Q: How can I help parents understand that time spent in technique class is as valuable as learning choreography for competitions?
A: Parents love to see their children onstage almost as much as students love to perform. That being said, no amount of flashy choreography is going to sustain the long-term development of a young dancer. The rewards of improving technique go beyond winning competition trophies—good form prevents injuries and influences movement quality far beyond teen years.
There's a growing body of research that shows the addition of strength and integration exercises decreases the prevalence of injuries for pre-professional and professional dancers. But what about the recreational dancer who just wants to perform? There isn't as much research available for that group, but in 2013 the Journal of Athletic Training published a study that looked at 569 injured female dancers ages 8 to 16. The most common injuries they found in this group were knee injuries, followed by back, and then foot/ankle. They found knee injuries were often connected with the knee dropping inward (valgus) in jumping, rather than staying in line with the hip and ankle. Back and foot injuries were often associated with hypermobility of the hip and ankle joints (over-turning out at the hip and pronation). These early injuries caused by poor technique can haunt a dancer for years. It's a problem when young dancers focus on flexibility and big tricks over strength.
Perhaps placing some articles on injury prevention around the waiting room or in your studio newsletter will help your parents understand why building a strong technical foundation is so important to the long-term health of their children.