When Florida State University professor Tom Welsh arrived in Tallahassee in 1991, dance science was uncharted territory. "Mostly, it was technique teachers who were looking for ways to keep their dancers dancing," he says. "It was just a field people imagined could happen." He immediately set to work building the university's dance science program from the ground up. Over the course of his 26 years at FSU, Welsh has created a successful dance science model, based on four elements: collaboration with physical therapists, a state-of-the-art conditioning studio, injury prevention and management initiatives and devoting time to research.
While teaching jazz at Gus Giordano Dance, sometimes Lauren Giordano Curran forgets she's not a student. “You have to listen to your body. I have to know I can't do a full-out battement because I'm going to tear my hamstring," she says. “Teachers forget that and go right into it, and you find yourself, like, 'Ooh that didn't feel right. I shouldn't have done that.'"
Some dancers who retire from performing are surprised that teaching can be even more stressful on their bodies. “You're stopping and starting, jumping out of nowhere, not doing things on both sides," says Clarice Marshall, who teaches Pilates, injury prevention and Gyrotonic for dancers and company ballet class at Mark Morris Dance Group. “In a dance career, if you're lucky enough to be employed by a major company, your job is to take care of yourself. You have the time to go to class and work on things during the day." As a teacher, that isn't always an option. If you're devoting your full attention to students during class, it's important to make time to warm yourself up beforehand.
Biking develops strength in the quadriceps and glutes. Working at a lower resistance will enable dancers to avoid building bulky muscles.
An elliptical gives you an intense cardio workout without the impact on your joints. Adjustments to the incline and resistance can add variety to the workout.
Pilates stabilizes the core and targets specific muscle groups for increased strength and flexibility.
Swimming’s gravity-free environment allows you to build strength and endurance without putting pressure on the joints.
Yoga helps elongate muscles while strengthening them, and can be especially helpful for developing stability in the muscles of the feet.
Pilates Anatomy: Your illustrated guide to mat work for core stability and balance
By Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger
Human Kinetics, 2011
Ideal for a Pilates instructor or general practitioner, Pilates Anatomy is an informative and comprehensive guide to the technique. Examining movement from the inside out, the book shows which muscles are targeted and engaged during Pilates mat work and can help readers fine-tune their practice.
Authors Karen Clippinger, an anatomy for dance professor at California State University, Long Beach, and Rael Isacowitz, founder of Body Arts and Science International Pilates, use Joseph Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology as their primary reference for the exercises in the book. Their goal, they write, is to stay close to Pilates’ source material and to “transcend teaching styles, individual approaches to Pilates or any particular school of Pilates.” After addressing breathing techniques and proper alignment, and defining common phrases and terminology, Clippinger and Isacowitz record the mat work. Step-by-step instructions, technique cues, notes and modifications (when available) accompany each exercise illustration, along with which muscles are targeted. They also include an index for suggested Pilates programs at a beginner, intermediate or advanced level, and list the name of the exercise and recommended repetition.