Dancer Health
Denise Wall demonstrates her T-neck alignment imagery. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Spinal alignment is like turnout, says Michael Kelly Bruce, associate professor of dance at The Ohio State University. "It's a mechanism, not an aesthetic." But as with turnout, dancers' visual goals often lead them to force their bodies into unnatural positions. "A healthier spine has to do with acknowledging the structural integrity of what's there, as opposed to changing it to meet that aesthetic," he explains. He compares a spine without its natural curves to winging the foot. "It's gorgeous in arabesque, but you don't want to stand on it. It's not very supportive," he says. Ballet dancers are particularly prone to extremes in erasing the curves from their backs. "People from New York City Ballet dance gorgeously, but in my opinion, their spines are weird," says Bruce.

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Dowd on Dance Teacher's March 2008 cover

The American Dance Festival recently announced Irene Dowd (DT March 2008) as the 2014 recipient of the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching.

A Juilliard faculty member and anatomy expert, Dowd teaches movement-based anatomy/kinesiology classes to help dancers use their bodies safely and efficiently. She recently shared her knowledge with our readers on topics like core strength and outward rotation. Dowd told DT, “I hope [my students] will go out with a lot more anatomical knowledge. I want them to become their own best teachers, so if they run into difficulties later, they will be able to figure out what to do on their own.”

ADF will present the award on June 15 at Duke University.

 

Watch the anatomy guru at work:

Irene Dowd has been on faculty at The Juilliard School since 1995. Her movement-based anatomy/kinesiology classes allow dancers to explore concepts physically as well as intellectually. Here, Dowd and student Leiland Charles demonstrate how a to use outward rotation to find increased flexibility and greater ease of movement.

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