Chances are, there is at least one student you interact with daily who is dealing with trauma in their life. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a massive study on childhood trauma and elevated it to an official public health issue. They measured adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include things like physical and emotional abuse, neglect, poverty and absence of a caregiver, either physically or emotionally.
It's time to talkseriously about safety in dance education. As the physical and psychological demands put on student dancers escalates—thanks to competitions, social media and ever-evolving choreography—there is a pressing need to consider how we can successfully safeguard young dancers.
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.