotate hip/waist area, head looking forward.

    • Lastly, combining the two, keep head looking forward and rotate hips and upper body left and right...

Side Stretch

This exercise can be done sitting on edge of a chair which keeps hips in place.

  • Relax head, stretching one side up, then the other side, but keep head and spine position. Fluid, smooth movement, not rigid.

Hip isolation and Hip Figure 8

Keep upper body still and only move hips:

    • Hip: front and back (like samba bounce), then left and right (lateral), twisting/rotating, pendulum.

    • Hip circle: Left, Front, Right, Back; then, Left, Back, Right, Front; (first stop at distinct point, then try circular continuous hip circle movement)

    • Hip figure 8 action. Practice with feet together flat, or with feet together switching weight, or Rumba Cuban Rocks,

Leg Swings and Hip Flexor Stretch

Leg swing to loosen the hips.

  • In a standing position, swing one leg forward and back, starting with knees flexed.

  • Swing arms in opposition to the swinging leg, as if you were running.

  • Start with small swings, and gradually increase the range of motion and speed. Straighten the knee as you do so.

Hip Stretch:

    • Kneel or lunge with left leg in front of the right, with toes pointing forward. Left leg and hip bend at 90 degrees. Tighten glute, shifting weight forward. Hold the position for 10-15 seconds. Can add pulse. Switch sides.

    • In second position, squat on ball of both feet (stretch out feet as well). Hold, add pulsing.

Hip Swing practice in Standard - using standing leg and swing:

    • Stand on LF, press into foot, push L leg to swing hip to R side, RF step to side. (RF stepping is result of pushing on the standing L leg, RF is not stepping on its own). Repeat on the other side.

    • Practice in a circle: push on L leg, swinging from low to high, step to R; push on RF, stay high, LF to side on ball of LF. lower LF. Repeat on the other side.

Foot Strength, Rise and Fall

This exercise helps with balance and posture, develop the strength and flexibility of the feet.

Reminder: keep the posture elements at all times during the exercise, butt cheek tight, center collected in, neck/head tall. "Straight Knee" - knees are straight but not locked.

Both feet together:

  • Stand on ball of feet for 3 minutes: both feet together, on demi-pointe (~45 degrees off floor)

    • Body lined up (head/shoulders/ribs/hips lined up over ball of foot). Arms up high, finger touch above head. (Ballet position)

    • Back of head lined up over heel; center of gravity (below chest, core tummy) is lined up over ball of feet.

    • Think about opposition: feet pressed into ground, shoulder down, head stretched up.

  • Body rise and fall (No Foot Rise - NFR), foot flat, bend and straighten knees (not locked). Weight should be on balls of the feet (pitched forward), not on the heels.

    • If the toes are grabbing floor, that's not the right feeling. Find the stable "triangle" with big toe,

  • Foot rise, body straight: Practice foot rise and fall with leg straight (not locked), weight on ball of foot throughout exercise.

    • Practice going on demi-point as high as possible, hold, balance, then controlled lowering of the foot to flat (still weight on ball of foot). Repeat.

  • Combined foot and body rise:

    • Rise onto demi-pointe (hold), lower to feet flat, continue to lower to bend knees (keep weight on ball of foot throughout).

    • Start straightening knee, then continue to do foot rise, get onto demi-pointe (hold).

    • Variation: from when at the top on demi-pointe, add: lower onto bent knee with heels up, then rise back onto demi-pointe with straight knee; then continue with rest (lower to flat foot, bent knee...)

Single foot: stand on one foot, the other leg bent at knee, keep body vertically aligned.

  • Stand on single foot. both flat foot and on ball of foot. Hold.

  • Repeat the same exercises same as the two feet together.


  • Step and approach: connect with audience

    • Preferably when you can, step forward with any leg (prettier legs than stepping to the side).

  • Reach and acknowledge audience and partner

    • Spread arms to side and diagonally up to acknowledge everyone and extend gratitude

    • Articulate hand (rotate and flip hand, ending palm up)

    • Then look at your partner and give a head nod.

  • Bow height:

    • For bigger bow, lower the knee and leg (do not bend upper body forward from waist level), keep upper body fairly straight, present confident look

    • Could be soft hand or toned hand, hand touch opposite shoulder.

    • When arm is not connected with partner, if it's L leg stepping forward, then it's R hand touching L shoulder. L arm wrap behind the back.

    • When one arm is connected with partner, courtesy with the free leg crossing in the back, the free hand touch opposite shoulder.

  • Slow the movement (extend out slowly, lower arm slowly) to create confidence.

See Also: Notes for Dance Workout Videos