Physical therapist Meredith Butulis in action. Photo courtesy of Twin Cities Orthopedics
After a long tennis match or a basketball game, elite athletes often head straight to the locker room and hit the exercise bike. On first thought, this might seem to be overtraining, but in fact, they are pedaling as a way to cool down properly.
"All of our blood vessels get dilated and blood goes out to muscles when we are doing cardiovascular work," says Meredith Butulis, a physical therapist specializing in dance medicine. "The blood goes mostly to the leg muscles, and blood pooling there is a real phenomenon. If your blood doesn't get back to the heart and brain, you can pass out."
She goes on to explain there are two ways to recover from an intense workout: actively, using a low-intensity movement to gradually bring the heart rate down, or passively, with no activity at all. The latter requires little explanation—how many times have you seen a dancer do a run-through and follow it up by sitting down on the side of the studio in a static stretch? But for many reasons, including the real possibility of blood pooling that Butulis describes, a passive recovery is not the best choice for dancers.
Q: Whether online or through word of mouth, I'm constantly hearing dance teachers tear down other teachers who think differently than they do. How do I keep my self-esteem high when our internet culture seems to promote this—and better yet, how do I teach my students to do the same?
Q: I've made the transition from ballet to modern and have noticed an alarming decrease in ankle stability when on relevé. I assume this is due to a loss of ankle strength. What kinds of exercises are best for strengthening my ankles to alleviate this problem?
Q: My 13-year-old daughter has always been flexible, but last year she suffered an acute injury to her hip flexor from an overstretch position. Since then I have told her not to participate in over-splits or other extreme positions. Is that the right thing to do?
Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by TheNew York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.
Q: I've just seen the most extreme case of hyperextension I've encountered in 30 years of teaching. When the dancer stands in second position, her knees are only a few inches apart. How can I help her have a beautiful line without hurting herself?
Q: Two years ago, one of my dancers fractured her ankle and was out for six months. Upon her return, I cautiously allowed her to take pointe class, but treated her as if she was a beginner, because she was rolling out into supination, and I was fearful she would reinjure her ankle. Her mother feels I have held her back and changed to another studio. Did I make the right choice?
"I hate the word 'skinny.' As a dancer, you're an athlete." —Caroline Lewis-Jones. Photo courtesy of Adrenaline Dance Convention
“My mom is always the story I lead with," says Caroline Lewis-Jones about her relationship to health and wellness. “She was sick my entire life, and I'd do anything to have her back." A certified health coach who teaches for Adrenaline Dance Convention, Lewis-Jones is passionate about training healthy, mindful dancers. And while it might seem rare to witness a nutrition course during a jam-packed convention weekend, Lewis-Jones always finds a way. She incorporates wellness into her workshops and master classes on the circuit, empowering young dancers to take control of their bodies—and what they put into them.
A Columbia, South Carolina, native, Lewis-Jones trained with Nancy Giles at The Southern Strutt. After high school, Lewis-Jones headed to New York to attend Marymount Manhattan College as a communications major, and, while in the city, performed with Jason Parsons and Mia Michaels' RAW, as well as in music videos for Madonna and *NSYNC. But after five successful years in NYC, Lewis-Jones moved back home in 2004. “My mom had been sick with breast cancer, and I didn't have a good feeling about her prognosis this time," she says. “She died a year later, and I haven't left."
It's the middle of the semester and two dancers are sitting out of class, you're worried about one student's mental health and another has developed an eating disorder. Sound familiar? College can be a tumultuous time. To help address the additional demands of being a dance major, some schools have found strategies for enhancing wellness and integrating health services into their departments.