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New dance class strengthens Bowie athletes

Will Olenick
Dance for athletes can help class participants become better prepared for their sport

As 7th period begins a crowd of student athletes enter the dance gym and spread out. They begin to stretch and warm up. Once they’ve completed their warm-ups, they’ll start to dance.

A new course was introduced to Bowie; dance for athletes. Students in grades 10 through 12, who are enrolled in an athletic period are eligible for this course. The class offers athletes a new way to earn their fine arts credit.

“It was my idea to add the dance for athletes class last year,” dance teacher Leanne Bilnoski said. “A lot of high schools are adding [it] into their dance department and I feel like there was a need for that here at Bowie.”

A typical day in dance for athletes includes the students getting dressed, doing a “launch question,” stretching as a class, and then beginning the lesson planned for the day.

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“We’ve also done different workouts like yoga, pilates, and a barre workout,” Bilnoski said.“On game days we foam roll and do a yoga class, to get them ready.”

Students have completed the jazz unit, where they learned new choreography and worked heavily on technique.

“We’re about to start doing hip-hop. Next semester we’ll be working on ballet and then tap and also still throwing in some jazz and hip-hop throughout”

Hip-Hop is a little different from the jazz unit that was completed before.

“There’s a lot of unstructured movements which allows us our to have artistic freedom,” track athlete Serra Gomez said. “We’re also still working on the same stuff as before.”

Bilnoski researched before the class began in the fall to decide what stretches and exercises would be beneficial for athletes. These stretches can help athletes recover from an injury and also help prevent injuries in the future. The class will also feature a couple of guest choreographers, clinicians, and physical therapists.

“We’re teaching them how to stretch correctly, how to elongate their muscles, but also strengthen them,” Bilnoski said. “We looked up what athletes need for their sport and what’s necessary to get their hips mobile, working on their ankles and knees and where more athletes are a little bit tighter.”

Some of the dance styles that will be covered in the class include; ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and tap, as well as an anatomy unit. They are also working towards preparing for a dance showcase in November. Athletes taking this class are being exposed to a new way to work on their athletic performance.

“I’m learning that I like it more than I thought I would,” football player Benton Tso said. “My favorite part of the class is the days we get to do yoga and stretch work.”

Dance for athletes can help class participants become better prepared for their sport by not only preventing injuries but also providing an opportunity for students to expand their comfort zones by exploring something different than the sport they play. Students have already noticed improvements in their performance in their sport.

“Before I started taking this class I wasn’t very flexible,” football and baseball player Easton Lewis said. “Now that I’ve taken the class I’ve gotten way more flexible, I can actually do the splits.”

Each student who decided to take Dance for Athletes has their reason for signing up for this class. Some wanted better flexibility, footwork, balance, and form and wanted to prevent injuries in their sport. Bowie’s sports coaches also helped encourage their athletes to take this class.

“I actually didn’t know it existed until my coach mentioned that it would be a good class to take without overexerting myself,” Gomez said. “I needed to have more balance and a little bit more strength in my ankles so I would stop getting hurt during races.”

Class participants are noticing changes in their athletic abilities. They’re able to push themselves further because they’re being injured less and their flexibility is increasing. Meanwhile, their dancing skills are also improving.

“I injured myself one time this whole season but that’s been a significant improvement,” Gomez said. “I’ve been more flexible so it’s been a lot easier to go faster, do more.”

Students predict that dance for athletes can continue to benefit their performance on the field or court. They also anticipate that injuries will be reduced long-term because they have learned stretches and gained tools that can help them prevent or recover from an injury.

“I hope that they gain confidence in themselves to be able to try something new and get up and dance and also become more well-rounded athletes,” Bilnoski said. “Knowing that other things outside of just their sport is gonna help them towards their sport to get them better prepared on the court or the field.”

Currently, there is only one dance for athletes class period but Bilnoski hopes that as the word gets out the enrollment grows. Athletes are already seeing improvements in their performance and seeing a reduction in injuries.

“I would 100% recommend this class,” Lewis said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s really helpful for athletes trying to be more flexible and get better footwork.”

This story was originally published on The Dispatch on November 14, 2023.