In March, University at Buffalo senior Allison Jones attended “Dance Medicine for Dance Educators: Specific Concerns,” hosted by the university’s Department of Theatre & Dance, where she is a dance management intern. The two-day conference was presented by the New York State Dance Education Association in cooperation with the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, and the theme was providing today’s dancers and dance educators with information and techniques to improve their physical and mental health. Here are some takeaway thoughts from workshops that included “Debunking Common Myths: Science vs. Studio,” “Considerations for the Adolescent Dancer” and “Functional Tests to Assess Pointe Readiness.”
1 Dancing on demi-pointe puts four times a dancer’s body weight on the foot, and dancing on pointe is equivalent to 12 times her body weight. The ankle stability needed to support her on pointe comes from increased strength and control in the hips and trunk.
2 Many adolescent dancers may consider quitting because of physical, psychological and social changes. This is a time for the dance teacher to focus on rewarding students’ effort and educating them about proper technique, growth and nutrition.
3 Practice periodization—based on the sports science model that includes pre-season, in-season, post-season, off-season and cross-training—to maintain the health and longevity of your students as dancers. For dance teachers, this means pre-planning the entire year to map out when conditioning classes and rehearsals should increase and decrease.
4 Fatigue is the number-one risk factor for injury because it affects neural feedback, muscular control and joint stability. It is essential to build rest into each day and decrease the intensity of rehearsals before performance.
5 Teachers work just as hard as students do in and outside of class. To avoid burnout, change the structure of your classes by switching music or allowing a student to teach a new combination at the barre. And demonstrate a healthy lifestyle by eating right, going to the gym, resting and scheduling personal time to allow your body to reenergize.