When ballet star David Hallberg sought out the medical team at The Australian Ballet to help him recover from his ankle surgeries, one of the things rehabilitation specialist Megan Connelly had him learn was to jump from his hips. By doing so, he learned to put less stress on his lower legs and feet and access the powerhouse group of muscles surrounding the hips, most commonly referred to as the glutes. While many parts of his rehab were particular to him, understanding how to properly engage the glutes is something many professional and pre-professional dancers can stand to gain from.
Naomi Glass, teacher at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, knows firsthand the advantages and challenges of hypermobility. As a young dancer, she was told to keep her hyperextended knees in a straight position far from her full range of motion. "It felt too bent to me," she says. "But once I was able to access my inner thighs and rotators, I found strength and stability and could still use the line that I wanted."
Hypermobility occurs when joints exceed the normal range of motion. Dancers can have hypermobility in specific joints, like their knees, or they can have generalized laxity throughout their bodies (which is often measured using the Beighton system—see sidebar). While this condition may enable students to create beautiful aesthetic lines, it can also increase risk for injury. Help dancers gain the strength they need to stay healthy while making the most of their hypermobility.
Have you ever been desperate to take a nap, but chose not to because you weren't sure it was good for you? Well now you never have to worry! Research published by the National Sleep Foundation shows that naps are actually good for you! Check out the details, so you can defend yourself when your fellow teachers make fun of you for your five-minute dozes between classes!
Performing Dance Arts dancers at The Dance Awards in Florida 2018 (via @performingdancearts Instagram)
Needing some inspiration for how to celebrate the holidays with your dancers? We've got you covered. Check out how Performing Dance Arts (The Dance Awards Orlando 2018 Studio of the Year), of Toronto, Canada, brings dancers together and strengthens studio bonds throughout the Christmas season.
Let us know over on our Facebook page what you like to do with your dancers to celebrate this time of year.
Q: Some teach that a tendu à la seconde should align across from the toes on the supporting side, whereas others teach that it should be directly across from the heel. I feel aligning with the heel is ultimately correct, but I prefer to teach dancers to align with the toes because it's safer. What do you think?
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.3 million suicide attempts. While it's a myth that suicide rates are higher in December than any other time of year, the holidays give us an opportunity to consider the health and happiness of those we love. As dance teachers, we spend more time with our students than even their parents do, which means we are in a particular position to notice the pain and distress they're experiencing.
Q: I've noticed a clicking or popping sound coming from my right hip joint when I raise it to the side, and I tend to be far more flexible on my left leg. Are these two things connected? Should I be worried?
"We think as dancers, 'Oh my gosh, if this thing isn't working hard enough, I have to work it harder.' In order for these muscles to work, they have to have a chance to relax, too." –Kathryn Maykish
As deeply familiar as dancers are with their bodies, there's one muscle group that can remain mysterious. You can't see it, and it can be tough to access, but the pelvic floor serves a major role in your posture and body function. Dancers and other athletes are more prone than the general population to dysfunction of the pelvic floor, and this can have major ramifications in dance and life.
Pliés shouldn't be excruciating. As a ballet conservatory pre-professional student, Taylor Gordon knew this, but when the back of her left heel began aching during pliés and jumps in 2007, she didn't think it was a big deal. She was dancing more than 20 hours a week and couldn't imagine pain bad enough to keep her from it. "I never understood why people I'd seen who were injured had to sit down and watch class," she says, remembering her determination. "Why can't you just push through it?"